Weingut Strub 1710
These are old, old friends. Don’t expect me to be “objective,” but do expect me to be professional.
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.