In the opera Turandot, Princess Turandot must marry Calaf after he correctly answers three riddles. Calaf gives her one chance to free herself: she must guess his name by dawn. Princess Turandot decrees that no one in her kingdom will sleep that night until the stranger’s name is discovered. At this point, Calaf launches into Nessun Dorma (No one shall sleep) and loudly proclaims at the end, “Al Alba Vincero” (I shall win). I’m guessing that Mr. Gerhard is an opera fan…
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
I would like to take care of all the “thank yous” first. Thanks to Barry and Joan for hosting. Thanks to Barry for donating many of the older wines. Thanks to Joan for all the wonderful food and thanks to Angela Carlsson for donating the Von Hovel.
The Members’ Only Tasting was a rousing success. It was our largest turnout of the last several years and the wine and food were excellent. We had a fantastic array of wines from dry to sweet that included wines as old as 1971 and as young as 2011. I was quite busy pouring wine all evening so my notes are sparse, but here are my impressions of the wines that caught the attention of my palate.
2011 Eva Fricke Seligmacher Trocken
2010 Keller Westhofener Kirchspiel Grosses Gewächs Trocken
2010 Leitz Rüdeshemier Berg Schlossberg “Ehrenfels” Trocken
We began the tasting with three dry wines. Based upon past experience, I figured the Leitz would be a touch sweeter than the other two so I placed it third among the trockens. I then took a shot in the dark and started with the Eva Fricke followed by the Keller. In retrospect, I think this was a mistake. The palate on the Fricke was so powerful that the more subtle Keller seemed weak in comparison. The Fricke was definitely the most popular trocken of the evening. I found it to be flavorful and tight with a salty, lemony flavor. The Keller was simply amazing – the palate was very smooth and integrated with flavors of zest, gooseberry, bitter marmalade and apple. It had a long finish and was one of my favorite wines of the evening. My only notation on the Leitz was “delicious.”
1999 Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinet
I was quite surprised by this wine although I must admit that for Dr. Loosen, I set the bar quite low. I’m not a huge fan of Loosen. I fully expected this wine to be completely ruined but I was wrong – it wasn’t fantastic but it did have a pleasant, sweet, lemony flavor.
1971 Schönborn Rüdesheimer Bischofsberg Auslese
This was another of my favorite wines of the evening. I’ve probably tasted around a half a dozen 1971’s over the last few years and I’ve thought they were too far over the hill. This Schönborn was definitely past its prime but amazingly, still showed the faintest hint of primary flavors along with the secondary flavors acquired from aging. It showed a faded marmalade with wisps of citrus on the finish.
2005 Knebel Winninger Röttgen Auslese
2005 Rosch Trittenheimer Apotheke Beerenauslese
Monday, December 31, 2012
I am currently reading a book by Rajat Parr, a sommelier working for Michael Mina, and he loves German Riesling. Like Terry Thiese, he laments the lack of popularity of German Riesling. Personally, I’m glad it is not popular and hope it remains that way.
I have put together a mixed case of German Riesling (listed below) in which no bottle is over $30. These wines are all excellent and I would not hesitate to serve them to anyone. Now, If I were to try to put together a mixed case of Burgundy or Bordeaux of the same quality, I would have to increase the price per bottle to at least $60. This is the cost of popularity. Why would a German Rieslingophile want to see this kind of price inflation with German Rieslings?
Long live inexpensive, high quality German Riesling!
2010 Spreitzer 101 Riesling, $12.99
2011 Joseph Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein Dragonstone Riesling, $16.99
2011 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Kabinett, $17.99
2011 Dönnhoff Estate Riesling, $20.99
2011 Keller Estate Riesling, $20.99
2011 Eva Fricke Lorcher Riesling, $21.99
2011 Muller Catoir Gimmeldinger Mandegarten Kabinett Riesling Trocken, 24.99
2010 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, $24.99
2009 Fred Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Riesling, Kabinett $19.99
2009 S.A. Prum Graacher Himmelriech Spätlese, $29.99
2009 Selbach Oster Graacher Domprobst Spätlese, $29.99
2009 Basserman Jordan QBA Trocken, $22.00
Friday, December 21, 2012
2011 Eva Fricke Lorcher Riesling Trocken
Before opening her winery in 2006, Eva worked at wineries all over the world including Château Cissac in Haut Médoc and Dominio de Pingus in the Ribera del Duero. She went to work for Josef Leitz in 2004 and left her job as his vineyard manager in 2011 to concentrate on her own wines. Eva only grows Riesling and currently offers four qba’s and two Spätlesen. Her qba’s are not garden variety qba’s and can go for as high as fifty dollars.
