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lördag 26 april 2014

Chateau Gruaud-Larose

Oh! It’s not just German Riesling in my glass!

2000 Chateau Gruaud-Larose
A suprise in many ways. I must confess that this particular Chateau has never rocked my boat. Previously, I had never bought a single bottle myself but often been treated to a glass of various vintages - served blind - and the common impressions has almost always been that of a fairly "competent" Bordeaux, medium-bodied, some typical BX characters of cedar and saddle leather, nicely balanced but never really shooting off any rockets into the sky. My scoring has usually landed on a solid 87-89 points, which is of course a delicious wine but not really reaching the stars to be included among the really great wine experiences once a year of dinners and tastings are summarised at the end of the year. This is the first (and only) bottle of the Chateau I have bought myself and also the first time I tasted this particular vintage. I don't know if it's the vintage in question but the impressions delivered by the 2000 version of Gruaud-Larose wasn't at all similar to my previous experiences. On the nose, a truly beautiful perfume of black damp forest floor, black currants, frozen licorice, cedar and black cherries. Just the nose alone would merit a 96-97 score. Really beautiful scents coming out of the glass almost to the point of preventing you to take a sip because you want to remain with this wonderful sensory experience. And also, don't get me wrong - the perfume of these characteristics don't come out bursting, like someone kicking your door in like some SWAT team and rushing into the apartmet but rather in a very understated, elegant way. Too elegant and it would have been whispering too low, too high and the flavours would explode in your face like an Aussie Shiraz but one has found that perfect middle way - not too much, not too little. In Sweden it's called lagom. On the palate, the flavour profile repeats the initial perfumes from the glass, with some added dried herbs and Asian spices but the center of the stage is still that pitch dark blackness. Cool, cool, black fruits, again that black earthiness (try a walkabout in a dense pine forest on a damp, early morning, very concentrated and complex and rather full-bodied compared to the more medium-bodied vintages I have tasted previously. The tannins are certainly there but the wine feels very polished and very elegantly posed, like someone aristocratical gently walking across the floor without haste. So there is really in impressive integration between the various components here. Beautiful mineralic and pure in texture and with a lovely finish this is a winner. Compared to my previous experiences, this IS a wine to remember. A solid 93+ points today but I'll come back to it tomorrow to see if that (+) could be expanded.

söndag 20 april 2014

The rare Keller Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling Auslese


There will be another intermission as I'm not nearly close to finish the tasting notes from the next estate so I thought I'd share some impressions of two wines that evokes a...sexual feeling. Or was it a healing? Let's all together get into the right groove before I start. Here. Yes, you heard me right. And I apologise beforehand because there is really no need to include sexual inuendos to make God-fearing servants of the British Queen feeling all un-zipped (those are usually the only ones who are not "keen on" such exxplicit comparisons, while Americans seem to be more relaxed). The first wine was ordered more than a year ago at a restaurant in New York and shared with my then girlfriend (today my wife, as strange as it may sound) and consumed with a wonderful dinner; the second wine was just opened to support the energy level while continuing this quest to transfer some tasting notes into digital form and share them with fellow wine aficionados in general and Riesling dito in particular).

First wine. A beautiful evening in my favourite city, New York, with my favourite girl. We reserved a table at the Jean George Nougatine at the corner of Central Park. Delicious food through all courses and what could be better to accompany the great dishes with equally great wine? So I asked for the wine list and surprisingly I wasn't that thrilled. Apparently the look of my eyes were revealing so the waitor asked me if I would like to see the extended wine list. Is the Pope Catholic? The answer was quite obvious and as I scanned the pages I noticed several wines from a friend of mine, Klaus-Peter Keller. Hmm, I took a hard look at the prices and they were quite reasonable for being in a such a restaurant but not only that, I noticed that a bottle from one of my absolute favourite vineyards on this planet, Westhofener Abtserde (or Abts E as written on the bottle for various reasons but I try to convince Klaus-Peter to return to the proper name) was priced below that of Kirchspiel and Hubacker. How could that be? The latter two are also incredible delicious to my palate but nevertheless, the Abstserde is one of the stars in my wine heaven. The vintage listed was the 2010 - super young of course but hey, I've tasted it sevel times before and loved it on each occasion. So I asked the sommelier if the price was correct and indeed it was. Still hesitant, I asked if it was a half-bottle but she insisted it was a regular bottle. Hmm. Okay, so let's give it a try and see if the actual bottle would appear. And it did.

2010 Keller Westhofener Abtserde Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Actually, it's Westhofener Brunnenhäuschen, possibly with the extension Absterde but that would make an already long story even longer; instead I'll try to focus on sex. Oh, sorry, what a give-away! I mean the wine. T h e w i n e. Let me get this straight - the food was delicious, my girlfriend is awesome but as I started to sip this wine my vision got more and more...blurred. I mean, I saw the food, I did talk to my girlfriend but the surroundings seemed more and more out of focus, voices taking the back-bench distantly far as my mind raced and I shouted out to myself, in a loudly-pitched mental voice: I want to have sex with this winemaker! It was that good. Don't get me wrong, I'm straight and I love my wife but this...this, ehh, how to explain it? It just makes you want to jump straight out of the restaurant's chair and make love to this winemaker as a friendly and passionate token for the gratitude one feels towards someone who has made this wine possible. I don't know how such a sensory joy is expressed in America but I'm telling you - a wine this good completely overwhelmes me with emotions. It starts with such incredible ENERGY, a true vibrato, oscillating to the point when you wonder if the rest of the patrons at the restaurant notice how the table almost lifts off from the good vibrations. You don't even think about fruit flavours, acidity, texture, palate or peripher things like that. It's this...eeeeeenergi from the first sip! Always like a nervous little child hiding beneath the bed need to be convinced and lured to come out to see there are no monsters hiding in the closet. If there ever was a posture child for boyancy, tension and up-lift in a wine, this is it. Zappy, snappy, crystal-clear it jumps at you, grabs you by the head and shakes you madly, no, attacks you like a monkey on acid, until you're forced to acknowledge its presence. Sure, you have the usual grapefruit, tangerine, yada-yada-yada fruit characteristics as always, the piercing yet ripe acidity but honestly you don't care - this is pure limestone minerality and that's what comes to your mind more than enaything else. Absolutely stunning! Utterly exhilarating! And wait a minute, where's that winemaker now again - I want to have sex with him!! Abtserde...this is such a beautiful vineyard and to me, a true German treasure. It's documented as far back as 1280. A drystone wall protect the site from the north and underground springs pprovide it with moisture. No other site in Westhofen has such a high active-lime content - it allows the grapes to remain very small and intensely flavoured. And it really shows when you walk through the vineyard and see these tiny, tiny grapes widely dispersed in small bunches, looking like small champagne bubbles waiting to burst with energy - no wonder then that the yields are so absurdly low. Obsviously I can't take credit for being the only one realising the quality of this German gem; David Schildknecht rated it higher than the G-Max this year and John Gilman seemed to fall in love even harder in his assessment. However, both these gentlemen have to excuse me but this 2010 version is even better than that, 98 points. "What are you thinking of, dear?" I snapped out of my thoughts and smiled back at my girlfriend. "Nothing, my dear"...
 The second wine is consumed as we speak (and maybe that's the reason for some unorthodox tasting notes this evening) to provide energy for further tasting notes transcriptions.

