Monday, October 11, 2010

2009 Germany dry Riesling Bonanza

25th of September I participated in Berlin Riesling Cup 09/2010 , which theme was the best dry German Rieslings GG (Grosses Gewächs) from the 2009 Vintage.

2009 Vintage is by many, even though it’s still early days, considered to be the finest vintage ever seen in these parts. German dry Rieslings has been on a string of success since the 2001 vintage. Climate change or not – 2010 won’t be at the same level and I don’t really know if we should be cheerful about a possible legendary vintage after 2009 vintage – but that’s a different discussion.

Our host was my good friend, Martin Zwick – aka Riesling geek times a zillion and also Mr. We could be in no better hands than here and Martin had selected his favourite 30 bottles from the VDP-Wiesbaden tasting, which he attended some weeks before.

The drill was to have a great evening – but also find a winner. That meant that all tasters had to hand in their scores. Oh dear – me a points. An old skeleton came out of the closet. But fair enough, I was in Berlin to have fun and points are fun, as they address difference in taste. But at the end of the day I haven’t changed my opinion – points are a joke. No more talk about this – let’s taste the wines and have some fun.

Tasting wine this concentrated and having such sort time – and only one glass, always leads to a shorter path to the conclusion. In addition - these wines are insane young, so take not only my scores – but also the end result with a grain of salt.

Everything served blind – in pair of two’s. Label revealed after each flights. All wines had their cork pulled in the morning in order the breath and reach perfect serving conditions.

The line-up had been put together by Klaus-Peter Keller

(My points / group result from 12 tasters)

Flight 1

2009 Schloss Johannisberg, Riesling “Silberlack”

The note of fennel is a note I often detect in German Rieslings. I seek to avoid this note – but it depends, how the note is toned. When it’s bad, it turns alcoholic, going almost into a schnapps resemblance and this is not good. This wine has some of this tone and despite solid level of freshness – emerging from citrus and grapefruit - it takes some overall balance away. The taste is a fraction better – but fades quickly. A fair wine – but too simple to be great. I had by far the lowest score. (84/88,1)

2009 Crusius, Riesling “Felsenberg”

On the first nosedive – this wine is more reserved and no way near as fresh as wine no.1. The style is rounder – juicer with more vivid fruit sensations, which makes it a more friendly wine. We have moved some notches up – but there is still lack of complex layers. I was lowest again (86 / 90,1)

(HO Spanier)

Flight 2

2009 Dönnhoff Riesling “Hermannshöhle”

When the label was revealed, I was really disappointed. I consider this wine to be dynamite stuff – and despite knowing what it is – and having the chance to taste it again after it’s identity was revealed, the result was the same. We have moved a few notches up from the intro flight, but the wine is fighting with some dilemmas. We have fairly intimidating scents of exotic fruits; pineapples in particular - but also honey melon and peach. These notes are good – but also a note of body odour and this fennel note intervene and so we have problems. Taste has an overweight of fat peaches and it may sound nice, but there is not much complexity there. We later learned that Hermannhöhle, despite the GG has some botrytis – and this would explain the style. It’s a fair wine – but a very disappointing for a “Hermannhöhle” in my opinion. I continued to be the lowest score. (88/91,7)

2009 Breuer “Schloßberg”

Despite I had tasted 3 fairly good wines so far – I wasn’t really dazzled yet, where was the magic from the 2009 vintage? It was here…oh yes… standing in glass number 4.

I didn’t rate this wine with the highest ranking – but still it made a significant impact on me. This is the kind of Riesling you would like to spoil yourself rotten with. It’s a delicious example, representing a delightful style of deep fruits scents of peach, petrol and orange blossom. The latter is a note I am particular fond of, as it’s always adding grace, character and in this case simply enhancing the sexiness of the wine. A young wine, yes – but the notes are not reserved, they are merely pitched a few notches down, to a subtle volume, which creates a splendid balance. Taste is beautiful – almost weightless with remarkable purity and a finale, which consist of anise perfumes and mouth coating residual sugar fragments. (93/92,8)

Flight 3

2009 Keller "Hubacker"

The first Keller wine enters. Among my Riesling friends, Keller – under the management of Klaus-Peter Keller, are considered to be the absolute superstar on the German dry Riesling scene. But as we couldn’t see the label here – we should be a bit immune to the influence from the Rheihessen magician.