The Lorcher is her bottom of the line qba and for around twenty dollars, it is quite a bargain. This wine boasts a powerful palate with intense flavors of gooseberry and white pepper. It is citrussy and tart with a medium, steely finish. It is drinking fine now but could definitely use some bottle age.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Pouring the wines for everyone doesn’t leave me with a lot of free time, but with the help of my wife, I did manage to scribble some notes on many of the wines we tasted. My three favorites of the evening were the Spreitzer, the Karthäuserhof and the Selbach Oster.
Schloss Schönborn Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Spätlese
This wine showed a rich palate entry with a creamy middle that tasted like stone fruit. The finish was short.
Spreitzer Winkeler Jesuitengarten Spätlese
The Spreitzer was a bit spritzy which is unusual for a Rheingau. The palate was quite concentrated with flavors of peach and orange. The finish was short which complemented the richness of the palate quite nicely.
1976 von Beulqitz Kaseler Nieschen, Auslese, Mosel
1983 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten, Auslese, Mosel
1985 Dr. Crusius Traiser Bastei, Auslese, Nahe
I try to have a wide variety of styles and vintages at the tastings to please everyone. Members will always discuss their preferences with me at the tastings, and our members’ preferences cover a wide spectrum: some prefer dry wines, some prefer sweet wines, some prefer older wines, some prefer younger wines, etc. My preferences run towards the younger and drier wines. So, I should probably recuse myself from reviewing these older wines but what fun would that be? The only flavor I tasted in the’76 and the ’83 was melted butter. The ’85 simply had no flavor on the palate at all. I did not like any of these wines.
2010 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg, Auslese
This wine was juicy and rich with flavors of apricot conserve, apple pie spice and cardamom. The finish was very long. A magnificent wine although we drank it far too young. I’d love to revisit this one in ten years.
2010 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich, Eiswein
I absolutely love Selbach Oster’s wines and this one did not disappoint. It was not as sweet as one might expect from an Eiswein and it had a luxurious, silky plate. The flavors included honeyed apple and floral notes and were backed by a firm acidity.
2003 Reinhard and Beate Knebel Winninger Röttgen, Trockenbeerenauslese
Thursday, December 6, 2012
At the June tasting, many people were curious about the origins of some of the red varietals that we tasted. After conducting some research, here is what I discovered.
Bläufrankish is a crossing of the Heunisch variety and an unknown varietal. Heunisch is the name for a variety family that was possibly brought by the Magyars of Hungary to Central Europe. Over 75 varietals have Heunisch in their family tree including Chardonnay and Riesling. Bläufrankish is also known as Lemberger in Germany, Kekfrankos in Hungary and Gamé in Bulgaria but don’t confuse Gamé with Gamay of Beaujolais which is an entirely different varietal.
Dornfelder is a cross of Helfensteiner, which is itself a cross of Frühburgunder and Trollinger, and Heroldrebe, which is itself a cross of Blauer Portugieser and Bläufrankish.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
At our last wine dinner, I served a wine classified as “Grosses Gewächs.” This obviously prompted the question, “What in the world does Grosses Gewächs mean?” The answer to that question is quite interesting and starts with the VDP.
Will this new system actually change people’s perceptions towards dry, German wines? I think it will. Imagine a person wandering into the German wine section at his local wine shop and asking the salesman what “Spätlese Trocken” means. The salesman would have to give a brief explanation of the pradikat system and must weights. Before he finishes, the customer’s eyes glaze over and he buys a bottle of French wine. If that same bottle of wine is labeled “Grosses Gewächs,” the classification explanation is much simpler. This wine is of the highest quality from a top vineyard. It is the equivalent of a Grand Cru from Burgundy. The customer buys the wine and is forever addicted to German Rieslings.
