Friends and Celebrations, Pradikats and Appellations

A fun evening, celebrating a friend's birthday, enough wines to make heads roll, but a very well thought-out lineup that managed to impress even while drowning us in a light alcoholic stupor.

We didn't have enough glasses for flights per se, but the wines were rolled out in themes, nonetheless.

First theme: Chardonnay.

Daniel Dampt, Chablis Premier Cru, Les Lys, 2017

Another day, another Dampt from Chablis, and a fine one it is. My first time with this Dampt, and also, I believe, my first with this Premier Cru vineyard. The nose shows lime, oranges, apple peels and just a trace of sea weed, so more a showing of breed and elegance than full blast marine. On the palate, fantastic acidity, lithe form, chalky texture and tension, a touch of richness. 

Yaacov Oryah, Yaacov’s Playground, Chardonnay, Singe Vineyard, 2021

The single vineyard in question comes from Merom Golan vineyard, in stark contrast with Yaacov's beloved Negev vineyards. It also stands in stark, direct contrast with the Chablis, which, no surprise, showcases Chardonnay at its steeliest. Yaacov's development arc as a maker of white wines had him starting out picking grapes early, which gave the wines structure but also a certain lack of phenolic development - in other words, lack of flavors. I speak from personal experience with the wines, which echoes what Yaacov said at the tasting, with gracious personal honesty: the wines lack content and stuffing. Yaacov did not walk away from the challenge, nor did he stick out with his initial dogma. He started to treat this vineyard as truly his playground, making multiple harvests, some early, some not so early, picking and fermenting the grapes in separate batches, some with skin contact, before making the final blend. The resulting wine is still too young to praise or even fully appraise. The nose and palate initially impress as a fairly balanced Israeli Chardonnay, not too ripe given the context, but certainly fleshier and less racy than the Chablis. It slowly starts to exude minerals and it's certainly both elegant and warm. But, that's really all I can tell right now, except that it certainly is not deficient in stuffing.

Next, dry German Rieslings.

Steinmetz, Mosel, Piesporter Treppchen, von den Terrassen, 2020

Steinmetz' dry Rieslings are among the friendliest dry German Rieslings I've drunk. The acidity and minerals are always so well integrated with the fruit that even in their youth, you don't long for a touch of sweetness to embrace them. This is no exception. It offers the simplicity of youth, a still limited palette of sweet red apples and minerals, but the balance and hints of tension promise good things ahead.

Martin Müllen, Mosel, Trarbacher Hühnerberg, Riesling Spätlese Trocken* , 2016

Müllen, apparently, is a relatively new star in the Mosel, with the critics' scores to back his new found fame. This, for example, received at least one score of 99. Spend enough time on the wine geek's treadwheel and you'll end up tasting a 99-pointer, even a 100-pointer. It's always a challenge to figure out: is it worth it? Obviously, we all have our own criteria. I probably give expression a lot of weight, less than others for balance. Taking all that into consideration, as well as the wine's outstanding development in glass, 99 points is probably within its grasp, certainly not an absurdity. The palate is fresh and vivacious - the purity of the fruit is convincing. It's balanced and restrained, despite the fruit being, at its core, the essence of tropical. Tropical fruit often make for flashy, exuberant wines, but I suppose not all tropical fruit are of a kind and this is certainly a very restrained wine, on both nose and palate. Initially, there are minerals in the background, but they slowly come to the fore. There's a hint of sweetness before finishing with grapefruit flavors.

Two VDP wines proudly bearing the Großes Gewächs badge of honor, which, as usual, signifies "don't touch - yet!"

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg, Riesling Großes Gewächs, 2018

The toughest of the pair, with light reduction on the nose, highlighting minerals. Clenched shut.

Zilliken, Mosel, Saarburg RauschRiesling Großes Gewächs, 2018

Easier to approach and appreciate its precision. The nose is an apple pie drained of sweetness, the palate austere, its flavors hovering on the fringes. 

On to Pinot Noir and Burgundy.

Spater-Veit, Mosel, Pinot Noir, Reserve, 2014

Mosel is not the most obvious source for German Pinot Noir. The result here has black pepper and a stink I found Syrah like at first. If Burgundy is autumnal forest floor - falling leaves starting to rot - this is a colder, darker, more brooding forest, straight out a Grimm Brothers tale. I liked it more than than others.

Yaacov Oryah, Black Pinecone, 2019

A Pinot Noir inadvertently (?) referencing New Zealand. The nose is very much red fruit, not an easy achievement in Israel, Pinot's vegetal aspect showing as a touch of herbs, not forest floor. The palate shows a good balance of plump red fruit and soft tannins. Not a world beater, but certainly a charmer.

Chauvenet-Chopin, Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, Aux Argillas, 2010

A little ripe at first, the nose showing coffee grains, spices, leaves. On the palate, I find less structure than I’d expect from a 2010.

Domaine de Montille, Volnay Premier Cru, Les Taillepieds, 2016 

This is young, of course, arguably way too young, but nevertheless starting to show the Montille magic. A perfect balance of red/black fruit, wet earth and leaves on the nose. The structure is excellent, dense, semi-monolithic, yet with enough space to allow nuances and hint at potential.

And this we called the dessert flight, with a qualified reservation.

Matthias Müller, Mittelrhein Bopparder, Hamm Engelstein, Riesling Beerenauslese, 1994

Caught at the point in the Riesling development curve where the sweetness is receding, showing brown sugar and candied orange and clementine peels, backed by lively acidity. The nose is a distillation of orange candy, with enough shading and spicy notes to evoke complexity. 

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Rotlay, 2018

Rotlay is Hans Selbach's grand terroir experiment, a single lot from the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyard (ie, the Rotlay lot on the label) harvested at one pass, the result usually with enough oechsle to qualify as an Auselse. I would argue that you would only approach it as a dessert wine at such an early age. The nose is complex, the palate is complex, showing a good balance of fruit, acidity and sugar. One of the best Rotlays I’ve had, perhaps the ripe vintage gave it extra drinkability at the cost of potential.