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Weingut Hexamer

Tasting Year

2021

As always, the wines were tasted multiple times over several days and some were had at the table with food. I’ll only comment on the later examinations if they’re revealing in some way.

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2020 Riesling Trocken

This would be the dry “estate-riesling,” and it’s a mélange of the sites (Meddersheimer) Altenberg and (Soberheimer) Marbach (both on sand and loam It sure smells nice!

It was another wine – yet another wine – that “tasted” one way and “drank” another, so before you read my mixed-bag tasting note, please know that when the wine was consumed, it was frisky and tasty.

If a wine like this is the portrait-in-miniature of the estate, it’s worth considering what it shows, beyond the assembling of adjectives by tasters. First it shows crisp brilliance, almost brash brilliance. It shows a fresh-cut grass element (but not at all like the herbal/vegetal profile of Sauvignon Blanc), it shows a malic profile that doesn’t land on any particular apple, and it shows a lot of mirabelle, which you may need to take my word for unless you’ve been to Europe and eaten those glorious little fruits.

It is fairly cozy but it can also shock you, like when your sweetheart puts her cold feet onto your skin in bed. If I know Harald he has this wine around the (legal) upward limit for the Trocken designation, yet the wine tastes determinedly dry. It’s sharply etched, as his wines often are, yet the acidity isn’t prominent. It “talks to the tooth enamel. Harald has long since done away with whole-cluster pressing, but his 24 hours’ skin-contact wouldn’t usually create phenols enough to pick at the tooth enamel.

The finish is savory and surprisingly dense; it’s the best part of the wine, and since finish augurs evolution it suggests rewards in store if we wait 2-3 years. So, it’s a good wine, thoroughly good, it does the job, it’s invitingly aromatic, rather bracing on the palate, and nicely deliberate and murmury at the end.

I’m using the MacNeil “Crisp & Fresh” along with my control glass, the basic Spiegelau white. I think time and air will be kind to this.

I did think that, didn’t I. Well, let’s say that time seems to have had no effect I can discern, and my takeaway remains, a wine with many virtues in a surprisingly herbal vein, enticing aroma, zingy on the palate, and clangy on the first finish, more warm-doughy on the tertiary finish. If I were still a merchant I might have asked Harald whether there was anything we could blend in to give the wine more fruit and to moderate the shrieky first part of the finish. I wanted “my” estate dry Rieslings to be delicious.

That said, I’ll repeat that when we drank it, it did the job. 

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2019 Riesling “No. 1” Trocken, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg ++

It’s made from “superripe, high-grade small berries of Auslese quality.” It’s his best dry Riesling. It summoned the Jancis glass (!)

It’s bending my mind, actually, because I expected a swell of fruit, especially pitted fruit, and what I’m feeling is herbs and grasses and hay and savories. The color is pale gold with flecks of chlorophyll, and the fragrance is superbly complex and enticing.

It enters the palate taut and tense but immediately dilates into this sun-on-barley-fields warmth; you could imagine hearing crickets if you held the glass to your ear. It has astonishing definition for something this intense. I’m fantasizing transplanting Lucas Pichler to the upper Nahe and watching him make precisely this wine.

No one can make a wine like this outside of Germany. It’s racy yet clement, throbbing with life but not at all sultry. “Fecund” is kind of a gooey word but with this wine you feel the generosity of the fields, of the world, of the sun that’s just perfectly warm and the air that makes the birds and rabbits happy. Yet in all this exulting there is a wonderful eerie clarity. You can relax into its civil wildness, its fastidious extravagance, and marvel at the saline umami that crawls so warmly into the finish.

Clarity, generosity and strength at an apex of expressive coexistence. And while it is refined, it’s not subtle, and that’s just fine. You could show this wine to an interested beginner to demonstrate that he, too has a “palate.”

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2020 Sauvignon Blanc (Trocken)                                             +

As some of you know, I was a conscientious objector to German Sauvignon Blanc on principle; I hated its trendiness and I really hated them importing a “foreign” variety when they already had something similar and better – namely Scheurebe.

So I would grit my teeth and taste them when I had to. And rather to my dismay, there were a few I liked, Hexamer’s among them (and prominently; there was only one vintage I didn’t offer), because Harald seemed to be able to impart a sort of intelligence to this often obstreperous oaf. He won the battle; he imposed his deliberate detail and clarity and refinement such that one was proud to drink a Sauvignon Blanc as articulate as his were. And among them, none have been as good as this beautiful 2020.

It comes from the Altenberg, in “a flat side-valley with a higher loam content,” and wherever it comes from it has a lot of pleasure to give: We have mint, opal basil, lemon balm, woodruff, and the slightest tinge of bell pepper; we have minerality and we have shocking length for such an articulate wine – not to mention remarkable elegance for something so ripe (13% alc), and just in the first wash of finish there’s bolts of wood-sorrel and a zingy limey twang that quickly dissolves into a warm herbal farewell before it comes back in a second wave of iridescent green energy.

I mean, I think Riesling is fundamental to Hexamer’s DNA, and in some wicked weird way it has imposed itself over this Sauvignon Blanc such that we can’t be sure if this is Riesling-with-twang or Sauvignon-with- better-manners. That said, the longer it’s in the glass the more it asserts its feral self – yet it’s no place close to crude. Instead it is almost pensive.

