MAY TRIP, DAY ONE
These are quick and dirty impressions of wines I’ll taste in detail later in the year. The notes are by no means definitive, nor was I especially concerned with “writing good.” They are in essence aide memoires of first glances.
Forget what you’re reading about 2021, or maybe I should forget what I’d been reading, because I really really like this vintage so far. Again, in headline form, and subject to revision and rethinking, it’s a limpid and lyrical vintage, driven by floweriness, with generous yet discreet minerality and with present-and-accounted-for acidity that’s been less obstreperous than advertised. The wines are graceful in the way the 1997s were graceful. They are trilling. That’s not a typo. Some of them are indeed thrilling but most of them are like early morning birdsong.
It starts with the wines of Knewitz, in Appenheim (RH) and this begins in turn with a 2019 Ingelheim Spätburgunder, which smells like modern German PN from a conscientious grower, i.e. some wood, and a murmuring texture, from a warm year. The palate is seriously tasty, good structure, marked length. A happy surprise, its sophistication. (Best in a tulip, btw). Tasted warmer than ideal. Some wood on the finish. They note it’s as an oaky wine, but it remains moderate. An “Ortswein” by category. A 2021 Grüner Silvaner smells wonderful, rather like a loessy GV made with a “charming” yeast. It’s sprightly, even mineral, a tic pheolic on the finish but that won’t matter as this is happily guzzled from now til the next harvest. Alc 12.5. “Gutswein” From the angular glass it shows gooseberry. Weisser Burgunder 2021 is said to be grown on limestone. Subdued, polite and “proper” after the Silvaner, there’s some spice and stony chew. More than neutral, it is interesting but not entirely compelling – though that isn’t its aim. The body and density are appealing.
Tragically, they didn’t send Sauv-Bl.
RIESLINGS: 2021 Gutswein (Tr.), 12%, aromatic, but smells more of clay than chalk, but its fir and ylang ylang spicy. It’s actually rather blatant and almost coarse. Not rustic, but overstating an inelegant text. (STRUB’S equivalent was more delicate and finer, if a little studious. Clever use of lees. It is, though, a firm step higher.) Appenheim (Ortswein) 2020, advertised as “chalky” is a wine I find more resinous and fir-like. Juniper. It has grip and originalty. A little phenolic. Tooth-scratchy. Still, quite a lot of character.
They didn’t send the Ortswein Eisenerz. Nor the single-sites Goldberg or Steinacker.
Hundertgulden is their top site. We have a 2020, with 12/5%. It’s as good as it should be, like one of Nigl’s less “charming” wines such as Goldberg. Juicily mouthfilling, lots of spiel, fennely, licorice-y twang. We also have a 2017, which is entirely “proper” for a hot year at age-5, appealing in a plump and jolly way but then actually showing more mineral substance than the 20. Perhaps the site is a keeper. This is a plus for sure. Finally the Kabinett from Eisenerz, which gives an exaggerated lemony ginger spice though the more you taste the better it gets. Lotsof mineral, peachy from the tulip (maybe to much so) but it really sings from the angular stem. Lemon-powder into a tart gingery finish.
This estate is looking for an American importer, and deserves to find one.
2021 Silvaner (actually Rosenberg) is a spice-bomb of character with an underlying “esoteric” stoniness betraying the clonal origin in Franken. One plus, maybe two. Pettenthal Silv. ’21 shows the racy-minty side of the superb ’20 (from Rosenberg) with a faint echo of Pettenthal ORTSRIESLING (ORBEL) is leesy, herbal, a little gooseberried, minty; animated, jittery, a late-palate scrape. Overall these seem a step up from ’20. Into the 2020 Taubennest now, first encounter, and really impressive; spicy, dense, smoky and herbal, serious potential; I can’t wait to put this (and me) though our paces when I taste it at home. Tank-samp of Hipping Kabinett is promising, articulate rich, dense. Pettenthal Kabinett is classy, elegant, silky, refined, all that the site shoud (and can) give. Eager to see it after bottling.
2018 Assmannshäuser Rosé Brut Nature is markedly herbal w/o the fruit one expected; more faded flowers; dry and serious as usual; at first glance it doesn’t grasp what it reaches for. The Alvarinho tastes like Jurançon Sec – at least a clean one - it’s generous and roasty; it actually may be more “available” than its Spanish templates. The Sauv Blanc is unusually full of affect in a red-pepper way. I’m hearing of freaky-expressve Scheu in 2021, and maybe it’s also true of SB? This is good, but not magically so. The Alvarinho is the lovelier drink. The TWO REDS are Reichestal GG 2019 and Höllenberg GG 2019, the former is rugged and assertive in its sometimes top-heavy way, yet the palate has good grip and verve. I see I liked it last year when I could study and live with it. Here it acts a bit bellicose. The latter smells tenderer (and to me lovelier) but the palate is more diffuse and shows some bitterness. The former is a good, simple and somewhat overripe wine. These may be best in less ripe years.
