Weingut Braunewell

WEINGUT BRAUNEWELL, SELZTAL (RHEINHESSEN)

The Braunewell estate is in Essenheim, not far from Nierstein in the Rheinhessen hinterlands. Driving in from the south one encounters quite the wall of vines, as steep and imposing a hillside as can be found in the generally rolling landscape. This was encouraging. One also discovers a family estate of some 27 hectares,  (35 if you count the vineyards of the sister in law) operating with both wisdom, sentiment and competence – this isn’t a wee grower with a piece of straw in his gnarly teeth. This is contemporary, but not “modern.” In general the soils are unusual for Rheinhessen, limestone and limey marl and loess, and only a little clay.

The stated aim is to produce wines that are “salty and quivering,” less relaxed than many Rheinhesen wines. The estate does a lot of local business, both in restaurants and to private customers, and this entails a focus on the Pinots (which are feverishly popular in Germany) whereas I came in search of Riesling and Pinot Noir.

The two “GG” sites are Blume (which means “flower”) and Teufelspfad (“devil’s path”) and they do the tiered thing of estate/village/vineyard bottlings – all of which are smart and excellent.

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2018 Pinot Noir Trocken

(Estate-level, from clay with marl and limestone.)

They describe it as having “corners and angles,” but it smells comely and charming. On the palate there’s a slim edge of tannin and limestony bite, leading to a finely bloody dusty finish.

It’s equivalent to a good Bourgogne Rouge from a careful grower. It’s also unfiltered (that’s a nice touch) and aged in large casks – I’d guess 3,000-liter. It has both suavity and a balancing sharpness, though suavity leads; it reminds me of Dautel’s PN in some ways.

It’s an effective estate PN, that accomplishes its mission and has marked finesse for a hot-vintage wine.  It leaves a lingeringly perfumed finish. It’d be churlish to ask for more.

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2018 Essenheim Pinot Noir Limestone

(Village-level)

A serious jump in quality here, bringing some of Ziereisen’s wines to mind (especially the Schupen) , with a juiciness poised against admirable steely kick; spicy, many-faceted and showing notes of dried porcini. This is not (merely) “effective,” it’s full of character and vitality.

Some tasters could find it rustic, but those are actually the qualities I most appreciate here. It has its share of nubs and crags, allied to a generous liveliness. It feels more Oregonian than Burgundian. That said, we have a green-tomato fruit speaking to a limestony adamance, with hints of a rude edge many PN drinkers appreciate – as do I.

Three days later it goes one way in this glass and another way in that glass. In Spiegelau it knits into a soberly serious wine with a pleasingly gravelly texture and a non-fruity dustiness and earth. In the Jancis it goes all tannic and the other flavors are wrenched away somewhere. In general these Pinots have seemed to thirst for oxygen, and all these impressions are snapshots of wines in motion. I respect this wine, considerably, and just because a wine isn’t grinning doesn’t mean it’s scowling. But I sense it will appeal to the drinker who’s actually repelled by the quality we call “drinky.”

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2018 Pinot Noir Blume

(single vineyard GG type, 30% new barrique, 70% 2nd use.)

The site is marl and clay. Aromas are refined and dusty, but the palate is surprisingly spazzy and jittery after the settled-ness of the fragrance.

Possibly it’s too cold. It sat in a section of the cellar where the fresh air came in directly through an open window (cooling the place down with our 55º temps outside). In any case, the wine feels tense and agitated; I’ll track it over the days and decant the last half.

I have only scant acquaintance with these wines, so perhaps I shouldn’t be taken aback. I’d formed the notion that Blume was the whispery caressing one – and the aromas suggested as much – so we “await developments.”

48 hours later the wine is more coherent, and while it isn’t calm, it’s settled. It’s finding its shape, which seems to be a core of GG intensity wrapped in a caul of sweet fruit and then in a scratchy jacket of tannin and acidity. I also find a slight carapace of oak the wine will wriggle free from, given time. If you were drinking it this very day, I’d decant in the morning to pour in the evening. There’s an enticing world in there getting closer and closer to the surface.

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2018 Pinot Noir Teufelspfad

(single-vineyard GG type, same barrique regime, and unfiltered)

 The “devil’s path” is marl and clay but with more limestone now.  (Though the limestoniest sections are used for Riesling.) There’s a 1er-Cru concentration and pointedness in the fragrance, and the wine is adamantly iron-like on the palate. Ziereisen comes to mind again. Spicy and peppery, the mints and violets are atypical for PN but certainly impressive. Was ’18 perhaps too hot to produce PN with the delicacy and deftness I’d tasted before? Hard to know, but plausible.

