wine knowledge

"The climate and soils of our region come together in racy, refreshing wines with an elegant fruitiness and a long, beautiful future to come."

Caroline Diel


The site is key—so what exactly is a ‘site’?

German winegrowers use the term Lage to refer to a site, namely the geographic growing place for the grapes or vines. The site is considered a key part of a wine’s origin, and as such is regulated by German wine law. Germany has 13 designated winegrowing regions where the classifications of Qualitätswein or Prädikatswein can be achieved. The largest of these regions is Rheinhessen, the smallest is Saale Unstrut. The various winegrowing regions are subdivided into roughly 170 large growing districts known as ‘Großlagen,’ which are further broken down into roughly 1,600 single-site vineyards. When a single site is listed on a wine’s label, this is frequently understood as a quality criterion. After all, it can provide many insights into the wine within: the character of the soil, the grape variety, the orientation and steepness of the vineyard, its sun exposure, microclimate and of course the reputation and signature of the winemaker.

Classified Sites at Schlossgut Diel

Schlossgut Diel stands at the heart of the Nahe growing region, which itself lies within the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. This stretch of landscape along the Nahe river is known for its exceptional climate and geology. This starts with its balanced, almost Mediterranean—rain-poor and largely frost-free—climate as well as the extreme diversity of various soil conditions. Even within a very small area! The Diel family, winegrowers by tradition and calling, have the privilege of cultivating some of the region's best sites. That includes three VDP. GROSSE LAGE sites, whose wines are filled into bottles embossed with GG (for Großes Gewächs), as well as four VDP. Erste Lage sites®:

• Dorsheim Pittermännchen—VDP. GROSSE LAGE®.
With roughly one hectare on the Pittermännchen, this is the smallest of Schlossgut Diel’s steep sites... and also one of its best known. It is the cradle for elegant Rieslings with refined slate aromas, stunning minerality, and a delicately racy playfulness, grown on a terroir shaped by heavily weathered Devonian slate atop a conglomerate of Rotliegend soil.

• Dorsheim Goldloch—VDP. GROSSE LAGE®
This site stands out for its ancient, gravel-rich soils from the Permian Age and terraced terrain with gradients of 45-55%. Together, these factors pose true challenges for the winegrower. Yet Goldloch is a remarkable site that rewards the extra effort, producing grapes destined to become juicy Rieslings with a striking yellow fruit character and flinty accents.

• Dorsheim Burgberg—VDP. GROSSE LAGE®
This is the home to notably expressive high-end wines. They grow in iron-rich, clayey, and quartzite-laced soils, and deliver a deep, spicy, and often saline minerality, albeit one that needs time to develop. Schlossgut Diel owns more than 2 ha of this steep vineyard that is widely recognized for its notable microclimate. Its distinctive shape is reminiscent of a Roman amphitheater.

• Burg Layer Hölle—VDP. ERSTE LAGE®
This site’s terroir reflects its higher elevation and south-by-southwest orientation. Scratch beneath the surface to find heavily weathered gray slate, perfect conditions for Rieslings with refined slate aromas, stunning minerality, and a delicately racy playfulness.

• Burg Layer Johannisberg—VDP. ERSTE LAGE®
Home to playful, mineral-driven Rieslings of exceptional quality. The Riesling vines particularly adore the weathered gray slate soils of this steep, high-seated, and south-facing vineyard.

• Laubenheimer Krone —VDP. ERSTE LAGE®
The hallmark of the Laubenheimer Krone site is a gravelly plateau of weathered sandstone in loessy clay. It produces concentrated wines brimming with a range of characteristic yellow fruit notes.

• Burg Layer Schlossberg – VDP. ERSTE LAGE®
The site’s extremely characteristic heavily weathered red slate soil lends itself to Rieslings with gorgeous fruit aromas as well as the stony spice that is quintessentially Nahe. Schlossgut Diel owns 1.3 hectares of the south-facing site bordering the village of Burg Layen.

The VDP.Site Classification System

The VDP.Die Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) is an association of Germany’s finest winegrowing estates. Its members commit to quality standards above and beyond those stipulated by the German Wine Law, including reduced yields, higher must weights, and hand-harvest of top sites, as well as a focus on traditional grape varieties and environmentally sustainable cultivation methods. The VDP quality pyramid is divided into four tiers:

1. VDP.GROSSE LAGE®—This denotes the highest-quality German vineyards, with each site precisely demarcated by parcel. Wines grown in Grosse Lage sites are notable for their extraordinary sense of place and cellarability. Each region formulates its own carefully crafted definition of which varieties are allowed in these vineyards—for the Nahe, this is Riesling. Schlossgut Diel holds three such VDP.Grosse Lage sites:

• GOLDLOCH VDP.Grosse Lage
• BURGBERG VDP.Grosse Lage

Each is home to one dry VDP.Grosses Gewächs, and in any given vintage is also capable of producing Prädikat wines ranging from Kabinett, Spätlese, and Auslese up to Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.

2. VDP.ERSTE LAGE®—This is reserved for world-class single sites with a distinctive character and optimal growing conditions. Only vineyards with a long and well-documented history of top quality production can receive this classification. They are planted with varieties typical for the given region—Riesling for the Nahe. Schlossgut Diel has the following Erste Lage sites:

• Burg Layer Hölle VDP.Erste Lage
• Burg Layer Johannisberg VDP.Erste Lage
• Burg Layer Schlossberg VDP.Erste Lage
• Laubenheimer Krone VDP.Erste Lage

Burg Layer Hölle, Burg Layer Schlossberg, and Laubenheimer Krone are home to dry VDP.Erste Gewächse. Burg Layer Johannisberg is predestined for fruity Prädikat wines, especially Kabinett. It has also been known to produce a Trockenbeerenauslese.

3. VDP.ORTSWEINE—These are ambassadors of their communities, sourced exclusively from high-quality traditional vineyards of distinctive character located within the town boundaries. Other requirements for this category of wine include the use of regional varieties and a focus on reduced yields. The following Schlossgut Diel Rieslings are part of this program:

• Burg Layen Riesling VDP.Ortswein
• Dorsheim Riesling VDP.Ortswein
• “Eierfels”® Dorsheim Riesling VDP.Orstwein. This can be seen as the ‘little brother’ to the VDP.Grosses Gewächs GOLDLOCH and BURGBERG wines.

4. VDP.GUTSWEINE—These wines offer an excellent point to start exploring the origin-based quality hierarchy of the VDP.Prädikatsweingüter. Each bottle is produced from an estate's own vineyards in correspondence with the VDP's strict quality standards. At Schlossgut Diel, the prime examples of this category are the “Nahesteiner” and “de Diel” lines:

• Nahesteiner® Riesling VDP.Gutswein
• Nahesteiner® Grauburgunder VDP.Gutswein
• Nahesteiner® Riesling Kabinett VDP.Gutswein
• Diel de Diel VDP.Gutswein
• Rosé de Diel VDP.Gutswein
• Noir de Diel VDP.Gutswein