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Tasting Year


After a week of tasting, only a few drops of wine remain, some Goldloch GG, both pais of Spätlese and Auslese, and a final pour of Von der Nahe I can’t bear to finish, it’s so perfect. 

I have always admired the polish and craftsmanship of this estate, but what really stirred me were a few wines that passed beyond simple skill and into the tingly and inexplicable dominions of beauty.

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2018 Pinot Noir “Réserve/Caroline”

I had deep, deep fun with the Dautels, and have been loving the Ziereisen PNs, and I know that Caroline wants this wine to be moderate in ripeness because she dislikes “the Cola taste.” I’m using a Jancis glass alongside MacNeil’s “creamy & silky.”

Color is more saturated than Dautel’s but very much an elegant garnet – the way a PN should look. Fragrance is the smallest bit rôtie, but the vintage was warm. The palate is cool and polished, with excellent fruit on entry before it sideswipes you on the finish with a kind of oak/fruit mélange that feints toward Rioja.

It’s a very different wine from Jancis. Fruit is suppressed in favor of a limestony element that emphasizes a certain shrillness, and the finish, so mellow in the MacNeil, is bitter and dusty here.

There is essentially no common denominator between the two. So I grabbed for a Spiegelau red-wine stem. There was more rectitude from that glass; it’s not as seductive as the MacNeil nor as admonishing as the Jancis. It’s more subtle than either, the kind of fragrance that draws you deeper in. It’s a truly lovely, sophisticated wine on the palate, showcasing allusiveness, harmony of elements, and while it has its own version of that oaky finish, it’s less overt and less abrupt. It has the suavity typical of this domain’s wines.

Apropos oak, there’s none that’s new in these wines; all used barriques, usually from Burgundy.

I wonder, though, what element is there that says NAHE? Maybe that’s the last door for Caroline to unlock with this wine.

Obviously I’ll come back to it. Then we can have three variations plus the effects of 24 hours of oxygen. Is this any way to “review” wines?

Well, is it? I rather wonder more about the taster who goes fast and uses just a single glass. How valuable is that impression? What I can say, on first exposure(s) is that glassware is not only significant – it is decisive for this wine. And I’d shy away from glass-types that emphasize expressiveness, because the best showing here is from the one that leans toward subtlety.

The second exposure moderates the wine; it feels less cosmopolitan, “sweeter” but also cooler and more aloof. It’s open 48 hours now, and holding fast; I have no fear of leaving it for another few days.

In all I think it’s a forward step for this wine, but it took a while to arrive at that impression. Caroline reports that the vintage was warm, and carried the wine somewhat away from her Ideal, which is for something slimmer and lacier. But if that’s the case then this ’18 is quite an achievement, as the wine remains contained and reasonably compact. 


2019 Diel de Diel

It’s their dry wine blend, no varietal tag, no “fancy” name. The first aromatic impression is Pinot Gris (though the wine in fact is 80% Pinot Blanc.) The palate is successful by any decent standard. It adores the tall Spiegelau. It’s a smartly made wine of no particular character except excellent flavor and underlying competence. You could argue those things are enough for a wine like this. I’d accept that argument. I’d add that it might well be more flexible at table than the dry Rieslings, with all their precisions and minerals and acids. You have to think about how you’ll “pair” those, whereas this one will land on the table and work with everything. I do find it anonymous, and then I feel guilty for picking nits over such a craftsmanlike wine.

A fellow taster suggests a GV inference, and on second glance I’m feeling like it’s an over achieving Entre deux Mers. In short, the wine is lovely, but the “item” doesn’t quite have a handle I can grab hold of.


2019 Rosé de Diel                                                                         ++

This is among the finest Rosés I think in the world, not because I’ve tasted them all but because I can’t fathom how one could be finer. 2019 is also the current vintage, and please don’t think it has passed its “drink-by” date. Far from it! This is a serious wine that happens also to be seriously beautiful, and I think it will improve over the next several years.

There is an element to Schlossgut Diel with which I have sometimes struggled. At times I feel the wines are so smart they can veer off into glibness. It’s sort of a shitty thing to complain about, especially when I taste a wine like this, which is a kind of culmination of craft in the service of exceptional elegance and beauty. How often do we hear a Rosé called beautiful? Pretty, yes; charming, all the time; refreshing, goes without saying – but this one has a complexity, elegance and deliciousness of fruit that makes me think of Tête-de-Cuvée pink Champagnes.

It loves the Jancis glass. It’s a perfect “luncheon” rosé if your guest has just won the Nobel Prize. And curiously, this wine does seem to offer a Pinot Noir flavor that might be identified as “Nahe.” It’s just a superb achievement, with every piece in place: marked length, intricacy of fruits, seamless structure; it can be “drinky” if you need it to be, but it will reward all the study you care to give it. What a wonderful thing to achieve.

The back label has a funny translation: the German word “exceptional” or “out-of-the-ordinary” is translated as “stunning.” I mention it not to tease, but to say that “stunning” isn’t the word, really. Deeply and thoroughly admirable and loveable…that comes closer. At least, I’m not stunned, but I am lost in gratitude, that a wine like this exists. With air it becomes a fine salty beast, though not at all beastly, it’s far too sweet and cordial for any animal behavior.


(I did flights on different days, going dry-to-sweet each day and trying to do site-verticals. Then on day-3 I retasted them all in a great big glom.)

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2019 Riesling “Nahesteiner”

This is their basic dry estate Riesling.  It smells lovely. I keep looking for bits of GG signatures, which is probably silly. (There’s a wine called “Eierfels” which consists of young-vines from the GGs.) Yet there’s a smokiness I associate with Burgberg and a kind of ylang-ylang savor I find in the village Burg Layen, and finally hints of tarragon and more than hints of stoniness, as if from some high plateau you can’t see from the road.