If Von Winning’s sensational Sauvignons are the yang of the variety, then Hexamer’s are the yin. Yet with all this coolness and poise, the wine enacts a tactile dance of nuance on the actual palate, the tongue itself, which is diverting to say the least.

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2020 Scheurebe Trocken                                                                +

Also grown in the Altenberg, but this time “from a more gravelly soil in the main valley.” The sage aroma won’t surprise you, nor the currant or the tomato-leaf and probably not the basil and guava. The elderflower could give you pause. You could be forgiven for daring to speculate that it might all be a teensy bit less refined than the Sauvignon. Personally I hate myself for even entertaining such a thought.

But I am overtaken with joy by the purely delightful mass of fruit on the palate. If the Sauvignon was tweezer food, this wine is “Here’ have seconds, we made a ton!”  I mean, this is a seriously loving wine, full of interplay and dialogue (between its herbal/savory/citric profile and its tropical fruit profile) and with a forthright seductiveness contrasting with the rectitude of the Sauvignon.

Scheu is new for Harald. I fussed that he should plant it but I doubt that’s why he did it. I just knew that he’d render something with a delicacy to stand next to Müller-Catoir, as perhaps we will see in the fullness of time. Still, it’s incidental for the estate, and it’s priced unpretentiously, yet I need to remind you – it’s not always the exalted wines that show a grower at his best. This little guy presumes to be overt, and flirts with you serenely, confident  you will succumb. You’d be a fool not to.

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2020 Riesling Porphyr     glug-glug-glug  -                       and   +

The label doesn’t say – and I’m glad it doesn’t – but this is Feinherb. Sorry ye haters of sugar.

I’ve long been convinced that porphyry is the noblest soil for Riesling to grow on, and Harald has vineyards in Schlossböckelheim which is a Valhalla for porphyry. More on that in a moment; first the wine….

I’m really just on the threshold of tasting 2020s from Germany, but I’m starting to get that tingly falling-in-love feeling. I’ve known this wine for a dozen years or more, and have never known it better than this. A farandole of ginger, applewood smoke, licorice and a civilized yet feral pungency, it is the perfect everyday Riesling though far too elevated for “everyday,” albeit that can be said for Riesling in general.

The porphyry soils give a differently structured wines than those that hail from Hexamer’s immediate environs in Meddersheim. These wines are more “horizontal,” and relatively speaking, more corpulent. To some degree it’s invidious to compare them directly. That being the case, here I go.

Because I think this wine pushes out beyond where the estate dry Riesling can ever go. That’s partly because the extra RS is decisively gorgeous here – only a haggard embittered ghoul would object to its “sweetness” – but also because structure counts. We’ll make allowances for the “important” bottlings, but at the everyday level I think we don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want to have to surmount anything in order to slurp away. And I’m adamantly not talking about sugar here; Gunter Künstler’s and Andi Spreitzer’s dry estate Rieslings are generous and delicious without pandering or swaddling our palates – and they are dry.

Harald can’t make his estate-Riesling from porphyry; he doesn’t have enough land. I am only saying – sorry, again! – that we sacrifice a lot of potential usefulness and pleasure when we fixate on grams-per-liter of residual sugar and make a creed out of “dry.” Proof is right here, if you want it. Taste a wine like this, and many dry wines taste like fitted sheets with only two sides tucked in. The “sweetness,” barely registering as sugar, stretches the flavors to all four corners in a manner that’s simply more encompassing and animated.

It comes from two vineyards. Königsfels is porphyry/ryolith conglomerates with sandy loam, while In Den Felsen (literally “among the cliffs”) has a similar soil,  and Harald is nearly the sole owner. 

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2019 Riesling “Quartzit”

I had this once before, from an open bottle that I tasted in June. I had no special expectation, and wrote:  “the best vintage I’ve tasted of this wine. Animate, frisky yet with substance and length, dripping with quartzite terroir and with perfectly poised RS”

Okay, so….from my very own bottle, that I just opened, it is pungent and decidedly on the dry side – it tastes drier (though is actually 50% sweeter) than the Porphyr – and I’m finding it clunky and angular. “Bottle variation?” Not likely from screw-capped wines. So what I’ll do is replicate the earlier experience, and taste this again in a day or so from the opened bottle.

On day-2 the wine is knitting but not knitted. I admire the choice to make this wine less sweet – excessive sweetness is as much of an “issue” in Germany as excessive dryness – and I’m sure this tasted perfect pre-bottling, with all its chubby-baby fruit.  Right now, for all the attractive fragrances, there’s a strife between the RS and the chaptalization and its sense of bulked-up body. (The wine has 11% alc.)

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2019 Meddersheimer Altenberg Riesling Kabinett

(A fleeting reduction) It becomes a beautifully balanced Kabinett with impressive grip and length, though it’s a bit outsized for the category, which isn’t Harald’s fault. Mirabelle and pink-lady apple and sweet-corn; the overall impression tilts toward dryness – which I like – and the mid-palate shows an herbal balsam-fir oolong-tea element acting in counterpoint with the malic lift and twirl. Day-2 reveals a winning saltiness giving yet another element in a kinetic conversation of flavors.

But let me pause here to define an association. When I say “oolong” I refer to the Formosa oolongs, sometimes called the “floral” oolongs, whose quality levels seem to rise with altitude. The basic teas might be called “Dong Ding” or “Jade Oolong,” while a better grade could be sold as “Four Seasons (Spring)” and the very best grades – which are what come to my mind when I use the association in a tasting note – are entitled “Fou Shou Shan” or Shan Lin Xi” or “Alishan” or (the very best) “Lishan.” Thus the association is concrete and definite for me. I love using imagery but I’m not doing it here.

