Weekly Tasting Report (Aug 31-Sept 6): Letting the Love Go for Germany’s 2020 Vintage; Spain Comes on Strong With a Shining Star

In our tastings of 640 wines over the past week, we cooled (somewhat) on a vintage we had held in high esteem, but uncovered some extraordinary bottles from Spain. The post Weekly Tasting Report (Aug 31-Sept 6): Letting the Love Go for Germany’s 2020 Vintage; Spain Comes on Strong With a Shining Star appeared first on JamesSuckling.com.

Weekly Tasting Report (Aug 31-Sept 6): Letting the Love Go for Germany’s 2020 Vintage; Spain Comes on Strong With a Shining Star
  • 2017 and 2018 vintages from Vega Sicilia tasted and rated by the JamesSuckling.com Tasting Team the past week. At front is our top-rated wine from the week, the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Reserva Especial Unico NV. (Photo by JamesSuckling.com)
  • The whites and orange wines from Galician winery Attis Bodegas y Viñedos are almost as good as (and less expensive than) Vega Sicilia's Ribera del Duero line of wines. (Photo by JamesSuckling.com)

Austria, Germany and Spain dominate this report covering the past week’s tasting of 640 wines by myself and the rest of the JamesSuckling.com team. Senior Editor Stuart Pigott seems to be finding some fantastic wines from the 2020 vintage in Austria, while his love affair with the vintage in Germany appears to be waning with his less-than-stellar ratings this time. Meanwhile, Associate Editor Claire Nesbitt and I are finding plenty of outstanding quality wines from Spain, but only wish we had found more stars like the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Reserva Especial Unico NV – our top wine from this week’s report.

Stuart wrote this in June about Austria’s 2020 vintage: “I was in Austria twice during the fall of 2020 and was stunned to find how green everything was compared with the parched and browned state of Germany, which was then suffering the worst drought in living memory.”

The fact is that most of Austria had intermittent rain and sunshine during a large part of the grape-growing season, while the rest of Europe encountered dry and sunny weather. This has given most Austrian wines a cooler and more vivid nature and structure, as seen in many of the about 200 wines rated here, including top wines from such famous wineries as Bründlmayer, Hirsch and Nigl.

TASTING VEGA SICILIA: James discusses the Spanish winery’s latest releases with winemaker Gonzalo Iturriaga and owner Pablo Alvarez.


But Stuart also made this observation when comparing the 2020 vintage to 2019: “The first point to make about the new Austrian vintage is that the excellent 2019 is a tough act to follow. The 2019s are uniformly concentrated and finely nuanced with great balance. I put a bunch of them in my own cellar, but the best of them need some time to give their best and will be long-living. The successful wines of the 2020 vintage serve a different purpose, because of their special personality” – meaning you can drink the 2020s, while you should put the 2019s in your cellar and wait.

It looks like this may be the same case with the 2020 vintage in Germany. Stuart has been rating many of the best estates from that year very highly – either close to or at the same level as the modern legend of 2019. But he says that is slowly coming to an end with some of the just over 170 wines he most recently rated.

“The 2020 is definitely NOT a classic off-vintage,” Stuart wrote in an email last week. “They were all about too little ripeness. In 2020 the problems were caused by drought and heat. However, excellent results were possible in those locations with good soil water retention. This is also something that correct long-term soil management can greatly influence, and awareness of that has grown enormously since the extremely warm 2003 vintage.”

Spain doesn’t appear to have any such “off-vintage” issues with current wines on release. Most of the 1,600 or so wines we have rated, or will be rating, are from the excellent 2018 and 2019 vintages. The 2018 reds are fruity and balanced and show a nice combination of ripe tannins and bright fruit. Most of the nearly 300 Spanish wines in this report are good values and are delicious wines for current drinking.



A notable exception is the Ribera del Duero line of wines from Vega Sicilia, the best being the multi-vintage blend of Reserva Especial Unico. The new release from this gem of Spain is made from a combination of vintages including 2008, 2010 and 2011. It’s so completely and utterly seductive on both the nose and the palate.

The Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Unico 2012 was close in quality with round tannins and a nice softness, while the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5 2017 really shined through with freshness and intensity of flavor even though it’s from the hot 2017 vintage.

Almost as interesting but not as expensive are some of the whites from the Galician winery Attis Bodegas y Viñedos, particularly their orange wines. Made of albariño, the whites, such as the Attis Bodegas y Viñedos Spain Sitta Maceración Skin Contact 2020 and the Attis Bodegas y Viñedos Spain Sitta Doliola 2019, are so aromatic and flavorful, with wonderful combinations of spices and dried fruits ranging from cardamon to pineapple.

If you are into other natural wines or more skin contact wines, check out my scores for the South African winery Testalonga. The dusty, soft and flavorful chenins and carignans are a treat to taste, and the wines are extremely reasonably priced.


Contributing Editor Nick Stock had time to rate a couple of reds and whites from Australia’s Tasmania (Marco Lubiana), Victoria (Dilworth & Allain), New South Wales (Tyrrell’s) and South Australia (Bekkers and Yangarra). Their wines in the list below are all highly rated. Check out Nick’s Instagram photos, above, to see some of the bottles he tasted.

Lots of interesting bottles below and loads of fun from tasting orange wines to collectable German and Spanish wines.

– James Suckling, Chairman/Editor

The list of wines below is comprised of bottles tasted and rated during the previous week by James and other tasters at JamesSuckling.com. They include many latest releases not yet available on the market, but which will be available soon. Some will be included in upcoming tasting reports.

Note: You can sort the wines below by country, vintage, score and alphabetically by winery name. You can also search for specific wines in the search bar.


The post Weekly Tasting Report (Aug 31-Sept 6): Letting the Love Go for Germany’s 2020 Vintage; Spain Comes on Strong With a Shining Star appeared first on JamesSuckling.com.