For me myself, as a taster, and perhaps as an American taster, I find the wine is something of an admonition. It isn’t juicy enough to manage its basic asperity, and its fruit is so deeply embedded it’s hard to access at all. Let’s just say, it offers pleasure of a type I can’t seem to lay claim to. It draws me in with its fragrances and then whaps me on the wrist because, I don’t know, I wouldn’t spit out my gum or something.

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2019 Riesling Schlossberg (Burg Layer “1G”)

This “1er Cru” is described in the (old but still useful) standard reference as a top site on clayey loam. It actually reminds me of a Nigl Goldberg, that amphibolite vineyard that gives the crazy caraway seed fragrance, and this is pronounced in the Jancis. There’s a volume of juicy mineralty and the length you’d expect from a classified site.

But there’s also something stern and even peppery in here, like Comet’s Tail peppercorns. It likes the little basic Spiegelau best if you want the mouthfeel to be texturally pleasing. It’s more herbal and fennely as it warms – though I opened it cool, not cold.

I think this is one of those wines that clamps stubbornly down after bottling, and I’ll follow it over the coming days. Interestingly, from the MacNeil “creamy & silky” it tastes like an Alsace GC from Ribeauvillé. A bit of a shape-shifter here.

With another day it starts to feel suave, and in general I’d say to drink it cellar-cool. It’s still an asymmetrical sort of being, as the final gesture, after all the tastiness that preceded it, is a rebuke of severity. Food helps, but I’m not convinced a wine should “need” food.

After the fourth encounter I am more persuaded that time is what this guy needs. With just a small rearrangement of its elements it will be more pleasing than is currently indicated. Indeed, as I took the final sip four nights later I found myself wondering if I’d been too critical of what is actually a tasty dry Riesling.

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2009 SEKT, Goldloch Riesling Extra Brut                                    +

Deg. 6/2020, the second disgorgement (900 bottles) after 118 months en tirage. Goldloch is a Grosse Lage, as you know.

Years before most people were taking Sekt seriously, Caroline’s father Armin was pushing the limits of what it could do. He was a Champagne lover who wondered, what might transpire if we took our Sekt as seriously as that?

The fragrance is seriously leesy, like an RD – which in effect it is. There’s a tic of the reduction such wines sometimes show. But wow, the palate is a rapture of white flowers. You name them, they’re here! The common ones we all know and the esoteric ones known only to the locals…but the leading fragrance is freesia. Goldloch in its still form is often peachy, but this spectral thing has spooned a ghost dust over those fruits and made them into chalky little diamonds.

The finish is salty and perhaps a bit overt. But the wine is marvelous for all that, and I’ll be back to it many times over the days.

As an extra brut, I don’t know the actual RS, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché of myself, another gram would have helped, hugely. The “balance” is fine, the wine is the furthest thing from clumsy, but I crave that last little pfiff of RS, to pull the blanket of fruits and florals all the way over the leesy chewiness and make this truly fine sparkling wine into a rapturous one.

On the 2nd day the tirage threatens to dominate, but doesn’t quite; the palate shows the yellow beet and sweet baby carrot of tertiary aldehydes, and the whole thing’s kind of buxom – in a good way. I found I liked it better in the slimmest glass, which is counter-intuitive, but a small leesy funk was suppressed and the wine was actually more enticing. Much to my surprise!

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2019 Riesling Goldloch, GG                                                     +

Just 12.5% alc! That’s a blessing, even before I taste.

It’s the open-armed hug of the three GGs, from gravelly loam on a dramatically steep slope.

(Stay tuned for Burgberg and Pittermännchen, which I’ll taste tomorrow….)

One usually speaks of stone fruits, but here I’m thrown into another key-signature of flavor entirely; I’m experiencing the flowering-fields vetiver thing I often find in Austria, and if I were tasting blind I’d have alighted on (Geisenheim) Kläuserweg as a first impression. This isn’t so much fruity as blossomy, and it expresses itself as if it had been hanging out with Viognier for a few days; peach blossom, wood sorrel, bee balm, and all encased in a lavishness of body and structure that’s wonderfully generous and spicy.

It seems to coat you in “yellow” things – that is its enveloping charm – but just when you suppose that’s all there is, it comes back and hypnotizes you, and when you wake up you’re encased in a soft carapace of juicy herbs. It’s an uncanny effect, that’s only approximated by….Heiligenstein, of all things.

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2019 Dorsheim Goldloch, Riesling Kabinett 

We should be grateful to see this site both as a strong dry wine and as a range of wines-with-sweetness. Each genre clarifies the other.

Alas, we seem to have an issue with cork with this bottle. Grrrr! It happens so rarely these days, I didn’t ask the producers to send spare bottles. So, well, foo.

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2019 Dorsheim Goldloch, Riesling Spätlese

Full-bore peachy Goldloch, but wonderfully it is not “sugary” and also has a tangible sense of lees adding to the complexity.

Why even mention sugar? Because the most masterly Spätleses are able to convey ripeness and selectivity without tipping over into excesses of sweetness. Too many German wines of the period from 2005-2012 were sickeningly sweet (when sweet at all) and raspingly dry (when dry at all, which was far more often), as if they wished to convince everyone that sweet wines were mundane and forgettable. As such, a wine like this is an achievement for the cause of Reason.

It has some botrytis to manage, which one appreciates to the degree one likes the taste of botrytis.