Though the wine is on the sauvage side it’s actually more of-a-piece than the Blume. It has a logical flow, in its forceful way. Again, I’ll baby it along and we’ll see where we’re at in a few more days.

48 hours later this is even more obstreperous, especially in contrast to the knitting-together Blume. It’s nicest in the hedonically oriented MacNeil Silky & Creamy glass, and I actually think it will outgrow its tics and twitches – not to mention it could simply be travel-sick. Patience is warranted, and will be rewarded.

Another day has passed, and the wine’s finding its way back, suggesting – at last – what it might seek to be. So what are we to believe? The impression of fresh-opened is at odds with the impression of day-3 and at odds again with what I’m tasting a day later – and we give POINTS to wines???!?

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2020 Riesling Trocken

(estate level)

You gotta love a wine that perfumes the whole tasting room as soon as it’s poured. And this little beauty is all kinds of vital and exotic. Even on the second day it started scenting the space as soon as I unscrewed the cap; the wine springs out of the glass and smells you.

“Exotic” isn’t a word you’d usually toss at a Rheinhessen Riesling of “mere” estate quality. A charming lively neutrality would more than suffice. This one’s a sponti that sat on its primary lees until March after the vintage, and for whatever reason it is exceptionally herbal. Literally: summer savory, tarragon, bee balm,  all in a dialogue with mints, lemons, ylang-ylang and juniper.

There’s a superficial (but discernible) thread between this and Schloss Lieser’s estate dry Riesling, an element of the wild-yeast that rides over the more fundamental flavors (which obviously differ decisively) and gives rise to a subversive question. Insofar as wild (or ambient) yeast fermentations are said to be more faithful to terroir, how then do we account for them smelling so similar to one another? Sponti is a most specific, distinctive and informing aroma, one I happen to like, but I must ask – does it promote terroir or does it obscure terroir? Sponti always smells like itself before it yields to whatever may be behind it.

Back to this most engaging and agreeable little beast, it’s a bracing fresh tonic of Riesling, maybe a tiny bit too dry but it lets the spice emerge. If they told me they put 2-3% Scheurebe into the cuvée I wouldn’t be shocked. In any event it tastes that way – manic mizuna and frisky quince.

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2019 Riesling Essenheim Limestone                                           +

(Village-quality)

Also a sponti, on its primary lees until the summer after the vintage. It’s a typically ripe ’19 (13% alc) with the golden aroma of the vintage, veitver, flowering fields, all leading to a wonderfully juicy palate that’s generous but not without its points and jabs. For which we are thankful!

Warm-hearted and sharp-witted, the wine is delicious but not ingratiating, with that both-and quality that leaves you oscillating happily between two ostensibly incompatible impressions, one disarmingly attractive and the other cerebrally persuasive. All that, and DRINKY.

Day-2 shows some effects of the long lees contact. Generally this is positive, it contributes to texture and complexity, as it does here. But other times there’s a funk that develops in-bottle which we don’t seem to see for a couple years. In this case it is present but not blatant and not even obvious, and some people will like it. “Tasting” really is a kind of spelunking, as we seek to excavate flavors. I wonder to what it pertains, sometimes, as you know. We taste in a sort of laboratory of nuances.

The MacNeil Fresh & Crisp glass is more hedonic, and the wine shows its 2019-ness. That said, with 13% alc I’m not sure “Fresh & Crisp” really applies. Though the wine is more open and sedate today, I liked it better yesterday freshly broached, and I find its primary pleasures are the most fun.

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2019 Riesling Teufelspfad Trocken                                           +

The GG type. In the stupid-heavy bottle. The estate belongs to my very favorite eco-certifier “Fair ‘N Green,” so please, again, as many times as it needs to be repeated, CONNECT THE DOTS. Nobody likes these pretentious bottles.

The wine is truly excellent, showing the estate at its deftest and most stylish and showing the ’19 vintage at its most elegant and beautiful. With a blissfully moderate 12.5% alc, there is more true richness and generosity here than in 95% of the “riper” wines.

What it reminds me most of, is Alzinger. And among them, of Loibenberg. And within Loibenberg, of a curious theoretical amalgam of Riesling and GV, with the most engaging attributes of both.

But the colder you drink it, the less true that seems. Then you perceive more minerality and a cooler stonier profile. The colder glass is more interior and preoccupied; the warmer one is more hale and content. But how is it I have two different temperatures? Because it’s a very tall bottle, the top of which stuck out from my cooler, and that was the first glass I poured. A little beneath it came the next glass, and a different “mood” entirely.

