Formidable five - presenting the Wine Rambler favourite German Wines of 2012
We could not leave the waning year behind without giving you the official shortlist you've all been nervously waiting for. Just to make sure you don't get the wrong impression: This is a highly subjective parade. It's ours alone, and it's in no way a comprehensive ranking. The following are simply those that impressed and delighted us most out of the minuscule drop of German Wine ocean that we happen to have sampled over the past year. It so happens that all of them were from past vintages, rather than fresh out of the 2011 barrels, but again, that is in no way a judgement on the qualities (or lack thereof) of the current vintage.
For starters, let's turn to a producer with special significance for us, ever since a memorable visit to his tasting room a few years ago. Markus Molitor may be better known for his huge range of excellent sweet Rieslings, but he also happens to be one of Germany's most dedicated growers of Pinot Noir.
That's right: On the steep slopes of the Mosel, Pinot is being made that could give most Burgundies a run for their money. If you won't take our word for it, let the 2004 from Brauneberger Klostergarten do the convincing: A cool wine with enough earthiness to keep the smoothness interesting (think velvet undergrowth) and a great balance between precision, elegance and substance that makes it glide over your tongue.
Without in any way disputing the greatness of Germany's glorious Spätlesen and Auslesen, we have spent another year trying to correct the fallacy that German Wine is by definition sweet wine, and promoting the dry whites that Germans themselves prefer. But there is no denying that there are times when you like it sweet. Really sweet. And there is more than Riesling to get you through those days in palate-tickling style.
It was a 1999 Muskateller Eiswein from the Pfalz, of all things, that left Torsten with the world's tastiest lips and - judging from his review - far away eyes. There are sweet wines that have more ageing potential than this Muscat or perhaps a little more brilliance, but at that moment in time, it came very close to sweet wine perfection.
This one came as a real surprise. Kistenmacher & Hengerer's Swabian Cabernet Franc is certainly the most unlikely of the bunch to have made it onto this list.
Cabernet Franc grown in Germany will not exactly sell itself, so it must never be shy if it wants to hit the big time. This one knew exactly how to get our attention: By teasing Julian with false modesty about being made from young vines only, and then hitting him with concise, powerful aromatics ranging from blueberries and raspberries all the way to moss and forest floor. Slick move, gotta hand it to them.
The Wine Rambler would not be the Wine Rambler without our tireless (and selfless) advocacy of the earthily majestic Silvaner, Germany's second great white grape. When will the world finally get that these aren't novelty or niche wines?
The simple truth, as spelt out admirably in Torsten's review of a great growth Silvaner made by the Ruck family, is that such is the class of wine you would expect to be served with a tasting menu in a first rate restaurant; and yet many a good Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps even Riesling in such a setting would have to think long and hard about how to develop a similar feeling of being distinct.
Our grand prize for this years goes to the old Pfalz-based winery Reichsrat von Buhl. And that is not because of its venerable historical title of "Reichsrat", dating back to the 19th century kingdom of Bavaria, or their robustly Germanic labels. No, it is because - spoiler alert - they managed to make a stunning dry Riesling that deserves to have Torsten's praise of it quoted in full:
There is a hint of smoke in the bouquet, but it just adds the right level of character to the wine's lovely and deep fruit aromas (stone fruit, ripe pear, a touch of orange peel) and goes nicely with the mineral and flavoursome vegetable touch (hint of potato peel and a touch of celeriac). Deep, cool, enticing.The Riesling feels as deep and full of character on your tongue as the bouquet promises. It is focussed, deep and precise, but also mouth-filling and enticing. Somehow the Pechstein manages to tread the fine balance between joy-to-drink and captivating/serious. There is focussed acidity that tingles you gum and a fantastic crisp and very very long mineral finish, but there a also juicy, almost creamy moments with fruit and a touch of vanilla.
What were your memorable wines in 2012, German or otherwise? Do let us know in the comment section. Oh, and happy new year, everybody!