Weingut Theo & Regine Minges
The following constitutes a truncated version of what is a far-ranging portfolio at Minges, probably because I asked them to focus on what was shipped to the American market. But just so you know, there are many more Rieslings, plus Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Rieslaner, plus red and sparkling wines, all of which I hope to taste when I next visit the winery in 2022 – Covid willing.
2020 Riesling, Gleisweiler Trocken
A wee slip of a lad at 11.5% alc, it’s the village-level wine (and they do have at least one Riesling GG). It smells wonderful, like essence-of-Pfalz-plus-lees.
On the palate we have a lot of shimmer, like the little diamonds that shimmer off the surface of a pond in the sunlight. It starts with lees and ginger, then quickly offers palpable minerality and a basmati starchiness. It’s very dry but not remotely punishing, and it tasted better indoors than outdoors (though it’s a weird warm day for late November) and better from the Spiegelau than from the Jancis. It’s overt and chipper from MacNeil’s Fresh & Crisp.
I do, though, have more than one opinion about the wine. I like its candid generosity, its enticing aromas, and its purity – yet that same purity draws closer to the puritanical than I think it should. It would be better if it were less dry. But I often had rough sledding among Theo’s dry Rieslings, and this is among the more pleasing.
It’s a mid-range wine from a cool-flavored vintage; we don’t need exegeses to the Meaning Of Riesling. Enjoy the forthright tangy dryness and take the next bite of fresh-water fish.
2020 Scheurebe, Gleisweiler Trocken +
Superb, archetypal varietal fragrances of cassis and sage – not much grapefruit here. While admitting I adore Scheurebe, toward which I have an indulging nature….this little dickens is pretty effing good!
It also shows how good Scheurebe can be in an unpretentious idiom when it’s tended by a master. Theo Minges has captured much of the genius of his friend Hans Günter Schwarz, and I’ve tasted no finer contemporary examples of Scheu than these. It’s riotously, giddily expressive from the MacNeil.
Even taking my subjective slobbery crush on Scheu into account, the variety offers several unusual gifts. It can give the best kind of stupid pleasure though it’s not a stupid wine. It is easy to taste, that is, it meets you more than half-way and fills you with flavor. Yet when it’s this good it isn’t blatant or oafish, and even more remarkable, it can be multi-dimensional and diligently articulate even while it so generously offers its flavors.
In this example, they are allspice, coriander, conifer and voatisperifery peppercorns. I know, esoteric, right? But guess what? You can buy these peppers from Kalustyans in New York - - so quit thinking I’m some sort of weird geek and see for yourself!
2020 Scheurebe feinherb ++
It being Germany, the “sweeter” wine is made from the “lesser” material – in this case the estate as opposed to the village level.
When Valerie Kathawala asked me (for an interview for the wonderful online magazine TRINK, to which you should rush to subscribe) if I had “house wines” in the cellar, I replied I didn’t, but that if I did, THIS would be the white.
I adore it. It’s been one of my favorite wines for the last 7-8 years. I have all the vintages on hand. They do not deteriorate. They continue giving ridiculous pleasure. They do it by tasting wickedly, almost erotically good, and by offering a flexibility that makes them welcome on an absurd range of white-wine occasions. And this little wine has a length most big wines would envy.
Does it taste “sweeter” now? Reverse the question: Does the Trocken taste drier? Because this wine barely tastes sweet as I perceive it. It tastes nearly entirely dry, and more salient, it finishes dry. It also finishes with a rich juiciness simply unavailable to its dry sibling – excellent as that wine is. It’s also quirky, as Scheurebe can be, seriously pungent and smoky yet contained within a moderate body. Yet while it is demure in size it is profound in intensity. I find the wine so perfect I’d glug it from an old boot if that were the only way to drink it.
2020 Riesling Halbtrocken
I won’t bore you with the story of how this wine became massively popular and then faded from view as generations shifted and the market changed. I will, though, tell you that the wine itself was and remains a remarkable achievement in the “jug-wine” category.
