2018 Spätburgunder Trocken
Back label identifies the site as Wachenheimer Mandelgarten and the variety as “Pinot Noir.”
The site, though indicated, isn’t really important as a marker of terroir; Darting’s domestic (and other) customers like to see a “vineyard name” on the label. As far as I was concerned they could have removed it, but why put them through the hassle?
Nice to see just 13% alc in this warm vintage – this wine could often spill over the banks of 14%, much to my dismay. This wine especially doesn’t have the body to manage such high alcohol.
Vintages would vary, but this is a good one. There is forthright, succulent fruit, a little more oak than perhaps it needs, an overall smiling countenance and a sort of ruddy vitality. Though simple, it is far from mundane – it is too delicious to be mundane, and its charm is pointedly attractive in contrast to other PNs with more affect.
I’ve taken it outside (at a wonderfully nippy 52º) with the Jancis glass, and all it does is improve. With air, the oak retreats (it’s only large cask in any case) and a polish appears, as does a delicate dialogue of flavors.
I’ve had at least four “estate-level” Spätburgunders since commencing this tasting series, and I’ll shout this out: I’D RATHER DRINK THIS THAN ANY OF THE OTHERS.
2018 Pinot Meunier Trocken (Dürkheimer Feuerberg) +
This is full-on yummy, outrageously yummy, drinky beyond the outer limits of drinky-ness – and yet, again, it is not mundane, but rather smart. Its smartness is a crucial part of its rampant charm.
Flavors run to brown-butter, pumpkin bread, ripe tomatoes freshly pureed , hon shimeji mushrooms, cherries of course. Yet behind it all is a lift similar to the aerial feeling of a perfect Beaujolais, as though there’s a “flavor” on your palate but an ether of that flavor hovering a few feet above the ground. You could call it a simple pleasure, but simple pleasures are rarely all that simple.
One of the most fun things I saw in my merchant days was the vogue for this wine, which actually became our top seller for Darting. It started in New York, and there it started with a trend-setter among the Somm community who decided to pour it by the glass. (You don’t actually have to sell to fifty Somms; you only have to sell to the 3-4 whom the others will eventually follow, and watch it unfold.)
Even if I step away from being the guy who has to sell something, I’d really love to probe the mind of the person who tastes this and doesn’t want to bathe in it. What kind of ghoul must that person be?
2020 St Laurent Trocken (Dürkheimer Feuerberg) +
Some years this was the most impressive among the reds, and some years the typical varietal reduction obtruded. Interesting, that this ’20 is already offered, and that it’s the one among the three reds that has (any) exposure to barrique.
And I must say, this wine is excellent. It’s the antonym to the Pinot Meunier, because this is Serious Business, not with masses of tannin or other gestures of Lofty Solemnity, but with “darker” flavors and no foreground of charm. That doesn’t mean zero charm – the wine is certainly delicious – but charm is implied in what is otherwise a substantially sober wine.
It’s a little like the Sattler, though silkier and better behaved. Sorry, there’s a squirrel outside my window who seems to want to enter the “quack like a duck” contest and who won’t STF up. Oh how I miss those tastings in hotel conference rooms…..
There’s an element in this variety that is frankly rude, but not in a truculent way, but rather in a erotic pheremonal way. In this case it’s on the threshold of reduction but doesn’t step over. What’s “interesting” here is the blending of overt animality with a silken texture that’s almost claret-like.
Then the finish is all leathery, tobacco, shoot-smoke, char-marks from the grill, pleasantly bitter, rumbling and fretting until it gives over to kindliness. I have an image of a cranky old coot who’s being harried by some little kid, until a sudden moment arrives where he looks at the child and realizes how miraculous she is. This wine tells the story of how the crust melts, and a beam of grace enters a difficult life.
I have spent one whole hour with these three wines. They have been wonderful.
2019 Pinot Blanc Brut
Pretty bead, attractive fragrance. Darting! Competence in the service of joy. And this is exactly what you might anticipate; tasty, scrupulous, pure and generous.
I’ve lost track of the many times I’ve had a non-Champagne by the glass in a restaurant and found it gnarly and crude. No danger of that here. First, it smells like Pinot Blanc: bay scallops and white corn and sweet hay. Second, it has a lively but not aggressive mouth feel. Third, it has the proper dosage, which is to say it’s saline enough for the crab cake but sweet enough for the remoulade.
It’s effective craftsmanship in a glass.
