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.

Germany´s 2014 Riesling Revisited

When visiting many of the German top estates in March this year, the youthful 2014 wines showed elegant with low alcohol levels, juicy acidity and creaminess. Some were already delicious in their youth and definitely less challenging that the robust wines from 2013. Especially the Großen Gewächse from the Nahe and Rheinhessen region impressed with harmony, balance and elegance. Without lacking future potential, the wines had great finesse and fascination. They were rather quiet and aesthetic than baroque and opulent.

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Last week I had the chance to taste 19 of those wines next to each other blindly and, thereby, was able to compare, recheck and verify my early impressions of the 2014 Riesling vintage in Germany.
Here are my tasting notes and ratings:

  1. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Frauenberg
    Elegant aromatics of stone fruit and citrus, some herbal spiciness and traces of ripeness. Very balanced and harmonious with precision, decent drive and fine minerality. (91)
  2. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Schwarzer Herrgott
    Ripe fruit of apples and stone fruit with delicate, chalky minerality and freshness. Very present, almost opulent, on the palate with dancing acidity, cool depth, herbal spiciness and a lot of fruit. Perfect length with drive. (92)
  3. Kühling-Gillot 2014 Pettenthal
    Dynamic, powerful and exciting aromatics of tropical fruit and smokiness. Some red fruit. Bold and intense on the palate with exotic flavors, spiciness and salty minerality. Finishes long. Beautiful wine that fascinates with a great play of juiciness and vibrant minerality. Fantastic! (94)
  4. Wechsler 2014 Kirchspiel
    Intriguing nose of citrus and stone fruit, (smoked) onion and lighter fuel. Fine sweetness. Precise with substance and grip. First vibrant, then rather astringent in the mouth with a lot of fruit and tension. (93)
    By the way, this wine isn´t classified as GG (Großes Gewächs) since Katharina Wechsler is not a member of the VDP.
  5. Wittmann 2014 Morstein
    Very reluctant at first with fine fruit and minty freshness. Really needs time to open up in the glass (and mostly in the cellar). Very dense and compact, yet harmonious and balanced on the palate with great length, focus and saltiness. A quiet monster of structure, concentration and potential. (95)
  6. Dönnhoff 2014 Felsenberg
    Aromatics of ripe, yellow fruits and cool, freshly-cut herbs. Fine notes of butter. Elegant, but really open and inviting. Juicy and dense on the palate with juiciness of fruit, delicate, vibrant minerality. Perfect structure and length with matching sweetness, acidity and character. Surprisingly open and ready with all its pieces in place and, thereby, a great joy to drink already. (96)
  7. Gut Hermannsberg 2014 Hermannsberg
    Citrus and stone fruit, cabbage, almonds and traces of smoky minerality characterize the nose. Lean and a little bumpy and unsettled on the palate. Time will tell… (89)
  8. Joh. Bapt. Schäfer 2014 Pittermännchen
    Driven by freshness of citrus and green herbs. Fine minerality. Tight and precise with citrus, herbs (woodruff!) and saltiness. Dynamic and long. (91)IMG_2950
  9. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felsenberg
    Distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich with dominant notes of spontaneous fermentation and aromatics of stone fruit, delicate minerality and smokiness. Beautiful fruit and little juiciness on the palate. Some dustiness and sweetness show through a robust, crumbly structure of pure tension. Exciting and wild, but very pure wine! (94)
  10. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felseneck
    Another highlight from Tim Fröhlich and quite similar to the Felsenberg, but less expressive, more gracefully built and darker! Minerality forward with some stone fruit, herbs and bacon. Dynamic, salty and of perfect structure. Laser-like precision, immense length with citrus freshness, fine juiciness and herbal spiciness. (95)
  11. Clemens Busch 2014 Marienburg Fahrlay
    Quiet aromatics of tropical fruit and peach, some florals and herbs. Fine and elegant, but paltry and broad. Lacking drive and length. (88)
  12. Heymann-Löwenstein 2014 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay
    Reductive at first. Unusual aromatics of iodine, bacon and pure smokiness. With some ripe peach only little fruit is present. Vibrant, cool and full of herbal spiciness shows the wine on the palate. This is no wine for inexperienced winelovers, because it is really challenging – and nevertheless fascinating. (92)
  13. Van Volxem 2014 Altenberg
    This Riesling shows its drive right from the beginning with smoky minerality and yellow fruit. A little blunt and rather opulent without being really loud. Present ripeness (of botrytis), some lime and little saltiness. Unfortunately lacking density and, most of all drive. Finishes brittle. (87)
  14. Leitz 2014 Schlossberg
    The only Riesling from the Rheingau really performed with sappy tropical fruit and red fruits. Cacao, licorice and some sweetness join the vital, yet delicate and sophisticated aromatics. Mouthcoating with yellow fruits, herbs and orange zest. Finishes very long with precision and vital acidity. A powerful and very approachable wine of finesse. (94)
  15. Bürklin-Wolf 2014 Ungeheuer
    Fine fruit, delicate herbs (sage!) and cool minerality. Little sweetness. Elegant and smoothly structured with proper density and grip. Elegant Bürklin-Wolf needing time. (91)
  16. Georg Mosbacher 2014 Ungeheuer
    Powerful aromatics of ripe stone fruit, some lime and even traces of red fruit. Very straight on the palate while not lacking vibrancy and substance. Vital, yet harmonious wine with delicate minerality and fresh fruits of gooseberry and lime. At the moment, the greater, more fascinating expression of the Ungeheuer. (93)
  17. Philipp Kuhn 2014 Saumagen
    Aromatically dominated by minerality. The fruit needed some time to show with grapefruit and peach. Yet, rather one-dimensional. Puristic, cool and full of salty minerality and vital acidity, this wine finishes long and firm. (92)
  18. Rebholz 2014 Kastanienbusch
    Funky, expressive aromatics of tropical fruits, sweet woodruff, green pepper and candy. Clean, yet rather broad, on the palate with tropical fruit and freshness. This wine improved the most over the time of the tasting as the loud aromatics decreased and more structure and precision showed. (89)
  19. Von Winning 2014 Grainhübel
    Another expressive wine of ripe, tropical fruit, butter, freshness and florals (violets). Herbs, mostly chamomile, and fine fruit dictate the palate. Relatively bold, robustly structured and complex. Good length. (90)

