good ol' boys

Whenever the invitations to those '47 Petrus and '86 Lafite tastings go out, somehow our names seem to get passed over. Shame, but that doesn't stop us from embarking on the adventure that is aged wine from time to time.

Bernhard Huber, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2010

I haven't had much luck with my wine recently. For various reasons I haven't enjoyed much wine at home the past few years, so some bottles that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half years, some wines passed out of all knowledge. Or at least that's how Galadriel would have put it. Anyway, some wines spent probably a little too much time in London's tastiest wardrobe. The last few weeks I made it my mission to go through the aged wines in my possession and drink them. Sadly, I haven't had much success - until I opened this Pinot Noir from Baden that is.​

Bernhard Huber, Spätburgunder Alte Reben, 2010, label

Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben, Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Auslese 1971

When the topic of really expensive wine comes up, my dad has a story to tell. Years ago, when he was working in a Michelin-decorated restaurant, one of the guests told him that he had made a good deal that day and now wanted to find out. To find out whether the most expensive wine on the menu was really worth it. So he asked my dad to bring that bottle and get his colleagues too so they all could taste the wine. A few minutes later a group of highly trained sommeliers and waiters clustered around the guest and sampled the wine - I think it was a Bordeaux - to conclude: nice, very nice in fact; but not nice enough that any of them would spend even remotely as much money on a bottle. Even so they were all happy, especially the guest as he now had found out what he always had wondered about.

Today I am embarking on a, somewhat, similar mission. Behold, and you will see the most expensive wine I have ever bought, a Riesling older than yours truly. And the question is: was it worth it?

torsten Monday, 31/03/2014

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.

Martin Müllen, Kröver Steffensberg, Riesling Kabinett trocken, 1996

Old wines are desirable, sophisticated and expensive - that at least is the general perception. Sadly this is usually not true as most wines don't age very well at all - just try the supermarket Chardonnay forgotten for five years in your cupboard to see why. However, and even more sadly perhaps, it tends to be true that desirable and sophisticated aged wines are expensive. Or are they?

How about I tell you that just a few weeks ago I bought the bottle belonging to the cork above for less than ten Euros - about half a Euro per year of age.

Weingut Darting, Dürkheimer Hochbenn, Muskateller Eiswein, 1999

"Torsten and Julian have this wine blog, and they mostly review sweet wines." This is how a friend introduced the Wine Rambler at a dinner party - much to my surprise as sweet wines make up only a relatively small amount of our wine reviews: not even 1/6 and even with the off-dry ones added we don't quite come to 2/7. Perhaps my outspoken love for Mosel Riesling (which tends to be off-dry or sweet) contributed to this image, or it is just the general perception that German wine is sweet. Instead of fighting this cliché today I shall give in to it. Let's not just drink sweet, let's indulge in sweet.

Ladies and Gentlemen, friends of sweetness and sugar hounds, I give you an ice wine from the Pfalz.

Weingut Prieler, Leithaberg rot, 2005

Seven years is not a biblical age for a bottle serious red wine, but the Austrian wine scene being obsessed with youth and each new vintage, it is not quite so easy to find older bottles of interesting Austrian reds. Except if you manage to navigate this Wine Rambler's tiny cramped cellar. Recently, I got lucky down there, and found this. Upon seeing the label and suddenly remembering having bought it all those years ago, I made the executive decision that its time had come. It had that in common with the goose who had lost her life for Martinmas and was about to be cooked with some apples and red cabbage.

Leithaberg shining out of the murk:

The Leithaberg is a range of low hills northwest of Lake Neusiedl that a few winemakers from Austria's Burgenland region discovered for its cooler, steeper vineyards after they had become bored by the powerfully fruity, but somewhat complacent wines to be made from their lakeside plots.

Müller-Catoir, Haardter Herrenletten, Spätburgunder Weißherbst Auslese, 1994

If you want to test the German wine savvy of your knowledgeable friends, here's a little experiment you can conduct in the safety of your own living room. Tell them you want them to taste a German rosé, and inform them that it will be off-dry, well over ten years old, and come with a label sporting a coat of arms and cryptic Germanic font. Mention in passing that this bottle will come from the Müller-Catoir winery. 95 per cent of all wine drinkers will at this point have run away screaming, the living daylights scared out of them.

The remaining 5 % will ask for a screwpull without further ado. From then on, listen to those people.

Chateau Malescasse, Haut-Médoc, 1990

It's all rather melancholy. It's raining outside, autumn is coming on, and there's only one antidote against heaviness of heart that never fails: 1990 Bordeaux. Chateau Malescasse is said to be one of the very dependable producers of the Haut-Médoc, and in a more lucid moment, I secured this bottle on eBay. And when I woke up this morning with the rain lashing against the windows, I knew it : Tonight is its night.

Schlossgut Diel, Dorsheimer Burgberg, Riesling Spätlese, 1999

This is a story of failure. Not a failure of the wine in question, quite the opposite of it. The wine was great. Instead it was me who failed the wine, in a way at least. Having said that, perhaps someone else is to be blamed for this ramble being a little different. As it happens, I have a photo of the culprit, and they look like this:

the real culprit

What has a pure, innocent grasshopper to do with an aged late harvest Riesling? Well, it is all about focus and light.

The Curious Case and Survival of two Bottles of Plonk that should have died Years ago

Yes, sometimes we Wine Ramblers find aged wines in our neighbours' garbage (although Julian would hasten to add that he never forages there systematically). At other occasions, the aged wine seems to find us, and so it happened earlier this year when I went to the Netherlands to taste two seriously aged German wines, two wines so old that by rights they should have been dead.

I did not know this when I set out, of course, but I was about to learn a lesson about ageing and storing wine and about not to underestimate hopeless losers.