This is a fine, expressive Riesling, and I cheer for Harald’s intelligence to balance it on the racy side. If you saw the sugar-acid balance you’d agree it’s right out of the textbook of paradigms.

 

(Subsequent editions are known as the “textbook of forgotten paradigms” but we needn’t go into that here….)

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2019 Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese

We have some turpene here (the “petrol” aroma) indicating a sun-blasted vintage. The wine itself has swallowed its (considerable) residual sugar and comes off as a citizen of that rarefied land where apples and pears merge.

The Jancis glass reveals some botrytis, or its facsimile, which curiously seems to yank the wine toward dryness.  It does in fact have about 15-20% botrytis – “during that harvest we separated the really shriveled berries for Beerenauslese.”  It feels coarse, and I don’t think the Spätlese context should admit coarseness. I’m not accusing Harald of this, but there’s a mentality in Germany whereby the “clean” fruit is reserved for the most precious (i.e., dry wines),  while anything botrytis-y or otherwise dubious goes into the “sweet stuff.” I find this abhorrent, because it sends a message that “If you have to have sweet wine then we’ll just make it from any old fruit because clearly you don’t know much about wine…” Again, not accusing Hexamer of this, but at the same time I wish this wine was more pure.

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2019 Scheurebe Spätlese

The first Scheurebe I ever tasted, in 1978 at a winery in Wachenheim (Pfalz) shocked me with these exact aromas: rampant grapefruit and sharp sheep’s-milk cheese. Here we add redcurrant and (again) botrytis to the mix, but it’s less obstreperous here than it is in the Riesling. Scheu has an innate (and agreeable) sourness that partners with botrytis, and this wine tidies itself in the glass.

Maybe “tidy” is the wrong word, because this wine is basically disheveled, and not only disheveled but erotically disarranged, because Scheu is, among other things, kinky, and kinky sometimes means a little pain, and this wine is not vanilla. I like its unblushing scandalousness; I’ve had a lot of properly-behaved Scheu lately, and now it’s time to get rude. (The motto for this wine should be You didn’t say you were gonna try that.)

But look, there’s a lot of things we all like to….ah, put in our mouths, that are in fact painful, such as capsicum, and I am not saying this wine is unpleasant! I am saying it’s a little twisted, like an angry pineapple, and if you enter its world, at least you will not need to forgive or ignore the twenty foul aromas to be found in many ‘NATURAL” wines, which are the real villains of the piece, not a wine like this, which is basically clean, but has a dirty mind.

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2010 Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese

Harald agreed to hold some wine back ten years, so we (in my former life) could offer something out of diapers to our customers. This is the currently available release; the 2011s, when they come, will be stunning.

2010 is the crazy vintage. If you relish acidity you will soak in it here. The wine has a mature-Riesling fragrance (mistakenly termed “petrol” in this case) which actually came to the 2010s quite early. The idea that “high-acid” years age slowly is completely wrong. Their acidity seems to be cryogenically frozen but their fruit actually seems to age more quickly than in “normal” vintages. That said, this wine is an outstanding 2010, if you like the vintage, and as long as you anticipate its special profile.

It’s crusty, it’s Riesling in the form of soup-bones, it has a honey deeply embedded in some dessicated viscera of fruit, and it is seriously impressive in its urgently special way. As your palate claws around the rattling bones it also receives a gelée of lime and an echo of overripe plum that’s as obscure as an embedded memory.

I think this wine is remarkable and amazing, but I doubt I could ever love it. One glass would suffice. Your mouth requests an emollient afterwards. Yet the wine is an agent of a bizarre circumstance, the strangest vintage ever, maybe, and it’s a wine you don’t drink so much as examine….though it’s also examining you. It is very close to its peak, I think, and anyone who loves Riesling should hear the howl of the harrowing ’10.

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2019 Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Auslese

I wonder at my sudden intolerance for certain kinds of botrytis aromas. I adore the malty kind. But there’s a slimy kind that smells like mushrooms you left in the fridge too long. I seem to have very particular taste when it comes to Auslese, so much so that I wonder whether it’s proper for me to be “reviewing” them at all.

There is much to appreciate about this one. It isn’t over-sweet. It has a brilliant surface and an Edenic rapture of fruit. I’ll taste it again a couple times.

Without being this powerful, the 1995 vintage offered a similar botrytis, not the perfect “dry” powdery type but also not the dubious slimy type – something salty, “exotic,” and that vintage, forgotten now, turned out pretty well. My own tastes have changed, and the perfectly acceptable botrytis here is making me think it is administering corporal punishment to the fruit.

In other words, don’t mind me.

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2019 Schlossböckelheimer In Den Felsen Riesling Auslese   +

The big brother to the Meddersheimer; riper, sweeter, and at first glance, more interesting. But that’s me and porphyry, maybe. Still, there’s a dark side to porphyry Rieslings, as though they’d been steeped in moonlight-ripened plums. The wine tastes like the mystic-purple color of our morning-glories. Like lavender before all the parfumeurs synthesized and fucked with it. Like irises on a humid morning. Indeed, there’s a knobby branch linking this to some Kamptal Rieslings, as I have often inferred.

