Riesling from Germany, Austria and Alsace

In a comprehensive tasting with Munich Wine Club last Saturday we tasted many of the best wines made from the Riesling grape back to 1976.

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Dönnhoff´s 2015 Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese, from heavy, loamy soils and primary rock right on the banks of the Nahe river on the opposite side of the winery, showed very fruit-driven, ripe and open with tons of yellow fruits (stone fruit, citrus, mango and pineapple) and little herbal fresh- and spiciness. I´m curious to see these wines in 10+ years time.
The weathered slate soils with rocky parts, embedded iron and clay created a distinct Scharzhofberger Riesling in 2001. Even though this wasn´t a perfect bottle, Egon Müller´s 2001 Scharzhofberger Spätlese showed the typical fresh and intensive herbal characters and citrus notes with present, vibrant and salty minerality.
A clean, concentrated and structured wine.

Knoll´s Schütt is always among my personal favorites from the Wachau, because it´s more focused and pure and not as ripe and bold as many other vineyards. Good to see the 2012 shining strong with citrus (zest), concentrated yellow fruit, herbal freshness, notes of ginger and minerality. Bold and ripe on the palate with present alcohol and sufficient substance and fruit. Powerful and long with focus.
The fourth wine of the evening was already a serious highlight of the night!
Wittmann´s ‘La Borne’ comes from heavy limestone soils with chalk, which always create wines of elegance, coolness and fresh fruit. 2011 La Borne perfectly fits this profile. Elegant and almost reluctant aromas of little yellow fruit, fresh herbs, perfume and white florals, but powerful, dense and full of drive on the palate with substance, great depth, focus and length. Fantastic vibrant and salty minerality. Keep this wine 10+ years.

Wittmann 2007 Brunnenhäuschen is powerful and ripe with aromas of stone fruit, yellow apples, caramel, exotic spices and smoky minerality. Deep, dark and vibrant on the palate. Immense potential!
F.X. Pichler 2006 Unendlich. I remember tasting exceptional examples of this wine – like the magnificient 2002 or the deep, exciting and vibrant 2005, but the 2006 was a bit over the top for me. As in 2005 from 100% Loibenberg fruit, the 2006 is incredibly bold and driven by present alcohol. Still, great structure, depth and complex aromatics. Keep.

Schäfer-Fröhlich´s 2005 Felsenberg directly showed the distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich fingerprint of smoky minerality and notes of spontaneous fermentation (!). The volcanic soils created a wild, still young and vibrant wine of drive and focus.
Especially compared to the Schäfer-Fröhlich, Ökonomierat Rebholz 2005 Kastanienbusch is quiet, feminine and well-behaved with fine, yellow fruits, a lot of perfume and florals. Drinking nicely, but lacking character and depth.

Heymann-Löwenstein 2004 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay comes with stone fruit, lemon, dried grass and herbal spiciness. Very clean, yet powerful and long. A fresh, fruit-driven and harmonious wine of density and drinking pleasure.
But Keller´s 2003 Morstein appeared to be on a level above with ripe stone fruit, orange zest, oriental spices, fresh herbs, pepper and dark minerality. Deep and dark on the palate with decent length. Maybe lacking some acidity and drive to be exceptional, but fascinating and still young.

In Bürklin-Wolf´s 2002 Hohenmorgen high ripeness and fine acidity combine.
A strong wine of ripe stone fruit, dried herbs, some orange zest, little honey and lactic notes. All in all more bold than elegant, but in perfect harmony.
Prager 1998 Ried Klaus Smaragd was among the stars of the night with precision, purity and perfection. Fresh aromas of citrus, mix of green herbs, traces of petrol, little moss and delicate minerality.
Fine and alive on the palate with great length and laser-like focus.
A masterpiece!

