Weingut A.J. Adam
In the beginning the wines tended to be sweet-leesy and (what I call) fluffy, which doesn’t denote a cheap confectedness but rather a charming indirect sweetness – often not bearing upon actual sugar – from ambient ferments and contact with the spent yeast. Few of the wines tasted “sweet” and few of them tasted “dry.” They were deliciously amenable and often fascinating. This would be around 2001-2005.
Starting around ’05, everyone’s sweet wines got sweeter and more baroque. Andreas Adam’s were no different. His Trocken wines grew more adamantly dry and his Prädikat wines grew more overtly sweet. Yet his genius remained in the style we started to call Feinherb, the tiny bit of sweetness that seemed to dissolve away into the leesy bliss. Andreas points out that, while he has more bottlings of dry wine, the largest volume he produces is still in the Feinherb idiom.
I believe him, of course, but regardless – there’s been a tendency toward a certain leanness in the Trocken wines in the last half-decade. I wonder if their clientele would accept them any other way.
The wines I tasted were shipped just after bottling, and because of that I held on to them for a few months to let them recover from what may have been both bottle-and-travel sickness. Yet even so, some of the wines were inexpressive, with the dissonant clamor of fresh-disgorged Champagnes. I was perplexed enough to check some press reviews – something I never do until after I’ve filed my own report – because I wondered whether my own palate was distorted. What little I found increased my perplexity, as I seemed to be tasting entirely different wines than the other tasters did. (Tasters I hold in high regard, by the way.)
I did my thing, tasted from various glasses at various temperatures at various times of day, and I decanted some of the more stubborn spontis to see if I could get them out from behind their opacity. I spent four days with the wines, and tasted (and drank) most of them at least 5-6 times. The result is a report about which I have a certain doubt. That is, it is faithful to the impressions I received, but some kind of static seemed to be twisting the signals.
Below are the wines I liked best, or could approach at all responsibly. Time will tell if my praise is too sparing or if I was just unlucky for a few days.
2020 Häs’chen GG
Full name Dhroner Häs’chen Riesling Trocken.
It’s ungrafted vines planted in 1930, and sponti in Halb-Fuder. It’s also in effect a monopole, punishingly steep, but facing east rather than south – an advantage in the current climate era. “Häs’chen” means “little hare,” which, but for a small variation of spelling, would describe the current state of my head.
The wine is esoterically beautiful, which is to say it isn’t an easy wine. The more famous Hofberg is richer, more exotic and fruitier. Häs’chen is higher toned, more flowery but not really the “pretty” flowers. But what this wine is, is a feast of mineral. It’s as though twenty dump trucks filled with scree and ground-up rocks came and dropped their cargos into your glass.
There’s also a nuance of kiwi and sassafrass a little like Uerziger Würzgarten minus the strawberry fruitiness. One could argue the wine is overly ascetic, but lovers of minerality at its most determined and uncompromising will find their heavenly reward.
I myself adore mineral flavors, as you know, yet I’m finding this wine needs another voice in the dialogue. It needs yang, it needs at least a little fruit so that I can appreciate that rampant mineral, which craves another element to bounce off of. As it is, it’s a study in the integral calculus of mineral, leaving a long finish one can also consider cerebrally.
This salty beast isn’t for everyone, but I admire it.
2020 Goldtröpfchen GG
Full name Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Trocken.
Ungrafted vines planted in 1944, and sponti-in-Fuder.
The fragrance is compelling. “Piesport can do this?” you ask yourself.
The palate has the swell one anticipates from a GG, and while it is adamantly dry it is mitigated by a richness on the mid palate and by a greater complexity of dialogue than anything thus far.
Dark fruit (quetsch, damsons) and herbs (savory, fennel), white pepper….the edges are less craggy now, and the wine is more spherical, though by no means soft. I’m tasting a few grams of (helpful!) RS – maybe 4-6g – and the wine would have been a rapturous masterpiece as a Feinherb with 14-15g – but then it couldn’t be “positioned” as an “item,” let along one with the lofty title of GG.
Yet there is mastery here, and an honoring of a fine terroir, and there is also serious beauty, accent on “serious,” and do not expect beauty of a sensual nature. Counter-intuitively, it was much better in the smaller Spiegelau, which helped express its juiciness.
