Between the COVID lockdowns, a friend and I had discussed a vertical of the Selbach-Oster Rotlay, me having stocked up on back vintages from the mid 2000's. Well, the lockdowns came and went and I drank a bottle of 2004 so my triad became a duo. It was a fine night, my flight (which suffered from bottle variations) supported by an even brighter Mosel and three French classics.
Hermann Ludes, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Thornicher Ritsch, Resling Spätlese, AP 96, 1994
This is the kind of German Riesling that shows why it's so hard to peg the age of these beauties. Its freshness is deceptive. It's very delicate and nuanced, lemons and minerals on the nose and mid-palate, green apples on the finish. The delicate weight said "Spätlese" to me, but I thought maybe 2001, 2002 or 2004.
Selbach-Oster, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Spätlese, 'Rotlay', 2008
Selbach-Oster, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 'Rotlay', 2005
Selbach-Oster, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese, 'Rotlay', 2004
The 2005 should have struck the senses like a comet, but the bottle was badly over-mature, with the color of a TBA or a Tokay. It has an orange marmalade flavor and character, but with air minerals come out to play. Both wines are massive, even though the 2008 is formally labelled as a Spätlese, good acidity in both cases. The 2005 is obviously damaged, but the 2008 is underwhelming. So I think I'll add the note for the 2004, the bottle I drank before we got around to this tasting, since I never got around to posting the tasting note and the 2004 was the best bottle of Rotlay I've had the pleasure of drinking. It also serves as a good exposition of the story of Rotlay and it place in the scheme of things Mosel.
Bigger is not necessarily better and nowhere is this more true than with Rieslings. Who wants a big Riesling, anyway? Thank god, they are very rare in the Mosel. Having said that, the Selbach-Oster Rotlays can be fatty and monolithic in their youth - as I found out tasting the 2015 a couple of years ago - or even in adolescence, as the 2006 proved in its 12th year. The 2004 shows the graceful beauty of the Mosel - fresh apples and pastries and slate lurking beneath and on the fringes of the fruit. The fruit from the Rotlay plot is picked in a single trie, when the fruit is phenolically ripe, but with grapes of different sugar level, which would normally have gone into different pradikats: kabinett, spatlese, auslese etc. The idea is that the separate pradikats each give a distinct, differing view of a given vineyard, while a single trie will expose other facets. Whatever Sonnenuhr is truly about, this wine is elegant and shapely formed, the sweet fruit braced with lively acidity and a touch of salt, making for an Auslese that you can actually try and match with foods.
The nose is so laden with iron, which remained like a girder over our heads, that I was sure it was Hermitage. Long minutes passed, even after the bottle was unveiled, before I could tell it was a Bourgogne, the Eastern spices the only thing giving the identity away . The power of a Gevrey Grand Cru was eminent, even though Charmes is not the most powerful of the villages Grand Crus. Long, savory, persistent.
Then, a pair of '98 Right Bankers.
Chateau Trotanoy, Pomerol, 1998
Chateau Valandraud, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 1998
I think high end Right Bankers are deeper, more bass, darker than their Left Bank counterparts - which just goes to show how much the average drinker understands what Merlot is all about. I haven't drunk a lot of Tratonoys, but they were muscular and monolithic, even at twenty three, even at twenty seven years of age. This has a spicy, almost peppery nose, but not the pepper of a black or white pepper. The Valandraud might not really need another decade, but a decade or two certainly wouldn't wear it down. It has great balance and the greater proportion of Cabernet Franc lends it a herbal streak, that blends well into the bosom of the wine.