A €22,491 Magnum for Maria. The best Trockenbeerenauslese ever?
Posted on 30 March 2020
When you taste the best wine of your life, and it's your daughter's birth year vintage, who can resist a Dönnhoff Trockenbeerenauslese?
At the VDP auction, Dade Theriot captures a rare magnum, reported here in Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, March 2020.
A 22,491 euro magnum for Maria
Why an American bought a bottle of German Riesling for his little daughter.
(translation from the German by Dee Vee Wines)
Dade Thieriot, daughter Maria and the auctioned wine: "This selection of dried Riesling grapes is perfect"
Once a year, on a Sunday at the end of September, the wine auction of the VDP regions Ahr, Nahe, Palatinate and Rheinhessen takes place in the Römerhalle in Bad Kreuznach. The Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter brings together 196 wine producers in Germany. If the VDP eagle adorns a bottle neck, this is considered a seal of the finest quality. The association's auctions are mandatory dates for winemakers, collectors, dealers and critics.
Dade Thieriot hails from the small town of Woodside near Silicon Valley, and travels to Germany every autumn to buy rarities and sometimes entire wine collections. His company, Dee Vine Wines, supplies star restaurants throughout California. Thieriot is 69 years old. He writes his emails in German, and is proud that he knows the grammar well enough to do so. Since studying foreign languages and music history at Stanford University in the 1970s, he has greatly admired the conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and later also the band, Rammstein. Thieriot has a four-year-old daughter, Maria, who is raised bilingually. Her mother, Petra, is German, and was once a wine princess in Bruttig-Fankel on the Mosel.
Thieriot writes that his wine company has worked for the past 24 years to popularize German Riesling in California. His first experience with great Riesling was a 1971 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese from von Kesselstatt. The aroma of apple blossoms and jasmine opened up a wonderful new world for him, comparable to his first girlfriend. You never forget that!
In the spring prior to the auction last September, Thieriot tasted a young, late-picked Riesling that seemed to him to be greater than any such young wine he had tasted before. The Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Trockenbeerenauslese from the Dönnhoff winery in Oberhausen on the Nahe had a beautiful deep-golden yellow color, like that of a shiny brass instrument, Thieriot thought, and it smelled of honey and caramel with delicate hints of cinnamon, mango and passion fruit. The taste was very complex and concentrated on the palate, even viscous, with an insane finish that seemed to reverberate for minutes.
The vintage of the wine, 2015, is also the birth year of his daughter. as well as one of the finest recent vintages in Germany. Thieriot had to buy this Riesling. Not for his customers, not for himself - for Maria!
However, his problem was that the quantity offered was tiny: 24 half and 6 whole bottles as well as a single magnum.
The Hermannshöhle site, with its soils comprised of clay and slate, is one of the top vineyard locations in Germany. Since climate change causes the temperatures to quickly rise above 20 degrees celsius in spring and the summers stay warm longer, world-class German Rieslings thrive on the Nahe.
However, the rigorous selection process cannot be planned, for it is a gift of nature and the weather. You can't harvest them every year. The ripe grapes must be infected by a fungus, botrytis cinera, which permeates the grape skins. The water in the grapes evaporates in the dry, windy weather, which allows sugar, acid and aromatic substances to concentrate. The dried berries are picked from whole clusters by hand or with nail clippers. The yield is often only a few liters.
The consistency of this 2015 Trockenbeerenauslese is reminiscent of honey, the flavor is extremely intense and concentrated.
"This wine is unique, like a work of art. I don't know if I will be able to do it again," says Cornelius Dönnhoff, the winemaker.
“The intense selection process of these dried berries has rendered an utterly perfect wine!" writes Dade Thieriot.
A designated agent must bid for the magnum bottle on his behalf at the auction. Thieriot is in the audience during the auction. He does not know that the agent also serves a competitor on the phone. When the other bidders in the hall give up at 6000 euros, the agent explains his dilemma to the auctioneer. Both customers urgently want the 2015 Hermannshöhle TBA.. After a few minutes of consultation, the auctioneer decides that this situation can only be resolved by a direct bidding war.
There is a showdown between Thieriot and the stranger on the phone. 9,000 euros, 10,000, 11,000. 12,000 euros. Thieriot raises his arm again and again, the agent nods again and again, his ear to the telephone.
The Römerhalle is in totally dead silence.
Thieriot has promised himself the limit of 20,000 euros, but he doesn't care now, he gets into an auction frenzy. 13,000, 14,000, 15,000 euros. The other bidder’s agent finally declines at 18,000 euros. Thieriot has won. The 2015 Trockenbeerenauslese Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle costs 22,491 euros with VAT and auction fee!
The magnum bottle arrives, in a handsome wooden box with a lovely note from the Dönnhoff family, in Woodside a few months after the auction. The Riesling is still in its embryonic phase, but can easily be stored for over a hundred years. It would be difficult to find a better investment. Thieriot carefully places the 100 point Trockenbeerenauslese in the wine cellar with his other outstanding Riesling treasures.
He now mostly sees his daughter Maria only on weekends; the relationship with her mother, the German wine princess, sadly did not last. He now proudly shows his little princess, Maria, the ultra rare Riesling. Of course, she cannot do much with her fabulous wine gift yet, Thieriot writes, but perhaps for her 21st birthday she should open it and enjoy it with a large group of good friends... or she could also sell the bottle and afford to buy a Porsche with the proceeds!