While Trimbach´s 1993 Frederic Emile was oxidized, its big brother was singing: Trimbach 1991 Clos Ste Hune showed citrus, petrol, fresh herbs, traces of honey and wild minerality. Present, vibrant and complex on the palate with a solid structure of acidity and extract, yet an elegant Clos Ste Hune of sophistication.

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J.J. Prüm 2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese wasn´t able to hide its origin. Which meant showing, on the one hand, the distinct dark and earthy nuances of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, but, on the other hand, also the characteristics of an exceptionally hot 2003 vintage. Thereby, the wine was very ripe, expressive and lacked finesse and vitality. Still super-youthful, I´m curious to see the development over the next decades.

Von Schubert 1998 Abtsberg Auslese Nr.215 on the contrary was amazingly good!
Fresh, precise and complex with aromas of citrus and exotic fruits, fresh herbs, fir trees, traces of petrol and delicate, salty minerality. In perfect harmony, this wine drinks deliciously and is pure sophistication at the same time. So pure and clean.

Gillot 1976 Oppenheimer Sackträger TBA finished our tasting with ripe, stone fruit, coffee, caramel, honey and dark spiciness. A young power package of ripeness, sweetness and substance. Still endless potential.

Spätburgunder vs. Pinot Noir

pinotvsspaetÄ                                                                                                                                                                                                               Approach: We compared 12 Pinot Noirs in a blind tasting to evaluate quality, find differences and see whether we were able to distinguish between Spätburgunder (Germany) and Pinot Noir (Burgundy). Therefore, we poured flights of two and compared, by that, always one with the other:

Kesseler – Spätburgunder Höllenberg 1993
From the slate, quartzite soils of one of Germany´s oldest sites for reds comes this Spätburgunder. It approaches you with distinct aromatics of decent oak and light fruit of cherries and some strawberries. Elegant and smooth on the tongue. Nothing exciting, but harmonious, elegant and still of little freshness. Very drinkable, but lacking depth and complexity. Good length though (89 pts.).

Louis Trapet – Gevrey-Chambertin 2001
It was a wet, cool and cloudy year in Burgundy. This Gevrey-Chambertin started off quite funky with wine gum and burned rubber, but settled after a while with fine, light-red fruit, coolness and freshness of herbs and earthy notes. Darker on the palate, but of grippy tannins and little, austere greenness. After a recently tasted amazing 2006, this was certainly not a perfect bottle (90pts.)

 

Fürst – Spätburgunder Centgrafenberg 2003 Elegant, but relatively ripe wine with dark fruits, mixed herbs, toasty oak and citrus freshness. Lactic notes. Nevertheless, vibrant on the palate with dark drive. A little diluted esp. when considering the 2003 vintage characteristics (90pts.)

Bouchard Pere et Fils – Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 1999
Deep, dark red in the glass and full of fresh, dark-red fruit (black cherries), prunes, earth, black tea and herbs. Approachable and medium complex, yet robust wine of concentration drive and extract (92pts.)

 

Huber – Spätburgunder Reserve 2001
The rocky shell-limestone soils of the Bienenberg vineyard created fresh, quite youthful and complex wine of sour cherry, red berries, tobacco sweetness, leather and little peppery spiciness. Present acidity and little green tannins.
Showing real potential, yet already drinking beautifully (92pts.)

Domaine de L’Arlot – Nuit St. Georges 1er Cru les Forets 2003
Concentrated and muscular, but balanced wine of ripe black fruits, creamy sweetness, prune, little tobacco, autumn forest and some florals. Smoothly textured, even juicy with present alcohol, integrated tannins and fine acidity. Quite a powerhouse lacking refinement (90pts.)

 

Knipser – Spätburgunder Kirschgarten 2003
grows on soils of loam and chalk. The wine is dense, deep and complex full of ripe black cherries and blackberries, dried herbs, some road tar and oak. Smooth, but present on the palate with fine acidity and integrated tannins. Textbook 2003, elegant and relatively ripe, yet a real surprise (94pts.)!