You can choose – and this is a wine you really should own – but as is true for most ambitious dry Rieslings, cellar temp is best; quite cool but by no means cold. 50-54º is perfect.

This is all so encouraging. I mean, we’re not looking at the acknowledged genius of the Kellers or the Wittmanns of the region; nor are we considering the great terroirs of the Wagner-Stempels or of any of the red-slope Niersteiners. This is in effect just “stuff from Rheinhessen.” And yet the wine is a bliss of ruddy joyfulness. At an amenable price, one might add.

After four days (!) the wine is almost obdurately stable. I can’t add to my notes because the wine is the same. It’s among the (much) better ‘19s I’ve tasted, honestly.

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G700  MMXVIII                                                                            ++

Back-label reveals, it’s a Riesling Trocken 2019, and the website reveals it’s a Teufelspfad vinified and aged in a granite “egg” the details of which can be seen here - https://www.g700.de

This actually is amazing. It’s far more angular, slinky and mineral than the “GG,” offering an entirely different family of flavors, blatant rocks and garrigue, almost more Austrian than German….I’ve had Bründlmayer Steinmassl  and Nigl Goldberg with these elements, the caraway and spearmint and alisier. The estate is convinced the granite-egg phenom will spread, and based on this splendid wine, it should.

I can’t remember a German Riesling so emphatically coniferous; it’s like some weird fir liqueur mixed with ylang-ylang, and yet it’s amazingly delicious, and mineral to the Nth degree.

On day-4 its edges are blurring a little, in contrast to the adamantly stable “regular” Teufelspfad. It’s still marvelous but I’m going to drink the rest of the bottle this evening while it still has its wicked concentration.

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2020 “Unser Täglich Scheurebe” Halbtrocken                         ++

Give us this day our daily Scheurebe! 

Cards on the table: I am ga-ga over this wine. It curls my toes. It is an apex of dee-lish-ness in perfect balance, Scheu in the pink grapefruit idiom with ridiculous vitality.

It is more than even these things, but you’re going to think I’m in the grips of my giddiness, or else just silly. I’ll risk it.

This is a wine of cheer. It will lift you if you’re bummed out.

This is a wine of healing, of convalescence; it is the return of health, in liquid form.

This is a wine of giggling, of all the times you laugh despite yourself.

This is a wine of bliss unmitigated by “mind.” Your baby laughing at some stupid thing you do. The moments when (to quote James Wright) you are “abandoned to entire delight.”

Finally this is a wine where aesthetic instinct is honed to a point of genius. Why precisely this amount of RS? Because it darts in and out of the picture, sweet-ish at first, dry-ish at the end, as if the wine is teasing you. Yes, it’s “simple” wine, but it’s far from inert.

If I were meeting someone for whom this really was a daily wine, who had it in the cellar constantly and who ran through a bunch of cases each year, I’d immediately feel “This is a person I could love.”

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2020 Riesling Kabinett

A perfect fragrance, more like a Nahe than a Rheinhessen wine. A certain pungency, a little sponti. It’s a fascinatingly risky wine, because it has unusually moderate sweetness and an acidity that most drinkers wouldn’t relish, and some wouldn’t tolerate. I admire its strictness and rectitude, and I really approve of their resistance to the over-sweetening that’s so common in “sweet” German wines these days.

If you’re someone of a certain age, with decades of experience with German wines, then you’ll have lamented the dearth of Kabinetts with these attributes. Racy and neon to a degree even I can barely remember any more, and the barely perceptible sweetness, render this wine a sort of specter of a bygone time.

I approve, and am grateful, and Impressed they opted to craft such a wine. But I am content to have tasted and admired it. I’m not eager to drink it. These days I find the acidity uncomfortably high, but for palates that feast on really bracing crispness, this for you will be a rare find.

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2018 Scheurebe Eiswein

The back label identifies it as Essenheimer Teufelspfad, our old pal. 

The refined Eiswein fragrance isn’t especially varietal at first. Curiously it is rather low in acidity (and quite high in RS) and thus doesn’t present as typical Eiswein. There are (what I call) “golden” notes that suggest there may have been a bit of botrytis in play. Some growers have told me they feel the best Eisweins include at least a small measure of botrytis, though it’s harder to get those berries to freeze.

Considering the rarity of Eiswein in the new climate, and considering the efforts they undertook to make this at all, I feel almost boorish that I feel so little excitement. It takes a lot to get me jazzed over dessert wines these days.

Don’t misconstrue me; this wine is certainly attractive but to me it is merely attractive, and a little anonymous.