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Weingut Strub 1710

These are old, old friends. Don’t expect me to be “objective,” but do expect me to be professional.

Tasting Year



2020 Riesling Trocken (A.P. 05/21)

2020 Riesling Nierstein (Trocken) (A.P. 04/21)

Two distinct sets of notes here, apart from my habit of repeated tasting. In italics are the notes I took prior to my conversation with Sebastian Strub.

So, these are two dry estate wines, separated by a half-percent alc (in favor of the Nierstein with its 12%), and intended to adapt to the estate-then-village provisions in the upcoming wine law. That said, as far as I know Strub has no vineyards outside of Nierstein and so both of these are (technically) Niersteiners, separated by a winery-internal pecking order established by proprietor/cellarmaster Sebastian Strub.

There are two families of soils in Strub’s holdings – and thus two families of flavor. South of the town there’s a limestone hill/plateau, on the bottom of which is a sheltered site with clay and veins of limestone. These are Paterberg and Brückchen respectively.

North of town is the famous red-slope with its weathered sandstone on a bedrock of slate – an unusual combination, which has made Nierstein famous. These are the GGs. Most Strub cuvées are combinations of the two, though the GG sites are too valuable to sacrifice too much of their fruit to a blend. The wine in question here seems to have at least a little red-soil wine – its perfume is evident, unless I imagine it – but feels mostly like Brückchen’s clay sub-sites.

Turns out I was correct about this.

The wine is snappy and effective, if a bit ascetic for my personal preference. That probably has to do with ’20, as I’ve liked the wine more from warmer-feeling vintages. It’s a modern, fragrant wine for people who prefer a dry style that’s very brisk indeed. Like most of Strub’s wines, it benefits from air, and on the 3rd day it was more appealing, without altering its basic form, its steely modern leanness.

The Niersteiner, in my view, is better. The texture is juicier, the dryness doesn’t bite, and there’s simply more concentration, as though a larger proportion of older vines went into it. The red-soil influence seems greater; the scent of charcuterie is the giveaway.

So, it happens this is exclusively red soil, in fact from the middle of the Orbel hill. This is steep, and it’s the final site on the red slope. The soil is rockier, as are the wines; Orbel always needs 2-3 years to show. Why, then, is it so “present” now? It transpires the wine underwent malo, in the middle of the fermentation, undetectable organoleptically – no diacetyl – and was only discovered to have occurred during the lab analysis required for a wine to have it’s A.P. number. 

The wine is also a sponti, made in cask and on its primary lees for 5-6 months. (In general Sebastian’s spontis don’t have the usual aroma, which he says has to do with the actual flora in his particular cellar, and with his practice of fermenting a clear must.)

It’s very dry, near zero RS, but the texture is less aggressive. Orbel is an obscure citizen of the red slope, yet one could argue it’s 1er Cru in quality.

The MacNeil Crisp & Fresh is kind to it, yet it was strikingly unkind to the preceding wine, for which it would seem to have been conceived. I’m finding that glass to be unpredictable.


2020 Grüner Veltliner Trocken

My old friend Walter Strub planted GV some fifteen years ago, and always said the variety was once found more often in Rheinhessen, before it was supplanted by the higher-yielding Silvaner (which was in turn supplanted by the even-higher yielding Müller-Thurgau). It’s usually the first wine bottled, and the A.P number is indeed 01/21.

For whatever reason it tends to be temperamental about bottling. It was always a happy beast in cask and went deep into a shell upon bottling, only to emerge many months later. I say that because this ’20 is unusually present at this stage. And more than usually varietal. It is clearly GV, especially on the finish. It’s a light rendition, and if you know the grape well, you might miss the typical Austrian markers of loess or urgestein.

I’d rather drink this than either of the previous Rieslings, notwithstanding the serious intent of the Niersteiner. It’s simply better balanced, which is to say less driven by sharpness. It also shows the virtues of neutrality allied to tastiness. It has just enough mojo to be expressive and just enough discretion to be helpful. It also has decent length for its lightness.