Judging by the cork, it will have been disgorged in the last 6-9 months. The wine is by no means “sweet,” but there’s a melding of fructose with a brioche aroma I doubt would be expressive in a drier version.
2018 Muskateller Brut “Everybody’s Darling”
This is a term of derision in Germany, such that a serious grower would be wont to say “I’m not trying to be everybody’s darling but just to make the wines (etc. etc.)….” The word “darling” is in the same font usually used for “Darting.” I doubt this wine is sold in the U.S. and it doesn’t appear on their website; it is perhaps a 1-off. Dartings know of my affection for Muscat – they share it. So I got a bottle of this, went crazy for it, and asked for more.
I expected crazy-fun-muscat-with-bubbles and was surprised by the silken polish I encountered. Today’s bottle doesn’t quite live up to that first impression, but it’s mighty good. It’s like peaches in black-&-white – all the peachy Moscato d’Asti thing but with way less sugar – it’s BRUT, remember – and with a vinous salty mid-palate flavor to go along with the feral Muscat umami.
If you find one, grab it. You may not like it as much as I do, but believe me, you’ll be glad to have tasted it.
2020 Pinot Blanc Trocken +
I have long adored this wine. It shows the ur-aroma of the variety, the sort of paradigm fragrance that begs you to teach a class with it. Being insanely attractive also doesn’t hurt. (The wine, not the instructor.) It’s one of those wines that smells so good you almost can’t bear to drink it.
Do it anyway. You’ll be rewarded handsomely. The basic pointedness of ’20 stands in delicious counterpoint to the scallopy umami of the variety, giving you a wine that’s both salty and with that lump-crab-meat sweetness of the variety at its simple best.
“Simple” in this case does not mean one dimensional; it means without affect of lofty purpose. The Times had a recipe last week for a shrimp risotto using a homemade stock from the shells, and it (correctly) suggested a short soak of said shells so that the stock wouldn’t get too skanky. The risotto would easily take a “serious” white Burgundy, but what if the moment wasn’t right, or you weren’t in the mood for “important” wine, or the important bottle was corked and you had Darting’s Pinot Blanc in the fridge? Believe me, this is more than a consolation prize.
Finally, we have a leesy texture – we have texture in the first place – and a chipper, quipping finish. The wine is a gift of clarity, integrity and candor. We can’t afford to spurn such things – though we can easily afford this wine.
2020 Riesling Kabinett Trocken (Dürkheimer Fronhof)
Litre bottle, 12.5% alc.
Kabinett means unchaptalized. 12.5% alc means circa 88-90º Oechsle, in a cool vintage, in a liter format. Sure, everyone’s wines are “outsized” in this era, and the must-weight isn’t so important any more. And yet.
I’d have preferred this to be rounder and juicier, or so I first supposed. It’s hardly lean or spiky. It’s “racy” as many ‘20s are, but its raciness isn’t supported by (what I’ll call) compelling material. It’s just good, basic Pfalz Riesling. It delivers all that it ought to, but not more. There’s typical lemon and ginger, especially on the finish, and the aromas are charming. Curiously, it seems to need air, as it starts to improve after ten minutes. Their website refers to “ripe apricots, pineapples, and spicy hay-flowers, “ and there’s certainly some action in the glass, I’m starting to see.
There’s also rather more acidity than usual, which can constrict a young wine. And there’s an emergingly lingering and interesting finish. Let’s watch this over the days.
Two days hence, and subjected to the rigors of the Jancis glass, what first seemed rather withholding is now angular and salty and decently long. Innocuous and “correct” would have sufficed, but as usual Darting offers more.
2020 Riesling Kabinett Trocken (Dürkheimer Spielberg)
This is one of the two “GG” sites in Darting’s stable. (The other, Ungsteiner Weilberg, was on a lease that may have expired; in any case they didn’t send it.) This is evident immediately. This is excellent, serious dry Riesling.
It’s the spicy side of Pfalz Riesling. Part of it feints toward Scheurebe (the currant leaf and sage), another part feints toward the Urgestein style (iris, coriander) and yet another alludes to the earthy violet aromas of certain Rheingauers. And finally there’s a smidge of that gin-tonic thing we see in a couple of Dautel’s Rieslings.
So all in all, a stern, admirable and serious Pfalz Riesling. There’s a chiseled-ness and an esoteric salty finish, and as always I wonder: what sort of reputation would Darting have if more of their vineyards were top-quality?