But overall this wine pivots on a cool white beam of fruit. If you drink it now, drink it cold. But even better, drink it in twenty years.

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2019 Dorsheim Goldloch, Riesling Auslese                                  +

Botrytis even more prominent now. That said, this feels more like an upward-stretching Spätlese than a downward-sinking Beerenauslese. For a wine so rich, it has a kind of frigid silver spine to keep its richness contained.

If you know this estate, you’ll have noted that I’m keeping the wines from Pittermännchen to taste together tomorrow. That’s on purpose. Warm years favor that slatey little kitten.

So I approach Goldloch wondering how they will contain its hedonic lavishness in an extravagant vintage. The wine itself is already extravagant. And as sometimes happens, this Auslese feels even fresher and more urgent than the Spätlese. I’ll want to see if it’s really so slinky and angular as I taste it again, but for now I look at the wine and think – they aced it.


(In which we start afresh with a new group of wines, avoiding either the overwhelm of too many samples at once, or the challenge of tasting dry-after-sweet, which is only for degenerates and masochists….)

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2013 Riesling Reserve SEKT, Extra Brut

Disgorged 7/2020 after 70 months en tirage. Though it’s more modest in ambition compared to the Goldloch, it does reach what it grasps. It shows the 2013 frisk – really, that vintage was as alert and jumpy as a pack of meerkats. There’s a pencilly graphite jab that could be mistaken for Avize. The RS level leads to a bracing structure, and if that was their intent, they achieved it.

And again, the wine is balanced on a quivering steely frequency, and my only cavil is that it would have been equally and differently balanced, but tastier, with a less strict approach.

Day-2, from a regular flûte, the wine is more of-a-piece, more of its elements consolidated, and the leesiness is fluffier and more tempting. The sweetness….well, that’s still an issue for me.

I’d drink the bottle empty at the time you open it. This won’t be difficult! But air is not kind to 2013, which starts revealing the naphthalene character with which this vintage was often afflicted.

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2018 Riesling Burgberg, GG

Their back label text translates “Purist” as “traditionalist,” both of which are true, though purist is truer. Though the soil is quartzite the wine has nothing of the yellow-apple and rose-like signatures one anticipates. The melaphyr crags at the mouth of the Trollbachtal (where the three GGs are located) is perhaps a symbol of this stern, dark being.

But in fruit-driven vintages Burgberg shines with an obsidian gleam. That said, this ’18 seems to be for lovers of Riesling at its most ascetic, as much a Theory-Of-Terroir as it is a glass of wine to drink. As if it has a lesson it insists you need to learn, when you’re thinking let’s skip school today…

I’m also struck by ‘18’s ongoing tendency to finish phenolic, which I thought would have dissolved away by now. This wine needs to be aerated and followed, as allspice and woodruff notes creep in through fissures in the rocky curtain.

As does a nuance of TCA, one of those maybe-perhaps-is-it-or-isn’t-it things. Time will tell.

It didn’t. On day-2 it was still muted, but no discrete TCA was evident. It has the imploded sort of density of Jesuitengarten in the Rheingau, and I’m quite sure this is an “off” cork. My every instinct says I’m not seeing this wine true.

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2019 Riesling Pittermännchen, GG                                                 ++

Slate! I thought this would be good, and it is. A detailed and articulate rendering of the kiwi-sassafrass side of slate that could easily be Uerziger Würzgarten, together with a suavity and salty savor that gives a sensuality sometimes missing from this genre. There’s length, mid-palate density yet a buoyant energy (and just 12.5% alc) and sprightliness. Without compromising its “purist” dryness at all, it gives something you can smack your lips over.

And I’d argue, that seems to be the secret. Short of clear and obvious profundity, a dry German Riesling has to meet the drinker with something sensually pleasant. It can’t be merely angular and stringent. I’ll accept all the rigors you can throw at me if you include something I like to drink. Maybe it’s the deft yet decisive leesiness that makes this wine so persuasive? Whatever it is, I find this to be Diel at their best, craftsmanship allied to polish allied to terroir allied to – in the final analysis – a rare kind of drinky-ness.

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2018 Riesling “Von Der Nahe”                                                        +

An off-dry estate Riesling, which I selected for my then-portfolio. It joined a style of wine I was having made for me by the growers willing to do it, and which I wrote about in another post.

I believed then and still believe that the signal genius of German Riesling lies in the present-but-invisible residual sugar that can take a wine from black-&-white to color. I will always be proud of those wines, even as I wonder whether they’ll continue being made without me to prod them.

To any reasonable palate this wine is dry. It’s just not very dry, it doesn’t stab you with dryness, it isn’t stark or abstinent – and it is just what it says it is – FROM THE NAHE! A simple essence of Nahe Riesling that’s anything but simple, because Nahe Riesling is maybe the most intricate rendering of Riesling on the planet. Even this “little” wine is a mosaic of mineral and flowers and herbs and fruits and it’s delivered on the most amusingly chirping, skipping little-kid energy. (My god, those little voices…what parent can remember them and not feel all the love in the world?)

Taste this and be grateful for the small sublimities around us all the time. This wee fresh morning of beauty has more to give us than many wines with loftier ambitions, even ones I might love or revere. I tasted Gobelsburg’s ethereal Gaisberg Riesling a couple weeks ago – I can’t get it out of my mind – but whether you believe me or not, I love this wine every bit as much. While the Gobelsburg answers the question “How great can Riesling ever be?” this little masterpiece answers the question, “Why do people love Riesling?”