First time I wrote “good energy” on my paper. Energy, as you might have noted, is a note I adore, as it’s a path to freshness and if everything else is in place, it makes you – as a taster, come much closer to the wine. This is in fact the case here – but closer in this case means heading towards a brick wall of raw chalk and an outrageous level of dry extract, which is released on the palate. Fractions of honey emerge from the fruit core – but also troublemaker note; fennel appears. As it stands in the glass, it’s an incredible clinical breed. For sure a different wine in 10years time – but currently struggling to show personality and overall drinking pleasure. (91/94)

2009 Weil “Gräfenberg”

This wine was very shy. The impression you got from the nose revealed sealed citrus fruit and some flowery tones. But above all, because of this closed phase, it had a lot of dark spices flying around, going more and more towards herbal characters. Of course such a wine is not something you immediately fall in love with, but the taste is actually rather nice. It has brilliant tallness – but no magic appears as the herbal notes are also here, making it a bit square in the mouth. It’s obvious that such a wine is in need of serious cellaring. (90/91,1)

Flight 4

2009 Schäfer-Fröhlich “Felseneck”

This wine rocked my world. It’s outrageous clean – presenting something, which reminds me of crystallized rose water. But underneath this zippy fresh nose, there are lots of layers and even a funky tone of potatoes appears. Taste doesn’t disappoint and delivers samurai precision with and ocean of minerals flushing down your palate. Now we are talking – bring me some more. (96/94,95)

2009 Kühling-Gillot “Pettenthal”

There is always the risk of not being the best in a beauty contest, when your rival is better looking. This wine was no way near the quality of “Felseneck” – but still it’s a rather good wine. It’s has a far more gentle feeling – compared to the samurai sword which just cut you. By gentle I mean a more elastic fruit core, but also an extremely concentrated Riesling. You have some spicy elements interfering with apple sensations’, but it actually gives the wine better complexity and also a strong personality. It’s on the palate the problems appear to me. It has too much alcohol burners and on paper it’s a big wine – but the alcohol is a problem for me. Still young – oh yes, maybe some cellaring will create better harmony. (91/92,6)

Flight 5

2009 Christman Königsbacher “Idig”

As wine no.9 enters you are now at a stage where you have seen good, great and magic wines and it seems easier to find which level the wines are at now.

This wine was a big pleaser with honey, melon and a lush appealing style. However a not of curry interferes, which simply doesn’t do any good for the wine. On the palate it’s mouth coating at first – but it doesn’t have the ability to hold a firm, vibrant and great aftertaste. (89/91,3)

2009 Battenfeld-Spanier “Frauenberg”

Better wine. Somewhat easy to understand, but easy is not negative, as it delivers divine floral scents and zippy fresh apple sensations. The taste is pure, feminine with exceptional drinking pleasure. Even more complex layers are required for me to go higher. (92/93,6)

Flight 6

2009 Keller “Morstein”

It’s always easy to play the role of Mr. Wice guy, when the label has been revealed. But when several Riesling nerds are present, I decided to play it safe and keep a low profile. You see, I was about to guess Keller on this wine. A why is that? It’s the same brutal style of Hubacker. The chalk here really hurts your palate and it’s impossible to find it pleasurable at this stage. On the palate it’s only microscopically elements of honey, which escapes and rock hard and chalk / slate infected taste. Cellar and we will see – should be a much better wine in 10-15 years. Very hard to give points here, potential or right now? We go with for now: (92/93,1)

2009 Bürklin-Wolf Pechstein

Anything beside Morstein will been seen as “fruity”. This is also the case here, as you have a lot of candied citrus fruits, which takes this wine into something easier to understand. However on the palate it’s only mouth coating and falls short. (90/91)

Flight 7

2009 Bürklin-Wolf “Kirchenstück”

Actually pretty good. Very bright wine, where the main driver is greenish apple and grape notes, but also a profile, which emerges from very high-pitched driven acidity, which penetrates the entire wine. Some thought this acidity was too greenish and the sign of too early picking, but I most admit I am somewhat of an acidity junkie, so I liked it. So everything is good – well, almost. I detected some notes of gunpowder, which could be linked so sulfur. Sulfur or not – It’s always a problematic note for me. Despite this lovely bright acidity, which refreshes the palate, it doesn’t have that many layers. (91/92,13)

2009 Keller “Abtserde”

Brilliant wine, which has an utterly clarifying appeal of tightly packed floral perfumes, but also an equal doze of tropical fruits. These sweet and lush tropical fruits, gives the wine an elastic personality, which is a big plus to me. On the taste it’s the same – long energetic taste and a slightly sparkle on the tongue. Too young, but still nice. (94/94,25)

Flight 8

2009 Adam/ Haart Goldtröpfchen“ Laychen“

Say what? Something different has entered. Interesting nose for sure, which holds; green tea, honey, pine needles and mineral sparkling nerve. The taste is pure with a primary delicious, mouth coating any honey-infected style. This wine falls into a category of a juice pleasurable drink – yummy. (93/94,25) / Bonus info. Only 400 bottles made.

