Under the direction of Johannes Leitz, Weingut Josef Leitz has earned the reputation of being one of Rheingau’s top growers and moreover, one of the finest producers in Germany. Since taking over his family estate in 1985, Johannes has grown his holdings from 2.6 hectares to over 40, most of which are Grand Cru sites on the slopes of the Rüdesheimer Berg. Once the home of some of the world’s most sought after and expensive wines, the region fell to mediocrity in the years following the Second World War. Josi has made it his life’s work to reclaim the intrinsic quality of his native terroir and introduce the world to the true potential of the Rheingau.
The Rheingau is a small region, stretching only 20 miles from east to west. It is marked by a course change in the Rhein River’s flow to the North Sea from its origins in the Swiss Alps. As the Rhein flows north along the eastern edge of the Pfalz and Rheinhessen, it runs directly into the Taunus Mountain range which has a subsoil comprised of pure crystalline quartzite. Rivers, no matter how mighty, are lazy and the Rhine has yet to break through the quartz infrastructure surrounding the town of Mainz. At Mainz, the Rhein turns west and the 30 km stretch between Mainz and Rüdesheim makes up the majority of the Rheingau. Even though the region is further north than the middle Mosel, its south facing slopes get hotter than the narrow Mosel Valley which therefore provides important diurnal temperature variation.
Leitz’s estate vineyards lie entirely on the westernmost part of the Rheingau on the Rüdesheimer Berg—a steep, south-facing hillside of extremely old slate and quartzite—planted entirely to riesling, encompassing the Grand Crus of Schlossberg, Rottland, and Roseneck. Leitz trains his vines in a single-cane, cordon system to improve the quality and character of the fruit, differing from the majority of Rheingau growers where the practice has long been to prioritize yield via a double-cane system. Johannes is a firm believer that the crucial work of the vigneron takes place in the vineyards. Focused on farming as sustainably as possible and working by hand, the grueling hours of labor on the ultra-steep slopes allow these ancient vineyards to reach their maximum potential.
After harvest, Josi is equally focused on working gently in the press house and ageing the wines on their gross lees. Johannes selects bottle closures to reflect, and more crucially serve, the individual cellar practices employed for each wine; Stelvin closures are used for wines raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness while wines raised in cask are bottled under cork to allow for a long development in the cellar.
With the 2011 vintage, Leitz began to designate the pre-1971 parcel names on select bottlings, reviving the individual voices of “Hinterhaus” (Rottland), “Ehrenfels” (Schlossberg), and “Katerloch” (Roseneck). He has also resurrected the once neglected site of Kaisersteinfels, which has become one of the most sought-after wines of the Rheingau. “Der Kaiser” sits high, just beneath the forest line of the Rüdesheimer-Berg, with a spectacular view overlooking the confluence of the Nahe and Rhein Rivers. The singular terroir on the westernmost point of the Rheingau is composed of quartzite, very old grey slate, as well as some iron-rich red slate and produces wines with incredible complexity and length.
In 2011 Johannes was recognized by the esteemed Gault Millau as “Winemaker of the Year.” We could not be more excited to be a small part of the Leitz project. We believe that these are some of the finest white wines in the world.
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Wines available at Tenzing.
2014 Eins Zwei Dry “3”
This label was launched in 2007 when Johannes saw a growing demand for drier wines in the markets outside of Germany. At the same time, he took over another VDP winery in Geisenheim with holdings in the Grosses Gewächs site Rothenberg. Not wanting to add another village to his labels, Josi declassified this site to a basic riesling meant to be the dry counterpart to the fruity Dragsonstone. It quickly proved to be one of the fastest growing dry rieslings in the US. The grapes are now sourced from several sites in the middle and upper Rheingau and are fermented in stainless steel. The bouquet is characterized by a clear apple fragrance, a hint of kumquat and apricot together with a touch of lime blossom. It is typical Leitz in the sense that it over-delivers in quality for its price.
2014 Riesling QbA feinherb
This wine has effectively replaced the well-known Leitz OUT label which was officially retired after the 2013 vintage and is essentially the off-dry counterpart to the Eins Zwei Dry. The fruit comes from vineyards in the Upper Rheingau predominately comprised of loess and loam soils. It is pressed, fined and then fermented in 100% stainless steel. Like all rieslings, it undergoes two filtrations before bottling and is racked as minimally as possible to preserve aromatics. This is a super-delicious, entry-level feinherb style riesling (18 grams/liter) that has crisp acidity, juicy aromatics and is dangerously drinkable. A ridiculously great value!
While Johannes’ dry wines solidified his reputation in Germany and throughout Europe, no other wine made him as popular in the US as did Dragonstone. Coming from the Rüdesheimer Drachenstein, the pure quartzite soil, being a silicate, lends a saltiness to the orange citrus-flavored wine which buffers the acidity and counterbalances the palpable sugar. When it was first produced, the residual sugar of this wine was near 80 grams/liter (2002 vintage); the wine now hovers around 40 grams/liter—the perfect balance for this style of wine. Hands down, Dragonstone is Josi’s most successful wine in the United States because it delivers a quality level well above its price point.
2014 Rüdesheimer Trocken
This wine was always made for the German market but is now part of our US offering. Whereas Eins Zwei Dry is the “estate dry” riesling, the Rüdesheimer is the “village-level” wine for Leitz. It is a blend of the four top Grosses Lagen sites: Schlossberg, Roseneck, Rottland and Kaisersteinfels. Any fruit that Leitz deems unsuitable for the single vineyard bottlings is declassified and co-fermented in this blend. Rüdesheimer trocken runs the gamut in terms of soil composition—red slate, grey slate, quartzite, loess and loam. This wine is dynamic and graceful—the perfect bridge between the Eins Zwei Dry and the single vineyard selections. A smashing deal for Grand Cru fruit.
2014 Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz SpätleseFurther east and upstream of the Klosterlay is the Magdalenenkreuz. Literally the name means “the cross of Mary Magdalene”, named after a red sandstone cross found here in the vineyard. The name was coined for Mary during the Middle Ages as a dedication to rid the town of the plague and has remained ever since. Here the soils are pure sandy loam similar to what is found in most of the upper Rheingau. However, the subsoil is quartzite which adds mineral definition to the wines. As is apparent, Leitz enjoys a vast range of both soils and topography in Rüdesheim, from which he works to find the best expression of riesling—dry to fruity. The fatter, sandy loam soils of Magdalenenkreuz are ideal for a ripe expression; the riesling grown here is always textured, opulent and forward. Though the wine is Spätlese quality it perceivably drinks more like a Kabinett. The exotic flair of this riesling is composed from the aroma of lemons and limes, slight mint echoes, as well as a touch of lychee, tarragon, banana, pear and pineapple.