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2019 Riesling Kabinett “Nahesteiner”

Absent an explanation I’m inferring this is an “estate” Riesling Kab that’s sort of the vestibule before we get to the Kabs from the Grand Cru sites. 9% alc suggests it won’t be very sweet, which is good.

It smells beautiful, like sweet, sweet hay, and grasses and herbs and wildflowers – not so much of fruits, which is just fine. The palate is zingy and taut, and when all the foreground flavors dissolve away, you’re left with mint, and from the Jancis glass, a hint of crushed stones.

We look for the lithe vigor of this kind of wine as it was 25-30 years ago. It’s almost impossible to make it now. There’s too much fruit and too much ripeness, so that when you calibrate the sweetness on the head of a pin – as they’re doing here – you can sense the gears and pistons. But don’t get me wrong; this wine is very good, and I’m impressed they even tried to make it, and came so close to succeeding, and it will be much better in 12-15 years if anyone gives it that kind of respect. The kind of seamlessness I’m yearning for, a yearning this wine awakens, is a 4-leaf clover these days.

2019 Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Riesling Kabinett

CORK! The Goldloch Kabinett had it too. I must admit I’m kind of shocked.

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2019 Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Riesling Spätlese          ++

A flourishing, angular, serpentine Spätlese, with an especially fetching mineral slinkiness that leaves a toasty hyssop finish like Turkish anise seed. This is everything a Spätlese can be in our age; a wise and knowing poise of transparency and richness, of honey and gauze – a big, sturdy boat pulled along by white wind-filled  sails.

I’ll taste it again, like all the wines, over the days to come, but this one is easy. It’s superb. It’s raspberries and wintergreen and suave salty mineral, and it’s twitchy like someone who can’t wait to dance.

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2019 Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Riesling Auslese

That is a fine aroma, with its whisper of botrytis much more subtle than in the Goldloch. If anything this is even more ravishingly vivid than the Spätlese, spritzier and more sprightly. I think I must confess – maybe we all must confess – that Ausleses that don’t present this scintillating animation are….maybe a little boring? Both too sweet and not sweet enough? And then you drink a thing like this and remember how it could be…

It calls to mind the 2005 and perhaps it will head that way.  I’ll be tasting it again and again, but meanwhile a subversive first-impression thought. Is this kind of wine the true genius of Schlossgut Diel? I sometimes wonder.


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2019 Pinot Noir Caroline                                                                ++

This was the current release when the samples were packed to send to me, but that was 9-10 months ago, and it may have been supplanted by the 2020 in the interim. Back when this wine was first made, ambitious Pinot Noirs were much less common than they are in today’s climate-altered Germany, so it’s interesting to see how this pioneer stands up to the current (and excellent) competition.

Not that Caroline sees herself as “competing.” She’s making the PN she always sought to make, elegant, not overripe, convincing but not pushing. (This ’19 is so limpid it resembles the color of Cru Beaujolais.) The aromas are elegant and polished; oak is gracefully interwoven through them, but there is no char, no smoke, nothing to obtrude upon the cordial fruit.

On the palate it most harkens to the silky grace of Gunter Künstler’s Pinot Noirs (the Reichestal GG sprang into my mind…) while also being more overtly tannic. I’m (over)sensitive to tannin, but even I can marvel at the purity of fruit here, not to mention the improbable length. In the Jancis glass the tannin grows lacier and the entire wine more explicit. Only the tertiary finish indicates the presence of cask, yet this is far from blatant or distracting.

The wine has some fruit, so much so that I don’t seem to remark on it, because the interplay of textures is even more beguiling. Overall the wine is like stretched out silk, but astride that ur-texture is a mineral jolt playing diddly-hands with a mid-palate fleshiness in a manner so tactile it’s almost ticklish. It’s elegantly clear and logical, even to a point of brashness, from the Jancis, which dispenses with umami and makes the entire wine explicit.

I can’t remember a better vintage of this wine. Just when I wonder whether it isn’t too comme il faut it blasts me with a vivid rippling energy. It is deliciously satisfying and civilized and considerate. You want it on the table; your wine-freak pals will find themselves short of their usual words. Shit’s just good! They will exclaim. “Let’s finish the bottle..”

After three days (and one evening sipping with dinner) the wine has yielded a bit of fruit, which lets the wood show more. But this ain’t no thang, because any sensible person would empty the bottle toot sweet, as opposed to your pitiable scribe, who must taste professionally. 

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2020 Riesling Dorsheim                                                                        +

Trocken on the back label. I get the reason, but this is bothersome, in light of the huge majority of people who won’t approach Riesling “because it’s sweet.” Shouldn’t we make it flagrant that a wine is DRY???

Aromas of honeycrisp apples and guava announce the Dorsheim fruit. (The village Burg Layen is more thready and mineral.) The palate shows a side of ’20 I thought I might not see again; it’s silvery and green (as in sorrel, wintergreen, woodruff) and has a bee-balm lemony bite – the whole palate is more (pleasingly) “sour” than the aromas suggest, and the wine shows a pungency that is perhaps “improper,” which is fun and welcome.

It has the essential shade of ‘20s, it’s cressy and makes me write “tough herbs” and I’m really pleased by the surprise firmness of the palate after those sweet aromas. The marjoram-like resinousness is another element in a complex mélange. Of all the ‘20s I’ve had lately, this comes closest to effacing the gritty finish that seems like a feature of the vintage.

Considering how (almost) rude some of these flavors are – and I like that – there’s also a refined dialogue of elements, and more juju than one might expect from the “village” echelon. We expect the GGs to be significant, but we don’t expect the village-wines to show this dance-y motion and intricacy.