2020 Silvaner Trocken                                                                +

This could well be the most interesting wine Strubs are currently making.

Sebastian’s a lover of Franken wines, and obtained the vine material from that region (and from its clones) after having to wait four years. It produces loose clusters without a lot of grapes, and as if that weren’t enough, it’s planted in excellent land; the red-soil site Rosenberg, just at the top of the Pettenthal hill as it yields to the plateau.

Strubs are believers in Silvaner. A few years back, they made (I think) an accidental Feinherb when a tank stopped fermenting with some RS, and I thought that wine was excellent, and singled it out for high praise, both for its inherent quality and for its originality. But it didn’t sell for us, and Strubs opted to make it dry from then on.

There’s a half percent less alcohol than the GV, but a much riper aroma, and on the palate an impressive whomp of minerality and muscle. It’s closer to the nature of Franken Silvaner than to what one might have expected from Rheinhessen.

I can imagine Sebastian reading these words and thinking “Well of course, Terry’s getting older and he doesn’t like so much acidity any more,” which is true, but doesn’t pertain to this particular wine. Certainly it is “gentle” compared to the Rieslings, but acidity is not discernibly absent, and is actually replaced by the really lovely minerality and concentration. Flavors of chervil and dill seed peek out from behind the stony corpulence, as does a blueberry nuance I associate with Rosenberg.

A few tiny grams of RS speak in an almost inaudible whisper. I hesitated to say so. The wine is dry. It’s just not…punishing. It smiles a little. I think it’s an unsung hero for this winery. I think it deserves a vogue. I’m no longer a merchant, but I’d push it if I were. Probably fruitlessly, but there you go. My “commercial instincts,” such as they were, were like a flickering cell phone signal.


2019 Riesling “Im Taubennest” Niersteiner Oelberg Trocken  +

This is in effect the GG. Taubennest is the cadaster name for the best parcel in the GG site Oelberg. It’s released, like the GGs, a in the second year after the vintage. (It also sits in a stupid-heavy bottle, from which no one seems to be immune.)

Oelberg is positioned where the red-soil hillside starts turning away from the Rhine and toward the south, facing over Nierstein itself. Signature flavors are the aforementioned charcuterie, plus peach and cantaloupe, and more improbably, milk-chocolate. This ’19 feels larger-scaled than its 12.5% alc would suggest. The wine is imposingly serious, though at the moment it’s showing as much of the vintage-aroma of ’19 as the site aroma of Taubennest. It’s adamant, rich and succulent, though an underlying chomp of mineral stops it being juicy.

The wine isn’t sweet – indeed it is quite certainly not sweet – but it does exhale a lovely “feel” of sweetness, from what I surmise is aging in cask as opposed to steel. If I’m right (and I think I am) it suits the wine. Yet you could make the opposite case quite plausibly! “The wine is juicy enough, and we think stainless steel brings out its minerality and gives a firmer structure,” is a valid argument, or would be.

Let’s watch this over the days. It is famously coquettish.

On day-3 the cask aromas emerge, reminding me of certain Dönnhoff wines – that estate is really masterly in its use of wood. I have the feeling I could taste this twenty times and have fifteen different impressions. The ’19 pumpkin/squash character plus the caskiness turn this into a vetiver and meadow-flower portrait suggesting….Grüner Veltliner. The wine is vinous, spherical, a little indistinct for people who like a more detailed Riesling, but it’s generous and tasty in its analog manner.



2018 Riesling “Im Taubennest” Niersteiner Oelberg Trocken  ++

This I tasted as a cask sample in early 2019, and offered to my customers. I don’t think I’ve tasted it since, so thanks to Sebastian for sending it.

It’s all sponti, and shows the most appealing side of that approach. I didn’t register it with the ’19. 

This has everything I wanted from the ’19. Its weight is differently dispersed, spread more elegantly over the whole shape of the wine. It’s still big-&-strong because that is its nature, but here it is more graceful. (“Wait a year, the ’19 will go that way too,” I can hear Sebastian admonishing.) I’m hearing the internal voice whereby a GG asserts its right to the designation. How is that accomplished, you might ask?

