2021 Mittelrhein Riesling Trocken
Fragrant of course, the wildflower side of ’21, with yuzu and other citrics also. The palate is thready and sinewy, on the tart side, but finer than the ’20. Considering ’21 is a high acid vintage, the textural finesse of a wine like this is impressive. It hails from the side-valley near Bacharach, and has none of the loess signatures of the close-by Hamm.
There’s a pleasing rusticity here, pleasing because it isn’t clunky but instead it’s candidly a wine of the ordinary countryside. (If by “ordinary” one means a mountainside with a 40º angle.) I find much to appreciate here, length, minerality, forthrightness, and a refreshing lack of affectation.
It’s a rocky critter, a “cool” wine with lots of forest-floor and wild herbs and fir essences. It loves the Jancis glass.
An incipient richness arrives on the 2nd look, two days later, along with a pleasing hint of sea-spray, and the wine stays stable and even improves day after day. Honestly, I’m not sure how a wine like this works, but it does. Perhaps an extract-dense complexity keeps the acidity less strident than it might be otherwise? Whatever the reason, the wine is a triumph and Florian can be proud of it.
2021 Bopparder Hamm Riesling Spätlese Trocken
I imagine this cross-vineyard blend results from a crop that was curtailed by one climactic challenge or another. Or so I supposed. In fact Florian says “I simply liked the blend of dry Engelstein and Ohlenberg better than the individual casks.” The wine adds a physiological “sweetness” to a sibling Kabinett (and just a half percent alc.) but is essentially similar; smoky, a little adamant, a modest overtone of H2S when first poured, and a rather dour finale. I find myself wanting to say “I get it; you don’t have to shout.”
With air an herbal note arrives (woodruff, sorrel) along with a subtle minerality and a not-so subtle sourness that isn’t displeasing. It’s connected to an aromatic overtone that’s either botrytis or a strong surmise of it. Possibly I’m wrong about this, as it’s an article of faith among German Riesling growers that the dry wines must be made with clean fruit.
Both here and with a dry Kabinett I’m not reviewing, I’m missing the essential friendliness of typical Hamm wines. But who am I to insist the wines must always be friendly? I’m a piss-pot at least once a week, so I’m the last guy who’d fuss that a wine wasn’t chummy enough. And I actually approve of the way this develops over a few days.
It remains a “serious” wine, but it’s also too succulent to be merely cerebral. This tastes good, in its almost comically determined way. But I wouldn’t wait years to drink it, not because oxidation would arrive but that fruit would depart. And this wine needs every lick of fruit it can muster. The MacNeil Crisp & Fresh stem was helpful in this regard.
2021 Bopparder Hamm Feuerlay Riesling Spätlese Trocken +
This smells more like a typical Weingart wine, though the acids of ’21 are at least as present as the loessy “sweetness” (what I call wet-cereal) we usually encounter. It’s a complex, enticing fragrance; it says things are about to get fun.
As indeed they do. There’s a lot to enjoy and even more to think about, a Weingart wine that’s suddenly speaking a language it was unaware it knew. The vintage delivers more vivid slate than usual, and of course it shows a whole garden of green things, from the little quinces on the tree in the corner to the herb patch that’s like a quiz on how many herbs and edible leaves you can identify.
And there’s energy, verve, polish, zip and drive and all of them over a reliably generous foundation of fruit. And while we have the Nth degree of crispness we have not a scintilla of sourness or bitterness, all the way to the deliberate balanced finish.
And what of these green things? In no particular order, you may find yourself sensing woodruff, tarragon, lemon grass, matja, verbena, anise hyssop – and then there’s spearmint and ginger and aloe vera and mirabelles you brought home and think they’ll need another day or two before you eat them.
If you’ve forgotten, though we’re quite a bit north as these things go, we’re also dealing with an especially warm microclimate such that low acid is what the growers have to contend with, which makes this wine a delightful outlier. Mind you, I have no idea (yet) what the acidity is on paper – I’d say “present and accounted for” – and neither do I know what residual sugar may be present - I’d say “the exact right amount,” whatever it is.
I think this is the most exciting dry Weingart Riesling in many a year.
2021 Mittelrhein Riesling Feinherb
Before you read the following, please know that the wine knitted together admirably when I tasted it a second time. I can’t account for that, except to repeat my bromide “The wine always has the last word.”
Markedly spritzy on pouring. Pleasant apple-cellar aromas. If this is made from the same material as the dry version, the dry version is better structured and integrated. This one’s in a kind of no-mans-land of RS, exactly between what it would prefer on either side.
On one hand you could describe it, accurately, as “spicy and minty” and you could remark upon the extra dimension of fructose-derived aroma compared with its dry counterpart. I admit I have fastidious standards for balance where sweetness is concerned, and mine aren’t everyone’s. But I know when a wine’s pieces are out of alignment.
THAT WAS FRESH-OPENED. The wine seemed to need time to emerge from whatever youthful shroud it suffered beneath. It’s still not ideally poised but it’s also a tasty glass of wine – especially from the little Spiegelau – notwithstanding such nits as I am wont to pick. Expect a wine on the tart side, like redcurrant, but that manages a decent good humor.
And yet when I tasted it a third time it had reversed back to the awkward stitching of my first sips. “I find acidity in some feinherb wines more aggressive now than [last] summer, while the contrary is true for the dry wines. No idea why. They definitely absorbed more sweetness than previous vintages,” says Florian.
(There was a badly corked bottle of a wine I had great hopes for – the Bopparder Hamm Ohlenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb. Drat, grrr, fuckin’ TCA…)
2021 Bopparder Hamm Engelstein Am Weißen Wacke Riesling Spätlese Feinherb +
Florian Weingart has a genius, and this is where it lies. His Feinherbs can stand among the most rapturous Rieslings in all of Germany. And none have recently been better than those from this little cadaster.