RIESLINGS: 2021 est. is yummy, better than the ’20, vigorous and springy, not as savory as usual but in its way it’s more winsome and silvery. Plus-level. Ortswein “Mainterassen” (Hochheim) is the proper step up, and here we have the savors plus the mineral plus this sort of elegant earthiness, gravelly light soil with loam. That mineral vein about 2/3rds of the way through is awfully appealing. We go to the 1er Crus, Kirchenstück “Im Stein” and Hölle “Im Neuenberg” The former recalls Langenmorgen, it’s elegant, intricate and perfect. Hölle is savory again, wet cereal unripe peach, the mineral spine makes this ravishing and breathtaking, the rainy vintage giving extra dry extract. Wow! Domdechaney, young vines but top parcel, and that suggests a kind of introverted magnificence. Stielweg is more overt, more direct and in your face, reminds me of the basic Kirchenstück, but mineral density in spades again. Really impressive thus far.
Next is a trio of GGS – 21 Roseneck, 21 Rottland and 20 Schlossberg (all barrel samps) – Roseneck is buoyant and peppery, Rottland is outstanding! Crazily complex, the best wine Prager never made. Tight, contained, explosively dense, a mineral cyclotron, among the most impressive and drinkable Rottlands I ever tasted. The 20 Schlossberg is super beautiful, salty, slatey, golden apples. The man is a doula of terroir.
Next trio: (all 21s) Weißerd, Kirchstenstück, Hölle – the first is firm and stony, excellent in its thrust, some phenolics. The next is swoony, inferential, elements of sublimity but hard to know just yet – this is one of several tanks - Hölle, simpler, is still absurdly expressive and with an almost bombastic complexity. Will the mineral stay this ridiculous? We’ll see.
Next duo: Pfaffenberg and Marcobrunn. Chewy, wet-straw, opulent, but not fruit seductive, rather straw and hay. But early days yet. Marcobrunn is potentially astonishing, in the old manner, where you have an arcane grip, density and implosively deep.
2021 Gutsriesling Trocken smells slatier than usual, and is (despite the tenor of the vintage) more successful than the 20. We have a slim edge of pH-bite at the end but everything preceding it is balanced and yummy. (He says that the problematic 20s suffered from three years of drought, leading to UTA. “Atypically aged tasting.”) This 21 feels like a more complex blend soil-wise. It is, it happens!
The great Engelmannsberg Feinherb is no more, it turned out. Another custom Theise blend bites the cruel dust. That was really pretty, graceful wine. <sigh>…. Tonschiefer (Hendelberg) is snappy and smells like the omnipresent wisteria. Finish is “brisk” but not sharp. Muschelkalk (a blend of riverfront vineyards) is tangy and angular – but all of these are winsome and sparrowy. Bit of a tooth-scraper though. Klosterberg (last year’s Alte Reben) remains a hidden gem in the assortment, complex both flavor-wise and texturally. 2020 Rosengarten GG is pretty swashbuckling, in its screaming green way, part 2020 and part terroir. Bigger note when I have a bottle at home and can study. But wild herbs to a crazy pitch. Wisselbrunnen GG 2020 is lividly firm and backward until the warmly glowing, spicy/peppery finish/ finish. St Nikolaus 2020 GG is woodsy and “manly”, like an Ungeheuer from VW. Jesuitengarten Kab HT is a sneaky long and deceptively light wine (alc is 12%) and it arrives demure and curvaceous but then visibly accretes body, extract and ur. Old wines: 17 Rosengarten GG is as complex as fruit and herbs can be. 16 Wisselbrunnen is super-typical both of site and vintage, streamlined and nutty. 10 Wisselbrunnen is seriously outstanding, the best side of that benighted vintage, a superbly complex and fascinating being.