2012 Keller Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling Auslese

This wine comes from the, oh God only knows...what is it? Zero, point something/nothing hectares of the best tiny, tiny super-parcel originating from the iconic Franz Karl Schmitt holdings in Nierstein's famous red slate soils, "Rotem Hang". I wish I could describe this wine in a more posed and aristocratic way is I'm drooling down my laptop here while sipping on this tremendous jucie. This is...hard to describe. It's...totally irresistable. Where even to begin describing it. Forget the fruit, forget even the acidity and minerality for a moment and just listen to this: tension... This Riesling Auslese jumps at you with such utterly boyancy and tactile tension, baboom! It's just the image from a track and field competition and pole vaulting - the athlete comes running with an erect (excuse the pun) pole and then catapulting himself up, up, up towards the sky. That's the feeling you get initially. The Sergej Bubka of Rieslings. And then the texture... So absolutely delicate, so wonderfully light on its feet - as if barely touching the ground. So damn refreshing, so vidivly light and playful, like dancing down your throat with music in your ears - and this is an Auslese. I think it's important to report on this. For several reasons. That the Nierstein Rotes Hang can produce this marvelous elixir, just as it did a hundred years ago, IF properly cared for. And that a Riesling Auslese doesn't HAVE to be truly sweet, like a dessert wine, or cloggy or clumsy. This one is absolutely the opposite with it's laser-like precison, total clarity, beautiful transparency and only towards the end you start to really think about luscious fruits and seducing flavours once the spellbinding and intense liquid minerality gives way to...oh, what to say? Like a mint-infused melon-pear cornucopia mixed with these. The cool, fresh candy from Finland. With zesty acidity and this stunningly pure minerality it's almost impossible to resist another sip. Resistence is indeed futile. I feel like just stripping full naked and running all the way down to Germany doing the helicopter, with a stop-over in Bremen for a knackwurst snack and continue running down south so you'll hear me already when I pass Alzey, ready to extend a big, warm hug. 97 points. I don't know if you're reading this, David Schildknecht, but you rated the 2011 vintage of this brilliant wine 98 points and I couldn't agree more that we are talking about a wine at the highest Olympic heights. So I really hope we can have you on German soil soon for you to taste and compare the 2012 and 2013 vintages of this wine. I was so taken by the brilliance of this wine I had to quickly browse through my tasting notes from last year just to see what my impressions were then. Indeed the wine seem to evoke the same feelings back then - I rated it 96-98 points when first tasting this wine from barrel and then ending up at 97 points in June when tasting it from bottle. Young or old, it continues to make my just wanting to strip naked and start running south...

For those taken aback by these filthy impressions I apologise profusely. I AM indeed nothing less, nothing more than this.

torsdag 17 april 2014

Sushi & Riesling


Sorry for having to interrupt the heated discussion on German Riesling ;-) but I thought I'd add a few notes on Rieslings opened just recently. I apologise for not sticking to the theme of the heading, vintages 2012 and 2013, but as I mentionen, transfering all these notes from paper into an electronic version requires some infusion of energy and what could be better then opening som older rieslings to was down som of this.

Yummy stuff! Oh, I really miss Restaurant Iso on 2nd Ave between 10th and 11th St in New York! Any recommendations for first class yet affordable sushi on Manhattan are warmly welcome to share them!

So on to the three Riesling wines that I opened at the same time for "comparative, empirical studies", as it were....

2005 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett
The most developed of the trio, with already slightly creamy texture as the sweetness have started to integrate with the acidity. On it's way to a place somewhere in the middle between completely dry and a Kabinett. Feels very mellow and aristocratic; doesn't shout but just gracefully displays its stuff: herbs, crushed stones, apple pie and some refreshing bitterness towards the finish. Very pure and elegant. And delicious. 88 points.

2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett
The freshest feeling of the trio, not only because it's younger but it really has this greater tension and an uplift direction compared to the Kabinett above. On the palate you don't just have the usual suspect of grapefruit but also fresh melon, nutmeg and dried honey. Feels very polished and as the Domprobst quite soft and mellow, which prevents it to reach the higher ratings in my book (I would need more oscillating nerve and tension in the wine for that). Nevertheless, the ticklish mineral finish and overall balance makes this a delicious wine to enjoy with any type of seafood. 89 points.

2005 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Spätlese
Again a very agreeable specimen of a wine! Starting to slowly mature into something that is just in the beginning of being called "creamy". Elegant and spicy it too doesn't really shout out its existens but rather softly whispers out flavours of peach, orange-peel, ad...ginger. Beautiful stone character supporting the spices and the mellow fruits and overall something that could best be described as a mixture of the two wines above and it would would also receive a smiliar score had it not been the shift into an extra gear on the finish where this Spätlese becomes more vibrating and above all, offers a long, long, absolutely beautiful, vigourous finish. Yummy! 92 points.

Has anyone tasted these Rieslings recently?

Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken

Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken

With both 2012 and 2013 vintages of Weingut Keller being such a humongous task to report on, I though I'd offer a small interlude with Zilliken from Saarburg. I think Hanno and Dorothee Zilliken might be the only ones in Germany who would ask you to please keep the engine running while you're visiting and tasting. Being slightly cooler, Hanno explained, in the 70s, 80s and even 90s you were lucky to have three vintages for every 10 year period where you would have most of the grapes reaching full ripeness. Nowadays almost every vintage so just a l i i i i i t l e more global warning and Saar will be perfect (whereas some sites with perfect sun exposure along the Mosel can already be too warm in very hot vintages). So feel free to leave your car keys inside and the engine running while you're visiting. This year and maybe the next one - then Saar will probably reach an opimally climatic peak.

I guess Hanno considered 2013 to be one of those few outlier vintages remaining in the 21th century. The challenges for the Zilliken family seem to be similar to what many other estates reported so if you visited at harvest time and were contemplating about the unusual scarcity of people in the villages it's because every passing visitor was probably kidnapped by the winemakers to hurridly climb the vineyards and help out with the record-fast harvest as the grapes turned from still somewhat unripe to overripe in matter of days. Hanno's story reminded me of what Helmut Dönnhoff told me one year, that the postman came by to deliver the mail and Helmut asked him:

- What will you do now?
- I will of course continue delivering people's mail, the postman replied.
- No, you're NOT, Helmut replied and pointed up towards the vineyards.

So a lot of stress to pull everything in while the grapes were still healthy. In fact, Zilliken did have an opportunity to bottle both Spätlese and Auslese but they simply didn't feel that the ripeness and the extract was sufficient to produce them with such high quality and style that has always been the hallmark of their estate so they decided that the juice would go into fewer wines and by that make the wines they actually release being top notch. And admirable effort but probably not a winner economically speaking. So no Riesling Alte Reben this year, and no Diabas, no Grosses Gewächs, no Spätlese and no Auslese - but nevertheless some delious juice in the glass.

Oh, before I continue I should point out that tasting with Hanno carries this love/hate relationship. After the tasting of the recent vintage, Hanno very much enjoys running down to the cellar only to return with these damn, unmarked bottles. I mean, have you seen the cellar? It's like this imaginary this-is-how-a-cellar-would-look-like-if-I-could-invent-one-from-scratch-in-your-dreams. Damp, cold, several layers beneath the rock with stalactites forming from the roof. Now, imagine how a wine evolves in these perfect conditions. Why the cursing and why is it love & hate? Oh, don't get me wrong - I absolutely love this unique opportunity to taste wines I would never have come across otherwise. Sure, you might find an occasional bottle on the internet but that's usually a bottle that has been stored way, way too warm in a store somewhere for many summers and will most likely just disappoint. But this...this is something different. The bottles are absolutely prestine with utterly perfect storage and has never left the famous Zilliken cellar. So where's the "hate"? The reason that it's not uncommon to have this type of dialogue at the table with Hanno Zilliken:

Hanno returns from the cellar with some bottles and pours the first one.

- Well?

- Hum...a more yellowish colour...on the nose, a little more perfumed and some petroleum compared to the new release - this one has some age!
, I shout out triumphantly.

- Yes-yes, please go on.

- But still with lot's of freshness and the sweetness slighly integrated with the acidity so can't be that old but still, hum...

- Yes, carry on, Hanno replies with that disturbing smile in his eyes, making me suspect I should guess older than I really think.

- Hmm, I was going to say 2004 but with the smile on your face I reckon it's older so I'm actually going to say 2002!

- Ahhh, not bad. Really not bad at all! (Encouraging words from Hanno Zilliken. What a relief!)

- Really!? Not bad at all? I was that good? Spot on or did I just missed it by a year?, I ask eagerly, thinking that shit Miran, you're not such a bad taster after all.

- Yes, yes, really not bad at all. Almost there.

- Stop teasing me! So what are we talking about here? 2001? 2002??

- Almost. It's a 1983.

- But... But that means I was 20 years off!

- Well, yes...

Do you get the picture? So you can imagine the slight drop of self-confidence. I think I hit rock-bottom once when I was sure a wine was from 1993 or possibly 1989 but it turned out to be a 1959. That damn cellar!

2013 Zilliken Riesling Trocken
Delighful, elegant filigree from the very first sip, is the first line in my notebook. It's as if you feel aromas of flinty dust on the nose, mineral dust, a tad smokiness, almost like a dusty layer abobe the liquid in the glass. Utterly pure and transparent yet with enough stuffing and extract in its texture. Utterly elegant, very crisp and vivid, with lime-peel, white peach and green apples. And smoke! From grinding two pieces of slate together. The saliva keeps you drooling uncontrollably with your lips smacking to save the day. Not a pretty sight if I would take a selfie at this very moment... 87-88 points.