This is quite an achievement. And my working theory is that this is the one to beat among the dry Rieslings, even though the others have greater stature. It has a ton of fruit and nothing “temperamental” in its behavior. It prefers the Spiegelau stem.


2021 Rosé de Diel                                                                                +

Generally among the best Rosés in Germany, or anywhere really, a frivolous essence of serious Pinot, balanced to perfection and laden with class.

It’s got more zip in ’21 but that doesn’t perturb it, but only gives it an edge of fir to go with the insanely vivid fruit. The wine has substance, length, vitality, and is basically serious without insisting on ideas above its station. There’s also something that reminds me of pink Champagne when they get that wild-caught salmon thing going. It’s a picnic with your patrician friends, if you have any, or at least more than I do.

At risk of sounding twee, the wine has a suavity that elides the usual presumption that rosés are inconsequential, because for all its substance it never insists on impressing you. I have always found it amazing, and still do.

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2020 Riesling Schlossberg, Burg Layer, 1G

Trocken on the back label; 13% alc, heavy bottle (come on guys, lead the way on eliminating this pretentiousness!)

I must confess it’s kind of droll to see that looks like the word “IG” in big gold letters on the label. Yo Ig! Wassup dude?

This often hidden gem in the lineup is more phenolically adamant than the Dorsheim. I thought “angry sassafrass” at first. The astringency makes you feel like your dentist’s tapping you on the shoulder….”You need to come see me…”

There’s a lot to admire here, a pit of crushed rocks and petrichor and an odd sense of a fish you’re sautéing skin-side down and that’s gotten just a little bit burned. All of this is to say that you can see the elemental motor that runs this wine, and it is impressive. Now comes the “but…”

No one sets about to make phenolic Riesling, especially one in a “classified” category, and if anyone did it would certainly not be Caroline and Sylvain Diel, who favor a more scrupulous and polished style. That means two possible things. One is that I am wrong, and my impressions are not accurate. That’s always possible. Two is that the wines are either in some developmental funk, or they have yet to recover from bottling.

The bottles were opened at about 52º and I am noticing that this wine gets less scrape-y as it warms. I’m doing what I always do; tasting from two different glasses, inside and outside, taking at least 15-20 minutes with each wine, and so I note that this offers more toasted-slate and a less aggressive attack with air and warmth. It teases with all kinds of compelling facets but it also scratches the furniture. Not sure what’s in store for this feline….

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2020 Riesling Pittermännchen GG                                                   +

Heavy bottle, natch. 12.5% alc, refreshingly. Longer cork than the IG.

sponti-like pungency to welcome us. This fades within a minute. Left in its wake is a classic slate aroma; you can teach a class with it. Also present, at least at first, is the tannic attack of the vintage. It crouches behind an almost psychedelic terroir fragrance, lying in wait to blast away at your tooth enamel.

As it warms it repeats the action of the IG, easing away from its gravelly texture and showing the depth of its basic essence in slate. The palate recovers its lime and ginger saltiness, and while it doesn’t linger as long as that modest little Dorhseim, it’s a more compelling basis.

What can I say? The wine needs 5-10 minutes to wake up and be itself. Decant it, I suppose! In a way it’s refreshing for Diels to make such a complicated wine. Sometimes a high degree of polish can seem to neuter one’s wines; no danger of that here.

It’s quicker to unfurl in the Jancis glass, and its virtues are more manifest. That said, it is rather a study-in-slate, and as such it’s more pedagogical than sensual. That is not the type of wine Diels set out to make, so they may be one of many who were played false by the ’20 vintage. Yet the terroir notes are so expressive I find it keenly interesting.


2019 Riesling Burgberg GG                                                              ++

Alc just 12.5%, and that in a warm year. I’m almost willing to forgive the heavy bottle.

I adore Burgberg. It’s stern and gaunt, and in hot years it becomes resplendent, as if it were freed from its carapace and able to dance and laugh at last. 2019 is one such year.

The fragrance is knee-buckling, combining the golden-yellow aroma of the year (flowering fields with a little dried apricot) with a craggy coriander savor. It draws you into its hypnotic promise, and so the firmness of the very dry palate comes as a bit of a shock. A delightful shock, mind you; the wine’s like a cranky old coot with a tender heart he shows to very few people.

It’s that mix of sternness and benevolence that makes this wine so poignant. On one hand it’s terribly serious. On the other hand it is laden with magnanimity, and it reminds you that all of us, even the occasional wine, are creatures of paradox.

With around two years in the bottle, it’s fair to observe that the ’19-vintage aroma is drawing ahead of the inherent fruit and terroir. The umami element is really strong here. But the balance is striking, all the more so because the wine is essentially rigorous, and yet some golden chord can be heard in the background. From the Jancis glass it is acutely beautiful. The contrast between this wine’s glow and the 2020’s snarl is telling, though that’s easy for me to say, tasting bottled wines with a few years’ remove.

Still, this strikes me as an essence of Diel, its restraint, its clarity, its class, and also its particular dryness, its disinclination to yield. And it is purely Nahe in its light-footedness and improbable complexity, all the way to a definite coniferous note that only arrives near the end, predicted by nothing that came before it.

The finish is modal and golden. The wine is wonderful.

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2020 Riesling Von Der Nahe

“feinherb” is alluded to on the back label; alc is 11.5%.

This is one of several Theise-cuvées I established, some of which have been discontinued since my “retirement.” (Loewen, Catoir, and Spreitzer most prominently) I’m stoked to see this one go on. Mind you, those wines existed because of my adamant conviction that “feinherb” was the best possible expression of Riesling, most delicious, most flexible, most irresistible – albeit entire populations seem to be capable of resisting it – and it is proper for things to change as I’ve moved on. Yes I think it’s a loss for the cause of Riesling, but they should have sold better, and no one needs to perpetuate my forlorn causes.

