Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Of Riesling 2015


Make no mistake about, Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes and produces some of the friendliest food matches. The fact that we so often put the best examples on a pedestal doesn't mean we can't take the wines off that pedestal and put them to every day use.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2007

Emrich-Schönleber and Halenberg is a match made in heaven, just like Bird and the alto sax (or Bird playing forward in the Boston Garden, if you will). The result, be it dry or off-dry, Spatlese or Großes Gewächs, is always focused and regal and, at its best, stunning. This shows a cerebral, visceral and caustic character that I often find in the GG style - challenging, but worth the challenge. The nose is deep and complex, displaying grapefruit and green apples in harmony with minerals and hops. The palate is mostly an echo and a complement of the nose, tempering the grapefruit and hops with a salty note on the attack, a lingering sweetness on the finish and a juicy, pitch-perfect acidity in between. (May 1, 2015)

Giaconda, 400 NIS.

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2008

This, on the other hand, is lighter, showing racy, focused, pungent green apples with crushed rocks and chalk, brioche where the Großes Gewächs was hops and salt. It's less complex and less showy, more subtle. (July 16, 2015)

Giaconda, 180 NIS.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Erdener Prälat, Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2009

Delicately balanced liquid candy with notes of tropical fruit and lemon pie and a faint - yet distinct - layer of minerals and mint. So harmonious and joyfully delicious and complex that it's hard to break it down by components. Sure it can age, but its youthful veneer at present is almost incandescent. (May 2, 2015)

Wine Route. I lost track of the price, but I think this half bottle was 150-200 NIS.

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rheingau, Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels, Spatlese, Riesling Alte Reben, 2006

The Alte Reben is at the sweet spot where a classic German Riesling makes you feel all warm and tingly inside. The green apples have started to melt into peaches, while the minerals notes flirt at petrol and a mellow, elegant, honeyed complexity. This is labelled a Spatlese, but I find echoes of the Grosses Gewachs style. Meanwhile, the old vines don't endow it with intensity so much as rocky depth, combined with light sweetness. (May 17, 2015)

Sphera, White Concepts, Riesling, 2014

I've been chasing Sphera's Riesling for months, and now that I've found a bottle, I think that, at this stage in its life, this carries Doron Rav-Hon's signature more than it does the the variety's.  Like many of his wines, it is floral with traces of rainwater, herbs and minerals on the nose. If you presented it to me blind, I'd never be able to contextualize it, and would probably never guess the grape. The acidity is relatively low for a Riesling, and there's no major presence of apples.* With that light bitterness, I might go for north Italy, while the floral notes would make me think of a blend with some Viognier in it. I like it a lot, though, and I think that, in the end, it does bring a lovely and elusive sense of identity beyond the grape or the wine maker. (May 18, 2015)

* Hold that thought. A bottle a month later (Jun. 26, 2014) had a definite abundance of apples, so much so that, after a couple of hours, the nose reminded me of a Normandy cidre.

About 100 NIS.

Joh. Jos. Prüm, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Great crystalline purity, with accouterments that express the Mosel perfectly: green apples that marry sweetness with racy acidity, hints of slate, smoke and petrol, a touch of tropical fruit in mid palate and finish to make things even more interesting. Germany, the Mosel specifically, has many producers who can make Rieslings as delicious as this, but few with this light a touch, one that conveys depth and complexity with such ethereal ease. (May. 24, 2015)

Giaconda, I lost track of the price, probably around 180 NIS.

Y'all were waiting for Dönnhoff to show up, admit it!

Dönnhoff, Nahe,  Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Dönnhoff might well be Prüm's counterpart in the Nahe, and the Felsentürmchen is a very interesting contrast to the Sonnenuhr. It's not quite as light, but the acidity is even more thrilling, and there is not a sign of petrol (which, as I recall reading, Dönnhoff sees as a fault), but rather a veneer of smoke and clay. As I write this, I realize I usually have a hard time to string together descriptors for Donnhoff's wines, as, at their best, they impress on a level oblique to the usual discussion of aromas, flavors and structure. However, they always offer a share of mystic greatness, and the share this time is very generous. (May 28, 2015)

Giaconda, about 200 NIS.

Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal Reserve, Gaisberg 1er Lage, Riesling, 2010

If there's a thread common to Austrian Rieslings (at least those I've drunk and tasted), it is the mineral and spices on the nose and palate - sure, you've got a similar fingerprint in Alsace too, but Alsatians often have a bitter quinine flavor, as well, which I find less palatable. Anyway, here, with this perennial favorite of mine, the effect is complex and refined and sealed by a long, lightly salty finish. And, what I always love about the Gobelsburg Gaisberg is present here too: an icy, crystalline expression of green apples surrounding the spices, expressed both on the nose and in the scintillating acidity.(Jun. 12, 2015)

Fat Guy, 159 NIS.