I do wonder at the enshrinement of this militantly dry type of wine among German consumers and taste-makers. It should be clear that I adore dry Rieslings, and in fact they are most of what I drink recreationally. Yet even this one, which I regard highly….must it be so strict? Life is admonishing enough as it is. What taste, what thirst are we addressing with these kinds of wines? Perhaps the fault is mine – I’m willing to consider that – but I just can’t fathom the nature of the pleasure this gives to the drinker who craves it.
2020 Hofberg GG +
Full name Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Trocken.
55-60 year vines, sponti-in-Fuder.
It has its Nahe-like fragrance, as Hofberg often does, and it has, at last, an explosive fruit on the palate that provides the necessary counter-weight to the adamantly mineral dryness.
When you have all the needed elements at the table, then the “conversation” they have grows fascinating, multi-layered, darting this way and that, becoming a larger Idea that rises over the speakers in a spiral of smoke, fired by affection and respect; in other words, magic. Ten-dimensional. In wines like these, everything is woven into everything, and the intersections among mineral and fruit and herbal and floral notes is an ongoing music. And you can’t attain this without a range of elements in dialogue with one another.
Why is this the best among the GGs? Because it has the most fruit. Because it has the most fruit, its mineral doesn’t scold the palate, and because its mineral doesn’t scold the palate, we can relish it in the completion of its deliciousness. We don’t need to study anything; we can relax and let it wash over us and then consider it in the fullness of our delight over its sensual spell.
I could make a list of nuances: Gyokoru, mango, sweet fern, soursop, empire apple, cherry-tobacco pipe smoke, meyer lemon, all structured on a supple spine of minerality. There’s also a charming nuance from the cask itself. I can also take it down a notch and get simple: It smells lovely, it fills the palate with a fascinating deliciousness, and it finishes compellingly and deliberately.
It represents a flourish of German Riesling GGs at full expressiveness. It feels like a sleeker, cooler version of an Austrian Gaisberg, like a poem read by a wise child.
2020 Rosé Spätburgunder
Some years ago I arrived at the winery, entered the tasting room, and saw a carafe of pink wine on the mantel. “Oh no,” I declaimed. “You made a Rosé?” Andreas smiled a little shyly. Just what the world needed, another Rosé. Then I tasted it.
And then, in a flash, I was convinced. I didn’t know what “other” Rosés the world might need, but I was sure it needed this one. Because it smelled like a MOSEL wine! As it has done from every vintage since. I’m sure if you tasted it blind, I mean really blind where you couldn’t see the color, you would not guess PN or even Rosé. You wouldn’t know what to guess. You might suppose it was…German….hmmm, maybe Mosel…but not the usual Mosel.
Looking back on my portfolio, if Diel’s was the classiest Rosé, and Heidi’s was the craziest, and Prieler’s was the most serious and ageworthy, then Adam’s was the most identifiable by its terroir.
So, okay, I can’t help it; I find this to be wonderful. It’s delicate this year, a little demure as the ‘20s can be. Whatever teensy sweetness it has is perfect. It clings on the finish despite its lightness.
2020 “Im Pfarrgarten”
Riesling Feinherb appears on the back label.
It was the fruit and vegetable garden of the parish church of Dhron. Vines were planted in the end of the 60s, on a heavy yet slatey soil. The wine is classified as “Gutswein” and is a sponti in stainless steel. I loved it from the first year he made it. It even tilts ever so slightly in the cassis direction of some Saar Rieslings.
I love it again now. It doesn’t have the sponti shroud and the RS is as good as invisible, albeit incredibly helpful. The fragrance can only be called adorable. The palate is seamless. Not a scintilla of nuance is out of place; there is nothing that isn’t enveloped into the Whole, and if it isn’t the Nth degree of complexity, it doesn’t haveto be because the wine is in tune. It is without dissonance. I suppose mine must be a palate that is forgiving of many things when it is presented with serene deliciousness.
Concomitantly it is unforgiving of any number of theoretical virtues if the gestalt of the flavor is discordant. Tasty is as tasty does!
2020 “in der Sengerei”
Full name Dhroner Hofberg in der Sengerei Riesling Feinherb.