2020 Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken (Dürkheimer Feuerberg)
This may be my shortest ever tasting note. It goes like this.
PERFECT EVERYDAY RIESLING
(Gorgeously fragrant, on the dry side.)
The wine is reliable. It is even, I would say, loyal to you. It really is your faithful friend. It loves you even when you’re grumpy. It is consolation and reassurance in a bottle. It says there is gladness in the world, even in this world. It says you don’t have to brood all the time. You don’t have to think lofty thoughts, or dream lyric reveries; it’s enough to start a fire, brew a pot of tea, and read the magazines that came in today’s mail. You don’t need to be special for this wine to love you – it just does.
2020 Riesling Kabinett LITER (Dürkheimer Nonnengarten)
Reassuring to see the 11% alc, as it suggests the wine won’t be very sweet. (This wine crept up in RS until we began tamping it down in my last few years being a merchant.)
And it smells wonderfully attractive. The palate is spicy and a little fructose-y; it’s very much in the meyer lemon and pineapple vein of Pfalz Riesling. It’s frisky and charming, and while I wouldn’t mind less sweetness, that could draw it too close to the Halbtrocken. There ought to be air between the two.
This is the first Darting wine I’m tasting that feels just a bit old fashioned. They have customers for it, of they’d have discontinued it. The wine is honest, “well-made” and reliable, but it seems to belong to a bygone era.
2020 Riesling Kabinett (Dürkheimer Hochbenn)
In contrast to the Liter, this has always shown the low notes of Pfalz Riesling; a certain muskiness, butterscotch, caramel, new leather shoes. It has the precise diction of the ‘20s and is pleasingly fresh considering its generous (but not cloying) sweetness.
Having had this wine (in all likelihood) from at least 17-18 vintages, I can tell you confidently that this is among the best ones. In ripe years it can feel too voluptuous but here it’s nice and snappy.
2018 Riesling Spätlese Dürkheimer Michelsberg
Damnably, the word “Trocken” only appears on the BACK label, so I misplaced it in the sequence and am scrambling to recalibrate my palate to taste it after the sweet wines. (Thank heaven for tarallini…)
This was sent on purpose, so they must be proud of it, or it’s still in the U.S. market. Michelsberg is the other important vineyard (along with Spielberg) in Bad Dürkheim. I’ll defer a proper note until I can sequence the wine properly, except to say that 2018 really displays the connection between heat and TDN formation.
A day later I have it in a group of Trockens I’m taking a final look at. It follows the Spielberg ’20 dry Kabinett.
It isn’t really “fruity” in any discrete sense. It’s savory in a sweet direction, that is, brioche, sweet straw, hay, vetiver. Thick and dense on the palate – and yes, I do resemble that remark – it tastes like it had time in Stückfass, and in that sense it’s the anti-Darting Darting. I could be wrong about this, but there’s an open-stitched fullness that mightn’t have come from the site alone.
The wine is impressive, if not precisely loveable. The aromas are enticing, developing into puff-pastry and Mirabelle plum compote, and the palate is surprisingly adamant.
1999 Rieslaner Beerenauslese (Dürkheimer Nonnengarten)
Why yes I am tasting this BA right after the dry Spätlese. I still cling to pitiable vestiges of my former professionalism.
Interesting: the wine received its A.P. # only in 2019. Let’s see if we can infer the reason why.
Okay, it isn’t oak-aging. The color is surprisingly reasonable for a 22 year old BA – which is a clue. It’s gold but not amber, nor the weak-tea of overripe or poorly stored super-sweet wines. My guess is, the young wine had a technical flaw that only time would correct – sulfur maybe, acetification also. The aromas recall Fino en Rama to some degree.
The palate, though, really behaves like a (lower alcohol) version of an ancient Sandeman Oloroso I bought from an ace merchant in Madrid. The sherry is sweet and this wine is similarly sweet, which is to say – not very sweet.
It tastes more antique than it looks. Nor is it particularly redolent of the Rieslaner variety. I like it quite a bit, and could see it after dinner when you’re in the mood for Sherry but are closing in on your alcohol limit – this has a whopping 7.5%. The finish is markedly long and caramelly.
The key will be how stable it is in the bottle over time. I don’t need it to last six months, but it would be helpful if it lasted, say, a week. It’s a 500ml bottle, and four people could empty the bottle pleasurably after dinner. There is only a smidge of volatility after ten minutes in the empty glass.