Schlossgut Diel, Nahe, Dorsheimer Goldloch, Riesling Spätlese, 2010

You've gotten this far through the post because you love Riesling. There's a good chance you love the Nahe. And if you live in Israel, that love is likely based on the (almost) holy trinity of Emrich-Schonleber, Schafer-Frohlich and, foremost, Donnhoff. Anyway, that's how things stand with me, so I was very happy to expand my experience and pick up a bottle of a Nahe producer I haven't tried yet in Berlin. This is on the rich side for a Spätlese, although its youth might be contributing to that impression. The depth and complexity take time to show, and then I get chalk, red apples, cherries, hints of petrol, all driven by, and thriving on, extremely fresh and appetizing acidity. Very delicious, and it begs cellaring. (Jun 18, 2015)

About 30 euros.

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling trocken, 2007

The label says trocken, but the neck boasts the Großes Gewächs imprint, and what's inside the bottle certainly shows the Großes Gewächs personality: "cerebral, visceral and caustic", as I described the Emrich-Schönleber. Then I find the kind of complex aromatics that make Terry Theise muse about peasants plowing wheat fields as the sun sets or something equally idyllic, and if you wanted to be less colorful you could just say apples, lime, minerals and dry grass - but it certainly offers a very deep and reflective sniffing experience, the equal of any serious Cote the Beaune Premier Cru. The palate can caress but at times it grips and makes you pause for thought. As much as I love Donnhoff, the Emrich-Schönleber is the better GG (but the Schloßböckelheimer Felsentürmchen, Riesling Spätlese trumps them both). (Jun. 22, 2015)

Muller-Catoir, Pfalz, Riesling trocken, 2012

A very friendly, very moreish, dry Pfalz, almost surprisingly salty, with pungent apple skin. (July 18, 2015)

Giaconda, 100 NIS.

Selbach-Oster, Saar, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

Hans Selbach makes this out of bought grapes from the Saar and it's going to be a hit. You might be fooled into thinking it's just a simple wine, because it's so tasty you can't possibly get past the electrifying mint laced lemon fruit to notice the structure and breadth. (July 23, 2015)

Fat Guy, about 110 NIS.

Mosel Saar Face-off
St. Urbans-Hof, Saar, Ockfener Bockstein, Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is brought to you by the Flam winery's import arm and has a classic, kabinett body, lean and lithe; granny apples and slate, at first, followed by apricot confit. Throughout its evolution in the glass, there's a yeasty strain, like due to its youth. Very nice, if idiosyncratic. (July 24, 2015)

About 110-120 NIS.

Wegeler, Mosel, Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese, 2011

This, too, is a venerable name, especially the vineyard. The relative warmth of Mosel compared to Saar, combined with the addition ripeness of Spätlese, make this a fuller, fruitier wine, even before taking into account vintage variances. The additional bottle age is evident in the complexity and the greater expression of the trademark slate and dill, as well as in the hints of petrol and smoke. This has a couple of decades ahead of it, but if you drink it now, I guarantee you won't be able to put it down. Sensational.(July 24, 2015)

Bought at the Berlin duty free, 36 Euros and this is yours.

Somewhere, over the rainbow - Durbach
Andreas Laible, Baden, Durbacher Plauelrain, Riesling Trocken Achat, 2013

There's that terroir thing again. This has the same floral purity as Laible's Scheurebe (which like all the domaine's wines comes from the heart of the Plauelrain vineyard), with a surprisingly large helping of fresh red fruit (not just red apples, but red cherries, even currants), as well as green apples and just a touch of guayavas. It's delicate and crystalline and so beautiful that it's breathtaking. Honestly. In a summer so full of beautiful Rieslings, this might just be the winner, at least in the dry Riesling category. It's all subjective, of course, and I may be swayed by its scarcity  (I bought this on a family trip to Baden, when I visited the family VDP producer, and I have yet to locate any of their wines in any urban center in Europe or the US that I've visited), but I think that, after all these years, I know a great Riesling when I drink it. And this is not even the Grosses Gewaches, which was the better wine when I tasted both at the winery. (Aug. 2, 2015)

17 euros at the winery - I want to rip my balls off for not buying more.

A Major League Newcomer

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling Trocken, 2014

Eldad Levy has started to import a cult producer so small that not even Terry Theise carries the entire portfolio. This says trocken on the label, but the balance of sugar, fruit and acidity is such that it highlights a character of a freshly picked green apple and ends up tasting sweeter than it probably is, yet a touch salty at the same time. If you ever wanted to make an energy drink out of Riesling, this vibrant wine would probably be the result. (Aug. 6, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Riesling feinherb, 2014

Feinherb is a loosely defined, flexible alternative term for halbtrocken. In practical terms, this means ther isn't a big stylistic or qualitative difference  between it and the troken, except this has somewhat more weight and definition, and that same vibrant acidity. And, of course, it is sweeter and would better satisfy most people's expectations of a classic Mosel. (Aug. 8, 2015)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, 2014

This is where things gets interesting. Or, at the very least, promising, because this kabinett is still very primal and reticent, but you can tell it's going to be very archetypal because of its balance and composure. (Aug. 9, 2015)

This should cost 135 NIS, he other two about 100 each.

A Perennial Favorite

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Schlossberg, Riesling Kabinett, 2012 

I think this is actually going into something of a shell. It was more vibrant last year, and now, while it's still a beautiful piece of work, typical Mosel green apples and cold slate, the youthful spark is muted, in the process of being replaced by deft savoriness. (Aug. 17, 2015)

Fat Guy, 135 NIS.

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