Easier asked than answered! But I’ll try. First, a quality of poise and repose. No need to assert, confident in its attributes. Then – and this is the contentious part – an inherently fascinating flavor that says “This is apart from the norm.”  Then, ideally, a sort of serene intensity, a sense of having been charged with an incandescence. Too abstract, I know. Okay, the flavor must be compelling, distinctive and long. We can agree on that, right?

All I know is that the 2018 vintage of this wine is like watching a 747 on its glide path to landing. Have you ever done it? The monstrous machine seems to be gliding in slow motion, and the hugeness and the gliding and the sheer unlikeliness of it all are the elements in play here, in this amazing wine that feels effortless.

I think it’s the best dry Riesling the estate has ever made. It recalls Spreitzer’s Rosengarten GG in its fruit-forward style within which a subtle minerality is embedded.

I have the two vintages side by side in empty glasses. The ’18 smells like fresh-cut freesias; it is flowery and a little wild. The ’19 is more chocolate and bergamot.



2019 Riesling “Thal” Niersteiner Hipping (Feinherb)

Again a cadaster name. 

I stepped outside to taste this, and was assaulted by someone’s fabric-softener sheets, and had to rush back in. Damn those soft fabrics.

Hipping is famously obdurate in its youth, and this wine isn’t so enticing out of the gate. I suspect it will emerge, as it usually does, and Feinherb tends to be the genius-spot for Strub Riesling – so we shall see. It’s poised on the racy side. Acidity isn’t aggressive but is discernible. Sweetness is perhaps a little too sparing. And it demands time in the glass, as SO2 is a shroud when the wine is poured.

I have two glasses, one fresh-poured and another that’s sat for ten minutes, and they are two distinct worlds. When the wine is liberated it shows the classic Hipping apple(s) and vigor, and seems less sweet-sour. It’s almost poetic from the Jancis glass. (As it should be from such a fine terroir…)

Day-2 shows the euphoric aromas I’d come to expect. The palate remains angular, with sweetness poking out blatantly, as it always does when it’s not quite enough. The wine is somewhat emphatically zingy and spicy, and if you like that type of wine you’ll like this more than I do.


2020 Soil To Soul, Riesling

Kabinett appears on the back label.

The red soils influence the fragrances. It’s the “brand” wine with RS, though never with much RS, on purpose.

This ’20 is an excellent rendition of the wine; balanced, salty, suave, on the dry side, animated and conversational, with a lot of call-response among the charcuterie and the stony backbone from the limestone sites. Serrano ham with warm rocks.

It’s everything it should be. I don’t recall a better vintage.


2020 Riesling “Herzstück” Niersteiner Brückchen

Kabinett appears on the back label.

This “heart-section” is a vein of limestone that emerges from the clay. Brückchen is an anomaly, a warm microclimate but a slow-to-warm soil (clay), meaning you get must-weight “ripeness” with high acidity and low pH, though this is mitigated from the limestone. Still, the wine isn’t warm and fluffy. It tends to agitate your gums.

It has body, density and crunch, and classic limestone flavors of lemon-grass, ylang-ylang and mints. With air it starts to show quince and ginger. It’s rare to see such high-toned flavors in a wine with such material muscularity. It felt silkier from the Jancis, and juicier from my simple Spiegelau. As it’s all free-run juice, you could infer that the Jancis is the most truthful expression.

It’s something of a quirky original, not typical for what one thinks of “Rheinhessen” and not especially typical of Nierstein, if you have in mind the red slope. Yet for all that the wine could flirt with brusqueness, it’s actually curiously classy. It will help if you relish a vigorous acidity.


2020 Riesling Kabinett, Niersteiner Hipping                                  +

With as much sheer vigor as the Brückchen, this plays in a different key entirely.