If by “dry” we signify the palpable absence of sweetness, and if by “sweet” we signal the palpable presence of sugar, then this wine is neither dry nor sweet. It’s just wine, balanced wine, dry enough for any reasonable palate. It’s limpid and simple – inasmuch as any well-made Riesling can be “simple” – and it’s just a bit herbal, just a bit green tea, just a bit white tea also, and at cellar temp it is snappy and chipper and sharp-witted.
If it’s true that you can judge a winery by the quality of its smallest wine, then Minges passes with high honors. And I want to pause to consider the mentality of a vintner who makes a wine like this knowing it won’t be attended to. It will be socked down outside on a summer evening, it will quench thirst in a hot kitchen while dinner’s being prepped; it will be wine in the form of “occasional music,” a soundtrack playing while other more important things are taking place. It only needsto be tolerable. But here we have a wine, a little wine full of polish and balance and friendliness, modest but considerate, and I’m here to tell you that in my scheme of ethics, no winery can offer more than this to its customers. You don’t have to be a wine “expert” to deserve to be happy with your drink.
Hats off and hearts open, to my old friend Theo, for caring as he does when no one’s watching.
2016 “Der Froschkönig” Riesling ++
The Frog King has been a wine left-alone. It’s pressed and then it does whatever thing is in it to do. It ferments (wild) as long as it takes, and stops when it feels like stopping. It sits on its lees without sulfur until it’s bottled – whenever that may be. Often it isn’t even tasted by the family until a year or two after the vintage.
At times the results have been deeply stirring, and at other times the wines have been an aldehydic chaos. This 2016 seems to be one of the first type….
It’s a thing of rare beauty, even esoteric beauty, but it’s also temperamental, and it’s kind of grumpy right out of the bottle. Cellar-temp please, and if you’re going to finish the bottle right away then please decant.
It got its AP # in 2019, which is usually the year of bottling and releasing for sale. The 11% alc suggests residual sugar, as the palate confirms. At times my friends at Nikolaihof would have a Riesling that “got away” and finished with RS, and this wine is spirit-kin to those.
It has a slight Manzanilla twang, and the sweetness is redolent of the apothecary – a polite way of saying “medicinal,” which I must qualify because of its negative connotation. It’s as much a potion as it is a wine, and in its untamed nature it presents as tangy-tart rather than “sweet.” Obviously it is entirely tertiary in nature, with scents and flavors of chamomile and beeswax. And when it’s freshly poured I sense it isn’t really playing its music, but only tuning up. It is meditative, but not entirely lucid.
But wait. This isn’t a casual drink in any way. We need to pause, and read the poem. A spell is waiting to be cast. Let’s see what the days may bring.
A day later, the wine’s taken on all kinds of exotic elements, especially sandalwood and leather (rarely encountered in white wines), butterscotch and honey-mushrooms and mimosa blossoms. It’s stirring and deeply absorbing, and I feel that it wants also to be absorbed, so I won’t be spitting it any more. Reverie is too precious to be squandered by the “tasting” regimen. If you’re able to lay hands on a bottle, set some time aside and just curl up with it. A perfect wine for the golden-hour of a winter afternoon, it will deliver some moments of calm, after which all the angst and drang of our everyday lives will, believe me, be waiting for us.
2019 Riesling Spätlese +
The only ’19 they sent. And a pretty bloody good Riesling.
Minges never made sweet wines “sweet,” except for the occasional Rieslaner or “goldcap” style Auslese. This is moderate as the current style goes, with a rich but focused “golden” aroma – that being the ’19 signature, evidently – and a palate replete with jasmine, Asian pears, lees, and vigor. I don’t know how they made it so cool and gripping with what would seem to be a high-sugar wine with its 8% alc – but they did, and that’s Minges.
It’s a language I love, yet it seems to perplex many potential buyers, who want something more bombastic. What I want is precisely this, because I like its contained symmetry, its usefulness, its lack of ostentation. It is seamless and wholesome and delightful, and it is the classic example of the lower “scoring” wine being the first bottle emptied later in the evening with food. It’s a wine to drink, not to preen over!