A quick note; these are the wines the American importer has made available. The completest would wish to taste the several levels of Silvaner, the dry Scheurebe, the dry Muskateller, all three of the Riesling “GGs” and also the upper levels of Spätburgunder plus the Pinot Meunier and St Laurent. If that “completest” were me, I might well have arrived at this very selection, or I might have indulged my quixotic purist side (“might” have???) and offered a few other wines that wouldn’t have sold. I do miss tasting through them all.
The entry-level, screwcapped, 13.5% alc, and I don’t know if he chaptalized it.
It has the polite fragrance of modern competent German PN. It’s attractive and enticing; think Mercurey with 10% Chinon blended in. On the palate the wine arrives discreetly, almost diffidently, but there’s a muscle in that 13.5% that isn’t entirely subdued.
It’s peppery and stern, not ingratiating, and I respect that, and will enjoy both studying and drinking it. If you like the Bardolino bitterness you’d like this also. Here the gap between my palate-as-judge versus my “civilian” preferences is wide. If I’m really persnickety I have to say the ostensible substance of the wine feels forced. It may not be, and ostensible could be a low blow, but I’m finding more torque than seems inherent to the essential substance. And then there’s my ordinary-guy self, who rebukes me and says “Cut the crap, the wine’s good, be happy you get to drink it and STF up with all this ostensible and forced nonsense.”
It is kind of creamy, and there are those sour-cherry flavors most of us like…so put that pizza in the oven and ignore me.
2021 Riesling Trocken
This is a fascinating portrait of the many natures of ’21 estate-level (dry) Rieslings, at least from Rheinhessen. It appears to show the genial umami of Bechtheim, which is a little warmer and has more loess and sand than, say, Braunewell’s Selztal terroirs. It has the feral-floral spice-driven flow of the vintage. It seems to want to be an “easy” wine but it isn’t quite. It can’t stop shivering with a slicing tension that underlies the flow.
The Jancis glass is too stark for it. The lovely mid-palate porridge is repressed, and the wine needs that. And look, I do appreciate that wines like this are designed to do a job, and the task at hand is to make a good impression for the estate, to offer direct straightforward drinking that – ideally- over-delivers and actually offers more. In that case: Success.
But even then, a couple little cautions. Don’t drink it too cold (12º is ideal), and have some nibbles at hand; the wine scrapes away at the tooth enamel on the finish (as some ‘21s do) and so you want to re-mineralize your gob between sips.
ON DAY TWO I switched to the MacNeil Fresh & Crisp glass, which tends to emphasize a wine’s attractive elements. When I finished with the Rieslings yesterday I wondered whether my “issues” with the wines’ structures was my issue or theirs. It was suspiciously consistent. The aroma today is more lavish and vivid, (as often happens when screwcapped wines get some air) and the wine’s more up-front in many ways. It tastes a bit like a tank sample. And yet….the structural issue persists.
It’s actually two issues; one is the finishing sharpness, which is a felt sense, and the other is a farewell of no small bitterness (like eating a raw frisee leaf), which is a tangible flavor. A producer’s basic dry Riesling should be tasty and uncomplicated, and I know Johannes Geil almost always makes just such a wine, and so I have to wonder whether it just wasn’t possible in ’21 without “intervening” to adjust acidity or residual sugar, which he wouldn’t rather do.
Or you can just enjoy the way it smells and the pleasant initial impression and not be a piss pot like me.
2020 Riesling Hasensprung Trocken
This is one of three single-site “GG” equivalents, and sports the pretentious heavy bottle to prove it. It also sports a lovely Riesling fragrance, with the woodruff and green oolong notes of so many ‘20s.
The palate is surprising in a good way. It has a rooty richness (parsley root sprang to mind) and a big firm whomp of minerality within its vinous cloud on the mid palate, and it also shows the coarse phenolics of the dry 2020 weather. There’s a lot of impressive material here, but it’s a fine stone in an awkward setting, yet it’s also a shape-shifter, such that I’m never quite certain what I think of it.
That is because I admire (and like!) the flavors and I have “issues” with the textures. Maybe I’ll reconcile all this after tasting it a few more times.
