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.

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

Tasting Note: Egon Müller 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett

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1. Introduction:
The steep, grey-slated Scharzhofberg vineyard is one of Germany´s most famous vineyards. Egon Müller owns 8,5 ha (~21 acre) of the best parcels and cultivates 100% Riesling to produce his legendary sweet wines, which are certainly among the world´s best and most sought-after white wines- especially his rare BAs and TBAs gain record prices.
Known for their exciting play of acidity and beautiful minerality, the wines can age for decades gracefully. With a generally fresh characteristic the wines appear- even though with (more or less decent) residual sweetness- relatively dry.
2011 was a very good, warm year with early ripening grapes and high must weights at the end.
Cork and Bottle flawless. 10% alc.

2. Appearance:
Light Golden-Yellow. Vibrant.

3. Nose:
Exotic and Ripe Stone Fruits. Citrus, Peach, Apricot and Grapefruit.
Herbs and Minerality come with Decent Sweetness.
Fresh and powerful while soft, elegant and multi-layered.

4. Taste:
Generous Yellow and Exotic Fruits.
Exciting interaction of soft creaminess with racy, dancing fine acidity.
Precise with excellent structure and fine residual sweetness.
Finishes long with perfect smoothness, beautiful fruit and little spiciness.
Harmonious, balanced and complex!

5. Opinion:
Egon Müller excelled the high must weighs of the 2011 vintage.
His Riesling Kabinett shows smooth- and ripeness, but is highly complex and sophisticated as well. Great aromatics and flavors!
A joy now, but good for many years down the road.

Große Gewächse 2012 – Best of Dry German Riesling

While chances are high that this year´s vintage will turn out “average” in Germany, the last two years sure were exceptional. With lower yields than 2011, 2012 delivered perfectly ripe and concentrated fruit and, thereby, outstanding wines on both levels- dry and sweet.
In the following I´d like to focus on the dry tier and its premium wines:
The Grand Cru level, which is called “Großes Gewächs” (GG) in Germany. Shortly after the release of these wines in the beginning of September, I had the chance to taste the results from some of the very best producers of dry Riesling and would like to share a selection of my brief tasting notes with you:

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1. Fritz Haag 2012 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr GG
Certainly among the Mosel´s best producers for sweet Riesling and famous for his Auslesen from the Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr site, Fritz Haag shifted his focus more and more on dry Riesling over the last years as well.
His 2012 Großes Gewächs shines light yellow in the glass.
Fine, but vibrant aromas of Citrus and Tropical Fruits. Some Apple with little Sweetness.
Flavors of Citrus and Orange (Zest) plus an interesting play of Acidity and Minerality.
Nice, even a little salty, finish.
Beautifully structured, fresh and very approachable already.

2. A.J. Adam 2012 Goldtröpfchen
Andreas Adam is a young producer who started his winery by re-cultivating the old and abandoned vineyards from his grandfather. The winery is located in Dhron, near Bernkastel, in Germany´s Mosel appellation. Today he runs two sites, Hofberger and Goldtröpfchen, with partially old vines on their original rootstock.
The 2012 Goldtröpfchen comes with powerful aromas of Pineapple, Citrus and Honey, which are repeated on the palate. Round, but heavy. Present Acidity and a strong finish with some bitterness.
A very opulent wine, unfortunately lacking some excitement and refinement.

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3. Dönnhoff 2012 Dellchen GG
Certainly Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the most famous German winemakers and might be the best on earth when it comes to Riesling. He creates wines that strictly reflect the vintage and vineyard and always come with great future potential.
His Dellchen takes off with juicy and lush aromas of Mango, Passion Fruit, ripe Peach and Apricot. Floral characters.
Exotic flavors of mostly Passion Fruit and sweet Mango with little Peach.
Finishes with sweet Fruit and bright acidity and precise minerality. Great!

4. Dönnhoff 2012 Hermannshöhle GG
The Hermannshöhle vineyard is the top-rated vineyard in the Nahe appellation and probably one of the best sites for Riesling worldwide. South facing with very old slate soils with layers of volcanic, lime stone and porphyry soils.
The 2012 Hermannshöhle delivers a lot of Fruit aromas- Pineapple, Pear, Citrus- but also beautiful Minerality with Graphite and Crushed Rock. Freshness and some traces of Honey.
Very intense, but precise and multi-layered!
Great juicy, but minerality-driven mouthfeel with beautiful fruit.
Finishes long with great finesse, dancing acidity and little spiciness. Fantastic wine, which combines the extremes of precision and juicyness!!

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5. Gut Hermannsberg 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Grown on porose, weathered volcanic soil which is rich in minerals and contains layers of copper, this Riesling is loaded with aromas of Flintstone and Minerals. Herbal and Yellow Fruit characters. Traces of Sulfur.
Round on the palate with dominant Mineral and salty flavors. Little Citrus.
Really dense and complex.

6. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Same vineyard, different winemaker.
Again, powerful aromas of Flintstone. Herbal characters and Roast.
Little Fruit, Grapefruit and Citrus, in the mouth. Present smoky, mineral and salty notes!
A powerful, intense and headstrong Riesling, which reflects the vineyard.
It´s always interesting to compare wines that come from the same vineyard source and are made by different winemakers. In this case the distinct characteristics of the Kupfergrube really shine in both wines, especially in the fascinating minerality and flintstone aromatics.