It is of course in the heart of the Red Slope, yet Hipping stands a little apart. There’s a substantial difference between its (very) steep sections and the large flat sections nearer to the Rhine.  This hails from a punishingly steep cadaster called Fockenberg (probably named by the poor souls who had to work it…)This steep material can seem to feint toward Mosel, yet with the sweet-smokiness for which these sites are famous. Its downstream neighbor Pettenthal is silker and more obviously a “noble” site, while its other neighbor Oelberg is juicier and richer, and both of these are “present” earlier than Hipping, which seems to need a year or two.

But this is a rockin’ good Kabinett, and the RS balance is perfect, the wine feels drier than the Feinherb (because it has absorbed its sweetness in turn because there was enough sweetness and really, don’t get me started again….), and it has the fibrous texture of the apple skin – it’s truly like wrapping a slice of Gala apple in a piece of Parma ham – not to mention it shows a candor and forthrightness that are generous and companionable.


2020 Riesling Kabinett, Niersteiner Pettenthal                             +

For many observers this site is hors classe along the red slope, as one sniff of this wine will indicate. Sebastian has managed to obtain more holdings here, thanks to a swop with another grower who wanted land he could work by machine. Included in the acquisition were two rows of Silvaner, of all things.

And again, we have a seamlessly balanced Kabinett. This is less common than one might suppose. Sometimes they’re too ripe, and sometimes you feel them being forced into a constriction by a grower who (correctly!) wants a Kabinett to be “light.” This, on the other hand, tastes like it was placed in the glass by the wisest of angels, from whose hands everything tastes perfect and effortless.

Hipping is a gorgeous blob of flavor, one nice mouthfilling bit of happiness, while Pettenthal is more feline, curvacious, serpentine, and while it’s smokier than the Hipping, it is also more mineral. But it isn’t etched to the Nth degree of detail or intricacy; that isn’t Strub’s style. They don’t make “molecular” wines. What they make, from their top vineyards, are wines that are deft, generous, honest and classy.


2020 Riesling Spätlese, Niersteiner Paterberg

Old-ish vines from the limestone plateau have created a track record of zizzy whipsaw Späts, and I expected the ’20 to really twang my wires. But the ever-older vines done foiled my expectations!

To be sure, there’s plenty of zip in the picture, and even a tiny nuance of celery-leaf, but if you’ve come to like this wine because of its lemon-grass-ness, you will be happy once again.

The wine is full of juniper and mountain herbs (tansy comes to mind), and I don’t know of another German Riesling quite like it.


2021 Grüner Veltliner Trocken

Sebastian Strub’s father (my friend Walter) planted this variety around twenty years ago, after tasting a number of examples over here in the States on a pre-arrival tasting tour. He told me it was traditional in Rheinhessen but had been supplanted by the higher-yielding Silvaner. At the moment I only know of this one, plus one from Gunter Künstler. Perhaps there are others?

Always the first wine to be bottled from the new vintage, it tends to be rapturously engaging at first, then it retreats and becomes a “basic dry wine,” and then, sometimes, it comes back. This ’21 is one of those.

I have still-open samples of some of the Bründlmayers I tasted last week, and while that’s an invidious comparison, it sheds some light on this chipper young guy. This is always a successful wine and in some years it has a claim to stake. That said, it isn’t exactly a Grüner Veltliner claim, because it only expresses that particular set of characteristics through a scrim. What it is in ’21 is a charming dry white wine with inferences of GV, almost as though it was a gemischter satz with a lot of GV in the mix. 

But we’re not seeking a lofty purpose here. It does the job, it’s more than innocuous, and in some ways you wish it never went into the bottle, but was served direct from the tank at a Heurige on a mild Spring evening.

Second time through, a couple days later, and the wine remains snappy and useful, and discernibly but not emphatically varietal.



2021 Silvaner Trocken                                                                         +

From the first vintage of this newly re-introduced variety, something was clearly happening. The vine material came from Franken and the wine shows it. The entire second “act” of flavor is intensely mineral and focused. Venerable gentlemen like me will recall the bland flaccid old Rheinhessen Silvaners, whose demise was not lamented in the least, but it took some courage to replant the variety, let alone to stake a claim as convincing as this. Because this wine is shockingly good.

