Weingut Strub 1710
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.