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7. Von Winning 2012 Pechstein GG
Von Winning in Deidesheim is the shooting star winery of the last years in Germany. Winemaker Stephan Attman has spent a lot of time Burgundy and adopted the French techniques into his winemaking, e.g. aging his Riesling in small oak barrels.
The Pechstein shows great and powerful aromas of Ripe, Yellow and Tropical Fruit.
Nuttily and Sweet Traces. Pastries. Rich, but harmonious.
You can´t deny the oak influence. Cremy and opulent on the palate.
Nice Fruit with mostly Pears and Passionfruit. Straightforward, exciting and multi-layered.

8. Von Winning 2012 Kirchenstück GG
The Kirchenstück vineyard shows a stronger mineral note.
Reluctant Fruit aroma of Citrus and Lychee, but a lot of Minerality and Crushed Rock.
Saltiness. Complex and precise!
More Minerality with Vibrant Acidity. Now more Fruit- Pear, Passionfruit and Ripe Apples.
Depth, opulence and nice salty traces on the finish.

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9. Wittmann 2012 Kirchspiel GG
All following wines from the Rheinhessen appellation are grown on lime soil or at least lime dominated soils. The Kirchspiel site opens up towards River Rhine like an arena or amphitheater and protects the vines from direct wind.
Again, we compare two wines from the same vineyard.
Wittmann´s Kirchspiel shows a Fruit-driven nose with Fine Yellow Fruit-
Passionfruit, Mango and Peach. Little Orange Zest and Strawberry (!).
Flavors of more Yellow Fruit. Even some Cassis.
Very filigree and light, but juicy. Wonderful balance!

10. Keller 2012 Kirchspiel GG
Keller´s Kirchspiel comes very reluctant and introvert, but with great structure and finesse.
Fine aromas of Citrus, Lychee, Pear and more Yellow Fruit. Little Chocolate.
Dancing minerality.
Fresh and juicy flavors. Salty traces. Finishes with Citrus and Orange Zest.
Made for the future.

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11. Wittmann 2012 Morstein GG
Grown on lime stone with clay marl.
Light aromas of Yellow and some Red Fruits. Interesting Coolness. Fresh!
Fruit core on the palate with mostly Citrus and Peach.
Great play of Acidity and Sweet Flavors.
Powerful with great structure and Minerality.

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12. Keller 2011 Abtserde GG
This was the only wine from the 2011 vintage, which was great, too (shorter growing season than 2012, but perfect ripeness and great fruit characteristics).
Beautiful golden-yellow in the glass.
Tight, but soft and very filigree nose with Stone Fruits, Citrus, Orange, some Apple and Lemongrass. Beautiful Minerality. Floral notes and some Rosemary.
Fruit-driven palate. Apples, Pears and Peach.
Very dense, but less juicy. Beautiful acidity. Finishes very long.
Puristic, fine and still young. Keep this one for many years!
A great wine!

While all wines drink quite nicely now, they will start showing their real potential after 5+ years.
Whereas the most “easy to drink” and approachable wine was Haag´s GG, you can only guess the greatness and complexity most of the other wines will be capable of.
Cheers & a special thanks to NobleWine Munich!

Tasting Note: Reinhold Haart 1994 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Auslese

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1. Introduction:
Located nearby an ancient Roman Wine Press in Piesport, the Haart family is making wine for more than 650 years.
Karl-Theo and his son Johannes cultivate 7,5ha (18,5 acres) of steep slope vineyards which stretch right behind the winery, where viticulture has a history of more than 2000 years.
So, history and tradition play an important part in their winemaking philosophy and, in the vineyard as well as in the cellar, sensitivity and restraint are the key words when Haart is focusing on sweet wines with elegance, charm and personality.
Today we taste the 1994 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Auslese from Haart´s premium site- the Goldtröpfchen.
Bottle and cork flawless. 8,5% alc.

2. Appearance:
Golden-yellow. Vital.

3. Nose:
In the beginning, very reserved, but opened up after one hour.
Filigree aromas of Stone- and Tropical Fruits. Hints of Petrol.
Multifaceted Floral and Herbal characters come with Fine Minerality.
Very fine, sophisticated and inviting!

4. Taste:
Decent and elegant Stone Fruit- mostly Ripe Peach- and some Orange Zest and Lime.
Soft Honey. Freshness- in a quiet but exciting play of Acidity and Minerality.
Finishes medium-long with Soft Fruit, Herbal Spices and a beautiful mouthfeel.
Harmonious and fine knitted with good concentration and elegance!

5. Opinion:
Light as a feather, but complex, filigree and perfectly balanced.
Compared to the aged Auslesen from Maximin Grünhaus and Karthäuserhof, we´ve tasted recently, this wine is even more delicate. Highly interesting, and even challenging, to smell and taste through the wine´s many facets and layers.
Fascinating and still good for some more future years.

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(photo http://www.haart.de)