All the top-Cru Rieslings are waiting in the wings, and they are important “fine” wines of the type to which we pay our highest attention, as we should. And with that in mind, I think there is no better wine from the estate than this one. If you tasted it, perhaps along with Wagner-Stempel’s striking bottling, you could well ask “Wait, is this supposed to be an insignificant variety?”

Okay, we start out with a diffused umami-driven fragrance that has some of the facsimile of maple we see in candy-cap mushrooms. And speaking of mushrooms, we also sense the piopppini or the so-called “chestnut” mushrooms or even the hon shimeji, riding below top notes of chervil and fennel frond. But it’s the middle and finish where this wine suddenly attains “stature,” because we have a clinging and enveloping length we couldn’t have predicted. (That may be due to its origin in terroir, as it hails from a red-soil site just above the Pettenthal, called Rosenberg.)

Certainly there’s the Silvaner earthiness, but it isn’t a crude earthiness. It’s a wine that tells a beautiful and interesting story. I’ve tasted it twice now, and sipped it once – but I believe I shall indulge my fat ass and drink the rest of this bottle, thank you very much.


2021 Silvaner Niersteiner Pettenthal                                               +

Trocken on the back label, and 13% alc compared to 12% for its sibling.

Sebastian grabbed a parcel in the “GG” site Pettenthal, and was eager and delighted. And the parcel was planed with Silvaner. Now that’s a real old-timer’s sensibility; maybe Riesling was “too much trouble,” or maybe Silvaner was accorded the respect to allow it to belong in a top Riesling vineyard. All I can tell you is, this smells like Pettenthal.

Tastes like it too. It lets us enjoy a rare and revealing confrontation, because we know this vineyard by virtue of Riesling, but here it is (if you will) narrated by a different voice, and yet the music is still the music.

If I’m being really nit-picky I could question a bit of top-heaviness from the alcohol, but that’s otiose; it loses the gestalt of the thing, and walks away from a moment of meaning. Of course it’s not as slender or as delicate as a Riesling would be, but the ur flavors are there, the tangelo and Satsuma and even the passion fruit. It has a solidity that makes me think of old vines. Sebastian probably assumed he’d pull the Silvaner out to plant with Riesling, but this wine could be giving him second thoughts….

Though it is ostensibly finer than the previous wine, it is also a little less gracious. It shows a little funk and is perhaps overly assertive, and yet these cavils dissolve among the many remarkable facets of this singular critter.


2021 Riesling Nierstein                                                                       +

The village-level wine. Trocken on the back label, which irritates me a little. Must we assume such wines are invariably dry? Granted Strub has a graphic symbol on their bottles that indicate sweetness levels, but this isn’t self-explanatory.

This is a red-soil Riesling (usually Orbel) and is a jump ahead of the basic estate-dry. This has quite the fetching aroma. Is it too simplistic to say that the wine works? What I mean is, you have a pretty aroma, and then you have a pleasingly mineral solidity on the palate, and so you have a kind of transfer from “pretty” to “firm” and this is interesting and makes you think the wine has embedded facets that you don’t taste right away. A wine that “works” is one that surprises you and stimulates your curiosity. There’s a counterpoint. In this case the mid-palate mineral is so strong it washes into the finish in a stream of scree, yet that early fruit doesn’t disappear, but takes its place in the background, visibly.

I waited for the ’21 sharpness to appear on the finish, but it didn’t quite. There’s a briskness one might find brash, but that’s ’21, and this is one of its successes, an interesting and sophisticated wine that prefers the texture from the basic Spiegelau to the over-explicit exposure from the Jancis.

48 hours later, there’s an aroma some tasters might describe as “lactic,” if I get their meaning. (I never really did, however much I tried.) I’m using only the Jancis glass, and it’s still working against the wine. But I did something weird and poured a little into an old INAO glass, which I have around for Sherries and for quick and casual tasting, and which I have never used for these reports. It radically alters the wine’s texture, making it markedly juicier and softening the clipped diction from the Jancis, for which one sacrifices some flavor details. I’d accept that bargain, in fact, because it’s simply a nicer wine from this stem.