VDP stands for Verband Deutscher Qualitäts-und Prädikatsweingüter. This roughly translates as The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates. The VDP is a winegrower’s association with around 200 members. The requirements for membership include adherence to an internally imposed standard of quality that regulates everything from cellar facilities to yields to must weights. The membership list reads like a “Who’s Who” of the German wine world. In the Mosel, members include Dr. Loosen, Grans-Fassian, Von Hovel, Egon Muller, Joh Jos Prum and Fritz Haag. In the Nahe, members include Schlossgut Diel, Emrich-Schonleber, Donnhoff and Schafer-Frohlich.
The VDP attempted to change the German Wine Law of 1971 that established the Prädikat system that we all know and love. The VDP wanted the classification system to place a greater emphasis on the vineyard than on must weight. Their attempts were unsuccessful so they bypassed the government and created their own classification system.
They unveiled their new classification system in 2002 and it has been a work in progress. The system was overhauled in 2006 and then revised in 2012. I will skip the 2002 version and start with the 2006 version since this is largely the system they are using today.
The 2006 model is the “Erste Lage Classification” and it divides German wines into the following three tiers:
Erste Lage – This designation indicates a wine from the best vineyards of Germany. A dry Erste Lage wine from the Rheingau is labeled Erstes Gewächs and a dry Erste Lage wine from all other regions is labeled Grosses Gewächs. A sweet Erste Lage wine will have Erste Lage on the label followed by a Prädikat designation.
Klassifizierte Lage – These are wines from classified sites of superior quality. They can be dry or sweet.
Guts-und Ortsweine – These are high quality, regional wines.
Of course, Erste Lage wines level must meet criteria that are much more comprehensive than the just the quality of the vineyard. An Erste Lage wine must meet yield restrictions, comply with designated harvest procedures and even has to follow certain marketing guidelines.
This 2006 classification model should look familiar to any wine lover. The system is similar to some of the French classification systems and the 2012 modifications go even further in that direction. The 2012 modifications create a four tier system that is based on the Burgundian classification model:
1. Grosse Lage (comparable to Grand Cru in Burgundy)
This top classification retains the Grosses Gewächs and Erstes Gewächs designations for the dry wines and a Prädikat designation is added for the sweeter wines.
2. Erste Lage (comparable with Premier Cru in Burgundy)
Dry wines will be labelled Erste Lage and the sweet wines will carry a Prädikat designation.
3. Ortswein (comparable with Village in Burgundy)
The sweet wines will have a Prädikat designation
4. Gutswein (comparable with a regional wine in Burgundy).
No Prädikat designations are used.
This new classification system represents an interesting development in German wines. Is this new system better than the Prädikat system? I think so and I also think that this system may help popularize German wine. Most oenophiles like to drink dry wine with a meal. If you are having a juicy steak for dinner, you reach into your wine cellar and grab a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Now, imagine opening the Châteauneuf and sipping it only to discover that it was sweet. You would be horrifed and would either open a different bottle of wine for your meal or, gasp, open a beer.
Of course, this would never happen – Châteauneuf-du-Pape are quite obviously dry. However, if we change the scenario so that you are buying a Kabinett to go with your oysters, you could not be certain that it would be dry. The Prädikat designation is simply not a reliable indicator of sweetness. So, needing a dry wine, you buy a Chablis instead.
Instead of throwing out the Prädikat system, German winemakers could place a greater emphasis on the terms trocken, halbtrocken and feinherb to indicate that a wine is dry. However, I think there is a very simple reason why the VDP did not go this route. People tend to view the Prädikat system as a pyramid of quality. The higher pradikats are seen as “better” than the lower Prädikats – a Spätlese is better than a Kabinett, an Auslese is better than a Spätlese, etc. While you may not know whether a Kabinett or a Spätlese will be dry or sweet, it is fairly safe to say that Auslese, BA and TBA will be dessert level sweet. Thus, the Prädikat system appears to favor the dessert wines over the dry wines. Under the VDP classification system of 2012, the great, dry wines are now in the top category along with the great sweet wines. The sweetness bias has disappeared.