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Tasting Year


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2020 Riesling (Trocken)

(Screwcapped) A stainless steel cuvée of various sites in and around Bad Dürkheim and Friedelsheim, just east of Wachenheim on the “wrong” side of the road, similar to Burgundy vineyards east of RN74.  Charming, polished fragrance, the “sweet” face of Pfalz Riesling; mirabelles, apricots, ginger; lots of substance on the palate, along with the tendency for ‘20s to show a certain grit towards the finish. It’s not an excess of acidity; it’s that the acids don’t play well with others, so to speak.


The grace and comeliness of the fruit are really impressive, and the breed – the “carriage” of the wine – is lovelier than anyone could demand from a mere estate Riesling. I probably focus too much on those final few seconds when the body of the flavor fades. When it bites, I wince. This of course was unnoticeable when sipping before dinner. The wine has the lilt and lift of more northerly regions, pleasingly.


That it slips down easily when one isn’t paying close attention to it is of course a faint praise. I think the wine over-delivers in class and interplay of flavors, but while some tasters will find it “linear” I find it more tart than it needs to be, for its intended purpose. I tasted it five times, over four days, from three different stems.

Village Wines


2020 Wachenheim Riesling Village

Screwcapped and majority stainless steel vinification. From a pre-selection among the 1er Crus (and/or young vineyards), the aromas have the delicacy and flow typical for Wachenheim. More the patisserie than the boucherie, in Wachenheim there is always something fresh and rippling.


I’m finding the usual ’20 clip on the finish – the estate’s selling the ’21 currently -  and feeling guilty for even noticing it, as everything that precedes it is so delicious, a sway and sigh of melody with a green-tea herbal note. The shrill finish is the conclusion of an acid spine on the mid palate that actually makes the wine better and more interesting, yet exposes a sharpness as it departs. I wonder what could have mitigated that….


I think you know how I’d answer that question.


2017 Wachenheim Riesling “R”

Screwcapped. The A.P. number was issued in 2020, so I infer a true “reserve, “ released late after aging in the cellar; whether in cask or tank is not made clear. It’s the same as the current vintage, just aged for a while.


It has the aromas of the vintage, the ferrous and peppery notes below all that Wachenheim prettiness. It has the flow of these vineyards, and it seems to hover a few inches above the ground, breathing and humming.


By no means mature, neither is it infantile. It is also somewhat demure and introverted. I like those qualities, but noise would erase them, so if you drank this in a loud restaurant you might wonder why it doesn’t make a greater impression. But as the aromas come on, they begin to suggest the exquisite. The wine stands on a threshold, and might well become superb.


I tasted (and sipped) this a lot, and the bottle was among the first to empty down to the last few inches. I never fuss with them; I just let them sit in a cold (53º) cellar over the days. This was the first wine of the eighteen samples to show any hint of oxidation, on the sixth day open. This of course is neither her nor there; just pointing it out.


Three wines in, and I start to think Wachenheim is both interior and sweet; sweet like Cox’s Orange Pippins and white nectarines, and like a really delicate honey, lemon blossom maybe. This has nothing to do with (actual) sugar, but is a gesture of type, of personality. You shouldn’t expect to be “impressed” but you can definitely expect to feel loved


2018 Wachenheim Riesling “R”

Screwcapped. This seems to be the currently available “reserve”  version of this wine, and again the A.P. number suggests a 2021 bottling.


It’s instructive to contrast this with the 2020. Here we have warm notes, a hint of TDN (as would be predictable at this stage from a hot year) and captivating notes of mirabelles and bosc pears. The wine’s more pliant but by no means soft, and I wouldn’t be shocked to learn the RS is further-from-zero than in either the ’20 or the ’17.


There’s a lot to like in ’18. An echo of the early phenolic conclusion (to many wines) is still discernible but as often happens with good growers in warm years, the wines grow in fruit complexity in a reliable and steady way. Here we have a sweet-lime and wintergreen note at the edge of that fruit, and the wine is entirely amiable, with its plantain sweetness. (Note that “sweetness” is imagistic in this case – the wine is dry but not brutally so.)

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2020 Deidesheim Riesling Village

Screwcapped. Again, described as a cuvée of pre-harvest and/or young vines in the top sites. But what I tasted reminded me strongly of the vineyard Herrgottsacker, and the importer said he recalled it came from Mäushöhle, so I’m not sure about the young-vines-from-the GGs information. Nor do I mind in the least.


Now this is “Pfalz.” And the wine is excellent. Solid and adamant and earthy in contrast to the ethereal Wachenheimers, it lands with a happy thump and gives a generous volley of flavor. It’s super dry (I peeked at the analysis) but doesn’t have the snarl on the finish – though it’s certainly a firm and demanding guy, with the grainy character of Deidesheim. 