2013 Zilliken Saarburger Riesling Trocken

Take everything you find in the wine above and make it a little more polished. Divide the crushed slate into even a finer powder to a accentuate the minerality and salinity. Add to it flavours of violet, almost minty violets and mixed it with more yellow fruits compared to the brighter white peach infused regular Riesling Trocken. A touch of mandarine-peel bitterness towards the finish, making it more interesting. This really is the epitome of succulent juiciness. I teach biology at school and try to describe to my students that in order to reach the reflex to swallow the food it needs to be moist from the saliva and oh boy, this really makes you swallow... 87-89 points.

2013 Zilliken Riesling Butterfly
Considerably rounder in style, with more residual sugar but as with other 2013 it finishes almost dry, making it a very refreshing. Yellow peach, some nectarine, quite juicy, medium-full and well-balanced. A typical food wine that I imagine must do very well in restaurants. 86-88 points.

2013 Zilliken Saarburger Riesling Feinherb
So yellow in colour I was expecting a little more yeallow fruit and roundness, like the wine above, but instead you are met by this very pure and surprisingly weightless, levitating wine that seem to just touch your tongue ever so lightly as if not wishing to step on it. Flint stoniness with added smoke, delicate fresh herbs and only towards the finish you get more yellow apples mixed with dito green. Very elegenat finish with a lovely boyancy. 89-91+ points.

2013 Zilliken Saarburger Riesling Kabinett

Very light in style, weighing in at 7.5%, it starts of with sweetness on the palate but as the acidity kicks in and wraps up the entire package on each side of your mouth, it slightly erases the initial delicate sweetness with added salinity. Very lucid and fresh, delicate on all senses as is so often used when describing Zilliken's wines but for an even higher rating I would need more energy and extraxt on the palate. 87-88 points.

2013 Zilliken Bockstein Riesling Kabinett
A totally different style here, more oppulent, juicy, rounder and with more yellow apricote and orange-peel. But get this...with racy acidity that makes it very difficult to settle for one glass only. Smoke on the nose, the succulent texture on the palate being very flirty and overall very fine, transparant and light Riesling that reminds me more of the classic type of Kabinett from before - not this declassified Auslese-versions you come across in so many vintages. 89-90 points.

2013 Zillken Rausch Riesling Kabinett
Compared to the Bockstein this is both more elegant yet denser with more stuffing and hence to my palate a wine offering even more drinking pleasure. Influenced by teaching in mathematics I imagined it with the basic characteristics (fruit, acidity, minerality) as vectors pointing in every direction with uttermost, razor-sharp precision. Crisp, lazer-like focus with hints of melon and pink grapefruit, It seems to accelerate into this extra gear making it levitate above the ground with a wonderful vibrating energy and a long, complex and mineral-driven up-up-up-lift finish. A class act. 92-93 points. It really is a remarkable vineyard, this Saarburger Rausch, one of the very few that has this soil type, a mixture of two thirds blue slate and one third volcanic soils, the only other one that comes to mind would be the Abtsberg vineyard in Ruwer, according to Hanno. Both capable of creating this zappy, complex Rieslings with invigorating tension and complexity.

2011 Zilliken Saarburger Riesling Alte Reben
Hanno could of course not prevent himself from opening some more bottles "while we're at it". Harvested from several plots of old vines with widely spaced clusters and tiny berries. As good as I remember it upon release. Crystalline precision, crushe the stone and then liquify it and you get the crisp, stoney feeling, add to it cool, snow-like fruit with lemongrass/citrus and a very lively, boyant texture and you start to get the idea. Flushes down your throat like detergent in a washing machine (I know that doesn't sound too positive but what's that liquid called that you can use to flush your mouth after tootbrushing them, like an extra wave of cleaning?). One of the most delicate and filigree examples of Riesling from this vintage in Germany. 92 points.

2011 Zilliken Rausch Riesling Grosses Gewächs

Remains almost as weightless and delicate as the wine above but add to it even broader, deeper layers of extract and you have the Grosses Gewächs. Silky, almost creamy (but not yellow creamy but think creamy with white flowers and white peach - anything white will do), beautifully caressing ripe acidity like sun rays on a frosty window a cold winter morning. I find myself saying "crushed stones" all the time but how else to describe this wonderful feeling of salinity and minerality? Crystal-clear, totally transparent in its flavour profile, laser-like focus throughout the drinking experience and such utterly pure, seamless finesse on the long finish. How can you possibly go wrong here? 94 points.

2012 Zilliken Rausch Riesling Diabas
So fun to jump like this between different wines and vintages and have the possibility to compare! I'll start from the end. A loooong, persistent finish makes it difficult to continue to the next wine since this stays on your palate and refuses to budge. Feels a little more creamy and above all juicer than the ultra-precise GG and that's what the extra r.s. usually does - rounds it up a bit and in good years, does it without taking away the balance. Otherwise I think this is basically the same material as the GG but just that one barrel didn't ferment completely out (so basically a "halb-trocken" version of the GG) and thus not fitting with the legat boundaries of a GG according to VDP rules. Lovely floral notes with some slate smokiness. Similar to the GG, this comes out as so incredibly graceful and fine-tuned. Impeccable juice in a glass. 93 points.
 1983 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Halb-trocken
Obviosuly a completely different create (I have learned my lesson and today I'm always guessing 10-20+ years compared to what I really think), this offers up a delightful mix of swetness and freshness rolling out on your tongue like a silky carpet (imagine the age you will normally guess with that kind of first impression...). The acidity more integrated with the creamy, yellow fruit, with hints of butterscotch and some smoke. Lovely liquid gold feeling. It really adds to the experience when a wine can look this good. 89 points.

1983 Zilliken Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese
Yes, it's true, some years the Bockstein vineyard also produced Spätlese. Compared to the other 83er above this too has a lovely note of smokiness adding to the spicy flavour profile yet it possesses more fruit of mango, some pinapple, again a very lovely creamy texture and in the middle of all this integrated fruit you have this refreshing flinty smokiness (yes, again) and flinty stone character that makes it fresh and boyant. I think this is what Hanno would like many of us to taste, to see what Riesling can truly be like with considerable age but the truth is that very little of the output from any German winemaker will reach this type of maturity amongst us consumers. And who can blame us when young Riesling can be so refreshing and hard to resist!? I'm not taking the blame for this! 91 points.

1991 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese (Auction)
Lots of herbs here, mixed with round stones and flinty smoke. Fruitwise its an intriguing mixture with green AND yellow apples, melon, mint and some starfruit - incredibly salivating on the palate makes you politely ask for another napkin to hide the most obvious drooling. Very herby and refreshing with ripe acidity well integrated but in no way "creamy" like the older examples above. This feels fresh and delicate so trust me, you won't mumble about this wine being 22-23 years old as you sit opposite Hanno. So what - I guessed maybe a 2004 on this one. For a while I forgot how and where it was stored. And after all, it's a Zilliken. So I should have added ten years to my guess. I would love to have a stash of this at home to sip every now and then but how on earth do you get hold of bottles like this? 92 points.

2009 Zilliken Rausch Riesling Diabas

Strange thing to suddenly jump to a 09, you say? Well, I describe them in the order they were served. Compared to the younger versions of this wine, here are the first tiny signs that the Diabas with this age is beginning to peel of its initial baby youth and enter into a more adolescent style of maturity (and a long, long way to fully blossom as a true adult). Pronounced flavours of spices and herbs, like dried grass still left on the field. The r.s. is 15 grams in this one and it has already started to integrate very nicely with the acidity. Not creamy in any sense but still very soft-spoken, almost mellow in the middle but refreshing towards the end as the acidity on the finish kind of reappears (with a vengance) to make it succulent and mouthwatering as the wine sploshes down your dry throat. 91+ points.

2011 Zilliken Rausch Riesling Kabinett

Oh, succulent peach, juicy and refined at the same time, adds to the initial peachy flavours with an intriguing mix of fresh citrus, mango, mandarin-peel, and even some flowers. And all this mixed up with an inner core of stone-stone-stone creating wonderful complexity of this typical sweet-sour-salt feeling. So delicate and energetic and at the same time so graceful. No wonder another sip is mandatory, despite Hanno's effort to pour the next wine. No-no, we won't have that so I politely asked for a refill to sample this wine once more before the next one arrives. 92 points.