Confuron-Cotetidot – Vosne Romanée 1er Cru, Les Suchots 2003
Nice fruit forward, burned rupper, licorice on the nose. Expressive, even wild aromatics. Weakly structured and bumpy on the palate. Something went wrong with this one. The weakest wine of the night (84pts.)

 

Rebholz  – Spätburgunder Im Sonnenschein R 2000
2000 was a very wet and difficult vintage and you were able to find the typical vintage characteristics in this wine: Mild as a dove with aromatics of ripe, dark fruit, violets, almonds, present oak and warm spices. Broad without substance and past its prime (86pts.).

Nicolas Potel  – Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
Aromatics of dark berries and black cherries, earthy notes, mushrooms and herbal freshness in a precise, youthful and complex wine from infertile soils south of Chambertin. Youthfully structured with only very little ladybug greenness.
Great length and freshness. Maybe lacking some flesh (94pts.)

 

Keller  – Spätburgunder Bürgel 2002
The 2002 vintage provided high ripeness levels and fine acidity. Klaus-Peter Keller´s Bürgel shows clean with beautiful fruit of dark berries and black cherries with little sweetness, intriguing minerality and herbal spiciness and curry aromas. Among the best wines of the night with density, complexity and perfect balance (95pts.)      

Jean Jacques Confuron – Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 1996
J.J. Confuron owns 0,52 ha in the Clos de Vougeot vineyard in the area considered best (close to the Chateau).The 96 shines of red fruits, raspberry and even gooseberry, figs, forest floor and minerality. It´s beautifully precise and vibrant with present acidity, few remaining tannins and freshness on the palate. Finishes long and focused with darkest fruit, leather and anise spiciness. Still a little tight, but elegant, complex and fascinating wine. Wine of the night (96pts.)

 

Results: It is (often) very easy to pick out the German Spätburgunder due to its distinct aromatics of light, red fruit, present oak and less substance. Nevertheless, the overall quality in Germany is very good. Especially when considering that the making of serious Pinot Noir of finesse is a relatively new trend in many regions of Germany.
Even though some Spätburgunder were able to wine their duels, all tasters agreed that the Burgundian wines delivered more fascination, depth, excitement and character.
And don´t forget that the wines tasted from Germany represent the pinnacle of Spätburgunder at the moment while the wines from Burgundy in this tasting were about average.

It´s still comparing apples and oranges, but the uplift in quality of German Pinot Noir over the last years is promising. Wines of recent vintages underline this development. Therefore, I can only recommend keeping an open eye for these light reds from Germany.

Photo by @weinfurore

Keller Abtserde Vertical 2013 – 2006

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Located in Germany´s Rheinhessen region just east of the Morstein vineyard, Abtserde probably defines the best parcels of the Brunnenhäuschen vineyard, where, due to higher altitude, the average growing season is slightly longer than in the surrounding area. Marly clay soils with a lot of limestone and, in parts, embedded iron create intense Rieslings of juiciness and chalky minerality.
It´s been a while since Klaus-Peter Keller created the first wine from these parcels back in 2006.
Therefore, it´s about time to take a closer look and to discuss Abtserde typicity:

Abtserde 2013 is wild, dynamic and punchy. Reluctant aromatics of green herbs, ethereal freshness, flintstone spiciness and yellow as well as tropical fruit. Powerful and mouthfilling on the palate. Present, deep and long with clear, precise drive, racy acidity and salty minerality. An exceptional Abtserde of endless power and potential.

2012 shows more delicate and fine with smooth juicyness.
Harmonious with clear fruit (apricot!), apple tart and orange zest. Yet, baroque with obvious ripeness, the wine is perfectly balanced, harmonious and joyful. Evaporates very fast 🙂

First signs of evolution with little firn and fine petrol can be found in 2011.
Showing typical characteristics of the warm 2011 vintage. Ripe stone fruit, honey, wax and blood orange as well as dark fruit of red currant and raspberry. Freshly-cut herbs and decent spicyness provide vitality and tension. Already approachable and full of drinking pleasure. Solidly build with fine acidity and tons of fruit promising a bright future.
Great combination of refinement and ripeness.

