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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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….)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.