Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guided Tasting with Johannes Selbach of Selbach-Oster

Many thanks to Barry and Joan for hosting this event and to Von for working out all the details with Mr. Selbach’s team.  Many thanks also to Harris who works behind the scenes as Treasurer keeping our organization solvent.

This was an incredible tasting.  These were some the best wines I’ve tasted at a GWS event.  Mr. Selbach’s wines are a paradigm of old world winemaking.  The wine world is a huge place and I don’t like to get tangled up in debates about the superiority of one wine style to another.  However, my palate definitely prefers the old world style.  I enjoyed these wines so much that I didn’t take any tasting notes.  When I am drinking truly sublime wines, I want to enjoy them without having to think about them.  So, the tasting notes are courtesy of my wife, Jen.

Mr. Selbach gave a very informative presentation and has a wicked sense of humor.  I could have listened to him talk all night.  He said a few things that really caught my attention.  He mentioned that the best Rieslings from the USA are being crafted in the Finger Lakes region.  I completely agree.  Rieslings from the Anderson Valley, Oregon and Napa just aren’t in the same league as the Finger Lakes Rieslings.  Unfortunately, they are difficult to find.  Occasionally, I have seen them at Whole Foods and Beltramos on the Peninusula usually has a few.

I almost burst out laughing when Mr. Selbach talked about the steps he takes to remove the flavors from the oak barrels by soaking them before using them.  I just had this picture in my mind of a New World winemaker thinking that his brand new oak barrel is not imparting enough vanilla to his wine and throwing oak chips into the barrel. 

I also recall Mr. Selbach saying that if you don’t have great grapes, you can’t make a great wine. 
Can you get anymore old school than that???

 My general impressions of Mr. Selbach’s wines are that they are a touch drier than you would expect for each prädikat level.  Even his declassified wines are not as sweet as you would expect.  The results are fantastic.  I do not necessarily dislike sweeter wines, but I do have a problem with the over-the-top syrupy wines where the honeyed flavors overwhelm the palate.  I enjoyed all of Mr. Selbach’s wines from the Kabinett Trocken through the Auslesen.

The mico block wines (Anrecht, Rotlay and Schmitt) were the stars of the tasting.  For the micro block wines, Mr. Selbach picks all the grapes in one passing from just a tiny block of the vineyard.  When he first said that, I instinctively recoiled – wouldn’t selective picking with multiple passes yield better results?  The answer is no and the proof is in the wine.  Each micro block wine had a distinct, complex palate and these were some of the better German Rieslings I’ve tasted at any price.

Here are Jen’s tasting notes:

2008 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett trocken
Herbal, minerally, grapefruit, long finish, succulent mid-palate

2006 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken
Spicy, zesty, graphite underneath, lemon curd

2011 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett
Gorgeous florals, plenty of acidity and minerality, fennel, supremely elegant

2011 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Fruity, peachy, juicy with spice, creamy mid-palate, long finish, luxurious but not lacking in freshness

2007 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese
Succulent dried fruits, good acidity underneath

2007 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese*
Dried apricot, minerally, quite juicy

2006 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese*
Pretty, delicate florals, quite rich and honeyed.  A de-classified BA.  Plenty of backbone underneath

2011 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling “Anrecht”
Wildly floral, plenty of acidity, long finish, lightest and best of the micro blocks

2011 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling “Rotlay”
Floral, rich, close to BA, honeyed

2011 Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling “Schmitt”
Gorgeous, rich, jammy, sticky, don’t even touch this one for a decade.

2003 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
Superb.  Spicy flavors, herbal, good acidity, dried fruits, quite restrained, no botrytis.

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