2009 Wittmann “La Borne

Next wine – magic appears. It has a sensational and utterly complex nose of rosewater, pear, peach, candied citrus, straw and hay. The taste is outrageously good – with a weightless experience of little feather dots on the palate - but yet, with so much class, grace and harmony. Seriously one of the best dry Rieslings I have ever tasted (97/96,25). Bonus info: 1040 bottles produced – 800 will be held privately and the remaining 240 bottles will be auctioned.

Flight 9

2009 Keller “G- Max”

G-Max is by many Riesling nerds considered to be the Nirvana of dry Rieslings. I have been lucky enough to taste it on a number of occasions and it’s indeed a masterpiece. This night it rocked the boat and won the “Cup”. Already at first nose-dive you are taken to the twilight zone, with an enormous energy which almost feels like someone is screaming from the inner core of the glass. It’s “Keller raw” again – but the magnitude of the fruit core is simply so overwhelming and it also contains ripe fruit, so that “raw” becomes secondary and just an element of the wine. There is big pot of wet and warm stones, plus a note of gunpowder, which accompanies this mineral overload. On the palate it almost knocks you over with this outrageous energy, but again – as you combine minerals with ripe fruit, G-max has the ability to stretch itself and this elastic feeling is another trophy to prove how insane and good this wine is. G-Max is the most impressive wine so far – but also a monster, which of course is in need of cellaring. (97/96,75) – Could go higher in 10 years time.

2009 Emrich-Schönleber “Halenberg”

When G-Max is moon walking in the opposite glass you have to stay focused, because any rival will be a lesser wine. I have tasted “Halenberg” before in other vintages, and it’s always a stunner. The 2009 is much softer compared to G-max’s scary style, but I especially like the feminine touch of Halenberg, which unfolds by a lovely note of orange blossom. Taste delivers a delicious harmony, which has this floating and elegant style. If to put a grain of skepticism in the bowl – the wine is a fraction too polish. Still beautiful stuff and fairly priced. (95/96,13)


Martin served us a great rabbit dish with turnip. We flushed it down with Philipp Kuhn Steinbuckel GG Pinot Noir Pfalz. A wine with too much sweet oak appeal and alcohol burning. But it went down –we where thirsty ;-).

Flight 10

2009 Loosen “Prälat”

Right – let’s move back to Rieslings again.

Good wine in the glass. Very perfumed Riesling with notes of hand soap and lavender. These notes are very high-pitched and you can almost imagine how they take the wine into a higher fresh and brightness. Taste is a replicate of the nose – with this perfume things flying around in the glass and extremely amount of dry extract on the finish line. (92/92,38)

2009 Kühling-Gillot “Rothenberg”

Doesn’t hold the same clarity as its flight rival. More mystical, heavy dozed and also more concentrated. It has notes of Christmas, pinecone and pine needles – which usually are nice. But the freshness is lacking somewhat. The taste is pretty bold with white pepper and caramel. A wine with potential, but a bit clumsy at this stage. (91/93,63)

Flight 11

2009 Von Winning “Langenmorgen”

A wine, which on paper holds notes that will usually make me dance – but sadly it can’t hold the distance. Very bright profile again, with adorable zippy fresh greenish apples, grape, white fruits, lemon, seashells and with tons of energy. Taste embraces the energy well also, but it simply doesn’t have enough edge to preserve and hold onto complex layers. For the energy and freshness I will give it: (91/90,69)

2009 Stuart Pigott “Müller Thurgau”

First I thought it was just shy, as there were some distant fine notes of citrus fruits. But it feels like there is a haze covering the wine, which makes it hard to analyze. Taste is too warm with notes of white pepper and schnapps. (88?(87,83).