Intensity instead of lushness is the result of the coolness of 2010.
The wine ist fresh, crystal-clear and cool with citrus, lime, fresh herbs and delicate floral nuances. Wet stone, salty minerality and present acidity create a wine full of tension and presence on the palate. Youthful and harmonious, elegant and complex. A rather quiet wine of depth, facination and great potential.Fine but intense.

Abtserde 2009 is a sleeping beauty at the moment.
In spite of the ripe expression of the 2009 vintage, the wine shows quiet and shy, compact and closed – hardly any ripeness or substance. Cool chalkiness, little orange zest, fresh herbs (eucalypt) and phenolic layers dominate. Only hints of creamyness and lacking drive and length. Keep!

Abtserde 2008 marches to a different drum
with dark, earthy nuances, green pepper, moss, (unripe) walnut and raisins. Whipped cream and little red fruit come along. Though the wine´s showing power, freshness and length, it´s the most dissonant in this tasting. A little bumpy and little drive. When tasting this wine on a different occasion in March it showed similar. Thus, the bottle wasn´t flawed.
2008 is just a little different Abtserde.

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Abtserde 2007 shines brightest!
Light as a feather, super-fine, youthful, full of tension and dynamics. Pure minerality, delicate sweetness, citrus, oranges and raspberry in a perfect wine! Creamy and mouthfilling around a robust structure of harmoniously integrated acidity and substance. Vital and long with herbal and peppery spiciness. Sophisticated greatness in a delicate wine of fascination, drinking pleasure and sheer endless potential.

Our tasting closes with Keller´s first Abtserde from 2006 – a vintage generally under the radar and hardly valued.
But the Abtserde is singing! It becomes obvious that there was a distinct Abtserde characteristic right from the start. With characteristics that all wine (except 2008) have in common:
Immense presence and complexity with density, chalky minerality, flintstone and traces of orange zest. This can already be seen in the 2006 bottling. Stone fruit and red currant, delicate (white) florals, some petrol, almond and little iodine in a juicy and solid package with noticeable acidity. A wine of perfect balance still on its way up.

Keller`s Abtserde is among the very best dry Rieslings on earth. Period.

Tasting Note: Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch 2000 Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese

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1. Introduction:
The south/ southwest exposed “Berncasteler Doctor” vineyard is closely linked to the Thanisch winery and even pictured on their classic label, in use since 1901, which shows the Thanisch villa from 1884 and the view of the city of Bernkastel and the “Doctor” vineyard behind. Historically this specific vineyard was rated highest among all vineyard sites in the Mosel appellation. Due to its excellent exposition and distinct clay slate soils the vineyard has a very special, warm microclimate within the site and produces Riesling wines of concentration, juicyness and complexity with fine minerality, fruit and great aging potential.
The estate was founded in 1895 by Dr. Hugo Thanisch and is managed by Sofia Thanisch, the great grand daughter of the founders today.
Our 2000 “Doctor” Spätlese is in perfect condition. Flawless bottle and cork. 7,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Light golden.
Vibrant and shiny.

3. Nose:
Aromatics of a mix of Yellow and Tropical Fruits; w. Citrus, Honeydew Melon, Pineapple and some Peach. Traces of Orange Zest. Honey sweetness and fine Minerality.
Quiet and elegant, but present and pure!

4. Taste:
Shows creamy and soft on the palate. Fine sweetness with Tropical and Stone Fruits. Beautiful depth in a sophisticated, dense and (still) healthy structure.
Intriguing flavors of (bitter) Grapefruit, Herbal Spiciness and filigree Minerality.
Finishes medium-long with fine acidity, more Grapefruit and Citrus, some Pepper and decent drive.
Harmonious and complex, while light-weight and approachable!

