Heymann-Löwenstein, Winninger Röttgen, Riesling Erste Lage 2004
It's high time one of the legends of german wine made his first appearance here: Mosel winemaker Reinhard Löwenstein started using "slow" winemaking techniques like natural fermentation and prolonged skin contact when they were unheard of. He talked about terroir in the dark 1980s, when few within the German must-weight bureaucracy had heard of such a thing. A communist activist in his earlier days, and a natural-born rebel by temperament, Löwenstein has been mistrusted and reviled all along the conservative Mosel, but ridicule quickly turned into envy as his Rieslings won critical acclaim and commanded high prices from raptured customers.
That the spectacular terraced vineyards of the lower Mosel (between Zell and Koblenz) are now held in high regard once more is his single-handed achievement, and besides being a winemaker of considerable genius, he remains the leading, if controversial, intellectual voice within the German debate on wine culture and terroir.
In the nose, a perfumed abyss of peaches, ripe ones, dried ones, and sweet grapes. Has any condemned man ever asked for a last smell rather than a last meal? This would probably be mine.
On the palate, incredibly concentrated, warm Riesling fruit, with noticeable residual sugar. Minerality is almost physically there in the mouth-feel, there to chew on. There were bothersome malty, bitter and even tannic notes on the finish at first, making me worry that it might not have aged gracefully, but they disappeared once the wine had breathed for a couple of hours. Instead, sweet-and-salty notes, white tea and even a little cappuccino.
This wine is baroquely spectacular. It concentrates what Riesling is and then takes it a step further. No easy food wine, it should be enjoyed as a meal by itself, and not be allowed to become too warm, in order not to bring out the slight alcoholic heat and bitterness that is its only imperfection.
Note the traces of this wine rambler's grubby hands all over the bottle. Who's to blame him?
As it so happens I have just received a delivery that includes one of the new Röttgens. I am now even more looking forward to it!