For whatever reason it’s simply juicier now. With the estate and the village Wachenheim it was as if there wasn’t enough butter for the whole slice of toast. That’s not the case here. If you can taste them together, apart from enjoying the basic contrast between the two communes, you can see how two wines with comparable acidity and dryness can behave differently at the end. One is shrill, the other is succulent.

Premier Crus

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2020 Wachenheimer Gerümpel

38-year vines (at time of picking), the site is neighbor to Forster Pechstein and shares a similar terroir. Bürklin’s holding is substantial here.


As befits the basalt twang, the wine is drier-feeling than the village or “R” wines, and has a naked overt minerality. It’s quite coniferous and sinewy, intense and a little sharp, herbal and stony.


This wine got better over the days. It knit, grew more expressive, and the first sharpness faded. It’s grown into an interesting Riesling in the stone and tart apple type. Quince wouldn’t be too far fetched. It’s like a more coniferous version of the ’16 Altenburg (coming up soon).

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2018 Wachenheimer Gerümpel                                                      ++

Several things to say. One is, the wine has the lovely color all these fines have – nothing hermetically pale here. And that color is a metaphor for the nature of the wines, and that nature is expressed especially well in the 2018 vintage. 


Okay, it’s a giddy gorgeous wine, this. It has what I’m starting to think is the “Bürklin firmness” on the finish, but we have a virtually tantric integration of components here. If a wine could be said to be breathing and receiving this would be that wine.


Elsewhere I have written that balanced wines always feel quiet and seamless, and because of that, they’re not only tough to write notes about, they actually seem to repel that wish or that instinct. In essence, I don’t want to deconstruct this wine because the pieces are assembled so perfectly. If I say apple-butter and cardamom, which is a plausibly accurate thing to say, what does it signify next to “Remember what it was like to fall in love? You will now…”


What would be amazing would be to put this next to a MARCOBRUNN, a good one, and then to consider what actually confers “aristocracy” on a Riesling. Any notion of the Pfalz as providing earthy, exotic and generous wines – true though that usually is – is laid to waste with this amazingly graceful and beautiful creature.


The empty glass smells like seductiveness, acceptance mystery, and appetite.


Tasted again two days later, the wine has sighed into its firmness and grip – less melting, more snap and crust. For an ’18 it really stands at attention, though you remember how sweetly rumpled and gorgeous it was first thing when it woke up, before it put on the uniform and became An Officer.


To contrast this utterly bewitching wine with its 2020 counterpart, one could hypothesize the site does best in warm years, when its angularity gives a splash of lift and freshness. The ’19 must have been a treat.

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2020 Wachenheimer Goldbächel                                                     +

Historically my personal favorite among the Wachenheim sites, I think it should be a “GG,” though I appreciate that they already have nine “GGs” and can hardly use another. Back when I represented Biffar, they also had a parcel here, which often made their finest wines.


And wow, this smells good. It’s also wonderfully reserved and implosive on the palate, not as arch as the Gerümpel and with a more regal containment than anything thus far from Wachenheim. It has an inscrutability (and no small number of flavors) in common with a Brücke from Dönnhoff. I sense a whisper of cask – and have no idea whether this is true.


There’s some quince – and some of the austerity of quince – and marked grip and solidity. It’s not the sort of wine that “ought” to come from the Pfalz; your thoughts go more to riverfront Rheingau (such as Erbacher Siegelsberg) and you can’t quite square the loessy wet-cereal “sweetness” with the underlying firmness and density, not to mention the green spine of balsam and oolong.


Tasted again and again, and it remains a discernible level above its sibling Wachenheimers. And curiously, it seems to have the cask expression of one of those Austrian wines from acacia barrels, not the taste of “wood” but an open texture and a surmise of vanilla.

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2018 Wachenheimer Goldbächel                                                  +++

I’m tasting this right after the ’18 Gerümpel; it’s darker in flavor, more sweet paprika powder, mango, charcuterie. The palate is firmer.


The wine is a masterpiece.


I realize I’m not in a position to pronounce on the “essence” of this estate – I don’t have anything from Forst among the samples – but I can say that this wine embodies my Platonic Ideal for Bürklin-Wolf, in a seamless union of fruit, structure, balance and resonance. Oh, and the loveliest possible flavor of cask.


Every great wine entails paradox, and this is no exception. Density andtransparency. Strength and polish, intensity and gloss. A mass of yellow fruits on the palate yielding to a mineral-soaked green lime and herbal finish.  Powerful andbreathy – a passionate sigh, a bliss so deep it doesn’t feel like joy any more.