This wine is beautiful of its ilk, and I have no faults to find with it. It’s a beautiful example of a kind of wine toward which I am, sadly, lukewarm these days. I wonder also whether this has something to do with the season. It’s mid-August as I’m tasting, the summer is waning but still (though not today) brutal, and this is an autumnal wine, and so perhaps I am just misaligned. The dry wines weren’t “better” than this; they simply made more sense. In any case, this time the botrytis seems to be stitched into the wine as opposed to being layered over it.

But – me plus porphyry plus Riesling equals happiness.

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2023

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2021 Riesling Trocken

By now I approach the “smaller” 21 Trockens with guarded anticipation. This smells absolutely wonderful, but they very often do. The palate will tell, and the acid structure will tell the tell.

But wow, what a fragrance. It is the entire argument for Nahe Riesling. Hell, it’s the entire argument for Riesling, full stop. And like so many ‘21s, this is one color (or register or key signature or atmosphere, choose your metaphor) aromatically and a different one in the mouth. Briefly, this is (if you will) “yellow” and sweet aromatically, and green and rocky on the palate. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it could surprise you. You start with not-quite-ripe mirabelles and with yellow roses a day or two from opening and with a yellow apple that you grabbed from the fridge and that ought to warm up before you crunch into it. Essentially “sweet” fruit/flower aromas…..until the palate scrapes you with grassiness and herbs and resins and crushed rocks.

Yet the wine is balanced, however tautly, and it does not succumb to the sharpness of other ‘21s. It stings but not unpleasantly, and if this seems like damning with faint praise I think this wine is a TRIUMPH of the vintage in its deftness, purity and precision. The finish is long and salty. It’s a rare example of a Riesling of utter and absolute dryness that doesn’t taste mean or austere.

It’s also, in its way, a Hexamer classic, in its upward stretch, its sinewy, tensile muscle and its splash of icy freshness. The sheer vim is exhilarating! It may not be cuddly, but my palate’s doing a standing ovation.

As it happened I had a four day hiatus before I “tasted” this again, though we sipped it one evening while dinner was cooking. Today the aromas are riotous, and contain a pleasing hint of oxidation that registers as apricot, along with a deft and delicate surmise of a few grams of (welcome) RS. The wine’s even more likable, and I won’t keep it any longer.

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2020 Riesling Trocken Eisendell, auf der Südseite                        +

Eisendell is already a Gewann in the Rheingrafenberg, and Harald also wants us to know this comes from the south side of the vineyard. “Eisen” means iron, but I don’t know if there’s iron in the soil.

I usually like this wine, because I like mirabelle-plums and the wine usually reeks of them, as it does here, though we’re already seeing a ’20 vintage-fragrance taking priority. It smells good, kelpy and herbal. I’ve had dried sea-lettuce with this oddly exquisite aroma.

Okay; this is a sophisticated and intricate dry Riesling, easily the equal of wines from estates who…get more attention, let’s say, but who seldom make better wine than this. It has a green-leafy grip and overtones of lemon blossom and aloe vera. There’s all the gleam and brilliance of Hexamer at their best, and I can even indulge the curious phenolic finish that seems endemic to ’20. It offers a visible and explicit intricacy that’s riotous fun for palates that like to probe and analyze. The layered, lengthy palate gives you all the time you require.

For all its energy the wine has a kind of resting-face repose. It needn’t scowl to tell you it’s serious. A shimmering minerality pours out of the Jancis glass. It recalls one of my favorite Dönnhoff wines – albeit from a  different terroir – the Tonschiefer, with that wine’s leaping-salmon energy and wriggling brilliance. To which we add fists-full of sweet fern, and (unless I have palate-placebo) a dark ferrous note like a Nigl Piri

At times, not very often, we encounter a wine that displays the thrall of the cerebral, something replete with mind yet which isn’t brittle or aloof. This wine’s about as aloof as Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It retained all its virtues over the four days. It’s the kind of wine that rewards attention and will “show” less well if you sip it distractedly.

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2020 Riesling No. 1 Trocken Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg    ++

This is the ersatz-GG, which has undergone various names over the years, but which belongs with all those seriously serious wines. Alc is just 12.5%, refreshingly.

Back in the 70s I had (still have) a book covering all the Nahe vineyards, which indicated this was a place of Importance, unknown at the time and not all that much better known even today.

When GG justifies itself it offers para-fruit aromas and flavors – what I call the “Grand Cru Effect,” and which is on display now. There’s a certain urgency to the wine, it’s less serene than the Eisendell, but it avoids the overstatement of more “endowed” vintages and also seems pretty much free of RS. Is it less complex than its forbear? Maybe, but it’s also more elevated, more ambitious, more in-charge.

The site makes wines that beggar description. To me that’s a good thing. But it doesn’t address the question “what does it taste like?” because it tastes like many things that don’t show up on your aroma wheel and also it is more a matter of a dozen inferences than of a single blatant statement. This wine has the powdery, dispersed minerality I really cherish, but I’m not sure  it’s a “signature” element.  In my many years drinking these wines, the best I can do is: Rheingrafenberg is earthy and mineral, but it’s a refined sort of earthiness. It feels granitic the way Clos Ste. Hûne feels granitic, and in its dry form it shows a similar rectitude.

We see more discrete “fruit” in both riper years and sweeter bottlings, and it’s the usual tart-apple and mirabelle and plum blossom. Normally the minerality if more blunt than it is here, where it feels like it’s been ground into a petrichor-scented powder. There’s even a lovely jolt of mint at the end. This augurs for a new level of articulation and poise for Hexamer wines.

