I'm always honoured when people who have stumbled onto this blog contact us for expertise on German wine, even while I find myself guiltily hoping that we are not the only source that they rely on, given the patchiness and dabbling character of this our whole undertaking. But here is a piece of advice that I guarantee you will not regret following: When looking for mature-ish Mosel Riesling in great drinking condition, look no further than the 2002 vintage, underrated in many quarters, but in my humble experience as safe a bet for lively, nuanced wines as you are going to find.
Martin Müllen's 2002 Kabinett from the aptly named Paradies ("paradise") vineyard is a case in point. Over and beyond being a minor classic of the neo-traditional style of Mosel winemaking (whatever the hell that is supposed to be), it also has a long and distinguished history in this Wine Rambler's cellar, being one of the very first wines ordered directly from the producer. And I'm happy to report it has never before tasted this good:
As far as aged wines go, eight years may not seem seriously old, but Pinot Blanc, especially from Germany, tends to be drunk as a younger wine, light and fresh in style. Having said that, some German wineries also produce more substantial Weißburgunder (German for Pinot Blanc), matured in oak barrels, that can and should age a few years. Dr. Heger is one of those wineries, located in the Kaiserstuhl, the warmest wine growing area in Germany with fantastic volcanic soil.
The dry Auslese from the Winklerberg vineyard is one of those more substantial Pinot Blancs. The colour shows the wine's age, an intense honey coloured gold that promises substance and maturity.
Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).
A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.
Drinking aged wines can be a fun adventure, and it gets even better if the wine comes from an unusual vineyard and with a bit of history. This Marsanne, even though not yet terribly old, ticks all of these boxes, and so I am grateful for Karen who recently pointed me in its direction at Philglass and Swiggot's Clapham Junction branch. The Tahbilk Marsanne comes from one of the oldest wineries in Australia and from what may be the oldest planting of Marsanne in the world.
The Marsanne grape variety is most common in the Northern Rhône, but can also be found in Switzerland and a few other countries, including Spain. It seems to be a bit picky if planted in the wrong area: too cold and the wines can be bland, too hot and they turn out to be flabby.
Karthäuserhofberg. Nothing demonstrates the place vineyards occupy in german wine culture like wineries that are synonymous with the vineyards that surround them. This must put some pressure on the staff, must it not? If you work at a place called Karthäuserhof and produce wine from a site that has been called Karthäuserhofberg from time out of mind, you better not screw it up. Not to worry. They never do.
If it comes to really powerful red wines, I have come to love what the Spanish do with the Tempranillo variety. At their best these wines are powerful yet not overpowering, bringing the thunder without forgetting the elegance. Bodegas Aalto is one of the wineries that got a lot of praise over the past few years - which is remarkable seeing as the only got into business around 1998. On the other hand, it may not be so remarkable after all as the people behind Bodegas Aalto are well respected wine professionals: winemaker Mariano Garcia (who came to fame at Ribera del Duero's Vega Sicilia) and Javier Zaccagnini (formerly head of the 'Consejo Regulador', the regulatory body of the Ribera del Duero appellation).
With financial backing from investors such as the Sherry company Osborne, they bought vineyards in the Ribera del Duero, some of them with 60 year old Tinto Fino vines (a Tempranillo clone), and started restoring them. The first wine, the 1998 vintage, was not as good as hoped and was never commercialised, but the later vintages put the winery into the premier league of Spanish winemakers.
What to write about a wine that's so annoyingly perfect that it has the peachy fruit, has the stones, has the sweetness, has the acid, has those first camomile and petrol hints of age, has the balance and has all the elegance that sweet Riesling can bring.
Not much to say about a wine which will let any of the Wine Rambler's snobbish bonmots and bad puns roll of it anyway.
I'll make this confession, then: Us having enjoyed this with a dear friend who not only makes a fiendishly good mousse au chocolat, but also likes good Spätlesen, amid general contentment, I couldn't help this thought creeping its way into my sluggish brain: This wine is too nice. Yeah, it's boring. There, I've said it.
Germany has cast its vote in the general election and looking at the result I felt the need to drink some wine. I leave it to you whether you want to see it as a comment that I am not drinking German wine tonight - I am off to Spain. This may be a bit unfair, but so far Spanish red seems to me to be the most exciting Mediterranean red wine (leaving out most of France as not Mediterranean) - send those flame emails and, even better, recommendations for Italian, Greek and southern French wines that will blow my socks off. At the moment, however, I enjoy this Navarre blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. [read the full post...]
Very dark straw colour, a tinge of gold
Smells of peaches and pineapples pickled in petroleum (there's German white wine for you...), marzipan, dried herbs, and smoke. Reminded me somewhat of the more powerful Grüne Veltliners.
Great density and an oily, liqueurish mouth-feel, some maturity (camomile tea, bread), but most of all great smoky minerality. The finish of dried peaches, smoke and salted almonds is long and intense.