2012 Zilliken Rausch Riesling Auslese
Holy shit... What to say about this one? Harvested from cold, shrivelled grapes, it bounces in your mouth like a flipper, cold minty melon flavours with white peach as the wing man and passion fruit as the backup. Loads of minerality and also balanced with a lovely touch of salinity. A strange mixture indeed as it feels both tropical yet crystalline and zappy, crisp and mineral-driven. Layers of complexity here - optimally one should just sit with the glass for a long time, contemplating while the flavours change on the nose and palate but Hanno was already waving with the next bottle so I had to leave this one in a hurry. 95+ points.

1995 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese AP #1

Mature, creamy, caramell-coloured and completely integrated in all aspects of flavour, mineral and acidity profiles. Feels very tropical with mango, pineapple, vanilla, and yellow kiwi - like a meringue cake. And at the same time with such a precise, levitating acidity, perfectly integrated with the fruit at this stage. An Auslese with tension and up-lift, at this age. Every component seem to have taken its place and are now neatly tucked in to display percet and utter harmony. 95 points. A quick look in my cellar - number of bottles: 0. Damn...

1959 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spätlese Trocken

You see, this is what I'm talking about. This is what he does to visitors. You're happy if your guess comes at least within 30 years of the correct vintage and you leave with yet another humbling experience as to your ability to guess the vintage of a Riesling. Not! Smoke on the nose as well as first impression on the palate, completely dry at this stage with more notes of crushed rocks and polished stone rather than fruit flavours. Looks and feels like liquid gold or some ester mixture taken straight out of the chemistry lab where I teach. To me, more interesting than delicious as I find hints of sherry notes and I usually don't appreciate that even in young wines, you know, the way a Chablis can get with some bottle age. However, many of my friends would drool over a wine like this and insist there's nothing better than this combined with tapas and a bowl of nuts at the wine bar. 85 points. Since this was dry already from the beginning (Spätlese trocken) I would love to find out how a regular Spätlese (or Auslese) of this age would taste today. Probably almost dry but I suspect with added complexity as the sweetness has melted together with the acidity.

1976 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese Halb-trocken
Nowadays there's no more "halb-trocken" bottlings but basically it's the same as a Diabas version. With age this has taken on a full-bodied, creamy texture and compared to the dry 59 above, the younger age and the added residual sugar from the beginning lift up the flavour profile a little more, to make room for hints of papaya, mango dried apricot, and some yellow stone melon. Above all, what makes it such a joy to drink is the feeling of seemless integration between acidity, minerality and fruit. 91 points.

That concludes my impression from my visit to Zilliken in Saar. Now I have only to digitalise my tasting notes from visits to Keller in Rheinhessen, Maximin Günhaus in Ruwer, Clemens Busch and Julian Haart in Mosel, Dönnhoff and Schäfer-Fröhlich in Nahe, Robert Weil in Rheingau and Müller-Catoir in Pfalz and I'm finally done with my first impressions of vintages 2012 and 2013 in Germany! At least for Riesling. Oh, and then there's the tasting in Saarbrücken with 24 wines from the 2004 vintage, with some of the best Rieslings from Germany, Austria and France.

Doing all this writing without actually drinking Riesling to sustain the energy needed, is of course...impossible. So yesterday I opened a trio of German Riesling to accompany a delicious sushi plate: 2005 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett, 2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett and 2005 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Spätlese. Tasting notes? Patience, young Skywalker... That would be tasting note No. 71, 72 and 73 so far and seeing I have 16 tasting notes from Clemens Busch only, 17 from Maximin Grünhaus, more than 50 from Keller, more than 40 from Dönnhoff and so on, it will take some time...

Hopefully ther are more Riesling aficionados out there who are willing to share their impressions, good or bad, from these two very interesting and different vintages in Germany.  
And if you have actually made it this far without falling asleep...thanks for listening!

tisdag 15 april 2014

Willi Schaefer, Kühling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier

Willi Schaefer

Next up is Willi Schaefer in Graach. Or in fact, I didn't meet Willi this time but Christoph and Andrea Schaefer who are now officially running the humongous estate of, ehhh, could they actually have reached 4 hectares by now or are they still stuck at 3.95? That basically sums up the perpetual problem - the scarcity of their wines and a never-ending struggle to obtain a few bottles. The fact is I could actually blame other German producers for the annual "Ausverkauft" stamp after each line of their wine list - no names mentioned but at times I have honestly thought that another German winemaker might have some kind of distribution deal with the Schaefers but as it turns out they just like to drink their wines - that apparently explains the cases upon cases of Willi Schaefer in their cellar and empty boxes littering their courtyard...

I could go on for hours and hours telling you stories about Willi and Christoph Schaefer. We've been friends for as long as I can remember and every little tale would of course be highly subjective but for those of you who have met the Schaefers, you know what I mean. Willi, the kind and gentle teddybear of the Mosel, who like two other producers I know, have this little tradition of stopping the auction on purpose by flooding the market for everyone to have bottles they want, just because they are embarrased that the price of their wines might be too high for many loyal customers. I mean...we're talking 2014 here. This is the age of CAPITALISM. But I won't get into all that or the fact that I have probably never laughed so much as in the company of Willi and Christoph - that's another story that will not be told here. Tasting their new vintage for the first time is always a moment with anticipation, simply because I've been a fan of their wines for as long as I can remember. I believe I have mentioned previously on several occasions how Christoph experienced this vintage. The story of irregular flowering and fruit setting combined with some hail reducing the crop further is similar at so many estates in this region and just like other growers reported it was a race to harvest since the grapes ripened at record speed. I vividly remember Christoph's story about picking the bunches and when gathering them in the buckets realising that oh, "that will not make for a large harvest this year!" In fact, they have a lower yield even when compared to such a horrific low-production vintage as in 2010. I was afraid to ask Christoph how low we're actually talking about... I mean, what do they produce in a good year? 33-35 thousand bottles? And if the crop is reduced by half...? I don't even dare to speculate. At least they did produce something and thankfully they didn't provide me with a list like at Zilliken, with almost all the wines gone. However, there were inevitable casualties here as well. No regular Riesling Trocken, no Feinherb (I almost said but actually there seems to be a few bottles produced after all), no regular Qba and no Grosses Gewächs in 2013. At least there were some grapes over for a few bottles of Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese. Beerenauslese I don't know if they did, at least I didn't taste any. I'll leave it up to the professionals to inquire about how bad it really was and what was produced. John Gilman and his entourage arrived just as I was about to leave, Terry Theise had visited the day before and hopefully David Schildknecht (where aaaaare you, David!?) might visit soon to give us his impressions.

If there was one common denominator for this vintage it was that...the wines were more difficult to asses than the previous two vintages. At least the Kabinetts. The 2011s were finished in record time. I tasted on january 28th with Willi and it felt like most wines would be ready to bottle the very same day. Willi agreed and told me it it was an unuasual quick development (they were of course still allowing them to rest further on the lees as this most often adds a certain complexity). The 2012s had a slower development and what I most remember from this vintage was this uncanny masking of the sweetness. The wines up to Spätlese almost tasted "dry" on the last sip or actually after swallowing, to make room for that after-glow finish. It's as if the salinity and the minerality combined forces to subdue the feel of sweetness, making it an extremely pleasurable drinking experience to yours truly. The 2013s, as I see it, are even further delayed in their developmental stage and sure enough, Christoph told me they were aiming for an unusually late bottling time this year. The big vintage observation here, to my palate, was the pronounced minerality that somehow overpowers the fruit even at this early stage. Much more chrushed stones and slate salinity than I can remember from the previous two vintages. And also, more so in the Auslese Prädikat, again this sensation of drinking a wine and feeling dry in your mouth. In the most positive sense. You know there is sweetnes but the whole damns thing comes in such a polished and invigorating style of energy and liquid mineral that you grasp for more as soon as someone leaves a bottle unattended in front of your eyes... (big mistake on their behalf!)

