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lördag 12 april 2014

Weingut Schlossgut Diel

First some Swedish music.

Then...time to make good on that promise...to write up some tasting notes into digital form to share them with fellow wine aficionados. It ain't easy... (click) to find time for such niceties this period. Don't know if you have the same thing out there in your countries but here it's the period for national exams in Chemistry. Always a source of great Angst among the students. Such an irony that I have amassed all the subjects they fear the most...

My tasting notes are stacked in a big pile on the table and stares at me so I thought I just pick the first one from the top and start sharing. Remember, my thoughts, my palate, my impressions - if you agree or don't agree, please feel free to share your comments and let's compare. I don't expect anyone to perfectly mimic my taste buds so take my observations for what they are.

First out of the gates is Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen. Or is it Rümmelsheim? I once thought it was Dorsheim. We will have to ask Caroline Diel to log on and clarify things if she happens to have an account here. At least it's easy finding the place - all you need to do is to look for the tower of the former Burg Layen castle which was part of the Baron of Dalberg's estate purchased by an ancestor, Peter Diel, in 1802. I visited the estate a lovely sunny spring day in mid March. Or...I could as well have said a summer day. Sunshine and above 20 degrees Celcius it felt kind of funny walking around wearing a t-shirt while at the same time Stockholm, my home town, it looked like this. Now, how can that be fair?? At the base of the imposing tower is a courtyard and the first thing you notice is something I always associate with Schlossgut Diel, the vintage Mercedes-Benz parked outside the estate. Every now and then, Armin Diel can be found steering this beauty along the streets of the Germany countryside. Together with his wife Monika, Armin has been managing the estate's 25 hectares of vines for many years now, continuously replanting it with Riesling and Pinot. In the meantime, the next generation has become involved and taken over; their daughter Caroline Diel (a must-see so please don't forget to click!) with cellar master Christoph Friedrich. The focus is on Riesling wines, both dry and with the natural sweetnes of ripe fruit, as well as white and red Pinots and sparking wines produced by the traditional méthode champenoise.

It was pure luck I managed to visit them at all because I came at the worst time possible, just prior to ProWein and sure enough - they still had to prepare some bottle samples and head up to Düsseldorf for some pre-fair dinenrs and presentations. Armin was there and...I'm sorry, but I just have to say this. Have you met him? Have you heard his voice? I find myself standing in attention everytime I hear Armin's deep, penetrable voice. It's impossible to be indifferent. You are lured and drawn into his hypnotic voice like the gravity from a singularity and you remain focused as long as he speaks. I mean this in a positive way because his voice and language is beautiful and I must admit I find myself listening to his German at the Bad Kreuznach Auction each year just because of how he masters the German language. Don't be fooled, because there's sincere warmth and utter generosity behind that noble, aristocratic appearance. So why I'm asking if you have seen or heard him speak? Because you will better understand the wines. There's this sense of both gentle and firm, baroque "aristocracy" to the wines that mimic the impressions of Armin. But how do the vines know this? Does he walk the vineyards and speak to the vines? I don't know. You have to ask Armin. However, the real boss of the vineyards nowadays is Armin's daughter Caroline and it was together with her and her husband Sylvain I sat down for some time to taste through some of their wines. Caroline...oh no, you say. Now he''s gonna ask us if we have met her too and if we have heard her speak. Okay, I'll spare you this one but I refuse to continue with my impressions before saying that it's difficult to find a more charming girl than Caroline and there's something about her... I have taken a lot of photos of her over the years and somehow she's always as photogenic every time. When I see myself on photos, I think...well, you get the picture. I can already hear you shout "Bias!" because I like her as a person, but rest assured that we had a very tense meeting this time. She confessed - I have witnesses - really confessed that she has comitted a crime(!) in one of her vinyerads, the fourth Cru vineyard close to the village of Burg Layen. We had heated discussions about this and finally, leaving upset, I warned her that I was going to tell on her, at least to Klaus-Peter Keller and Hans-Günther Schwartz, formely the wizzard at Müller-Catoir in Pfalz. And I promised to give her a hard time publically. "Go on, make my day, punk!" - I could see it in her eyes that she was thinking just that when I left.