I keep thinking “understated rapture” but then that feels too literary, not to mention it makes no sense, rapture being, by its very nature, overt. As a felt sense, though, it depicts an authority of flavor and expressiveness that stays in the shade because the sun would burn its skin. The finish continues to linger, and the tertiary notes seem to say something about the terroir, even as it remains inchoate. Maybe this vineyard expresses best in its sweet wines….

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2020 Sauvignon Blanc Trocken                                                        +++

I hated that he planted this, but the wines made a believer out of me. Then he upped the ante by planting Scheurebe, which is even better.

I don’t despise Sauvignon Blanc. I wonder whether it belongs in Germany, but I keep getting my face rubbed in my prejudice by folks like Von Winning and Künstler and Hexamer. Does this add to the expressive possibilities for the variety? I could argue that it does and also that it doesn’t, but meanwhile I’m drinking some of the wines and loving them.

This wine makes me reach for descriptors one doesn’t often use for SB. It is, amazingly, beautiful, and it is replete with a quality of fruit that I don’t hesitate to describe as haunting. With 13% alc it is lighter than gauze. Everything that can be blatant and gaudy about the variety is present here in a weirdly ethereal form, such that you feel the thing has reached nirvana and doesn’t need to assert itself any more.

And with this wine I would indeed claim that an apotheosis of finesse is attained with no equivalents I’m aware of. To be so purely varietal yet display such restraint and subtlety is, in my experience, incomparable. The crazy length takes the form of an abiding perfume whose source you cannot find. Even the empty glass, where SB can be pretty uncouth, is perfect and evanescent here. 

A few furtive sips were taken one evening or another, but I was loath to see this bottle empty. Still am. Now, tasting it again on the 4th day, I approach it asking “Can it possibly be that good?” It is the tiniest bit more overt, but that only underscores the unfathomable finesse with which it began. Now it recalls the very best of the “Klassik” genre of the Styrian SBs, still among the world’s best. I don’t know how Harald did it, and I suspect he’s not entirely sure himself, but whatever it was, it resulted in the most subtle, gleaming and enticing SB I think I have ever tasted.

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2020 Grauburgunder Vom Porphyr Trocken

You know the story, right? Harald obtained some parcels in the volcanic sites of the central Nahe, and one of them was planted with Pinot Gris, and of course this would be removed after the harvest – and then the wine was tasted.

Some vintages have been maybe a little clunky. Some have been too woody. A few have been amazing. When it works it is a gesture of possibility for a variety that can be mundane or loutish or top-heavy, and which rarely (except maybe for Zind-Humbrecht) is grown on volcanic soil.

This wine isn’t “great,” and I’m still reeling from the celestial loveliness of the Sauvignon Blanc, but it did make me grin from ear to ear. Well hi there Mr. Original!

The usual volcanic twang is subdued in ’20, but there’s a kind of insistence of structure we hardly ever witness from PG – you will fit into a shape, damn you! – yet there’s plenty of PG varietality, such as it is! I mean, who can actually say what Pinot Gris tastes like? It’s usually a matter of body and texture and umami, yet if there actually is an inherence of flavor, you might almost glimpse it here. Almost! Because there’s wood to contend with – not obtrusive but present – and also an expressive soil.

Still, the highest octave of Pinot Gris is at least WTF interesting, right? Even if it doesn’t stand among his best vintages?

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2020 Riesling Porphyr                                                                      ++

This is the “other” estate Riesling, from the great terroir of the middle-Nahe, which is usually feinherb though not labeled as such. I’ve been known to say that porphyry is the great soil for Riesling, though I’d thank you for not blabbing this to my friends along the Mosel.

What do we have here? My successors have tended to prefer dry bottlings to the feinherbs on which I doted. This seems pretty dry. It’s also fabulously good. Alc is 12.5.  Yet the label doesn’t say “Trocken.” Make of it what you will. (As it turns out, the 16.8 g/l of RS is swallowed entirely by the ’20 structure, and the wine is one of those might-as-well-be-dry Rieslings.

It’s everything I ever wanted, you know; a wine that does not tell you whether it’s “sweet” or “dry” but that simply tastes like it was ordained to be exactly this very way. It whiffs magnificently of that smoky Chinese 5-spice juju of porphyry, and it’s also mineral, and it’s also wonderfully stinky-flowery and lifted along wafts of smoky peaches.

It’s Riesling below the lofty perquisites of Grand Cru, that nonetheless has everything we most deeply cherish about Riesling. Everything, perhaps, except explicit profundity, because what is profound here is woven into the wine’s innate delicacy. If I wanted a “house-Riesling” it would certainly be this.

Let me pause at this point to say that these are the most impressive dry wines, as a group, I have tasted to date from Hexamer. As I write I have sipped them while dinner was cooking, and with the meal, and all the wines drank well. I’m guarding every little drip of that Sauvignon Blanc, so don’t stop by because I won’t give you any. <cue fiendish laugh…>

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2021 Riesling Quarzit

It hails from a parcel in a small side valley that belongs with the single-site Rheingrafenberg (legally) but which has a different soil (actually), that being the eponymous quartzite. As a Qualitätswein it can be chaptalized, and usually is and probably is in a year like ’21, but most often this is minimal. It is also one of the wines that’s gotten drier over the years – so many wines grew over-sugary in the aughts – and which is a super-drinky Riesling for anyone who’s avoided the anti-sugar pathology.