Germany´s 2014 dry Rieslings are elegant, harmonious and almost homogeneously of great quality.
The stars certainly come from Rheinhessen and the Nahe region, where the wines show character, drive and future potential, 2014 is generally a vintage for short- to medium-term drinking. The best wines will last for decades.

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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: 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: Dönnhoff 2006 Hermannshöhle GG, Riesling

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1. Introduction:
Dönnhoff owns more than half of the 8 ha (~20 acre) of the famous Hermannshöhle vineyard, which is officially classified as the best site in the entire Nahe appellation for more than 100 years.
Besides the dry Großes Gewächs (GG/ “Grand Cru”) Dönnhoff produces wines with residual sweetness from this southern- exposed, volcanic and slate-soiled vineyard located directly on the banks of the Nahe river, where the Riesling grape is able to enjoy a long growing season and to reach full physical ripeness without accumulating to much sugar.
The complex soils of black and grey slate, volcanic rock, porphyry and lime stone create wines with concentration and deep minerality.
Bottle and cork of our 2006 Hermannshöhle GG are flawless. 13% alc.

2. Appearance:
Golden with green reflexes. Shining and bright!

3. Nose:
Aromatics of (ripe) Stone Fruits, mostly Peach, and Citrus.
Fir Needles, Sweet Honey and Floral Characteristics.
Fine Flintstone and little Licorice.
Voluminous, fresh and precisely multi-layered!

4. Taste:
Dense and soft on the front palate with Stone- and Citrus Fruits.
Grapefruit, some Pear and Pineapple.
Dynamic, Fine and Dancing Acidity which shows powerful on the finish as well.
Finishes long with Fruit (Grapefruit!), Powerful Acidity, some interesting traces of Bitterness plus some Anise/ Pepper Spiciness.

5. Opinion:
Great expression of a famous vineyard in a beautiful interaction of Fruit, Acidity and Minerality.
Powerful, elegant and complex!
This just started to evolve. Armed with perfect structure, this wine will live for a long time.
There is so much in this wine; it´s big, but quiet and multifaceted without being obtrusive.

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Hermannshöhle Vineyard, 04.2013

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.