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Riesling Feinherb
Grey slate rock mixed with pear and herbs take the front stage in this delicate ballerina, only to fill out the minimalistic costume with some added juicy grapefruit creating a nice uplift. A delicious wine but also a reminder that while obviously with great inherent quality, I always feel that with Willi Schaefer's wines, when you take away the residual sugar you loose something. It's like the r.s. creates this glue holding together the acidity and minerality into a holy threesome (forgive the expression) that is somewhat missing when their wines become too dry. The only exception is the Grosses Gewächs where I thought the 2011 and 2012 were brilliant examples (but none produced in 2013). But for the rest of the pack, I've always felt that Wiilli's pure Trocken has been considerably far behind the incredible Qba and Kabinetts in quality. While I find this Feinherb to be somewhat better, I feel the same sense of missing something. We should force the Schaefers to only produce Qba-Kab-Spä-Aus-BA-GG! 
:-) 86-87 points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett
This is a first and something I never thought I'd use in a description of a wine from Willi Schafer - at this early stage it's somewhat sprawly. You notice the wine needs more time to come around. On the palate you are exposed to a wonderful mixture of stone, yellow fruits, some green pear (less than usual) and a coating of white, mouthwatering peach and salinity as a natural wrapping. The finish lingers on the tongue and continue to pump out flavours even as you sit and wait for the next sip. There's this lively energy from the very beginning and as always you feel this great tension in the wine but this one needs time to come around. 89-91+ points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett
Beautiful from the first sniff & sip. One could argue that you feel the energy in this wine just by putting your nose above the glass. On the palate, that strucks you the most is this enormous wall of...rock. Really wet, saline stones, unusually pronounced for this particular wine at this stage (normally the minerality and association of melted stones componens appears at later developmental stage when the baby-fat fruitiness has receeded just a pinch). It continues with zappy lime and grapefruit notes, constantly with this underlying oscillation of grey:ishness, as if the grey slate has been pulverized into sand and then spread out as a mineralic coating. A beauty in the making but here too you sense that the developmental metamorphosis isn't completed yet - it needs more time before bottling. I believe this will be one of the most mineralic Kabinetts coming out of this estate lately. 90-92+ points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese
Wroooooom! Oh what a start, great tension and a gear-shift to higher energy levels as soon as you step insidise the car and take a seat. Immediately succulent on the first sip with - again - unusually pronounced grey slate/stone characters, like a mineral lick out in the forest. It's as if the mineral and slate components take center stage this vintage and push other characeteristics aside, towards the peripher. Otherwise it's the opposite, with the slate's smoke, salt and minerals compose the outer wrapping, keeping the luscious fruit inside in a firm grip. I get this mental picture of walking through a field of wheat, me being the stone, and while moving forward pusing the straws (fruit) aside. Hmm, where have I seen this before? Ahh! Here. 92-93 points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese
Uhh, this is...Brutal, Brutus. Like an industry crusher grinding through your palate freshened up with Domprobst's signatory cold mountain spring with pear and white peach. There's this incredible sense of flushing your throat completely clean like a washing machine detergent (in a positive way!) cleansing anything in its way as it flows through your system. Surprisingly forcefull; I'm more accustomed to a gentler and more elegant style at this early developmental stage. Instead this one is rumbling of powerful energy in a delicate, elegant body, like mounting a V8 engine inside a Fiat. Again, your attention is mostly focused on the stone and minerality more than the delicate pear, white peach and pink grapefruit flavours. Completey irresistable. 93-95 points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese AP #4
How to explain this? I need to remind myself how the entire range of 2012s lured you into believe the wines are something they are not and here's a wine that mimics that sentiment - it feels like a "dry" wine. And fore sure, it can't be. After all, it's an Riesling Auslese... But think...it's the "gefühl" I'm talking about here and that's what makes this such an intriguing wine. The usual suspects: pear and gray slate, flinty, piercing acidity that bounces like a flipper between your salivating cheeks. Mesmerising... This one really shakes your bones, like an earthquake, or, as an alternative hypothersis it's nothing more than my old hands shaking and trembling. If the latter, forget about this wine, if the former, it's sensational. Don't take my word for ut - try it out yourself and form your own opinion. 94-96 points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese AP #11
As hard as it might be to believe it, this displays even more filigree... Lighter, no, brighter and utterly precious, like delicate angel wings, so utterly softspoken you have to lean forward to listen and feel the vibrating energy, rumbling quietly at first and as the sip stays on your tongue, then increased tension creates a remarkable uplift and keeps you completely fresh and invigorated as you are being washed, rinsed and polished by this shining, crispy, sweet-salt-sour delight. Long, long, loooong energetic finish. In every sense a "dry-styled" wine with almost a Sahara desert-syle salinity on the very fininsh, which together with the lip-smacking acidity makes you come back for more. And more. Sensational stuff. I could see the look of John Gilman, as his entourage filled the tasting room, having that familiar question mark as if to ask - "Is he suppose to empty that sample before we get the chance to taste??" 95-96+ points.

2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese AP #14
This is just a matter of style; either you like more firm, acidic and delicate style of Auslese with no or ultra-clean botrytis like the sample above, or you feel more moved by a sweeter version with more clearly marked botrytis as in this one. It very much remind me the difference of Maximin Grünhaus regular Auslese compared to the sweeter wines with fuder numbers. Usually the latter are more cherrished by the wine critics but I would say that while still absolutely delicious, to my taste, the previous fresher samples if Willi Schaefer's Auslese speak to me more. Who knows, with this additional sweetness and tropical fruit flavours, this is a style of wine that will last longer and hit a higher level in the long run when the sweetness is better integrated with the sweetness and the ripe acidity. But after all, when assessing a wine it's a matter of how a wine tastes today, not in 10 or 20 years. With the added layers of tropcal fruits and dried honey, this displays less intricate, oscillating energy compared to the Auslesen above. It's still there - the energy - but instead of jumping out of the box and hitting you in the face as you sample the first sip, this one is more soft-spoken and initially comes whispering, then slowly building up a low-key rumbling that grows on you and tops out only "towards the end of the very last finish", as I have scribbled down on my paper. I very much understand that some find this style more concentrated and more compelling but while this is super delicious, the previous samples are nothing but sensational. 92-94+ points.

I finished writing up my notes while the other guests where sampling the two Kabinetts. While preparing to leave, suddenly, there was an uproar at the table. A bottle was missing! The Spätlese from Domprobst had somehow disappeared. A heated discussion among the group followed while they stared despondently at Christoph who thoroughly surprised scanned the table and argued that he was sure he had put everything out from the cellar. Then silence... And then everyone looked at me. Reluctantly I looked down on the floor and returned the bottle to the table. A sigh of relief among the tasting group... "Well, that all for now, thanks for having me and thanks for the tasting", I said to Christoph while rising from my chair to prepare my departure and gather my tasting notes. "Aren't you forgetting something?", Christoph asked with a firm voice. Reluctantly I also returned the sample bottle with the Domprobst Auslese to the table. This type of stunt seems to fail more often these last few years, unfortunately. Another sight of relief among the group that were about to continue the tasting without me. Little did they know that I would be the first one they would meet at their next appointment. Again sitting at a table with the sample bottles in front of me half-emptied... :-)

Travelling to Germany reminds me of my travels to one of my great favorite cities in the world, New York City, and the dilemma I'm faced with each and every time. I must have visited on some 35+ occasions by now and most visits are seldom more than 2-3 days, sometimes a little more. Where to eat? Usually I have my favoutite restaurants and once you have them you always come back to the dilemma of knowing you have a limited amount of evenings out for a dinner so what sould you do? Venture into new territory and allow yourself to be surprised by new restaurants or...go the the usual suspects where you know you will eat like a Royal? For many years the Japanese restaurant ISO down at 2nd Ave between 10th and 11th St made it almost impossible to venture into anything new in terms of sushi. Then apparently the sushi chef got shot in his hand while at a bar after a working day and left for Japan. Too bad. And with Yama on 17th St in a steady decline I was forced to cut the anchor and set of to new culinary adventures on Mahattan. My favourite lunch stop was always Chiam on 48th E St but when Henry Leung left things were never as before so nowadays I have been forced to venture out to new establishments but for a long time these were my pit stops during my short stop-overs in New York. My visits to Germany faces me with the same dilemma. What to do - visit the usual suspects, whose wines you know are an absolute delight, or venture into the unknown and actually try some new estates? Usually, I'm stuck in the former pattern. I have my favourites, I know them, I love their wines - ergo, I visit them. And since times is always of the essence, there's seldom an opportunity to visit anyone else. But this time I promised myself that at least I would try to visit somone I didn't know already from the past. As it turned out, with keeping to my promise I actually succeed in tasting wines from two different estates just by vising one of them.