More on that later but let’s focus on some history and descriptions of Diel's vineyards. The first official delineation of the names and boundaries of the vineyard sites along the Nahe river took place after the area west of the Rhine was occupied by the French in 1796. At this time, the Burg Layen castle and Dorsheim became part of the Département Rhin-Moselle. The first detailed maps, although not published until 1819, were drawn up by the French surveyor Subreville. After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the Congress of Vienna granted all territories north of the Nahe river to the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1857, the king's office in Berline decided that the maps for the Rhine province of Prussia shlould be redrawn. This exercise was completed by 1860. A first start on a land register for Dorsheim and Burg Layen began in 1891. In the course of preparing the official Prussian property tax assessment map in 1901, the Pittermännchen, Goldloch, and Burgberg vineyards in Dorsheim were classified in the highest caegory. And it's these three Cru vineyards that make up Diel's wonderful treasure. Side by side on a rolling hill, yet with so different soil characteristics and as a consequence, totally different wines. These vineyards were the highlight of a tasting I once had with Riesling Kabinett from the same vintage from each Cru. The age of the vines are similar in the three sites, the microclimates are similar, the cellar work as well. Only a few meters separate them from one another, yet they produce entirely different wines - what a an astonishing example of true terroir and what it can do with the tast of a wine! Let's have a look at the vineyards as a background to my tasting notes.

 If you turn off the autobahn between Koblenz and Bingen just outside Dorsheim and look towards the undulating landscape you will notice the vineyards form their own little hill, from the lefto to right: Pittermännchen, Goldloch and Burgberg. Diel's plot in Pittermännchen is only one hectare in size. The rather unusual name derives from a small silver coin used in the 16th century, apparently chosen to allude to the high value of the wines from this site. Its loamy soils are interspread primary with grey slate, gravel and quartzite. A composition providing ideal conditions for producing delicate, complex Riesling wines with great aging potential. With sex hectares, Goldloch is the largest of Diel's plots in this steep and south-facing site. Supposedly gold was mined here in the 17th century. Later, considering the prices these Riesling wines fethced, the locals jokingly said the vineyard was a "gold-mine" for its owners. The stony soils date from the Permian period and consists of bedrock covered with a thin layer of gravelly loam. The family's lot in Burgberg is five hectares and has been in their possessions since the mid 90s. Thanks to its concave surface surrounded by boulders, the site has a particularly favorable microclimate. The name (literally "castle hill)) refers to Burg Layen castle and is meant to underline the special nature of the site. The iron-rich, loamy soils have a high proportion of Taunas quartzite that lends the Rieslings complexity and a pronounced mineral character.

Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to taste any Pinots this time but just to give you an idea on the high class possible from this estate I'll share the tasting note from a good friend of mine and serious Burgundy addict who, in my opinion, scores wine very strictly.

2006 Spätburgunder Cuvée Caroline, Schlossgut Diel
I have been poured a couple of vintages of Cuvée Caroline blind in the past, and every time I have been certain that it have been a really great Burgundy. This time was no exception, even though I poured it myself. :-) On the front label it says Pinot Noir and on the back label it says Blauer Spätburgunder - a beloved child has many names... The nose is to die for with a hedonistic, deep, creamy character full of wild strawberries, raspberries, some blueberries tossed in and additional notes of veal stock, truffle juice, bay leaves and forest floor. Utterly gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful. There is a hint of maturity that adds to the complexity. The taste follows the nose perfectly with purity, intensity and concentration. Stunning notes of ripe strawberries, raspberry truffles, Asian spices, tobacco and moist undergrowth. The finish goes on for over a minute. Smooth tannins and a perky acidity. This is a dead ringer for a great Grand Cru Burgundy! 97points (tasted 2014/03)