Needless to say, this wine is lovely.

The basic question is, what is the role of residual sugar other than to taste “sweet?” Because fundamental to feinherb is that the wine does not taste “sweet,” but that it offers things that the dry wine cannot give and that the truly sweet wine can sometimes obscure. Then again, that’s my taste; I never wanted to taste “sugar” but I never wanted to notice its absence. What I wanted was the moment where I knew This wine has everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t need. I goofed up once in a while; my tastes went loopy in the mid-aughts when everyone’s wines were far too sweet. Sanity prevailed eventually!

This type of wine appeals to drinkers naturally and spontaneously, unless they are automatons programmed to be repulsed by any suggestion of sucrose – self-programmed, quite often. I’ve seen this countless times. That cusp between dryness and sweetness is a scintillating and electrifying place to be, as this wine demonstrates, and does so in a markedly difficult vintage.

If I’ve induced you to investigate, I can also assure you this wine will outlast its dry sibling, and if you can give it 4-5 years you’ll end up with something you can’t believe how good it is.

If you know Nahe wines you’ll know what I mean when I say this tastes red-soil derived – redcurrant, currant-leaf, charcuterie – as opposed to slate or volcanic iterations. In general such wines can manage with less RS, which is what we want here. I thank both my successors and also the Diels for keeping this wine going, because all the people who find their ways to it will discover something uniquely valuable, that they will prefer not to live without.

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2020 Riesling Kabinett Nahesteiner

Nahesteiner is a registered trademark.

It’s an unusual aroma for a Nahe wine; grainy and umami driven; the palate is rendered to be racy and vigorous and bracingly refreshing. You have to manage a screwcap-funk at first.

The fragrance resolves into something stony and minty and with a pea-shoot kind of “sweet” vegetality. The palate pulls toward its basic stony skeleton, so that it arrives (quite) sweet and leaves dry. It has the ’20 texture, but I’ve tasted six wines now and it affects ones mouth, which grows oversensitive to astringency. Maybe.

If they sought to make a racy, almost feral Kabinett that’s on the steely side, they succeeded. The previous feinherb is more seamless. But this crackery guy is not without his virtues.

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2020 Riesling Kabinett Goldloch                                                      +

It gets its full name (Dorsheimer Goldloch) on the back label, along with the “VDP Grosse Lage” designation, as it ought to.

This is a peachy Goldloch. It is Nahe Riesling in its seductive vein. It is exceedingly pure with a poignantly restrained richness that respects a skeletal structure that is basically dry. Curiously, it has few of the textural “issues” I found in the dry wines. Are they simply blanketed, or is something else going on?

I’ve been drinking such wines too long, by which I mean I’ve come to take their miracles for granted. But you don’t have to.

If you can, taste this and think about it. You have stone fruits leading to citrus, and you have herbal flavors engaging with tropical (coconut, soursop) and peppery ones – the floral types (Timut, Tasmanian), and you have a flowing motion on the palate that takes you from fruit to mineral, from sweet to dry, all in an inexorable but weightless motion, like a child held in her father’s arms in the water, and then swung slowly around.

It’s so expressive in the Jancis, which takes its flavors into sleek rivulets of nuance, and you can see them all. You can drag your fingers in them all. Wines like this are part body, part dream.

Still, what this-or-that tastes like is less important than to be present for the loving flow, which is something I don’t think about any more, really, but if by any chance you are someone for whom this all is new, oh I envy you; the miracle is never more vivid than the first time it visits. 

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2020 Riesling Spätlese Goldloch                

Back label shows full name “Dorsheim Goldloch, and, like the Pittermännchen, the VDP Erste Lage designation.

In many vintages this wine has had a cask treatment, such that a pleasing little echo of wood remains. I think I find it here, though this could be a placebo effect. The wine, thankfully, is obedient out of the gate, though it does show the scratchiness of the vintage.

The RS is restrained. That’s a happy thing; the last thing this vintage needed was sugary wines, and this is old-school Spät; richer and fuller than a Kabinett but nowhere near the patisserie of an Auslese or a facsimile thereof. It’s actually a smidge less good than the Pittermännchen, but it’s easier to work with.

But we are not finished here. The thing to do is taste the Kabinett alongside this – and that will be visit # 2.

Okay, I have just done it, and it seems like the Kabinett is a much better wine. It has purity, dialogue, animation, whereas this wine is turbulent, reduced out of the bottle, awkwardly plump in body, a botrytis note (or so it seems) that doesn’t really interact with the other elements. The question is whether the wine is temporarily unglued or fundamentally so. Or whether that scintillating Kabinett is too hard an act to follow.

It prefers the Spiegelau glass, yet even that glass cannot efface a basic gawkiness.

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2020 Riesling Spätlese Pittermännchen                                        +

Full name “Dorsheim Pittermännchen” on the back label.

Aroma’s a little turbulent at first, because that’s how ‘20s roll. In about two minutes this retreats to reveal the classic site fragrance of black raspberries atop a Gregorian chant of slate.

But the reduction is glass-specific. I have the wine in Spiegelau and Jancis, and while it cleaned up in the former it’s quite obdurate in the latter. This irritates me, because now I know what lies below it. Because the Diels do not make such “rookie errors,” I must assume the vintage is just truculent and uncooperative.