Battenfeld-Spanier and Kühling-Gillot

Sticking to my usual routine of no planning I just took my chances by throwing away a mail to Battenfeld-Spanier in Hohen-Sülzen in Rheinhessen. Probably with the same look in their eyes as everone else when the saw my mail. "He want's to visit now?? Just before ProWein!?" Nevertheless, a cheerful and optimistic Carolin was responding and somehow we finally managed to agree on a time and day for a meeting. All the time with these confusing comments on which place to conduct the tasting. Hum, what does she mean by that? Apparently there are two estates linked together but I didn't think much about it until I drove into the small village of Hohen-Sülzen without a GPS navigator in my car. I mean, I had the address but could this really be the right place?? Then it hit me - oh, what if I was supposed to meet at that other estate in Bodenheim? Prooooblem! At least I followed the map I had printed out and as I was driving among residential houses I finally came to a dead end... At a small train station! And with farming land behind it. WTF!?  Could this even be the correct village? Surely this little assemblage of buildings couldn't house a full-blown winery? I back-tracked and looked at the numbers and finally arrrived to the correct street number among the residencial houses. Hum...a farmacy? Oh boy...this will be bad, I though. I called on the phone, Carolin answered and cheerfully said that her husband Oliver would come down and greet me. Yeah, that's what she believes, I though. But just you wait when we will speak on the phone and realise we are standing in two different villages trying to get hold of each other... As it turned out, it was my lucky day because there was indeed a winery hidden behind some houses and Oliver did indeed come to greet me.

I won't get into the incredible mixture of historic accounts between the two families here with Spanish, French and German descent but what I WILL tell you is that both Carolin and her husband Oliver are very kind, witty and fun to taste with - and with the danger of infusing some personal bias here, both Oliver and his eldest son are trekkies, which of course immediately makes for a very positive approach whatever they present in the glass. I was lucky in that a contingent from Finland was there before me and were just wrapping up their visit so in front of me I had a table with lots of goodies to taste from. Again this feeling of a child in a candy shop with unlimited time or...restrictions. What's even more fun is that I have NEVER tasted one single wine from any of these two producers which made for a most interesting excercise, as it always is when you taste something for the first time in your life. If you wonder about the mishmash between the estates, I'll present the wines in the way they were served instead of separating them. What made this such a fun and unusual tasting apart from the fact that they were a first for me, is the side-by-side comparison between two completely different terroirs. The Roten Hang with red slate from around Bodenheim and Nierstein (heeey, that's close to where Klaus-Peter Keller has his tiny cult subplots) and the chalky soils of the upper plateau parts surrounding Hohen-Sülzen. And Oliver, not wanting to be any less that Carolin with regards to having vineyards close to Keller, also has a holding in Frauenberg, from where I have tasted many outstanding Spätburgunder from Keller over the years. So here it goes...

2013 Kühling-Gillot Qvinterra Riesling Trocken
Made from grapes from three different villages, it displays a strong mineralic core as the first impression with generous layers of yellow apple, fresh lime and ripe grapefruit in the middle. Feels rather broad, almost a little "oily" and quite grainy in texture and feels somewhat "cloudy" in the way the flavours are presented on the palate, with a finish that ends rather short - I suspect there is still some influence of the yeast here so a revisit is need once the wine comes around. Easy and straightforward drinking. 82-84 points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Eisbach Riesling Trocken
Oh, this is something different - brimming of energy straight out of the glass, clear yellow fruit of fresh apples with a really extra-pronounced fresh lime and bright acidity - mixed with some lighte sparkles of green herbs and a touch of salinity. A completely different creature compared to the wine above. This is clear-cut, sharp, vivid, and really pure fruit. You need to be in your mineralic mode to like this one, otherwise you will like it less than I did. 86-89 points.

2013 Kühling-Gillot Nackenheimer Riesling Trocken
Back to the red slate again would you believe it, but there really is a touch of a red fruit layer through the pallet. Very soft, mellow and restrained with broad paint brushes, round and very polished and there you have this oiliness again, like there would be some oil from pressed nuts into the mixture. Fruit components? I don't know, other than the usual grapefruit it's difficult to pinpoint the fruit - I'm more reminded by the flint and crushed rock here. 86-88 points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Hohen-Sülzer Riesling
Oh, a complete throw to the opposite side of the stylish spectrum again, this wine is almost dusty in its chalky characteristics. Think crispiness and transparency, imagine clarity and freshness and you'll get my point. There's tension throughout and I won't even bother looking for some fruit characters other than the crytalline expression of the texture here as this one reminds me more of a good Chablis but with more extract and stuffing. It must be fun moments around the dinner table when Carolin and Oliver can compare so vastly different style of wines each time they decide to pull the cork of their own production. 87-89+ points.

2013 Kühling-Gillot Niersteiner Riesling Trocken
Oh dear...I'd better mail to Oliver instead of Carolin in the future for new appointmens because here again I find the wines from Kühling-Gillot a little less to my liking. This comes out of the stable as somewhat sprawly but in fact, sprawly in a good and interesting way. Wine doesn't have to be polished in absurdum just be interesting. On the palate, you have a lot going on with a mixture of citrus, plum and grey stones, a pinch of apple in the middle and as the flavours sit on the finish they transform into more of a yellow apple flavours mixed together with lime and red, smokey slate. Very broad and round. Apparently the fruit comes from both Pettenthal and Ölberg. 86-87 points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Mölsheimer Riesling Trocken
Yellow fruits in all senses of the mind and flavour. It looks yellow, it tastes yellow, beaming of a yellow ray of sun hitting a clean, white wall in of chalk. An intriguing combination. Feels very precise and clear-cut without any hints whatsoever of roundness so one can truly say that the wine is persistant. Cool, refined and on the palate yet warmly yellow in the colour with a nice juiciness despite the slim appearance in the beginning. For generic riesling this is really high quality stuff. 87-89+ points.

2013 Kühling-Gillot Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Opsidaisy! I might be able to call Carolin after all. This is thrilling from the get-go. Soft and hard, layer upon layer, long, persistent, laser-like levitated notes of succulent mandarine, vanilla fluffing, delicate lemon zest, touch of nutmeg, some spices and pure, crisp minerality. This is brimming of uplift energy. Truly class in a bottle. Too bad they're not bottled yet for immediate purchase! What impresses the most are the layers of various citrus fruits and the combination of smoothness, both hard and soft at the same time, just like you want your women. Oh, I mean wine. Long and persistent finish and overall very impressive. 92-94+ points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Flörsheimer Frauenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
This was fun. Normally I drink only Spätburgunder from Frauneberg whenever Klaus-Peter happens to open a bottle but this is Riesling from the same vineyard so I was very keen on tasting it for the first time. Immediately you notice one thing that sets a e truly good wine apart from the rest of the back - the rumbling energy creating both tension and lift. This one almost levitates in its energetic purity and offers waves of salivating minerality and ripe acidity on the palate, together with an array of spices. Can't seem to figure them out but it's really an intriguing mixture here. Is it...pepper? Hard to tell. Anyway, the fruit offered are yellow peach mixed with lemon and juicy (red) nectarine. Great transparency, great energy, great wine. 92-93+ points.

2009 Kühling-Gillot Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs Wurzelecht
What have we here then? The last word in this looong name is referring to the vines being ungrafted, which surely must be quite a rarity along the Rhine river. Like a golden river it displays a wonderful colour, yellow apricote & plum, ripe peach and a touch of vanilla coating at the very edge of the flavout profile. Creamy, broad and spicy with a long finish and that somewhat oily structure again. Yepp, count me in as a fan! Yummy. 91 points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Hohen-Sülzer Sylvaner
The diversity of wines tasted here is...fun. I need to return more often! Here you have a straightforward Sylvaner showing a spicy character, quite pretty, lean, layers of soft, silky green pear and fennel and a refreshing finish. A no nonsense wines that deserves to be more attention than just gulping it down (like I did...). 87-89 points.