Texture is salient here, and registers as snappy, zingy, beyond-“crisp,” and what the Germans call nervig, which sort of translates as high-strung. Sweetness is no more overt than in an old-school Mosel Kabinett – which is to say tart-apple. The wine itself is more mirabelle than apple, and the fruit is concentrated enough to run into the finish, which also is free from excessive sharpness – from any sharpness at all, in fact.

Sometimes I have to forget what I “know” to simply receive the wine, but it’s hard, because I can imagine the thinking and the choices that produced this result. If Harald were sitting here I’d tell him “You did good.” That said, the wine is actually two wines. There’s the mid-palate which is the taste of the fruit, and there’s the exoskeleton around it, which is the rather dramatic enactment of acidity and sweetness. As usual I have two different stems and I’m also tasting indoors and out, and this is a case where texture is one thing and “flavor” is another. In effect the wine is barely coherent, but this will please many tasters, who’ll appreciate what feels “dynamic” and really won’t displease anyone, except for piss-pots like me, who sometimes need to flip the off switch on the deconstruction motor.

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2020 Riesling Kabinett, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg

I know, as I write my erstwhile partners are staging tastings where they’re probably showing the ’22 from here. The samples I’m now tasting, packed early summer 2022, consisted of what was bottled at the time, and took many months to reach me. I could have power-tasted through them but opted not to. For the first time in my life I can honor these wines by not power-tasting them, and that is what drives this work. If I’m not “current,” so be it. Nor do I presume to be the “reviewer-of-record.” The wine exists, it’s sitting here in my glass(es), and here’s what happened.

What happens first here is a bunch of sponti aromas. When these dissipate we’re left with something I’ll call “sultry bruised plums.” This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just the way it is. The palate will tell.

It tastes “late,” like it was picked closer to the end than to the start of harvest. It has the ’20 phenolics. It has the vintage’s “green” elements (Taiwan oolongs, balsam fir, wintergreen, lime blossom); it’s pungent and ripe but the palate is snappier than the fragrances. It has some of the attitude of farm ciders.

A curious and interesting wine in every sense. But also anomalous.  The phenolic bite at the end is conspicuous, and following on the heels of the difficult initial aromas and the highly unusual fruit-expression, it feels like a wine that escaped from its cage. Could a different impression be had? I wonder.

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2020 Riesling Spätlese, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg         +

Sniff this to glean the vintage-aroma of ’20 Rieslings. Describe it as comes naturally to you. It is quite definite, not subtle at all. To the descriptors I used above, I’d add osmanthus, lemon balm, and applesauce, but the leading edge is green.

The palate here is quite beautiful. Unlike the Kabinett, here the seams do not show. It’s just a lovely portrait of fruit in a highly refined form. 2020, though, is not crystalline, which works to this wine’s advantage. There’s a thickness here, and I’d be shocked if the extract wasn’t unusually high.

The usual Hexamer wine is a thing that soars and glides and you can watch the radiance bounce off it. Not this! This is earthbound and with a heavy tread. Not that the wine is heavy, but it’s a gripping, solid thing, like pasta with a lot of chew. It also does a wonderful thing a few rare Spätlesen can do; it pulls toward dryness as it moves through the palate, and it finishes effectively dry. It does this without overt acidity, just with ideal acidity, the kind that only manifests on the tertiary finish and even then if you happen to be looking for it. 

The first finish is meyer-lemon and white pepper and then it yields to the shady green things, and then the phenols arrive and the whole thing clings and….”lingers?”  Not really. It parks itself in your sensorium and leaves when it’s good and ready.

It isn’t excessively sweet, but this whole matter of sweetness is distorted today. The palate habituates to repeated input, and back when most German Rieslings were sweet you’d taste  a slew of them and not notice the sweetness any more. Now that most of them are dry, and most of the dry ones are good, the sweet wine is awfully conspicuous, and I think that we can respond improperly to a wine like this because it’s such a shock after 10-12 dry wines. In any event, this is the class among the sweet wines in this particular carton, and when my palate insists there is “an awful lot of sugar here,” I believe my palate is incorrect.

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2020 Riesling Auslese, Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg

Already a lot of gold in the color. And the alc, at 8%, is a half percent above the Spätlese. The wine has a BA-fragrance and loads of botrytis, not all of it clement.

This follows into the wine, which isn’t my “type” of wine and also is atypical for Hexamer, whose “sweet” wines are usually streamlined and sleek.

I should recuse myself, really, because I don’t enjoy this type of wine any more. Others do, and I respect that. The wine is not without virtues. It improves as the medicinal scrim of botrytis gives way. There’s a sense in which it’s an intensification of the extract-driven Spätlese; as this genre goes, this one’s a muscular example.

I’ll give it some time and see what happens.

What happens is, it turns into one of those botrytis-driven wines wherein a simulacrum of minerality is enacted, and which is so salty you don’t really register the sweetness. If you like botrytis you’ll go nuts over this wine. It isn’t the form of botrytis I happen to prefer – I like it clean and malty – but there’s plenty of acid-steel and a dried-fruit component some may find exotic. Meanwhile I’ll pour myself another glass of Spätlese, if I may…..

2024

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2022 Riesling Trocken                                                                         +

Their website refers to “Mirabelle, papaya, and lemon” all of which make sense but do not address the strongly herbal nature also included.