I mean, I apologize; great wine makes me crazy.


If Goldbächel isn’t a “GG” then I’m not sure what “GG” means. Yes I know the estate already has nine of the critters, but really? Squeeze in, boys; we have another body to fit at the table.


When I retaste a “3-plus” wine I am quite severe. Is it really that good? One can be overcome with a wine straight out of the opened bottle. That is not a problem here: The wine is all that and then some.

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2020 Wachenheimer Böhlig

The fragrance is sultry for a ’20! But the palate lands firm and dry-y-y. It’s a sibling to the Goldbächel stylistically, without the great finesse of that (perhaps) undervalued site.


We have yuzu and meyer lemon now, with only an inference of tree-fruits. The sweetly malty aromas seem to veer off before they reach the palate. And we have the ’20 texture with which to contend.


I don’t wish to dump on this very good wine, but there are questions arising about ’20. Its insulating juiciness seems to have dissolved unusually quickly, such that the finishes in so many of the wines are stark, exposed and screechy. That a vintage might pass through an unflattering stage is a given, but here it seems to have happened awfully soon. It doesn’t serve this wine well, which is a pity as we have seriously beautiful flavors, which are awkwardly knitted into a texture that doesn’t do them justice.


A horizontal of all the 2020 Wachenheimers will be instructive, and I’ll do it at the re-tasting stage.


UPDATE: that’s indeed been done, and the wines have been retasted in a half dozen different permutations. This remains a wine whose appealing flavors are played false by a gritty texture. The shoes are fabulous but they’re two left feet and neither of them fits.

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2017 Wachenheimer Böhlig                                                                  +

This is some sexy stuff! Markedly richer than the “R” village wine, it has all the best elements of ’17, the ferrous firmness and Tasmanian pepper side note, along with the Cox’s Orange Pippin fruit euphoria. It is almost a diametric opposite to the ’20.


A spearmint brightness seems to buzz into the finish, which is firm and almost abrupt – but not quite. From the Spiegelau glass – in this case the better one – there a wash of fruit-concentrate that lingers, and one has the notion that it’s a good time to be drinking this guy. There’s more silken nuance and laciness, as usual, from the Jancis, though the finish is less persuasive. As a drinker I vote for texture, but as a taster I’m just glad to have both options.

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2017 Wachenheimer Altenburg                                                        ++

Fetching aroma, without the somewhat scorched ferrous note of many ‘17s, leading into a surprisingly firm palate – agreeably so. Considering the fragrance is like an apple-cellar filled with Cox’s Orange Pippins, the adamant grip in the mouth seems as though it arose from an alien DNA.


That character starts to manifest in the Jancis glass, and in all I find this a wonderful conversation between two obliquely related elements, the kind of wine one truly calls interesting. I like it best among the ‘17s they sent.


A muskmelon flavor arrives alongside Chinese 5-spice – I wonder if there’s any of the clone-90 planted here?  It’s both the smallest holding of their Wachenheim 1er Crus, and the highest-elevated site, and the wine doesn’t stride so much as dance in a graceful gliding motion. A kind of calm, a suppleness that isn’t soft, but bendy and flexible. Yet it’s also full of animation and frisk, a lovely three-dimensional wine, full of charm, nuance and intelligence.

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2016 Wachenheimer Altenburg

The only ’16 in the lineup; I adore this vintage. At six years old it has located an interior winsomeness to go with its taut aromas of quince, mirabelles and asian pears. 


This is more chipper and nubby than the ’17, unsurprisingly; it’s the puppy version of the adult dog of the ’17. 2016 can seem diffident and aloof cheek by jowl with a ripe generous vintage, but it’s actually witty, a little nerdy, chiseled and detailed and not remotely hedonistic. Rather, it’s salty and citric and snappy and not so much “mineral” as redolent of a bucket-full of little sifted pebbles.

Grand Crus


2018 Hohenmorgen “GG”                                                                  ++

A Cru of Deidesheim they share with Basserman and Christman, and which some observers have claimed is the best site in the commune. I’m sad to say we have the stupid-heavy-bottle syndrome here, as always especially vexing from an organic/biodynamic estate.


This isn’t the current vintage. They kindly sent it along so I could see the wine out of diapers. The wine is superb, a mineral bomb. And one has to be impressed with the 12.5% alc in a hot year like ’18.


Because there are only three proprietors, I don’t see Hohenmorgen at all often. When I have seen it, I’ve found it to be an inferential wine, less adamant or grippy than its neighbors, almost as though it had emigrated over from Wachenheim. It’s direct neighbor (Grainhübel) is far more overt – Hohenmorgen is an umami wine – or so I always imagined.