Flight 12

2009 Bürklin-Wolf “Jesuitengarten”

Honey, candied citrus and a note of fat exotic peach scents. Sounds good….ahhhhr…not really, as the sweetness is too pushy in this sort of wine. Taste is juicy – molds too much and doesn’t really have that mineral kick I am looking for. (89/90,63)

2009 Wittmann “Kirchspiel”

Young – very young. Here again is the note of fennel, which I simply don’t like, but it has companionship of hay and a very raw style of chalk, which (even though they aren’t appealing) takes the wine into a more complex zone. Taste is a rough ride, with enormous concentration, but just too young. Give it some time. For now (91/91,38)

Flight 13

2009 Rebholz “Kastanienbusch”

Not so much to say other than a very energetic wine, which is really well defined. It’s the missing layers that prevent it for going higher. But I have to praise it for a very appealing, juicy and pure Riesling with simple high drinking pleasure. (91/90,13)

2009 Haart “Goldtröpfchen”

Good and bad. Good first, which basically is simple allure for just being different, mysterious and have the ability to stand out. The fruit core is exotic, leaning towards pineapple – but it’s a note of curry that ruins the pleasure and balance of this wine. Taste is a fraction better defined, but missing complex layers. (89/88,71)

Flight 14

2009 Schloss Lieser “Juffer-Sonnenuhr”

Next wine, was again in the very young section. Raw Riesling style with notes of hay and straw. – Which I tend to like in a wine, but the fruit is sealed here – almost frozen and overall it’s hard to get some personality from this wine. Taste is clean and bright, but so hard to get any real character out. Cellar. (89/90,56)

2009 Wirsching Julius-“Echter-Berg”

I like the energy of this wine, but unfortunately my evil note of fennel is also here – both on nose and palate. Sure it’s clear and bright on the taste, but this fennel note is annoying to me. (87/90,63)

Flight 15

2009 Becker “Sonnenberg”

Still raw style of Riesling, but balanced out with lovely citrus fruits with greenish apples – which creates good harmony. Taste is mineral driven, but too simple in complex layers to go higher. (91/92)

2009 Van Volxem “Pergentsknopp”

It’s never easy to be the last wine is such a big line-up. However the nose is really sexy here, with some smoky scents and overripe peaches. Taste is creamy, delicious and with a slightly sparkle on the tongue. Sounds good – but it just becomes too indifferent to me – I missed some nerve, edge and complex touch. Did it suffer from being served last? Maybe. (89/92,86)

The group rankings

1 Keller, G-Max 96,75

2 Wittmann, “La Borne” Alte Reben 96,25

3 Emrich-Schönleber, “Halenberg” 96,13

4 Schäfer-Fröhlich, Felseneck 95,06

5 Julian Haart/Adam Goldtröpfchen “Laychen” 94,75

6 Keller Abtse®.de 94,25

7 Keller Hubacker 94,25

8 Kühling-Gillot, Rothenberg 93,63

9 Battenfeld-Spanier Frauenberg 93,63

10 Keller Morstein 93,25

11 Breuer, Schlossberg 93,00

12 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Pergentsknopp 92,86

13 Kühling-Gillot, Pettenthal 92,75

14 Loosen Erdener Prälat 92,38

15 B-W Kirchenstück 92,13

16 Becker Sonnenberg 92,00

17 Dönnhoff, Hermannshöhle, 91,88

18 Christmann, IDIG 91,63

19 Wittmann, Kirchspiel 91,38

20 Dr. Crusius, Felsenberg 91,13

21 Weil, Gräfenberg 91,00

22 B-W Pechstein 91,00

23 Von Winning Langenmorgen 90,69

24 B-W, Jesuitengarten 90,63

25 Wirsching Julius Echter Berg 90,63

26 Lieser Juffer Juffer Sonnenuhr 90,56

27 Rebholz, Kastanienbusch 90,13

28 Haart, Goldtröpfchen 88,71

29 Schloss Johannisberg 88,13

30 Pigott Müller-Thurgau 87,83

So there you go. 30 of the finest German dry Rieslings from the 2009 vintage.

Conclusion: well, there is a winner and a looser. But like always, I am skeptical when it comes to one glass tastings. These wines are really young – some maybe 10 years away from a drinking window. They even have the ability to be open for several days and still change character, structure and gain other small nuances.

I leave it to my friend Martin, to conclude and I trust him when he states the 2009 to be one of the finest ever.

One thing is certain – I will return to Berlin and share wines with my good friend.


(Our host, Martin)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Buying wine - about taste, money or emotions?

(The gigantic Riedel Sommeliers "Burgundy Grand Cru")

Whatever level, interest or angle you might have towards wine, you will face (or probably have already) the inevitable task of having to judge. Wine is a liquid which is subject to our opinions, as it's not only valid to express our thoughts on taste in general, but learning from other tasters and developing your own palate, is something we can all benefit from.

So what else is new, you may ask? Nothing really - but is it that simple? See, swirl, sniff, sip and savour - make your conclusions and just buy the wines you like and can afford - how hard can it be?