Once you reach the wine (and is the guarding shroud a sponti byproduct?) you’ll be happy. I am, at any rate. The terroir is pungent, the way I like slate to be; the wine is vigorous and zippy, not laden down with excessive “richness,” and the basic site character is shown by its usual notes of root beer and ylang-ylang.

It’s probably what they call a Zuckerfresser (a sugar-eater) by which they mean the wine absorbs more RS than is tasted, and feels like it leans dry. The dramatic mineral finish buttresses this impression. The wine in fact is superb, though it takes a lot of forbearance to reach it. These first impressions were mostly erased when I tasted it again.

The next time I tasted it there was a truly weird note of puff-pastry at first. Not disagreeable, just strange. And in fact there are many agreeably strange things about this wine. This time it feels sweeter. One notices botrytis but it’s wickedly apropos, and adds to the minty spice and pungent tropical fruits. It shows glaring anise and hyssop, but not anise-hyssop, or not really. It’s sweet Riesling rendered by Pierre Gagnaire, a compelling curio, amazing to taste (and drink) but I wouldn’t mind if it were one-and-done. One wackadoodle Pittermännchen is enough for a lifetime.



I’m not in the least surprised at how well these developed being open a couple days, but! The entire story is partly that they indeed developed, and partly that they needed to develop, and so my text will tell the story. As always, I myself may well have been the “problem.” Here, then, is the story as it transpired.

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2020 Pinot Noir Réserve

“Réserve,” confusingly, is the name of the entry level Pinot Noir, which is riper than the actual “best” of the two Pinots. It has the lovely cherry color I last saw in Dautel’s PNs, and which I love, it’s so appetizing.

Now that bunches of growers in Germany are making serious PN, it’s worth remembering that Diel was in the vanguard. Today’s wines under Caroline Diel are a little less “forced” than some of those earlier wines, as she’s a vintner who prizes delicacy and articulation and “doesn’t like the cola flavor,” in her own words.

This is the first time I’ve seen two PNs from here. 

An enticing aroma, especially from the Jancis glass. In some manner between actual and metaphorical, it smells like a Nahe wine. The first impression is of a wine that unites polish and substance, and whose unruffled surface doesn’t prepare you for the length and richness that follows.

It’s more focused and also more tannic from the Jancis. From the Spiegelau “red wine” stem it leads with fruit. In both cases is has a calm graciousness, and I love its seamless vinosity. It seems to grow slimmer and more piquant with air, and also develops the artichoke and olive notes some Pinot Noirs can show.

It’s paradoxical in several ways, actually. It’s slim and “northern” yet also round and succulent. It has lots of the “green” flavor (not a synonym for underripeness but referring to brassicas and tomato leaf) and for all its gliding texture, the tannic attack from the Jancis is…let’s say, marked. (The sample is a perfect 62º, by the way.) This tannin also carries a certain earthiness at odds with its slim construction. It’s a confounding wine to tell the truth, and I wonder if (or how) it will reconcile its factions over the days.

As I write now, the bottle’s been open two days and kept at room-temp (currently around 65º), and we drank it at the table last night with a duck confit. It benefits from food, which is hardly a fault! Tasting it now, it is rounder and has a deeper voice, but it remains rather tannic – a reason to have it with food. I appreciate its leathery porcini mid-palate, and I must emphasize that I like the wine, with caveats that may be due to my over-sensitivity to tannin.

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2020 Pinot Noir Caroline

“From our finest bunches,” it says; it’s also a little paler in color, a half-percent lover in alc, and alas, in a heavy bottle, which is about as necessary as it always is, or in other words, not necessary at all.

The initial fragrance is sexier and sweeter and shows a cask influence I hope will be benign. The depth of fruit and earth and nuance is promising.

The palate is charming and kindly and delicious. This time it’s deeper from the Jancis, enticingly attractive and complex. It seems to alight on many flavors, paying them more than brief visits. There’s an element that’s smoky and even a little rude. There’s one that’s kind of gamey and reminds me of summer truffles.

I wouldn’t mind less tannin. These are my first samples of the day, so my palate is fresh and undisturbed by anything that came before. I admit I’m too sensitive to tannin – but there you go. Unless my palate is perverse, a possibility I acknowledge, tannic Pinot Noir makes no basic sense to me.  In this case it obtrudes upon a wine with many highly lovable qualities; a focused dance of fruit and earth, a sutra of sweetness, and what feels like a canine eagerness to please until the more feline claws start to scratch.

But then the finish is truly searching and delightful, to a degree I start wondering whether I am indeed the “problem” here. I won’t put these bottles back in the cellar but will leave them out at room temp (around 64-66º) and taste them again in the coming days. Because looking at flavor qua flavor, this is the best PN I’ve tasted from Diel. Only the texture troubles me.

This wine seems to have seized up with air. Huh! Today I find it somewhat stern, but still with many impressive facets. I don’t object to a temperamental Pinot Noir; it goes with the territory. The tannins are dustier and the wine continues to allude to impressive things to come. The finish is both truffly and tannic, and the wine seems to want to be left in peace for a while.

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2021 Dorsheim Riesling “Eierfels”           +  


This “village” wine is, if I remember correctly, a cuvée of young(er) vines from the GG sites along with bits and pieces from other Dorsheimers. The first aromas are apples and melons. But that won’t prepare you for the stunning palate.

Part of what’s stunning about it is a weirdly compelling note of maturity. I don’t mean decadence or premox, but rather a tertiary note I wouldn’t have expected to find. That comes after the fennel-frond and hyssop flavors that are completely (and fascinatingly) at odds with the fruity aromas.

I doubt I’ve used “petrichor” and “puff-pastry” as notes for the same wine!