Obviously some good jucie to be had there and a mental note to myself that I must indeed ask next time if I could taste some of the red nectar produced by Caroline. But for this occsion I can only offer my impressions of the white wines we tasted. I'm saying white although it actually means Riesling 99,9% of the time but the last one wasn't actually a Riesling and led to a heated debate where I threatened Caroline I would crawl around the Schlossberg vinyard at night and put things back right. Do the right thing, as it were. It struck me that I actually forgot to ask Caroline about what she thought about the vintage so the wines will have to speak for themselves and you will have to do with my tasting notes and impressions. Because these are still youthful samples drawn from the tank and not yet bottled I use a score range together with my verbal impressions.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Trocken Nahestein
What I've always loved with wines from Diel is their pronounced "yellowness" in both colour and flavour, and this one is no exception. Always this typical yellow apple intermixed with citrus, combined into such a vivid display of fresh fruit and minerals. Here even mixed with some red peach and a hint of apricot, all favorable characteristics but in texture it comes out as somewhat coarse. Or think a little "grainy" and you get the idea. This is easily drinking any day of the week. 84-85 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Riesling Trocken
Much more intensity here, with a firm mineralic backbone that sets the tone from the first sip, feeling leaner. Think gren lime zest. More structure and more depth while the coarsenes is eased a bit. Fermented partially in 70% large stückfass it offers a lovely touch of mandarine peel beautifully dancing together with the minerality. 87-88 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Trocken Eierfels
Named after a site between the Burgberg and Goldloch, and in reality a blend of both from lesser soil plots but nevertheless showing off as a serious wine, this impresses from the start. Beginning with warm, yellow flowers and grapefruit before expanding on the palate and displaying a very nice balance and drying elegance. Feels kind of relaxed and laid back in texture. Waves of yellow flower notes, beautiful citrus and a most agreeable, almost smoky mineralic finish. Much more polished than the previous samples. I'm intrigued as where this will end up. 89-92 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Pittermännchen Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Oh yes...sappy start with that beautiful mandarine tone already on the nose, coming on to you, flirting, begging for attention. A sip or two later you notice more of fresh apricot flavours, really ultrafresh from a newly picked fruit, mixed with flavours of red peach. Now this might sound as very aromatic and fruit but that's not really how it should be described. Think of all those flavours as slight hints on the tip of your tongue while the core offers up a vivid mineralic texture with slate smoke and flint. Sticks and stones, without the bones. There's a wonderful interplay between tropical fruit and cool minerality that makes me believe this one can blossom into something really special. 91-94 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Goldloch Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Oh boy, this is fun... I didn't think so much about the soil profile from this site. It was only after I read my initial notes when Caroline explained the different soil profiles that I realised how uncanny I had just descried the wine. The first impression is...grey. The colour grey in all shapes and forms. Above all grey stones, a grey gravel road somewhere in Germany a cold, rainy, grey autumn afternoon. Can you imagine it? It reminds me most of all of Schäfer-Fröhlich's Kupfergrupe. Wet stones, liquid mineral and almost cold in it's appearance - maybe I like it because I feel at home since it reminds me of typical Swedish winter weather. Or a Löwenstein Riesling where you sometimes don't notice the fruit and are left to believe the origin of the wine is just one Giant Hulk squeezing pure, grey rock into liquid. Very rigid, very baroque, very grey:ish saline. But it's not just grey - there this sprinkle of...yes, you've guessed it - those notes of yellow apples I always associate with Diel. Had it not been for this playful dance between opposites the wine would feel a little too monolithic to my taste. 90-92 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Burgberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Ahh, a lovely balance between nose, palate and texture from the very beginning. Cool, almost frozen fruit and in the middle of it a touch of sunshine. Delicate, almost soft-spoken it packs the yellow fruit in the middle while surrounded by this thin mineralic coating. Here too you find flint, stones and vibrating minerality but never from a shouting position. It all remains firm, laid back and very aristocratic. Almost coarse with some tartness, in a positive sense. 91-93+ points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett
So loveley fro the first sip. Uncomplicated in a sense since it slides so easily down the throat but make no mistake about it - this is far from a "simple" wine. I have no idea what it may cost but probably not too much given the lack of vineyard designation, so probably a good buy from any angle. It offers a rasping sensation (like sand paper) on the tongue with...you've guessed it, yellow apple but also notes of red apple and red peach and peppers which adds a nice spicy red:ish tone to this lovely Kabinett. 87-88 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Goldloch Riesling Kabinett
Oh yes, trapped sunshine in a wine! Deeper, more polished, more finely tuned acidity with cool, succulent yellow peach and fresh chrunchy, yet ripe apricot. With some refreshing, crisp salinity travelling along the entire experience. Lovely energetic finish. This is a winner. 90-91+ points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Pittermännchen Riesling Kabinett
Very jucie, more so than the Goldloch, with more succulent fruit, also somewhat sweeter and the fruit...not so deep but rather "brighter". There's this coating of white grapefruit peel and also creamy, spicy, musty note I believe might still be a touch of yeast in the wine. 88-89+ points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Goldloch Riesling Spätlese
I know I'm repeating myself here but yellow fruit on the nose and palate on sip one (taste the wines yourself and see if you can find a better description) but here added with a very sublime layer of mango and mandarine. The whole package opens up like a delicate flower as it sits in the glass and pushes out aromas of flower and citrus; always with this nice backbone of wet, grey stones. You know, like stones just after a heavy rainfall, the moment just after, when the rain has stopped and you can feel the stone in the water-drenched atmosphere. We're talking delicate balance from the start to finish, a fine complexity and all in all a very soothing wine experience. Bravo! 92-93 points.

2013 Schlossgut Diel Pittermännchen Riesling Spätlese (Auction)
Destined to go to the Bad Kreuznach Auction in September this offers a pronounced richer, more succulent and zesty cornucopia of tropical fruit. Beautifull colour and above tension, like liquid gold, it coats the palate with succulent yellow/red peach flavours almost to the point of finding myself drooling like a child eating ripe, juicy fruits. Sweeter and quite warmer and more tropical but never letting go off the mineralic core that erects the entire package into a noble, baroque glass of a wine. Absolutely lovely. 92-94 points.