In fact this wine doesn’t have what we’d call an attack. It’s more enveloping, a foamy wave of mineral and quetsch and toasted dark bread and esoteric grains. There’s a touch of hot-vintage TDN which doesn’t fret me in the least. There’s something both evanescent and definite, like a fist made of clouds.


Toasty, dried apricots, wonderfully generous but not ingratiating, this is an example of Pfalz “GG” it its most fine.


2020 Gaisböhl “GG”                                                                               +

A Ruppertsberg site wholly owned by the domain. The fragrance is quintessential Pfalz. The Wachenheimers are more otherworldly.


The wine is dynamic, forceful, austere. The fragrances are suggestively intricate, rough and rocky, sharp fennel, hyssop and white pepper and fresh-grated ginger. An overtone of pineapple completes the Pfalz Pfortrait. In an ascetic vein whereby you show an intricacy of stones, absolved of any responsibility to be pleasant, a case can be made for this. I know (and like) the kind of person who vibrates to this kind of wine. I am myself that person, sometimes.


As dry as this is, it is not unbalanced. Its frequency is cerebral, but in that vein it has considerable authority and penetration. Such wines can often tilt towards rusticity; this does not. It seems to suggest the mizuna, mustard-green and even stinging nettle green penetration, like a cool-vintage Urgestein Veltliner.


2017 Gaisböhl “GG”                                                                               +

A seriously intricate aromas suggests Burgundy truffles and wu-yi oolongs – and sorry, I know you have no idea what those are, but trust me, the cognate is correct. It’s a fragrance that indicates a unity of vintage and terroir.


This is culminated in the lavish palate, and it’s as fine a ’17 as I can recall. A kind of apotheosis of lemon here, and a profile that could again make one think of Urgestein Rieslings from you-know-where. It’s like those Hawaiian black lava salts, or like celtuce or sea-lettuce


2018 Reiterpfad “GG”                                                                             +

Curiously the folks at Von Winning (also a VDP estate) sell their Reiterpfad as a 1er Cru.  I’ve known all kinds of permutations of this vineyard over the years, and what they all have in common is an ethereal waft of vanilla, and that wet-cereal “sweetness” I associate with loess soils – though I don’t know if this vineyard contains loess.


Among the ‘18s this is the most self-consciously profound. Its seriousness is most pronounced in the sort of gritty spinachy sharpness in the tertiary finish, a surprise after all the kindness that led to it. But that…amenability, maybe…is fleeting, as it turns out, and what follows is considerably more interesting and valuable.


You can call it muscular, a sort of power and density that isn’t obtuse or lumpen but is certainly strong. It pivots among fruits, spices, and rocks, and it really billows on the palate – as a Grand Cru should. Fuller bodied and earthier than the Wachenheimers, thicker and less sinewy than the Deidsheimers, it’s less an explication than an inner wave of umami, and as it sits in the glass, prototypical Pfalz ginger and pineapple. Most interesting, it shows a kind of iodine-y sea-spray thing from the Jancis.


It’s an imponderable and unquantifiable thing, the sense of command some wines can show. In some cases you feel the “GG” designation requires it, or maybe the aesthetics matter less than to assure the drinker the wine justifies its price. Mind you, this is a valid way to conceive of “GG” and a proper way for some of them to be. I myself have had equally profound experiences from quieter and more ethereal wines, and I find that a helpless sort of swoon is another way to convey great land.


It can be forbidding to describe a wine as monumental, so I’ll try to finesse it; this wine is a statue of a smiling person standing in the late-day sunshine. Solid, “eternal,” friendly, pleased with the world. Even the pigeons leave it alone. 

The Outlier


2020 Hommage à Luise Riesling

Screwcap. Alc 9.5%. Other than the occasional big-botrytis wine, this is the sole residually sweet wine in the range. I don’t know whether it is chaptalized – probably not.


It’s always brutal to taste the one sweet wine in a range of dry wines. It’s hardly ever pleasing. It smacks of tokenism, or of a way to use marginal fruit that wasn’t “good enough” for the dry wines, you know, the ones that are taken more seriously.


But once you get over the sugar-shock and your palate adjusts to the radical shift in genre, this is a perfectly pleasant wine. Oddly, it could stand to be rather less sweet. But it’s salty and spearminty and strictly speaking, “balanced” (viz. sugar/acidity). If I were Luise I’d clamor for a feinherb wine to be made from that 2020 Böhlig as my “homage.”  I do think that an estate that’s correctly proud of the profundity they show across a range of serious dry wines ought to be more ambitious with the sole not-dry wine in the lineup. Does it suffice for this to be merely “quite good?”

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