2020 Estate Lorch is pretty, the mineral brightness astride their murmur of sandalwood and spices. 2020 Pfaffenwies is the best wine I’ve had from Lorch and it’s a classic Breuer, pure melody with the lyrics in a foreign language. 2019 Pfaffenwies is more overt, almost smells like a Von Winning wine but tastes more filigree and overtly chiseled. Estate Rüdesheim 2020 is texture all the way, crusts and textures and gravels – the 2021 is a riot of wisteria and lilac and iris and mints and smokes. It takes her inferential style and layers an almost blatant (and delightful) florality over it. Very different expressions, equally good wines. 2020 Terra Montosa is sophisticated and suave, and almost forbiddingly delicious. ++ for sure. Terra Montosa “patentia” 2018 is too oaky. 2020 Berg Schlossberg is classy, beyond good and evil, this guy. +++ no doubt, a gigantic cloud of flavor with refracted light and pure weightlessness. 2020 Nonnenberg is back to a clement earth, piquant, angular, lissome, delicately haunting.
2021 Quartzit (tr.) zippy, witty, energetic and snappy – brisk but not sour. A success of its type. 2021 Est. tr. More pulp here, juicy, but also unknit, starts out juicy and ends up sharp. Just two weeks in bottle, which is likely the culprit. 2021 Binger Ortswein is a beauty, full fruit, peachy and acacia. 2021 “Zweistrom” Ries. (Landwein, blend of Scharlachberg and Pittersberg, not co-fermented), spicy, ramps and nettles, peppery, super interesting but more theoretical than sensual. 2020 Zweistrom is much better, nutty and quince-y, seamless, delicious. 2021 Dautenpflänzer GG has huge promise; spice and length and properly exotic. Linear but also sturdy. 2021 Scharlachberg GG is higher toned and way-y-ypeachy, needs something creamy to bridge the crevasse to the abrupt finish, but man, that fruit! You gotta trust it. 2021 Pittersberg GG is super-nutty, salty and balanced. These as a group are markedly more elegant than I’ve seen before. 2021 Burgberg GG is earnest, dark, scorched mineral, obsidian, a stern but kindly wine. Grosser Strom 2020; if ’20 has “its aroma” I find it here. This is wonderful Riesling! It’s like a talc of Riesling, a meringue of petrichor, serenely dry with almost a mineral fluff. Abtei “1937” 2021 seems to follow the rule with these ‘21s – they have the touch, a girlish floral thing approximating sweetness but not sweet.
Sauv Bl 2021 is a bit like Winnings “II” and a bit overt as the ’21 SBs seem to be. Not crude, but blatant red pepper. More NZ than EU. NOW TO THE FEINHERBS – 2021 EST. RIES “Squirrel Label” is one of those zingy FH that might have been better sweeter, though “sweeter” isn’t necessarily desirable. Still, my advice would have been to reduce the presence of sweetness by increasing the actual sugar. 2021 Phyllit feinh, though, is ideal, has its violets and angularity and exotics, but with seamless harmony. 2021 Langenberg is again balanced but it’s pulled a bit too tense, though lovers of serious sorts of wine will appreciate its studiousness. 2021 Rheinberg Kabi is really good. Sweet ‘21s seem markedly lissome and floral. 2021 Im Pitterberg is more of an “idea,” but a good idea. SCHEUREBES 2021 Kabis good, lusty brash Scheu, shows the flower side. 2020 Spät is subtler, more ladylike, fleshier…good wine! But great Scheu? Not quite. The ’21 is all hibiscus and grapefruit.
BACK TO RIESLING: 2021 Pitterberg Sp and Aus – the Sp is the kind of wine I don’t really like any more. It’s fine, or “fine,” but it’s also one-note and overtly sugary; the Aus has a more concentrated core and has some sugar to shed, but it starts from a more interesting place.
Whatever this is, it’s wonderful. It’s the estate Ries Tr! It’s almost creamy, a parfait of mirabelles with no sharp acidity. Porphyr is also excellent, salty and suave, great length of cardamom salts on the finish. Fresh bottled, so it may grow more va-va-voom in a few months. Quartzit also fresh bottled, is lovely, appley, almost Mosel-like. These are super impressive thus far, with great elegance of texture. Altenberg Kabi is more aggressive; we’ll see where this goes. 2020 in Den Felsen will be fun to study later in the year. High-toned and promising, lilac-y. A dancer. 2020 Königsfels is far weedier, wilder, feels drier. Feels like it’s too long open. (He does say that many ‘20s show UTA) 20 “No. 1” impresses with its wild herbal wash, misses the “yellow” of the great ’19 but brings a sagey resin the ’19 couldn’t show. ALL HIS 21S ARE SPONTI. 2019 In Den Felsen TR is weirdly medicinal smelling and phenolically structured. This vintage may not be all it was cracked up to be. 2019 Königsfels is a riot of fragrance and this works in a firm, chewy way, with all its exotica.