5. Opinion:
Delicate sweetness and fine acidity meet in a well proportioned, harmonious and elegant wine.
Maybe due to the 2000 vintage, this “Doctor” seems to lack little of the distinct concentration and juiciness usually found in wines from this vineyard.
Yet, a beautiful wine with potential for about 5 more years.

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Tasting the superb 2013 vintage w. Sofia Thanisch at the estate last March.

Tasting Note: Zilliken 2002 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese

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1. Introduction:
Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken is a family business for 11 generations producing wine in Saarburg, on the banks of the river Saar in Germany´s Mosel appellation, since 1742.
In this relatively cool area, where long growing seasons create wines with depth and complexity, Zilliken cultivates Riesling exclusively.
Today´s 2002 Saarburger Rausch Spaetlese comes from their flagship vineyard site:
Saarburger Rausch, where Riesling vines root deep in Devonian slate soils with embedded volcanic rock.
Our bottle and cork are flawless. 8% alc.

2. Appearance:
Delicate Golden Yellow.
Bright and vital with no signs of aging.

3. Nose:
Still dominated by fruit aromatics of Citrus and Stone Fruit, but with traces of aging in exciting Petrol and Green Tea characteristics.
Interesting Smoky Minerality, Honey and traces of Lilac.
Finely spun layers of great complexity. Beautiful!

4. Taste:
Delicious play of Stone Fruit, Ripe Apples and Pieplant with powerful, but filigree Minerality and reluctant Herbal Spiciness.
Light as a feather and smooth on the palate, but with great flavor depth and an intriguing interaction of sweetness and fine acidity.
Finishes long and creamy with Yellow Fruit, Minerality and decent Spiciness.
Amazing harmony, finesse and complexity!

5. Opinion:
An elegant and fascinating wine combining great complexity and flavor depth in a superfine body with filigree minerality and finest, dancing acidity.
This Spätlese is very enjoyable now and shows first typical signs of aged Riesling, but still has a great future ahead!

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Zilliken´s deep, humid & cool cellar provides perfect storage conditions for a large stock of back vintage wines.

Tasting Note: Joh. Jos. Prüm 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett

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1. Introduction:
The Prüm winery is just opposite of its famous, and probably best, vineyard site the “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”,
on the other side of the river Mosel in Wehlen, Germany. It directly faces the vineyard.
Actually, the historic eponymous “Sonnenuhr” (sundial), which can still be found in the vineyard today, was built by Jodocus Prüm, an ancestor of Manfred Prüm, who runs the winery with his daughter Katharina in these days, in 1842. J.J. Prüm stands for profound and ageable Riesling with residual sweetness and finesse from the Mosel´s slate soils. Our 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett is in perfect condition.
Flawless bottle and cork. 9% alc.

2. Appearance:
Pale straw color.
Vital with no signs of aging.

3. Nose:
Aromas of Stone Fruit, Gooseberry and Exotic Fruit (Passionfruit, Pineapple, Banana).
Fine Minerality, traces of (Sweet) Butter and Yeast.
Florals (Rose, Violet) and notes of Sulfur.
Nice, but still very cautious and a bit reductive.

4. Taste:
More Yellow Fruits (Citrus, Gooseberry and Exotic Fruit).
Some Honey. Fine Minerality and Healthy Acidity.
Finishes medium-long with Fine Fruit, Elegance and very little Spiciness.
Still young and closed, but showing capacity for development.

5. Opinion:
A fine, young wine with potential, which has not fully opened up yet, but shows an interesting play of fruit and minerality.
At this stage the wine is lacking density on the palate and appears a little edged and reluctant.
This Kabinett asks for patience and long-term cellaring to evolve.
Prüm is known for its generous use of sulfur which slows the evolution of the wine down significantly.
When compared to wines of same vintage from other top Mosel producers, Prüm wines are in my experience usually the ones least developed.
Keep and drink in 3+ years.

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Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, 03.2013