Each time this happens I worry about becoming “wine-glass-nerd-boy” but the larger issue is, we don’t know what a wine tastes like intrinsically, but only from the glass we happen to have used. And yes, I’ve tried glugging them straight from the bottle but have yet to be enlightened. Don’t you think tasters/writers owe us the details of what glass(es) they used?

My fourth and final time through, I contrasted Spiegelau with MacNeil (Crisp & Fresh) and found it equally but differently successful from both. MacNeil gives middle warmth with some sacrifice of specificity; Spiegelau is entirely specific and a little aloof in its affect. In this case, MacNeil hums and Spiegelau explains.

You might infer that I have zillions of types of stems, but I don’t. Not counting sparkling wine glasses, I have ten and use six or seven. Among those I favor Jancis and my basic Spiegelau white wine. The others are “exotics” I use for outlier wines, or which I dip into for idle curiosity. I could reduce it to three if I had to: the two already cited, and the Riedel Chianti Classico. Between these I’d have 95% of my needs met.


2020 Riesling Steillage Niersteiner Orbel

Again Trocken on the back label, and sadly a PRETENTIOUS HEAVY BOTTLE. Don’t do it, Strubs!

Orbel is an unheralded site, at least a 1er Cru, and this wine comes from its steepest section. It’s Rotliegend, a.k.a. red soil, in this case weathered sandstone over slate. The so-called “red hill” faces the Rhine with a southeast exposure before turning away from the river and heading due west – which means a due south exposure. Orbel is as far as it goes. The soil, too, is less weathered here, and is rocky enough to preclude working the vineyard in weak-soled footwear.

Orbel can be screechy, which is maybe why it’s underrated. They can be rough-surfaced when young, but who keeps them long enough to watch what they do later?

This smells excellent; it smells like a wine from significant land. It’s equal parts crazy-ass mineral and mouth-watering charcuterie. It enters the palate with impressive complexity and verve. It then swerves and becomes a ’20, with the gnarly ground-up-twigs finish so often found. Some of them also have an ashen note; this one does. The vintage is really pitiless in a way, because here’s a wine with many impressive attributes, and you’re thinking “This is impressive stuff,” and then ’20 makes a snide remark and walks out of the party. Is the vintage having an especially insolent puberty? Because I liked it more last year.

Honestly, this is such a beautiful wine in so many ways that it hurts to find it objectionable in any way. We could agree to focus on its excellent points, which means in practice that we drink the wine and don’t stick around for the dissonant finish to appear. That’s what I’d do. I oblige myself to taste all the way through a wine, but that’s the “taster’s” world. Or else I’m just a big old meanie. 

Like many 20s, this didn’t benefit from air, and was most appealing the day it was opened.


2020 Riesling Im Taubennest Niersteiner Oelberg                         ++

Trocken on the back label. HEAVY BOTTLE.

A cadaster parcel – some would say the best – in Oelberg, which has given Strubs their top dry Riesling for many years. Take a sniff; you’ll see why.

I mean, it’s Oelberg. Peaches, rocks and chocolate.

In this instance the ’20 antagonism is overcome by the overwhelming density and juiciness of this superb cuvée. Nierstein is enjoying something of a renaissance of late, but this wine suggests it may still be underrated, because this is a regal, commanding wine, capacious, complex and full of stature.

A sprinkle of sel gris completes the picture. Sure the wine is phenolic, but in this case it’s inherent to its architecture. Oelberg needs its stony spine to compliment its sometimes-slathery richness, and this vintage harkens back to the majesty of the 2012. A fabulously serious and resonant wine, I find I am rebuking myself for failing to see what Sebastian is actually achieving, because I’ve known him since he was an infant.