2021 Silvaner Just what it should be. Tiny bit almondy and nice plump middle. Grauschiefer, 4 weeks bottled and shows it. Melaphyr is filter-paddy, clearly also bottle sick. Palate is quite nice, but needs to recover. We are, though, phenolic…and for the first time this trip. Rosenheck is dour. Hermannshöhle has the moves! Complex, intricate, textured, superb potential. Felsensteyr H-T is lovely, on the dry side, violets, Dautenpflänzer type, stylish and fine. Kertz is actually less deft texturally but when it rediscovers its fruit it’ll be the vamping beauty. Rosé H-T still Höllenpfad and Rosenheck, smells lovely, effectively dry, vinous, wonderful! Tragic (if understandable) that the importer dropped it. Rosenheck Kab (1st time!) is less slatey and more spicy then expected…but this site seems tardy. With air it turns lilac-y. Klamm Kab is beautiful! Best vintage ever.
DRY 21s – est ries spicy violet side of porphyr, and dramatically better than the 20. Tonschiefer immediately brilliant, fennely, zazzy and leapng. Both of these are limpid flowing water, surrounded by leaves and cress and coolness. Kahlenberg is peachy and wet-cereal; less seductive than its sibs, curiously. Höllenpfad has a fetching aroma for its type, I can’t recall a better one, though one notices the clip in the finish. Krötenpfuhl GG is clunky, too dry, but perhaps when it’s civilized it will find some vein of friendliness. Mühlenberg is appealingly fragrant and beautifully textured, the best vintage, salty, intricately mineral, massive promise. Felsenberg is da bomb – this is more like it! It could maybe be a tic less dry, but its peppery expressiveness should carry the day. Dellchen is expressive – yes! Like an aspic of teroir, an umami of umami. Hermannshöhle will not disappoint! ALL THE GGS ARE ON THEIR PRIMARY LEES, NOT YET RACKED.
AVEC DU SUCRE RESIDUEL: est ries (bottled) is one of the great ones, like liquid wisteria. Krötenpfuhl Kab (!) , welcome back! As perfect as it ever was – this is what this site is for. Leistenberg is heart-rending. Flower/salt/ginger/quince. Klamm is entirely typical and lovely. Kirschheck will rend your soul; it’s one of the liquid green ones, easy to allow for its marked sweetness. Brücke is atypically expressive, superbly rich, swollen with substance (and bottled) (today!), a god of Brücke; should be one of the great ones. Hermannshöhle…is simply otherworldly. There’s a Felsenberg Aus, a potentially celestial Brücke, majestic and dignified, and then Hermannshöhle…what to say? The little chapel in the woods where the organist plays a music even the priests have never dreamed.
2021 SL Tr (cask) another adorable 21, lacy, wisterias, limpid, shows more acidity than anything tasted thus far, and the finish is rather snappy, but what precedes it is charming. 2021 Heldenstück is herbal, super-textured, ultra mineral, naked slatey finish; this is superb. 2021 Juffer feinherb well wow…just perfect again. He has The Touch here. 2021 PiesGold feinherb is another ideally balanced wine, though more acid shows here, not as seamless as Juffer – but this profile of PG is its most appealing. 1st Mosel estate tasted, but these seem to have more “attitude” structurally. 2021 Niederberg-Helden Kabi is simply gorgeous; mirabelles, sweet grasses, Dragonwell, tarragon on the finish. 2021 Juffer Kabi is less intricate but more vinous. Here we do have acidity to reckon with. You bite through it as much as drink it.
2021 Juf-Son Spät is elegant and celestial and bosc pears. 2021 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spät is – I mean, what do you say? It’s this precise gleam and angelic polish all these wines show. 2020 Graacher Him Kab & Gra Dom Kab the former is superbly focused and precise; Domp is drier-feeling and nuttier, but both are calligraphic and digital and articulate. This is a superb estate! 2016 Juffer Kabi is an OMG! Wine. 2016 Weh Son Kabi is a magnificence of mineral, finesse and chiseled-ness, with a smoky-slate finish. More introverted than Juffer, it begs to be considered. Juffer is almost bacony in contrast. I adore this vintage, and these are exactly a point. 2016 Doktor Aus (!) is otherworldly – I mean, you want to pick holes in it it, but sorry, I’m kind of overcome. The famous smokiness is present, but the lyric iron is really striking.