Knipser, Gelber Orleans trocken ***, 2005
Gelber Orleans, to me, is probably the most exciting wine there is. Sadly I am aware that even if you should believe me it won't help you very much as it is incredibly hard to find - even in Germany, which to my knowledge is the only country where it is grown. It is so rare that whenever, wherever I see a bottle of Orleans I can afford I will buy it. Usually that means turning to the Knipser brothers who grow some in the Pfalz.
Thankfully, despite its rarity it is not an overly expensive wine - if you compare it like for like that is. And that puts this three star dry late harvest against a top Riesling. What do you get for that price?
First of all excitement, the sense to have found an echo from history. Orleans ("gelb" means yellow) is an old grape variety that may have originated in France. It was grown in Germany for a long time but eventually was almost forgotten. The last vintages were 1920 and 1921, and when in the late 1980s what may have been the last bottles of those vintages were opened the wine was still considered drinkable, some even called it exciting. That is partly due to the high acidity that helps conserving the wine. Acidity also may have contributed to its decline as Orleans needs to be very ripe in order to keep the acidity under control, and until recently that was hard to guarantee in the cool German climate. After years of experimentation and recultivation it is now again grown commercially in Germany.
What you get with the 2005 is a wine of clean, lovely gold colour. More importantly a wine that smells "very exciting", as my notes say. What most impressed me and my British co-tasters was the very well rounded fruit aromas, in particular luscious stone fruit, a hint of pineapple and some plum. This was spiced with fresh paint (yes, in small dosage it actually adds to the aroma), lemon wax and floral aromas - think tea rose more than soapy/soft porn floral. I really enjoyed smelling it and loved drinking it. The body has some substance and a certain buttery spice texture indicates it may have seen a barrique barrel. It is well rounded, smooth and has a long finish, and just a touch of age - more the elegant paraffin wax notes that some Germans call "Edelfirne" and less of the petrol some would expect. I loved its fresh juiciness, good texture and flavours of spiced waxed. My tasting notes sum up with "spicy, fine, sweet vegetable, smoked with wood herbs".
In summary: while just the story of Orleans makes it desirable (at least for wine geeks), the experience of tasting it should make it a delight for any wine drinker, especially those who look for a blend of freshness and substance. Long live the Orleans!