Now, this is where it starts to get ugly. Really ugly. And could you imagine, Caroline being such a lovely woman and all that but now...this. Time flies when you're having fun and there was no doubt Caroline was in a rush to prepare the final wines for a dinner she would already have the same evening close to Düsseldorf but I just sat there, staring into her eyes. "Well, that was the tasting", she exclaimed. "Yeah-yeah-yeah", I said, "Stop bullshitting me - come forth with the goods now before I get angry!" Her innocent look almost fooled me. Surely she must understand I can't leave...NOW! "But...but the tasting is over", she tried once again, obviously taking me for a fool. There was an intense silence in the air, both of us staring, me...more agressively, she...with that look on her face as if she was an innocent lamb. She knew PERFECTLY WELL what I was talking about! Finally I couldn't take it anymore and broke the silence - "You think I'm gonna leave without tasting the Scheurebe!?" I hissed at her in an irritated tone. "The Scheurebe?", she said studdering, trying to play on that innocent look, "but there is none", she said, almost believably. "There is none, there is none...what is THAT supposed to mean?", I replied angrily. "Do you wanna make me believe the Scheu picked up it's clothes and run away, dear, sweet Caroline?", I almost yelled at her, now exceedingly frustrated for not having Scheu in my empty glass. That's when she said it... That's when she used those words. Words that announced...and I know you are shaking your head in disbelief just as I did...that she had uprooted the Scheurebe vines from the Schlossberg Cru and that they are now...gone!!!!!! The last vintage was the 2012 and now...niente. Nada. Gone. They are no more. The Scheurebe from Schlossgut Diel has ceased to exist. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. The vines are now stiffs, bereft of life, their metabolic processes now history. The vines have kicked the bucket, shuffled of their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisble. This is now an EX-SCHEUREBE!!!

How COULD she!?? This lovely lady, this beautiful, sweet Caroline...snap-snap and Scheurebe no more! Women should be VERY careful snapping around with sharp scissors close to delicate objects! You never know what you might cut, snap-snap and detach if you're not careful. I just couldn't believe it. I mean, of all people...! Caroline!? She's supposed to be the Guardian of Scheurebe together with Klaus-Peter Keller and Hans-Günther Schwartz. And now...this!? Oh boy, was I displeased. "But, but...ít was such a tiny parcel and the production was super low and..", yes she tried. "And we didn't sell much of it either", she said. " Hum... "Okay then, can I buy some of the remaining 2012?", I asked. Suuure, she said. "Oh, wait a minute - they're sold out." Silcence in the room. Eyes staring. Tension. Caroline blushing. My point was proven. No more words were needed. I warned her - I will tell on her. The other Guardians will be most displeased with her! They will be very, VERY unhappy!

Obviously we couldn't end on such a sour note so to smooth things over Caroline offered me to at least taste a bottle of the very last Scheurebe.

2012 Schlossgut Diel Scheurebe
So pure! Almost transparent on its initial approach, it's literally dancing down your tongue while throwing white flowers to the left and to the right. Beautiful aromatics and such lovely freshness! Ultra-cool, white snow flakes, a touch of elderflowers and even pink grapefruit, and...mint! I SAID it's fresh and lively, didn't I? At the same time it has this sublime, almost subdued notes of herbs, dried herbs that together with that mintiness and even notes of cassis, making it utterly refreshing. A real showstopper. And a real winner! Such a beauty it was. So delicate and playfully dancing down the tongue with sprinkles of almost champagne bubbles despite being a still wine. And now...gone. 92 points.

All I could say was "Why, Caroline? Why, why, why?" And after this emotional display on my behalf, who knows, maybe she feels it's too much having this drama every year I visit so she might go out there and replant again just to get me off her case. And if she doesn't...well, what did you say? There has been reports about some strange lights up in the Schlossberg vineyard. At night? Hum... And movement, as if someone was forcedly replanting? I have not the slightest idea what you are talking about... I know noooth... But she'll have a big surprise next time she is harvesting her, supposedly, Riesling in Schlossberg this autumn. WOAHAhahaha!!!
And to conclude the story, I asked which vintages she still had left of the Scheurebe and if I'm not mistaken there were four and yes, a quick money transfer and they were in the trunk of my car...

Thanks for listening. Next up is...oh, whatever I find at the top of the pile of tasting notes.

And finally...some Swedish music again.

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