I was in Berlin a couple of weeks ago, tasting a lot of dry German Rieslings (more on that later) and during the warm-up night we touched upon some emotional aspects on being a wine drinker. Maybe not much new was said, but it was a nice reminder for me - as my own purchases of wine are under the influence of many variables. I realized that I was not alone.

Drinking wine as a whole human being I would call it. It already sounds like a tacky cliché line from a B-Hollywood movie - but think of it, just for a moment and I explain what I mean by that.

The passion about wine couldn't be the same if wine was something, which was generated from plastic fantastic materials in a laboratory. We are fascinated by the fact that grapes grown in nature can be transformed into a fermented juice, which has the ability to move our senses. This also means that someone had to nurse the grapes and their vineyards in order for it become a great drink. People!! - The most important thing in winemaking. Wine producers we can visit - learn their philosophies - see their passion in order to understanding their wines better. Suddenly the liquid is turned into a footprint and something with a personality. The challenge has begun.

Travelling to wine regions, also means visiting new and old cultures - understanding how food, wine and terroir make their match together is not only a here and now thing, but also a historical insight, which enhances the understanding of the wines. So another layer has been added.

The craftsmanship of mankind already has the ability to get our wallets rolling and it doesn't really matter if it's a handmade watch, car, shoe, handbag or the most sought after diamond necklace. We are willing to pay for the storytelling and artisan sells. But the product is one thing - which, when it comes to wine, always will be exposed to some sort of QPR (quality price ratio). We then adjust it a bit, as supply/demand; can be a factor, which has the ability to stretch our financial limits. So we are ready to buy - or? The other angels are the impression you find, when you are out there in wine country. A shut door perhaps? Not V.I.P enough to get in or maybe not just a good visit – something went wrong? I remember a wine festival here in Copenhagen. We went over to a producer, which is known to be controversial. First thing he said was "Now you have tasted the other ones crap wines - now you taste the real thing". Have he said it with a twinkle it would have been innocent, but he didn't and I didn't pay attention to what he said nor his wines as we tasted through his range. Saying that I will never buy wine from this producer may sound a bit sissy - and I might miss out on some great wines. Here wine is different. The purchase of a bottle of wine is still solely relying on taste and nothing else - or is it? Wine is somewhat one dimensional in this category. Something we can analyse - spit out with points and conclusion.

No one wants to hear that we think this producer is great, because he is the nicest persons on the planet and takes care of nature, as he or she is a certified biodynamic winegrower. We also don't want to hear if you don't want to buy this wine, because you think the producer is way too commercialised and you only buy wines which are produced by "real people" and not a "factory". Such an opinion will be almost political. Generally speaking, we want to know how the wines taste - spare us the emotional fluffy things and to hell with things like use of "chemicals" - as we can't taste their presence anyway. But Still - on other levels of our society, we take a stance and don't look down on let’s saying; vegetarians or companies who make sure that their products are obtained in an ethical manner. In fact our modern world is filled with increasing moral standards and this generation is more puritan than ever before.

Or is, what I have just described above, the case?

Why come, wine should be any different? How come, if you express your opinion on subjects related to wine, but not solely to their taste, you will be seen as the most saved man on the planet? Even worse - you will be seen as someone on a mission to manipulate and mislead.

Buying wine may sound complicated after reading this - it's not, it's a choice like everything else, in my humble opinion.

What's your choice?

Monday, October 4, 2010

2004 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese
Production: 5.700 bottles
Biodynamic since 2002

I was in Berlin the other weekend, tasting a lot of 2009 GG Rieslings (much more on that later). The day before the official tasting, we warmed up with some nice wines (will include them in a small summary later) and one of them I decided to buy, when I returned.

This is the sort of wine, which could make me have a go with Italy again. It doesn't really matter if its style is a little modern, because it's so sensual and best of all so Italian. The notes are filled with crushed cherries - bleeding their sweet red Sangiovese appeal into a fruit pot which generates herbs and pure mineral attached fruit. The taste is clean, vivid and unbelievable delicious. There is small bitter partials of tar on the finish line, which tells you the wine is a still young. The 14.5% alcohol is felt, when you drink the wine (a whole bottle that is) and it's taking the drinking pleasure a notch down for me. However my overall impression is still a beautiful wine with tons of personality. Bravo.

Glasses: Several: Zalto Bordeaux, Zalto Universal, Zalto Burgundy. Bordeaux brings out the best balance between fruit and oak - Universal brings out herbs and minerality best. Burgundy glass broadens the flavours too much and you loose the herbal character.