I can imagine a taster examining the wine and finding its phenolic backbone rustic and lacking in finesse. I argue that this was necessary in 2020 and this wine represents a triumph of managing the vintage without seeking to alter it. Its chewiness is almost adorable. And its minerality is something else again.

A masterly wine of the modern era at Strub. But like (too) many ‘20s, oxygen is not its friend, and the wines are best finished on the day you open them. They do not oxidize; they simply lose fruit, and they need fruit.


(2021) Riesling RAW                                                     glug-glug-glug

Liter. This is the orange wine.

Okay, so I sat there last May and learned of the existence of this wine. Must I taste it? “We’d like you to.” Oh well, okay….we’ve been friends a long time. Then, to my shock and horror, I liked it.

“Send me a bottle among the samples,” I asked. Was I bamboozled by love from seeing my friends again? Well here I am sitting in my kitchen nine months later – and I still like it. In fact this is what I’d hope to be served if I were subjected to “natural wine,” and it’s a very high compliment to say that I could imagine Deirdre Heekin making this wine if she vinified Riesling from Nierstein.

Because, bless its ornery heart, it smells like Riesling from Nierstein. It doesn’t smell like mice or band aids or cold maggot soup or sweaty bog shrimp or a porta-potty on a steamy summer day. I’d drink it gladly, for pleasure.

Hand-picked, sponti, lots of skin contact, unfiltered, six months on the skins – you know the formula. Would that it always worked like this….

And here’s the kicker; this vinification seems to have obliterated the ’21 tendency to sharpness on the finish. It is the most sedate and flowy of all these ‘21s. Softer, of course, but in this vintage that is…not unwelcome. It is, rather, a gesture back to the early 20th century when most wines were made this way, and the mellow ease they must have shown.


2021 Soil To Soul, Riesling By Strub 1710

Back label says Kabinett.

In effect their “estate” Kabinett, blended from sites on clay, limestone and Rotliegend. It’s object is to be barely perceptibly sweet.

The wine works; it is intricate and angular and expresses each of the soils from which it hails; the savor of the red soils, the bite of the limestone, the gob-filling nature of the clay. It’s balanced properly, not too sweet, finishes dry, and above all shows the red soil bacony “sweetness.” It indicates the ’21 steel at the end, but that isn’t bothersome.

I’m no longer a merchant, so what I’m about to say doesn’t come from any commercial perspective, but rather as (I hope) a matter of logic from an attentive taster and long-time friend. The estate used to make two feinherb wines from the red soil, which I happened to have felt were their best wines. They didn’t sell. (So much for my influence!) The estate discontinued them. Fair enough.

That being the case, I wonder whether Soil To Soul could be re-imagined as a feinherb wine, both because it could be delicious and also to give it some distance from the (upcoming) Kabinetts. Granted, it would entail different blending parameters, but it would be more logical in context of the whole assortment. But regardless of my thought exercises, this smart successful wine works for its purpose – though it has acidity to spare.

Apropos of which, a wine like this would seem to be tailor-made for the MacNeil Fresh & Crisp stem, and when I tried it I loved it. It altered the wine in a remarkably useful way, suppressing any sharpness and revealing a tangerine-y mid-palate richness that was hidden otherwise. 


2021 Riesling Kabinett Niersteiner Hipping                           ++

If my fellow commentators are to be believed, the Kabinett category is the spirit-animal of the ’21 vintage. From my experience it can be scintillating or it can lapse into a “study-of-acidity,” but my palate is less thirsty for acid levels I relished a couple decades ago.

Hipping, as you know, is one of the great Crus along the red slope. It’s good that Strubs are making a prototypical Kabinett from here. (Maybe we have enough GGs….) A classic Hipping aroma awaits us; white peaches, roasted ham, lime and bee balm and even a skoosh of jasmine.

It leads to a proper Kabinett of the old type, i.e., robust and crisp and not terribly sweet. Light-footed, as we’ve known them to be but haven’t found them to be lately, when the usual “Kabinett” is actually the lightest cask of Spätlese and sometimes even riper. Yet for all its soaring gravity-defying gossamer transparency, this is both shockingly long and balanced on the head of a pin.