2013 Kühling-Gillot Niersteiner Ölberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Very nice precision, with great texture and a fine roundness polishing down the edges into a really compelling wine. Juicy lime fruit with almost red slate feeling between your teeth as you lip-smack the succulent, broad notes of peach, citrus and crushed yellow/red powder from the red slate rock. Maybe not as deep and complex as its neighbour but a damn good juice nevertheless. 90-91+ points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Mölsheimer am Zellerweg Schwartzen Herrgott Riesling Grosses Gewächs

Wowsa! Any English-speaking person who get the name right in his first attempt wins a free bottle! Gunpowder-dryness here, like a sleek Chablis but (thankfully) more stuffing and texture. Did I say dry? It feels almost dusty in its dryness. Very lean texture - not an extra unnecessery gram fat on the bone. In fact, it could have been to slim hadn't it been for the saving flavours of melon and plum adding the succulent fruit to this erect, crisp beauty. 91-92+ points.

2013 Battenfeld-Spanier Hohen-Sülzer Kirchenstück Riesling Grosses Gewächs
This is quite intriguing too. It opens up very lime zesty and then it suddenly changes on the midpalate, offering up spicy flavours, almost a little tobacco spice, grounded nutmeg, passionfruit, vanilla power and a long, persistent finish. Again this luscious yellow-fruit juiciness mixed with a spice mixture to keep things interesting. 90-92 points.

What a great tasting and how pleased I am I really tried to visit a new producer instead of just keeping with the same-same (althought I of course love my standard favourites). Carolin and Oliver were a joy to visit!

Looking at the pile of tasting notes and next up is a perennial favourite of mine...Weingut Keller. The interesting thing here is that I really have a PILE of tasting notes. Both 2012s and 2013s and not just one tasting but rather tastings from their youth the first time they are really showed after fermentation while it's still winter, then at later stages of progress in spring when they start coming together, yet again just prior and after bottling in early summer and also after some time in the bottle in autumn. Somehow I'll have to try to summarize all these different occasions into one general impression. Klaus-Peter is a close friend so don't pay too close attention to my subjective observations but to this taster there are several perfect three digit scores here - and I almost never rate any wine a perfect 100 points...

Here's a preview. Buckle up and be prepared for a...ride!


måndag 14 april 2014

Weingut Reinhold Haart

There is no rest for the weary...

So on that not I'll just grab another piece of paper with scribbled tasting notes and continue sharing impressions. By the way, when writing uo the previous notes I felt I couldn't do it with a dry throat so I opened this beauty to moisture my palate while continue writing.

2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltingen Himmelreich Riesling Auslese
Turning more and more yellow, into something that really looks lovely, like liquid gold. Still with considerable sweetness yet showing the first signs of integration where everything seem to converge towards the middle, smooting the tropical flavours out with the slate salitinity and together with the balanced acidity truly creating something very drinkable. You have hints of vanilla, yellow apples, mango and hints of Tropicana's blood-orange. Wonderful creamy texture that never gets cloggy thanks to the balacing act the acidity provides. I think this will become even more interesting once the sweetness takes the backstage even a notch further but already now a beautiful, elegant juice. 92 points.

But first, some music.

Next up is Reinhold Haart from the beautiful village of Piesport. Keeping with my tradition of not planning ahead and just taking my chances with some spontaneous visits I mailed Johannes Haart the day before and found out he was in Norway, serving Riesling to hundreds of thirsty wine aficionados. However, as it turned out, he would arrive late at night and be ready and able the next morning so who am I to say no? I must say I admire his stamina. First all these Norwegians and then after hardly any sleep he has this Swedish invasion. And just as the icing on the cake, before I left he had another knock on the door and it was John Gilman with his hommies. I think that on this day, Johannes didn't do anything but pour his wines into eager and thirsty throats. Kudos! At least now you know the reason why the total production might be unusually low. Or...that's not really fair to say because a visit to Johannes is actually always the same - I keep nagging about it every time I see him. He's so generous with his wines that after every visit, the table in his small tasting room looks like the Manhattan skyline. No wionder, since he keeps disappearing time after time again and returning with yet another elixir in his hands. Always soft-spoken, never pushing any wines but just quietly bringing them, putting them on the table without so many words, leaving you there staring at the bottles, looking at the time and realising that you are way, way too late for your next appointment but then again...these bottles are on the table. They're standing there. What to do? Always the same story... Mental note to myself - after a visit to Haart, NO appointments afterwards!

While Johannes was pouring wines, Theo was out overseeing the demolition of part of their cellar. They are about to upgrade their working space to get more room to work with and, sadly, they will also create a more modern tasting room. Don't get me wrong, I perfectly understand it because their current tasting room is small, even cramped but...ya naw...tradition. I've always associated my visist to Haart with this pitoresque little corner of their house where they keep a wall with the soil profiles from the estate's different vineyards. Such a perfect setting for a tasting! But who could blame them? So wines were poured and Johannes being Johannes it meant that there could be just about anything on the table. Different vintages, different vineyards, you name it. Always a treat, always a pleasure. And here's the verdict from the Swedish Jury.

2012 Reinhold Haart Riesling Trocken
Crisp, light and elegant. Some green herb flavours on the rim while the citrus and grapefruit dominantes in the middle. Somewhat drying towards the finish. A no-nonsense quaffer. 82 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Riesling Trocken
Much more crystalline and filigree here, very finely polished throughout the palate, with salty stone lick in the middle and a nice, crisp, clear finish with ripe acidity. Balanced and ready to be quenching many thirsty throats! 86 points.

2011 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Riesling Trocken

This is one of the fun things about tasting with Johannes - you never know what will show up and often you are treated to unique opportunities to taste other vintages for comparison. Here, however, there was some disappointment. Not at all the same dancing balance as the 2012, the brightness from the previous wine being somewhat tuned to a lower tone. Some stinky sulphur aromas on the nose mellows everything out and makes you barely notice the potential hidden beneath, with green apple, starfruit and some melon. 83 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Riesling Haart to Heart
This shows my "expertise"... I mentioned to Johannes that this feels very dry for being the "Classic" type of Riesling that it is and Johannes replied it's one of the sweeter Haart to Heart in a while with maybe 22-23 g of residual sugar - isn't it fun that this passion always keep you humble? Always a student, always much more to learn... So, okay, it feels dry and very fine and with nice extract but I lack...some character. I don't really get the Sense of Place here. I still prefer the beautiful Piesporter Trocken more. 84 points. For a nice quaffer at a restaurant sure, a typical and quite fine Riesling but I'm missing something here and when looking through my notes I suddenly discover what it is - but more discussion on that topic after the tasting notes.

2012 Reinhold Haart Goldtröpchen Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Oh, this is better. Feels bone-dry, with tickling citrus tones from the first fresh sip, followed by a delicate finesse in texture throughtout the palate. An intriguing combination of firm, fresh mandarin-peel acidity yet with this underlying layer of...oily nutiness so typical of Goldtröpfchen, with some green melon and herbs added to it to make it less tropical. Fine focus and grip on the finish. 90 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Ohligsberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Yabiddaabeedoo! Oh, this is to my liking. Before anything else, let me start from the finish instead of the beginning. This truly displays a beautiful balance throughout the drinking experience. I think that was what impressed me the most - the lingering characteristics in every direction somehow combined into a most delicate balance that follows you hand in hand throught the nose, the texture and the precise finish. Fazer is a candy producer from Finland. Green Fazer candy - look it up and buy it and you'll know what I mean. In addition, a lovely mixture of pear and some vanilla fluff. I love the feel of this "aristocratic" herbiness in the background, almost minty in it's flavour profile. This is a winner. 92 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Kreuzwingert Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Wholy cow! Truly lip-smacking acidity with 3-4 r.s., very much "feinherb" style with its combination of smoke, salty slate, crushed stones, green herbs and juicy fresh Granny Smith apples. Fresh as a daisy of course and no doubt with quality but to my personal palate a little to dry and acidic to reach the higher levels of drinking pleasure. 87 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Grafenberg Riesling Kabinett
Same character every year, always a reminder why I love this wine so much - compared to the more "oily", tropical sunshine of the perfect amphitheater-exposed Goldtröpfchen, this little brother displays greener characters, more dried herbs, crisp freshness, transparant and lean in its texture yet full of stuffing once the mineralic coating opens up the flavours inside: Fazer-green (you need to shop for that Finnish candy...), loads of fresh herbs, green fruits just slightly spiced-up with something more juicy and ripe, like a piece of mango. Feels really "bright" and sappy from the very beginning and with such a persistant and complex finish you simply cannot go wrong here. Bravo. 92 points.