After the often-brisk attack of the 2021s, this wine has the serenity of perfection. I don’t mean perfection in a divine sense, but rather an assembly of components each delicious in itself and amazingly tasty as a whole. I do not recall a better “estate-dry” Riesling from here. It has everything in its unpretentious form, among which its sheer clinging length is most impressive.

Sometimes “herbal” can refer to the chicorees or the brassicas or to other things showing pyrazine or sharpness, but here it’s a panoply of the “sweet” green beings, wintergreen, balsam, anise hyssop, high-altitude oolong teas, all delivered with energy but without bite. If you served it overchilled you’d encounter some phenolics (and you’d suppress much of its fruit) but at cellar temp (50º today) it’s ideal.

That said, ’22 begins to show a vintage-tone I’d want to keep an eye on, unless you do the sensible thing and drink this before the end of this summer. The last vintage with these notes was 2014, some of which deteriorated and some of which blossomed, but don’t ask me to forecast what these wines will do.

(With air, and from the Jancis glass the wine acquires a redcurrant and currant-leaf  character, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Harald placed a few drops of Scheurebe into this.)

Hat’s off, brother; you done good!

With a SECOND LOOK the wine holds steady, and when you read of my doubts about the next ones, I can’t say why this wine is so successful, except to wonder whether it came from more distant locations or if I’m just off base. Not about this wine, which is kicking ass, but about the others. Hmmmm.

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2022 Riesling Trocken Schlossböckelheimer In Den Felsen

“Among the cliffs” on volcanic soil, as shows with the first enticing fragrance. I have a spice mix from a local artisan of spices who has a shop called Curio where she sells individual spices and also blends she creates. She has one called “Kandy Spice,” describes as a “Sri Lankan cinnamon & spice blend,” which comprises fennel, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, black pepper, star anise, cardamom, clove and mace. I tell you this so that you’ll know WTF I mean when I say that volcanic-grown Rieslings smell like “Kandy Spice,” because they always do.

Always juicier and more exotic than the Meddersheimers, this one excels by its finishing wash of minerality. Indeed for all its mysterious spicy flavors, the wine works vertical and firm, with more vertebrae than one expects from these typically feline creatures.

It's a surprising wine! It has some of the affects of the (typical) “GG” category, a sort of fervid expressiveness and also the plenitude of crushed-rock minerality. The ’22 aroma is present too, though it is soon overtaken by all these spices and plums and lemon blossom. Each sip has been a little different, but the best ones have been quite good, if (again) rather self-serious.

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2022 Riesling Porphyr                                                                        +

The bottle they sent me had no back label, in which the designation “feinherb” may have appeared. I doubt they want their local customers to infer residual sugar by the absence of “Trocken” on the label.

But feinherb it is. In my wheelhouse in many ways; the perfect sugar balance, the twang of volcanic soils, a gestalt that suits them perfectly. It’s one of those “If-you-could-only-drink-just-one-riesling-which-one-would-it-be” candidates.

In essence you take the “Kandy Spice” character and just add peaches. Maybe not even something as sweet as peaches; maybe Cox’s Orange Pippins, and maybe even lychees, or some Laotian fruit we never see over here.

Dear reader – I try to shrink away from telling you what to buy, because I’m more invested in getting to some basic heart of the tasting experience, but I’m going to surmount that reticence so that I can say: This is a wine you should buy every vintage, if you love Riesling.

And it is just the perfect degree of un-polished. It hasn’t trimmed its nails, so that it can scratch the itch.

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2022 Weissburgunder Trocken

Sometimes I have to infer why a vintner sent what he sent. I didn’t ask for Pinot Blanc, by which I surmise he must be happy with this wine. So let’s see why.

Okay, got it: I see why. The wine is a triumph over blandness (the sin of many Pinot Blancs) and yet it remains modest in its ambitions and works well in that context.

Among (what I still call) my guys, there’s plenty of PB. It’s a dry wine for clients who find Riesling too acidulous but still wish to drink something dry. But it can also be delicious and can also have a lot of character, and if I think about Selbach or Ziereisen or Dautel or Von Winning or Darting I find I have a plenitude of tasty and desirable wines from this variety. Hexamer brings the Nahe crunch to the equation, and I’m glad he didn’t pimp the wine with wood (though he has a “better” cuvée that’s probably, ah, more spectacular…)

In effect he nailed this. In its unassuming way it does the job with vigor and honor. I’d drink it joyfully if there was pike-perch on my plate and good friends around the table and I didn’t want to think about the wine but I wanted it to be good, and this one is, the kind where somebody says “Let’s get another bottle” because the talk is good and everyone is happy and there’s no way the evening should end any time soon.

With another taste, it’s just a wine that works, not a plump or seductive wine but a fresh stone-driven wine whose neutrality of fruit is a virtue. It comes from two plots, one in the Altenberg and the other, interestingly, in (what is now) Harald’s monopole Eisendell, that little sub-section of Rheingrafenberg.

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2022 Sauvignon Blanc Trocken                                                                                      +

One of the more conspicuous surprises of my wine tasting life was how much I liked Hexamer Sauvignon Blanc, I grape I begged him not to plant, a fact he was tactful enough not to rub my face in.

After missing the bus in ’21 – did anyone make decent SB in Germany that year? – this one’s back in form, which is to say it’s subtle for the variety, and limpid and juicy and fresh, and I’m telling you now, I’m gonna be pissed off when this bottle’s empty.

