SCHLOSSGUT DIEL

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. 

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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.

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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.

RIESLINGS  - IN THE ORDER I TASTED THEM!

(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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

DAY TWO

(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….)

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.

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.

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.

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?”

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.

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.

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.