Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Witches Brew - Emrich-Schonleber

I suppose the question of trocken Rieslings is a life or death issue. It certainly raises a few points of contention in my wine circle. I still can't quite get my palate or brain around the trocken issue and at best I can sum it up, for now, as follows:

Dry German wines, at their best, when they work, are (arguably, I admit) more intellectual than sweeter wines of the same pradikat. They certainly call for a somewhat brainier approach. And they need more time to show their best. In today's market, it's anyone's call whether a sweeter wine is really more flattering than a dry one. Certainly, for the average wine geek at midway in his or her path through the wine jungle, the formula is still - the drier the better. And from that follows that sweet wines are for the nubiles. Which isn't true but it's certainly hard - after the squirrels at the top of the vineological tree have strived so hard to convince the laymen to give up the flattering sweetness of, say, Californian Chardonnays - to talk those same laymen into accepting the sweetness of German Rieslings because it is simply another kind of sweetness.

My take on it is a wine needs to be judged on its own terms, those terms being, of course, balance. And all it takes is time and patience to adjust to German Riesling's juggling act of balancing acidity with sweet fruit. But then you come back to trocken German wines and that theory breaks down because the balancing act is different there. Which is what confused me when my friends and I tasted the Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese Trocken, 2006 a while back. Because the way the components worked within that specimen, it was hard to tell whether we simply don't like the wine now or whether we never ever will. I suppose I can trust importer Anat Sela's admonition to "wait, wait, wait" but it would be easier for me if I could rely on my own senses, however lacking they might be right now.

But I was intrigued and convinced enough to buy a bottle for laying down and anyway, for good or for worse, the 2006 suffered in comparison with the current "hit", the 2004 off-dry Halenberg Spatlese. At least on an emotional level. Whatever, the sheer quality showed through and Schonleber is one excellent winemaker, as was recently proven to me with quite final conclusion.

Which leads me to the following pair of 2004's, drunk at home in front of the DVD, with family members young and old begging for a sip.

Emrich-Schonleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spatlese, 2004

White peaches and pungent herbs, with traces of green apples and the beginning of the petrol thang. Very elegant on the palate, with the acidity balancing the sweetness of the fruit. Rich on the attack and culminating in a complex, minerally texture and a lingering aftertaste. I almost wish I hadn't tasted its Auslese brother, as it has raised the bar... I'm only half-kidding, this is a brilliant Spatlese and as you'd expect, it's better for current drinking than the Auslese and everyone at home went gaga over it. (Apr. 12, 2008)

Emrich-Schonleber, Monzinger Fruhlingsplatzchen, Riesling Kabinett, 2004

Ripe peaches, chalks and flowers on the nose. The palate is not the equal though - crisp, balanced, full bodied for a Kabinett, drawn with broader strokes compared to the Halenberg Spatlese . Shorter too, with a hint of grapefruit pips on the finish. But a lovely wine in its class. (Apr. 15, 2008)

Imported, natually (you've been paying careful attention, right?) by Giaconda for about 170 and 120 NIS, respectively.

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