2012 Reinhold Haart Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese
Okay, here comes my problem. Delicious but...not the style I expected. After all, this is a Goldtröpfchen but the usual suspects of charcteristics, like the patented oiliness from this warm site is much more taking a back stage here. There is a touch of nutmeg, nutty oil and hints of tropical flavours here but much more so you get a feeling of crisp yet ripe acidity, slate minerality and even with some slightly green fruits mixed with more yellow peach and nectarines. Normally I would have expected even riper succulent red peach with hints of pinapple, ripe mango, yellow kiwi, mangosteen and similar tropical attributes but this wine displays a leaner style. Sure, it lies beautifully on the palate, delightful texture, it has a long and persistent fresh finish and the whole package truly breaths...balance; but there is something missing here for the higher levels, at least to my palate and based on what I have always associated with this magical vineyard. 90 points.
 2012 Reinhold Haart Ohligsberg Riesling Spätlese
And here comes to confirmation of what I'm talking about above because here you have the riper fruit with more tangerine, apricot, lovely spiciness and somewhat sweeter (more "Spätlese) while still displaying great tension, finesse and a lively acidity - but this is what I expected from Ohligsberg, while I always have found Goldtröfchen to display even more of these riper, fruitier and sweeter characters. Nice interplay between succulent fruit and a more restrained flavour palate of herbs and spices, making the finish more interesting. 92 points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Riesling Trocken
Going into the 2013s and back to the dryer beginning, this is fresh spritz with nice tension and up-lift from the first sip. Possibly 9-10-11 g of r.s. or thereabouts, according to Johannes. Crisp, salty slatiness with a coating of green grass and herbs. Very young and maybe a little too sprawly at the moment. 83-86 points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Kreuzwingert Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Surprisingly floral on the nose but on the palate the usual herbiness as expected from Kreuzwingert. It really has this feinherb trademark attached to it every time. The flower sensation fan out into a yellow/green "glue" component - could it still be a touch of yeast influence in this wine? Clear and pure texture with ripping acidity and just enough residual sugar (6.6 g, according to Johannes) to balance it out. Overall a firm grip, crisp acidity and mineralic texture. 87-88 points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Ohligsberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
More finesse here - you can really sense the filigree with this smoother brush strokes of finely crushed (almost to powder) stone minerality, feels very polished and cool, balanced throughout and surprisingly more fresh and grapefruit crisp than the herbs annd more warmer fruit characters I usually find in wines from this beautiful vineyard. I think that at the end of the day it very much comes to if you are in a "mineralic mode" or feel for a more fruit-driven drinking experience. 90-92+ points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Goldtröpchen Riesling Grosses Gewächs
So the question is... Is it because of its very early stage that this feels very unlike Goldtröpfchen? I scribble down words like green apples, fresh grapefruit, lime, green tea leaves, zappy minerality - as you can see, much cooler fruit flavours and clear-cut precision rather than the rounder, silkier tropical fruit flavours. It's finesse throughout and sure enough, you DO feel the usual "fatty" characteristics but more like a thin coating in the background, sidestepped by the cooler, fresher and bright finish. Sure, it's well-balanced and impeccable in its own way but I miss the true Goldtröpfchen character. 88-90 points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett (version 1)
Obsviously, just as with Willi Schaefer, the sweeter wines from this vintage are progressing in a glacial pace and are not nearly a finished product. Johannes showed to versions of what will be their Kabinett - this one undblended from a double-fuder. Like pear ice-cream, loads of grey slate, minty and fresh, green apples and grapefruit, green moss and overall a very cool, crisp and delightful creature with lovely intensity. But...Goldtröpfchen? Again, almost like an alien from another planet having taken over the body of Goldtröpfchen and now are trying to pose as someone else. Still potentially delicious jucie here. 88-91+ points.

2013 Reinhold Haart Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett (version 2)
More soft-spoken and delicate, even subdued in its texture, like a fine, mineralic coating above the fruit somewhat masking the underlying fruit of citrus and yellow peach. The texture here is a little broader and the finish feels silkier making the version 1 seem more burly, even slightly unpolished but I would still give my nod to the previous version for its greater intensity and uplift. 87-89 points.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to taste the true gems, the Spätlese range, which always hits the sweetspot in my palate preference so I certainy need to go back and pester Johannes with more knocks on the door - next time probably in their newly-built tasting room.
 So back to my discussion on how I sometimes feel a little lost when I drink these wines from Piesport. I think the Haart family are faced with a dilemma (oh, remember, from my point of view, and from my palate perspective - their aim is of course not focused to please this humble taster's taste buds but rather focus on more important ambitions). But at least it's free to express one's personal opinion so I can go on jabbering all I want here. :-) To me, the wines from Haart always have a special and unique place - I LOVE the fact that they show such a pronounced "typicity" (is that even an English word?), the fact that they typically originate from this place, from Piesport (except for the Ohligsberg of course, originating from Wintrich). A true terroir-driven Sense of Place. No one can mistake the oily, creamy, floral, and tropical characaters of a beautiful Goldtröpchen Kabinett, Spätlese or Auslese. On my opinion, there isn't really anything like it along the Mosel - and it shows time after time again whenever you taste the same vineyard from another producer (grab a Goldtröpfchen from St Urbans-Hof and you'll experience the same thing so it really is a true Goldtröpfchen terroir signature). This typical identity of Piesporter wines give them a unique and special place within the diversity of German Rieslings. There are all sorts of different Rieslings under the German sky but none truly resemble Piesporter Goldtröfchen. However, I also realise that this is not the style for everyone. I would rather say that although unique and in my opinion world-class, it occupies a rather peripheral territory among the regular Riesling consumers. The market probably doesn't favour such a broad, creamy, ripe style of Riesling but rather asks for Riesling to be much more lean, crisp, green, fresh, delicate and bouncing. Very much the oppoiste of what a perfectly sun-exposed and warm vineyard like the Goldtröpfchen is optimally suited for. I imagine that the Haart family is, or will be, more and more "pushed" to produce Rieslings with even more delicate ligtness and finesse, just like the market wants, in particular the domestic German market. After all, grapes need not just to be grown, harvested, pressed, fermented and bottled. They need also to be...sold. But in doing so, I believe they are at risk of loosing something that has always set them apart. Overall crisper and more delicate wines will make them one of many similar contenders. But again - what to do if the market goes in another direction? No one will pay them money just because we admire their Sense of Place.

In my opinion, another dilemma (if you may call it that) is that although I sense a certain shift towards more focused and crispy style of wine, I still believe that the tropical, oily characters of the Goldtröpfchen will blossom and show itself much more pronounced if left in the bottle for some years but for most Rieslings I think it's a safe bet to say that they are consumed very early. Probably with the first year after bottling. I have discussed this with both Theo and Johannes and it isn't a brilliant first discovery by yours truly but rather something they have been discussing between each other for many years and because of that they have indeed put aside - deliberately - a certain percentage of their harvest to be released later, possibly after 5-10 years in the bottle "to give consumers and wine lovers a chance to see what these vineyards really can taste like with age", according to the Haarts. After all, that's what most wine critics persistently recommend people to do; wait 10 years for your Spätlese to allow the residual sugar to mellow and fully integrate with the fruit, acidity and minerality but how many of us do really give ourselves time to experience this Optimal Riesling Experience?

Not opening the bottle deliberately to prove my point, but as it happended I recently popped a Goldtröfchen with some age and I still remember how I literally had to fend people's hands off as they were trying to go for second pours at the table before I had any a chance to sample this golden nectar. Note to myself - next time: pour a glass to myself before my friends get their share...

2007 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese
I mean...just the colour should merit a high rating. Astonishingly beautiful, like liquid gold, truly golden yellow. The boquet bursts of summer flowers and tropical fruit aromas. On the palate...beautiful tension with a broad palette of juicy, succulent yellow/red peach, mango, nutmeg and papaya. Silky, creamy, smooth it's just a brilliant wave of Copacabana beach-flavours (in a sun hat) hitting your taste buds. One a second lap you get dried honey, even more tropical fruit, almost creamy caramel but...get this: not at all cloying in any sense but rather with a beautifully persistent acidity that creates this up-lift and tension and exposes the fruit basket as fresh, not overripe - despite the tropical feel. 94 points. Reminds me of a similarly brilliant Domherr from the 2005 vintage that I rated even a notch above this beauty. Give this a year or two and I believe it will be even more delicious. This is Reinhold Haart to me, this is Goldtröpfchen to my palate but is it what the market wants? And is it what guests at restaurants want? I'm not sure... And hence, the dilemma, in my opinion of course.

Time to conclude with some music.