DAY TWO accentuated these issues, even with the MacNeil glass; indeed especially with that glass. Another tasting is warranted, but some ‘20s almost seem to decompose with air – and I’ll hope this isn’t one of them.
2021 Bechtheimer Riesling Feinherb
Note the climb to the village-wine level. Note also the instantly appealing apple fragrances.
My wife and I were driving back from a gig we did at the Husky Meadows farm in Norfolk, CT – which by the way is a really cool place – and it was just past peak foliage and we stopped at a farm selling quinces, which one does not easily find, even here in New England. The little converted garage where the farm stand was located had the most alluring reek of apple that we returned with about eleven times more apples than we could ever use.
I remember that now, sniffing this lovely little wine.
Great Champion Of Feinherb that I am – or fancy myself being – I am always stricken when one doesn’t land. This wine shows all the virtues of its type, until the very end, where sweetness and acidity find themselves in strife. And I suspect the “problem” is inherent; in other words, there was nothing to be done about it. Adding more sweetness might have brought the wine into harmony but then it isn’t feinherb any more. If you want to balance on that slim rope of not-dry-not-sweet, you can’t get too sweet. So you do what you can, and the vintage has the final word. In some instances, ’21 has an asperity it needs to assert.
And I need to emphasize that the palate here is delightful and its aromas and flavors are lovely, and it’s only at the end that the pieces won’t click together. The solution is, don’t be a taster, be a drinker. That, and food food food.
2021 Riesling Kabinett
Lighter raw material than the Feinherb, this Kabinett works in a vintage-typical zingy way. It’s like a raspberry that’s sweet but hasn’t gone over to softness and real sweetness. Some will say it’s “typical” Kabinett, as indeed it could be. The up-front fruit is appley but the gestalt is tart, more acid-driven (which is where the raspberry comes in).
If the paradigm for Kabinett is a light, expressive wine with a certain scintillating light-beam and a fundamental crispness, this wine is nearly there. It really smells glorious. It isn’t sedate or lapidary, but that’s okay; ’21 is jittery. When the (screwcap) sulfur shroud lifts the wine relaxes into a harmony it didn’t show at first. It’s none too sweet, and it is angular, but its basic tensions are better resolved than any wine so far.
DAY TWO confirms this impression. The wine is racy and balanced on a steel blade, but it is balanced, and the sweetness is admirably restrained.
2021 Scheurebe Kabinett ++
A story lies herein. For some time this wine was good, or “good,” but it wasn’t ornery enough to scratch the Scheu itch. Was it too sweet? Not really; it was planted in the wrong soil. It showed a kind of lazy passion fruit profile, but when the new wines came along, watch out.
This has come to pass, and then some.
If you like Scheurebe, you’re gonna love this, and if you love Scheurebe you’re gonna want to consider onanism to this, because it is precisely and wickedly that good. It’s high praise when I say, it reminds me of the bliss of the best of the Kruger-Rumpf Scheus, which are so good they’ll curl all eleven of your toes – your having grown another toe just so it could curl too.
Let us perhaps enter into the environment of today’s tasting. It is a mild day in late November. Our crabapple tree has its leaves down but there are still hundreds of little fruits awaiting the appetites of the patient and knowing birds who only eat them when they’re ripe enough. Today the tree is full of birds, and when I go out onto the deck (to taste) they flutter away irritably. On our small lawn there are rabbits, squirrels and doves fattening up. In the sky are mare’s tails, a gift for an aficionado of clouds like me. And there I am, spasming with delight over this stupendous fuck-me Scheurebe.
It’s like you got a dinner invitation from Caligula himself, and you rubbed your hands and sent your RSVP thinking “This oughta be good,” and when you got there the emperor was in his library reading a book of poems. “So, is it just us this evening?” you ask dubiously. “Yes, just us. And I brought you here to talk about literature,” he adds. Seeing the flicker of dismay that crosses your face he admonishes “You know, we may be permitted to be civilized men, from time to time…”
Is it just me, or are the ’21 Scheurebes really good??