For me, the signature wine of this domain. It warrants the collection of vertical vintages just like Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle or Selbach Uralte Reben, because very often this is great Mosel wine.
It begins, unsurprisingly, with some sponti juju, but that fades. It’s a roughly 60-year-old vineyard on slate mixed with iron and quartzite. The wine is markedly responsive to vintage; fruit-forward years will give exotic bombshells, while “cool” years like ’20 will give the exegesis of mineral we find here. It even reminds me a little of Loewen’s 1896.
It is either actually drier than usual, or it tastes that way. The 11% alc is maybe a clue. Its length might be imposing if it weren’t so articulate and delicate. It’s minty and floral at first glance, and it’s serpentine in its palate-motion. It is “significant” without exactly being lovely. But like many of Andreas’ 2020s, this won’t tell its full story until it’s been tasted many times. But at least this first time, it prefers the Spiegelau to the Jancis.
To be continued….
Okay, this is my fifth encounter; tasted for the fourth time, and drank a glass as an apero last night while dinner was cooking. It is perhaps the sleekest-feeling vintage I’ve ever seen. The fragrance is quite generous while the palate’s a bit aloof. It feelsdrier than usual, though I expect that’s a false reading. But there’s something obdurately stern about all of Andreas’ ‘20s thus far.
It’s the determining factor of the collection, walking, unusually, at the front of the flavor parade.
(I’ve wreaked my palate through every test I could give it, because I stronglysuspect I am misreading these wines – but my palate seems fine. We have fine weather, a waxing moon, clean late-autumn air, and yet something’s in a funk.)
2020 Hofberg Kabinett
Full name Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Kabinett
Another sponti in steel. And below that minor inconvenience, the fragrance I know as “Mosel Riesling.” Indeed, after a few youthful mewlings and grumblings, this is on the way to being Andreas’ most classic Kabinett since the 2008 (though the ’16 was PFG…) As I see it, a Kabinett – according to my subjective archetype – should embody a certain mirth. A Kabinett should laugh.
A Spätlese can entail a little more sobriety, it’s allowed to be serious, but a Kabinett should be rampantly enjoying itself. Given that “Kabinett” has too often been applied to the least-ripe material whatever it was, it stands to reason the archetype has been distorted beyond recognition – or beyond the recognition of us geezers who remember how it once was. This is no one’s fault, obviously, though you could argue it’s the consumers’ fault for demanding an item called “Kabinett” even when the conditions that make it possible do not exist.
On first glance this is a wine that’s stumbling like a toddler just taking its first steps. I doubt that matters very much, as the ingredients are present for the development of a minor classic. It tingles with lightness and gleam. It’s barely perceptibly sweet. (Yay!) It needs to wriggle free of the sponti-in-steel clunkyness but that’s just a matter of time. I’ll report on how it is as the days go on. Today it’s still connecting its dots.
2 days later, decanted, MacNeil’s Fresh & Crisp in the picture….and the wine proceeds with all….deliberate….speed. It’s certainly a gauzy sort of being, perhaps a wee bit slight; and yes I know, just when we get a true Kabinett after all our fussing we kvetch that it’s too light! But I don’t think this is too light; I think it will be a gossamer beauty in 5-6 years when it’s built an artery to the ur-Mosel heart.
2020 Hofberg Spätlese
Full name Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Spätlese
Sponti in steel again. I have my doubts about this approach; dry wines in wood and sweet wines in steel. Really?
In any case it’s a stubborn shroud here. All I can say is, it’s far from a voluptuous Spätlese, but seems instead to be angular, salty and almost savory. Cool, buoyant, slatey – would actually have passed for Kabinett in most recent vintages. But a second look is not only advisable, but necessary. I’ve waited twelve minutes and sponti is winning.
And so again, 48 hours open, decanted ten minutes before tasting, conditions the best I could engineer them without a copper penny at hand, and what have we got?
We have a chiseled, thready Spätlese begging to be left alone. We have minerality in spades, we have delicacy, we have the articulation of a Shakespearean actor from the Royal Vic…and I fear we have a reviewer underrating what will doubtless be a lovely Mosel Riesling in the fullness of time.