I understand there are drinkers who want SB to be blatant, and I get it because that’s how I want Scheurebe to be. But this SB is a wine for people who appreciate the virtues of Riesling but who dabble, from time to time, in something a little more kinky. There are 99 ways for SB to be vulgar and this isn’t one of them.

It is varietally precise, and seen simply as a wine it is completely delicious and delightful. Nor does it have any of the “2022 aroma.” Interesting, huh? We really need to STAND AND APPLAUD for a wine that sidesteps every annoying thing about Sauvignon Blanc while still showing its innate nature.

It's planted in the Altenberg, as is the Scheurebe, in a parcel with a little more loam. I cannot fathom why or how these two wines have none of the dubious characteristics of the Rieslings – but they don’t. On second look this is a little more emphatic aromatically, yet the palate is, if anything, even better, more faceted and gravelly. For this sometimes obstreperous variety, Mr. Hexamer’s wine is an apex of class and refinement.

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2022 Scheurebe Trocken                                                                              +                                          

Considerably less ripe than the SB (10.5% versus 12% alc) and so the full spectrum of Scheu aromas are only embryonic. What is here is everything it should be, and when the wine reaches the palate, a surprise awaits.

Because this is an especially winning wine, with a clement and magnetic nature that ropes you in, so that you are seduced by an irresistibly beautiful flavor in which the character of “Scheurebe” is almost ancillary.

Almost! You can argue that subtle Scheurebe makes no cognitive sense; if you like the variety you want it to blaze. Here it’s like a hyacinth in the next room over, distinct but tactful. Classy! When’s the last time you saw that word applied to Scheurebe, let alone a dry version with all its orneriness exposed? Here it’s just a delicate voice whispering cassis and anise, except that the whisper doesn’t perish, but lingers on into the also-tasty finish.

You know what? This wine doesn’t need a lot of language. It leads with absolutely delectable fruit, and that’s really all that matters.

With the SECOND TASTING the wine firmed up (as did the Sauvignon) and became twice the wine it was when first opened. I’m a little sorry to even say this, but in the ’22 vintage Harald’s best wines might just be these “other” varieties.

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2022 Spätburgunder Weissherbst                              glug glug glug!

With 11% alc you can infer feinherb. Some time in the last 13 years this wine was suddenly discovered by a restaurant in my home town (Boston) and they went through several dozen cases pouring it by the glass. The subtle sweetness not only didn’t trouble them; it was welcome. We hurried to re-supply them, and all of us were surprised at the sudden vogue. (It reminded us of a similarly improbable discovery a sommelier made, of the Darting Pinot Meunier, which soared into orbit when a Manhattan opinion-leader got behind it. I had a good 75 wines in my portfolio where that could have transpired and didn’t, but there’s a lot of stuff in everyone’s bandwidth.)

This is an instance where a few words will do better than a lot of words. This wine is stupid delicious, and that’s really all there is to it.

Two observations. One, we need to stop and praise Harald Hexamer, whose ambitions extend to making Rieslings of the Nth degree of resonance and complexity, and who still seems to find the time to make something as perfect as this. And two, this is the second time in two days I’ve had a wine that was stupid delicious, and apart from wondering how these stupid wines actually seem to raise your IQ, I’d like to give proper praise to the other wine – a Valpolicella classico superior from Rubinelli Vajol, which I  didn’t so much “drink” as INHALE.

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2021 Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese

This has a lot of color for the vintage and for a wine so young. The first aromas are reticent but pure. And I don’t think I’m fantasizing a bit of Eiswein flavor in here. It would account for the color and for the aromatic reticence (due to its concentration) and for the somewhat fervently expressive acidity.

The wine is certainly impressive and freaky but I confess I don’t know what to do with it. It’s overly brooding to drink now for sensual pleasure, though I note the slow-w-w emergence of pickled ginger and passion fruit. Even the empty glass is taciturn and cagey. And so, for now, I see the wine as a highly interesting sort of museum-piece rather than something I thirst to consume.

Yet it improved continually over several days, and by the end I was sad to see the bottle empty. The classic Hexamer fruit emerged from its carapace of acidity, and the wine – which does not in fact contain any Eiswein – is one of those imperturbably concentrated ‘21s that’s almost too dense for its own good – unless you have the patience to wait.

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2012 Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spätlese             +

The vintage is not a misprint. Years ago I asked a few growers to hold some wine back for us to show ten years post-vintage. This is one such. I mean, yay me.

TDN geeks will talk of “petrol” but for me that’s a sign of a ripe-vintage Riesling in its adolescence with further development in store.

The wine is beautiful and a complete pleasure to drink. There’s already a finely complex estery mid palate, a juicy and generous texture, finely delineated fruit, and – I know you’ll hate me for this – the maple aroma of candy-cap mushrooms. (If you think I’m crazy, go to FarWestFungi and get some dried candy caps and thentell me you don’t smell maple syrup.) There’s also the delicate “Kandy Spice” mélange that feints at clove and cinnamon but doesn’t quite get there.

The acidity is vigorous but not clamorous, and the malty flavors suggest clean botrytis – but I may be wrong.

So, a 10-year old Spätlese on the threshold of its ideal drinking life. For me it’s still a little too young, but I’ll gladly make short work of this here bottle. For what it’s worth, my note in 2013 doesn’t refer to botrytis, but I loved the wine then and still do.

2021
2023
2024
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