Two years ago, I reminisced about student days and staircases. Last year, I got all corduroy trousers and turtleneck sweater about the term "elite". Somewhat disappointingly, this has not stopped Dallmayr, the renowned Munich delicatessen store, from again using the name Winzerelite (wine making elite) for their annual spring tasting of German and Austrian estates. Clearly, we needed to try another tack with Dallmayr, who this year actually invited us to attend as - imaging our proudly beaming faces - press. From a friendly chat with Dallmayr's public relations guy, we gathered that they were happy to have bloggers spread the word, but not yet sure how to understand their reach compared to print journalism. Not a scepticism that you often hear in the English-speaking wine world these days, but we were happy to rise to the occasion: a new journalistic approach was clearly called for here.
We decided not to come along with a preconceived set of questions but to actually let the winemakers steer the conversation. We asked the men and women manning the stalls to pour us just one wine, their most important one. That should not have to be the most expensive one, nor necessarily the best, we insisted, but simply the one most worth talking about. And then we tasted, and we listened.
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.
Sometimes Burgundy is not in France. Well, technically it might still be in France, for all I know, but metaphysically speaking I believe Burgundy is also a state of wine that can travel - and like the holy spirit of wine it can come down elsewhere and turn red wine into true Pinot Noir. Some of you heathens will now think of Oregon, New Zealand or California, but I have seen it happen in one of the more unlikely places on earth: the cool climate Mosel.
Yes, the Mosel makes Pinot Noir that can rival Burgundy. There may not be much of it, but I think of one man in particular, driven by faith in his vines: Markus Molitor.
"Gold, gold, gold - molten gold flowing into our glasses." That was the impression Markus Molitor's late harvest Riesling had left when I first tried it in the summer of 2008. Now, opening my last bottle, I had the same, most pleasant sensation, just enhanced with a little more wisdom of age (the wine I mean, certainly not me).
Late harvest (Spätlese) Riesling from the Mosel to me is one of the most exciting manifestations of wine, ideally light, elegant, full of character and with the right dosage of residual sugar to tempt you for yet another glass without cloying you with too much sweetness.
When you speak about the Mosel valley in a wine context, chances are that Riesling will be the topic. On occasion though I feel the need to raise my hand and confuse both class and teacher by saying: 'and what about Pinot Noir?' Yes, you have heard correctly, for me the Mosel can also be Spätburgunder (the German name of the variety) territory, at least as far as Markus Molitor is concerned. It must have been around early 2007 when I bought my first Spätburgunder from Molitor, and I have been a fan ever since. A few days ago the time had come to open the last of the 2001 and find out how well it had stood the test of time.
It was in the late eighties that Molitor planted Pinot Noir in some if his vineyards, including the ones near Graach, an area where even today Riesling is grown pretty much exclusively.
Mosel Riesling, the embodiment of German wine - at least in foreign perception. Readers of the Wine Rambler will not have to be told that there is so much more to German wine than Mosel Riesling. Still, every so often reminding everyone of the fantastic wines that come out of this area cannot hurt. One of our favourite producers at the Mosel is Markus Molitor (who also makes fantastic Pinot Noir). And one of the best Molitor wines I have had is, no, it is not one of the prestigious Auslese or Trockenbeerenauslese wines, it is a 'Qualitätswein'. These quality wines are somewhere in the middle of the German classification system - but don't let these bureaucratic details fool you. You are looking at pure awesome, and at amazing value too.
Uncertain what you are looking at here? Somehow strangely attracted yet also confused? Doubtful whether this actually belongs on a wine blog?
If this is what you feel looking at the above picture then welcome to my world of confusion and doubt about a wine of which I am not sure if it should exist at all. What do you do with a wine clocking in at 15% alcohol? How do you feel when you realise it is a white - and from one of the coolest wine regions of a cool wine growing country? Should Mosel winemakers really do this? Should any (white) wine be so strong? Is it actually drinkable? If you want a definitive answer to these questions, please do not read on.
Some wines are waiting for a special occasion. My Pinot Noir "R" from the Molitor winery had been waiting almost ten years for its time to come (although most of it in the cellars of the Molitor estate at the Moselle) - until a friend invited me to Oxfordshire for an autumn Sunday in the countryside, including a braised duck. So off I went, and the Pinot Noir from the Moselle came with me. And boy was it worth the wait (although I am not sure if the wine really cared as much about it as we did).
Traditionally, the Moselle - or Mosel, as the German call it - is known as the home of the German Riesling, especially the lighter, fruitier and sweeter Riesling that regularly wins high ratings in international wine challenges. However, since the 1980s or so, red wine has slowly made its return. Molitor started planting Pinot Noir about 20 years ago and has received a lot of praise for his Spätburgunder, also from the Wine Rambler. This is not only the oldest Molitor wine for us to review so far, but also the oldest Pinot Noir. [read the full post...]
The very discreet notes of tobacco in the nose of this wine went almost unnoticed when I opened the bottle yesterday to go with a raspberry desert - but that was simply because of the quite intense raspberry smell dominating the table. Despite the fruity dessert we could easily pick up apple, peach and herbs, embedded in a fresh, mineral creaminess. A very pleasant nose coming from this 'feinherb' (=off-dry with perhaps a bit more acidity) Mosel Riesling - and a very good reflection of the sensation awaiting your taste buds. The apple is perhaps a bit more dominant on the tongue than the nose; the Riesling manages to be both smooth and a little rough (in terms of acidity think more vegetable/apple than citrus fruit) with firm minerality, good structure and a nice finish.
Last Friday, the London branch of the Wine Rambler assembled a crack team of wine lovers and socialites from half a dozen countries for a particular mission: take down eight bottles of wine. The team members were selected following the ancient wisdom of Brigadier General Gavin from A Bridge too far: I need a man with very special qualities to lead. He's got to be tough enough to do it and he's got to be experienced enough to do it. Plus one more thing. He's got to be dumb enough to do it... Start getting ready. Gavin knew what he was speaking of, after all he knew the enemy from first hand combat experience; and the enemy was/is German:
The yellow foil combined with the greenish glass of the bottle give this Pinot Blanc a warm and friendly appearance, while the simple label indicates that this wine is part of the entry level range of Molitor wines. [read the full post...]
It has been quite a while since I tasted the sibling of this wine, the Graacher Himmelreich Spätburgunder of the same vintage; so sadly, I cannot really compare them against each other. What I can say though is that both are excellent Pinot Noirs.
The Trabacher Schloßberg ('Schloßberg' means 'castle mountain') comes in the massive bellied bottle Molitor use for their burgundy style wines. The Pinot has great colour, a very nice, intense earthy brown. The nose is gentle, very autumnal, but also fleshy; it showcases black truffle, rotten leaves, a hint of tobacco and black cherries, with a pleasant bit of vanilla and cocoa. [read the full post...]
Half bottle Rieslings are very tempting. Not because getting half the amount of wine is exciting as such, but because these small bottles often contain some of the highest quality drops of sweet molten gold. A three star Auslese ('selection') wine from top Mosel winemaker Molitor would have to be a candidate for a top quality sweet wine. Or is it? [read the full post...]
I have been looking forward to opening this bottle for almost a year, ever since I bought it at the winery in June 2008. From the tasting, I remembered that I liked it a lot. And now I like it even more. [read the full post...]