This wine is both knee-bucklingly pretty and thrillingly risky. It’s balanced on a blade of brilliance, less seamless than the Trocken Spät but even more eye-catching, with the snappy tension of many of his “Anarchie” bottlings. Flavors run to melon and mints and grasses and heirloom apples, the tart ones. It’s sort of uncanny that the wine works at all, with all that whip-crack sting, but the fruit – such as it is – is just ludicrous.
I wonder to what degree this wine “made itself” as opposed to having been guided to this exact result. To attain an orthodox balance it would require more RS, which would obliterate its identity. As it is, you drink it, fascinated, on the edge of your seat, wondering how it can possibly work, and yet amazed by its banshee energy. It’s also spirit-kin to another perennial favorite, the Goldatzel Feinherbs from the eponymously named winery.
This has improved – as they all have – as they settle down after opening. This wine, in all its zingy crackling genius, is really worth the wait.
2021 Spay In Der Zech Spätburgunder Rosé
The back label indicates “Spätlese Halbtrocken” and the alc is 12.5%
If warning is needed, this is very pale, looking more like some Alsace Pinot Gris than like a pink Pinot Noir. The rich and interesting fragrance is less surprising.
The wine is spritzy, even somewhat peppery, with richness of flavor trying to reconcile with slightness of body. It’s a little wild, in the way that Georg Prieler’s Rosé is, as if it is consciously un-pretty, daring you to look at attractiveness through another lens.
I like these rosés that don’t pander with specious agreeability, and because this is one such, I’m spending more time on it than it’s strictly “worth,” because it’s ephemeral, has a job to do and does it, sells through and all that. Yet I find it expresses a kind of ineluctable originality my friend Florian can’t help but show. Has he ever made a wine that could have been anybody’s wine? I wonder. And while I am well aware of this wine’s shortcoming, its lack of mid-palate richness, I think it’s more valuable as it is. I like its saltiness, its eschewing of obvious “fruit” in favor of spice and a savory umami, and I really appreciate the kind of ethereal reading of the element that makes his actual Pinot Noirs so unique.
Deep in the subsoils of some sites in these parts there is a vein of volcanic ash from ancient eruptions in the nearby Eifel hills. I may be wrong, but there’s an embedded heat inside this wine that made me think “This is volcanic in some strange way.”
It exists in large part because there’s still stocks of the last three vintages of red PN, plus he needed Rosé.
2021 Mittelrhein Riesling Kabinett
The fragrance takes me back, to the 80s when I represented Ratzenberger and a guy names Klaus Kemmer, who gave up his winery in the interim. There was, and is, a particular scent of wines from the side-valley running west into the Taunus hills from Bacharach. Assuming, of course, that this hails from there!
It’s a pretty aroma and this is a pretty wine, but it’s smart-pretty and with an unconventional angularity. It reminds me of the actor Rooney Mara (whose picture I see everywhere these days thanks to the new Sarah Polley film), and it’s an admirable Kabinett, not least because it tastes like a true Kabinett and not like an anemic Spätlese.
It presents as barely sweet, and I imagine the RS will look “high” on paper but is so well integrated it disappears into the gestalt of the wine. A whippy lash of acidity doesn’t perturb the pinpoint balance here. Indeed, this kind of balance was my Ideal when I started out in the mid-80s, and I wouldn’t disavow it now. I wanted, and still want, residually sweet wines to be as dry as possible consistent with harmony. Some might argue that harmony is a moving target. I’ll grant that point, and counter that the target moves less than people suppose.
In any case we have a lovey (but not seductive) wine with a kind of strict floweriness and a bracing energy, yet with all its zizzy vigor, the wine succeeds. (And “zizzy” is a word used by Pauline Kael, who probably made it up, and it’s a good word to use here.)
All of this stays true on second look, though the sweetness is more evident. I’m remembering Randall Grahm fulminating against the amount of SO2 the Germans bottled their Rieslings with, and while I didn’t agree I did sympathize, and a wine like this is why. In effect, the first taste is distorted. It isn’t accurate. Yes, we who are steeped in these wines, and who taste them very young and in the hundreds, have made allowances (and will be less sensate with repeating exposure) but there should be a rule that anyone who assigns a score needs to re-taste every goddamn wine two days later, from the same bottle. Then we’ll see about this “tasted twice; consistent notes” yah-boo.
2021 Bopparder Hamm Engelstein Am Weißen Wacke Riesling Spätlese +
Other than the slightly obtrusive sweetness, this could have been made in the 80s or 90s, assuming a vintage that enabled it. Aside from what it “tastes like,” boomers such as I will recall how such wines behaved, how they came onto the palate with a wash of sweetness which quickly gave way to a bite of acidity, which held the wine in place so that we could observe all the dandy nuances, and which then led into a basically dry finish. That was the pattern and the paradigm, and it is almost perfectly enacted here, except for the return of fructose on the finish.
Not that the wine is fruity-sweetie; it’s as vigorous as everything that preceded it. It shows that superbly interesting Engelstein fruit and also the fibrous texture – the apple and the skin – and also the hyperactive animation and complexity that feels more “Nahe” than Mittelrhein. Gingery icicles of brilliant spice interact with a warmly fruity core, and while I question whether that core is too expressive in terms of sugar, I can only support the choice (assuming it was a conscious choice) to err on the side of caution.
Tasted again, what rushes to the fore is a truly “noble” botrytis note – which you can identify by scents and flavors of malt and butterscotch – and finally an overall elegance, with the peachiness of one of Diel’s Goldlochs in a cool year. And while I harbor some doubts about the “long-run” for ‘21s, this wine I think will go the distance.