A concentrated, salty and minerally mid palate leads determinedly yet delicately to a seemingly endless finish. Man, it does me good to be reminded that German Riesling can still taste like this. For all the la-di-da over the new generation of dry wines – most of it justified, I must emphasize – we’re in peril of forgetting that Germany stakes the most precious claim of all on these unique incomparable and singular cherubs. Though unlike cherubs there is nothing innocent about this wine, which is as profound as can be.

This is close to the class of perhaps the greatest Kabinett of all; Dönnhoff’s Leistenberg. I’m happy, and moved, and relieved. I feared such things would become extinct. 


2021 Riesling Kabinett Niersteiner Pettenthal                               +

Considered today to be the best land on the red slope (a distinction that once belonged to the monopole Brudersberg, until it was debauched by its current proprietor who planted grossly unsuitable varieties in a great Riesling vineyard), this announces itself with fragrances of uncommon purity, complexity and delicacy.

Compared to its neighbor this is slinkier, more vigorously racy, more dramatic in its sugar-acid dialogue, more refined if a little less seamless, and even more intricate. It is also more studied and less euphoric. You can taste the pieces clicking together, and catch the occasional imbalance, both in a less tangible mid palate and also in its emphatic acidity. There’s also a nuance of overripe/bruised peach that appears in the middle and slinks away tactfully before the finish.

This is in most ways a superb and inspiring Kabinett – but the Hipping is a tough act to follow, and so I am praising with faint damns. With air we taste a cunning leesiness which doesn’t so much buffer the acidity as add a faint but useful flavor of its own.

It’s sweeter-seeming than Hipping, and might well have been riper. There’s also a positive note of dessication, which can pose as sweetness. Otherwise, wow.

Surprisingly, this wine did not respond well to the Crisp & Fresh glass, which accented its angularity in some inexplicable way.


2021 Riesling Kabinett Niersteiner Brückchen                               +

Formerly labeled Herzstück (meaning Coeur-de-Cuvée) it doesn’t appear on this year’s label – was it disallowed?

The vineyard is in the middle of the valley, mostly on clay but with limestone segments, from which this wine comes. This adamant fellow is much more vigorous and biting than the mellower red-slope Kabinetts. That’s typical. It’s high-toned enough to suggest white pepper and eucalyptus, and certainly lemon grass and mint, and most of all the sense of infinitely pounded stones. Such sweetness as exists is engulfed by acidity and what feels like an exploded quarry of boulders.

For all that, it is well-knitted and more of-a-piece than the Pettenthal, which shows the qualities of great soil, while this shows how to be comfortable in your own skin even at your most assertively clamorous; less refined, yet better integrated. You won’t want to deconstruct it because it simply makes sense.  It’s the best vintage of this in at least twenty years.


2021 Riesling Spätlese Niersteiner Paterberg                               +

Other side of the valley, limestone plateau, old(er) vines, windswept and protected from botrytis. The wines tend to be a parfait of ginger, spearmint and lemon grass. They are sweet, but “sweetness” isn’t an issue.

I cheated and peeked at the analytical data before I tasted. It’s half-again sweeter than the Brückchen Kab, and has even higher acidity, and yet it doesn’t “read” sweet because it is so much of-a-piece. If you have a BYOB Thai place in your vicinity, this would be a perfect wine to tote along (assuming you have no Scheurebe in your cellar…)

And yet, for all its whip-crack acidity, this presents as remarkably sedate, and that is because the RS…suffices. We all want that pinpoint balance and we all want to keep RS as low as fathomable, but when you see a wine like this, with its litheness and flow, you have to wonder whether we’re guilty of seeing RS as a kind of enemy.

In the Jancis glass the wine is more dramatic and twitchy. It has an old-vines concentration from both glasses. I have to go back to the 1990 vintage to recall anything quite like it, though this is as sleek as a bullet-train. It isn’t fussy about glassware; from the MacNeil it shows an unlikely poise between calmness and angularity.

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