The acid attack of many ‘21s is tastefully tamed here. The pixilated, lacy detail of salts and mineral is impressive. The entire wine is impressive, albeit I can’t make sense of it.

Actually, the only sense I could make is that the wine was aged in large barrels at least one of which was new-ish, not enough to give “wood” flavors but enough to create this simulacrum of oxidation. No matter. This lovely being is essentially part wine, part food, and entirely remarkable.

It also charmed when sipped casually while dinner was cooking. Though it’s the “lesser” of the two dry Rieslings, right now it’s the more pleasurable drink. Which is good, because “right now” is when I think we should drink it, given that obscure oxidative note and what it might augur. Apart from its sleek thready body, there are flavors one could easily mistake for urgestein, and the wine is a compelling rogue.

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2021 Riesling Pittermännchen GG                       ++                                                                                       

The nasty things I’m getting ready to say are in NO WAY directed specifically at Caroline and Sylvain. For all I know they feel as I do.

The wine arrives in the embossed GG-bottle of the VDP. It intends to signal, symbolically, that we shall encounter a wine of Profound And Lofty Significance. What it actually does is make ridiculous all the “green” cred the VDP lays claim to. It is a stupid, heavy bottle, and I (and many others) will not stop complaining until this scourge has vanished from the earth.

On to nicer things.

The wine smells beautiful. The palate barely manages its fervent acidity, but that’s ’21. (I wish they’d sent Goldloch and Burgberg, but I don’t know why they sent what they sent….) It’s also ’21 in its predictable trough. It’s going on four years since this wine was bottled, plenty of time for it to have lost its puppy fat and not enough time for it to have achieved the sedateness of the mature dog. I am bearing it in mind as I come to grips with this lovely and challenging being.

The smoky slate aromas of the site are fastidiously delineated, which I love, and the wine rasps away in the mouth with acid-driven aggression, which I….don’t love. But what’s to be done? I am certain the best of the ’21 GGs would have been Goldloch. I wish it were on my table. 

Let’s return to the fragrance, which is a master class in how to explicate each scintilla of terroir in a manner so vivid as to be truly psychedelic. Oxygen allows this sort of trigonometry-of-terroir to bleed into the flavors also, and as the thousand nuances emerge from the acid shroud, the palate begins to clarify itself. It’s an implosively powerful wine that flits along on butterfly wings. It could strike some drinkers as “cerebral,” but that doesn’t make it aloof or arcane. For some of us it is simply fascinating.

It's a poem you have to read twice. Maybe you take it into another room where there aren’t any distractions. It wants to be studied, but that doesn’t mean it has no desire to be loved. You can love it – I do – but you have to quiet yourself and listen to it. The reward may be deeply embedded in silence, but you’ll get there, quietly, and when you do it will be an experience like very few others in the world of wine.

I tested this theory by sipping a glass while dinner cooked. In fact it was overly diffident and shrank like a salted slug. Tasting it again now, it’s more impressive than ever. And I still wonder, what is its function? With its neon buzz and inner voltage it’s hardly a meditative wine, yet it is also not convivial. It warrants (and rewards) a kind of study that borders on fixation, but its acidity precludes immersion over more than one glass, unless you have a cast-iron stomach. Please don’t let these quibbles obscure the fact that this is fabulous wine, albeit of a highly esoteric nature.

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2021 Burg Layer Johannisberg Riesling Kabinett  

(VDP Erste Lage)

The refined slaty aroma could easily be a Mosel wine (somehow calling Eva Klüsserath’s wines to mind), and the palate is that of a perfect Riesling Kabinett. The icon, the paradigm, the utter embodiment of the type….I want to fall to my knees in gratitude.

Why? Because it leans DRY. I want this thing called “Kabinett” to revert to a basic dryness even with whatever residual sugar it may contain. Now some of this may be thanks to the acid structure of ’21, I get that, but whatever the cause, this is das ding an sich. 

We can get caught in the analytical thickets, but I don’t want to. The wine isn’t pristine but that doesn’t pertain. Its slate attack is formed a certain way, one that’s more assertive than it is elegant. This doesn’t matter very much. The ’21 vintage astringency needs to be accounted for, if one insists. Big-picture is how shockingly rare it has become to taste this kind of Kabinett today.

The days have not flattered it. These high-acid vintages often misbehave both in the short and (especially) the long term, but I do like the verbena notes that have arrived, and I still appreciate the kind of wine this is.

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2021 Riesling Kabinett Goldloch

(When you have the “VDP Grosse Lage” you have to diddle the nomenclature….)

Curiously this is a less successful wine from better material than the above. Don’t get me wrong; I like it and it’s a worthy wine from a “GG” vineyard, but at its current stage of evolution it’s kind of unglued and phenolic.

Okay, “phenolic” is self-evident, but when I say “unglued” I refer to a dissociated sweet-sour flavor I don’t believe is inherent to the wine but rather to a frozen moment in its development. This, by the way, is why it’s so crucial to re-taste over several days, because this wine properly knitted will be another wine than today’s discordant jangle. Even the later sips today are indicating what Caroline and Sylvain were tasting as they made their decisions.

But <whew>….’21. Very little between pain and rapture in this crazy vintage.

As I expected, time has been kind to this wine, and when you taste it in its stitched together form you see what it sought to be. Despite the Cox’s Orange Pippin “sweetness” the wine asserts acidity both in fact and in allusion, to lemon grass and tarragon. The low notes of dried apricot add useful voices to the chorus, and what felt discordant at first glance makes better sense now. The lime note is especially appealing.

It's classy, salty, animated and stylish, but it’s also a ’21 and that means it has kitten claws.

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