Martin Müllen, Riesling Spätlese halbtrocken, 1995
People, it is said, become more interesting with age. In the same way as our faces start telling a little about the lives we have lived we too have more stories to tell, gain some wisdom - at least that's the theory - and become more distinct characters. The same is true for ageworthy wine, but with a pleasant difference: while people can become a little difficult over time, stuck in their ways and perhaps too edgy, a good wine becomes more harmonious and balanced. At some point the wine will decline rapidly and become an old grump, but that is a question of timing and also not what today's wine story is about.
Today I am revisiting Martin Müllen's exciting Mosel wines and in particular an aged specimen I recently got my hands on.
The Müllen winery is remarkable in several ways. Personally, the most striking memory about a visit years ago was Frau Müllen being able to make her cat "sit" with a one word command - think Harry Potter word of power* magic. However, as that is one of those "you had to be there moments" you will probably be more interested in the huge variety of wines Müllens offer, due to owning parcels in quite a few local vineyards and making different wines from most. Even better is that every vintage they hold some of these wines back and sell them years latter at very reasonable prices.
Today's 1995 is one of those wines, a dry late harvest. 1995 was a year of contrasts, with a warm summer followed by a cold early autumn, but the Mosel had a glorious October. The Mosel is obviously famous for its sweeter Riesling, and those are also the wines that age best, but as we will see there is no reason why a properly stored, quality off-dry Riesling should not beautifully age for a decade or two as well.
Pouring the wine I am reassured by its beautiful clean golden colour. The bouquet still features lovely stone fruit and citrus, but it also shows the sign of age the Germans call "Edelfirne", a smell that I like to explain as adding just a bit of paraffin wax to spice up the wine. Spicing is also added by soft herbs and subtle caramel notes - all coming together in harmonious elegance that shows age but not in an unpleasant or even stinky way. All these lovely elements also feature on the tongue: an experience that starts with upfront fruit delight, almost limey peachy and citrus, turning drier in a perhaps no longer massively intense but very long and balanced finish of menthol mineral and fruit. The texture is smooth, like a nice piece of candy, the acidity still fresh and considering that the wines showed more fruit after about an hour out of the bottle I am sure it still has a few years of glory ahead of it.
This 1995 shows how nicely even a normal off-dry late harvest Riesling can age if it is made and stored with care, and also what great value the aged Müllen wines are. In particular I was impressed about the absence of some of the more intense flavours of aged wine that novices sometimes find irritating. This good ol' boy would, I am sure, also delight those who previously found older wines too challenging.
* Disclaimer: I have never read Harry Potter; while writing this I just thought a "word of power" is what should exist in the Potterverse; judging from a quick internet search it looks like JK Rowling has not let me down.