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WEINGUT ZIEREISEN 2024

GROUP ONE: THE PINOT NOIRS

 

(And a quick note; all the Pinots were sent, sensibly, in half bottles, so do bear in mind that my impressions are based on whatever effect the smaller bottle might have on the contents.)

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2022 Blauer Spätburgunder

This estate-level PN ripened in large old casks.

This has a markedly “sweet” fruit-forward attack for a Ziereisen Pinot; it’s loaded and primary, and while I doubt that Hanspeter “formed” it to be this way, it’s certainly quite cordial and inviting in its primary flavors. Some darker notes arrive from the Jancis glass, and this is another instance where you can essentially choose the wine you want – ultra forthcoming from the Spiegelau red-wine stem and far more gravelly from the Jancis.

 

I prefer it when the entry level wine is clearly a member of the family that will follow with the more exalted bottlings. It should belong. It bothers me when the intro-wine is essentially different from the other wines, even if it’s a good wine, because it feels as though it was made to “create an impression” rather than to lead us inside. By that criterion we have a fine success here, a wine that deftly balances finesse and rusticity, and that is unpretentious but not mundane.

 

We’re in the black-cherry blackberry register of PN, should you wish to know!

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2020 Tschuppen                                                                                  +

Loess over Jurassien limestone; 23 months in used barriques from Aßmann. 

It’s as roundly “Burgundian” as this wine has ever smelled, along with its typical ferrous edge and high notes of conifer. It’s a serious aroma.

 

The palate has well assimilated tannin but also a majestic sharpness, as smoky as burning shoots and as earthy as summer truffles. The wood is ideally poised and integrated. It’s the best Tschuppen I’ve tasted since I’ve known the estate.

 

I mean, wow. This has such focus, such an arc of flavor and a dialogue of elements, from its fir-like tangy attack to its almost voluptuous sweet fruit. Maybe it’s a teeny bit more “mainstream” than Hanspeter’s norm for Pinot Noir….maybe? But regardless, it is some seriously complex and tasty wine.

 

Usually one expects a wine to be more tertiary after a couple days open. One looks for greater fruit. This wine has less fruit and more underlying structure (viz. tannin), which I suspect is a positive sign that the fruit isn’t perishable. Every other virtue has escalated, and I fear I may have underrated this amazing wine (and even more amazing value).

 

When I returned to this (tasting backwards) I was struck by its cordial limpidity, and by a rock-dusty note that lingered into the finish.

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2020 Schulen                                                                                         ++

Jurassien limestone; 20 months in Aßmann barriques, 10% new this time.

The fragrance has all the elements of a Grand Cru, explicitly including the initial puzzle of how to put it into words. There’s less fir and more nightshade than in the Tschuppen; grilled eggplant in place of truffle.

 

The palate shows a rapturous top note of white pepper and steel, riding over this stewy-sweet richness. The Jancis glass reveals that “artichoke” flavor some ascribe to Pinot Noir, but it also shows an already complex set of esters that make the wine both seductive and fascinating. If the Tschuppen is a chicken roasted with a lot of herbs, this wine is a duck stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and lacquered with chestnut essence.

 

These are blow-you-away wines, and I haven’t even gotten to the “top” bottlings. It’s almost scary. And the wine gained in force and expressiveness after 48 hours. The finish, interestingly, is less clinging than the Schuppen’s, though everything else about the wine is a clear step up. And don’t mistake me; the first wash of finish is impressively complex. It’s the tertiary “internal” finish that’s relatively brief.

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2020 Talrain                                                                                        ++

Lower in alc (12.5%) than the predecessors; grown at 1,600 feet in a protected site below a forest, on limestone with iron-retaining loam; 20 months in used barriques from Aßmann.

 

Talrain has tended to be my favorite, and here the fragrance recalls a Goldberg Blaufränkisch from Prieler. The iron and pepper are so psychedelically present very few would immediately guess this was Pinot Noir. Nor would anyone argue if you said Priorat.

 

When it reaches the palate (when, that is, you’ve succeeded in tearing yourself away from sniffing the crazy-ass aromas), it comes in broad and clement and then quickly and gorgeously seizes up, showing a minerality so brash you….it sounds nuts…you think of lemon. You also think of flowers, penetrating ones like freesia. You may also note a sideways glance of greenness, and then you might recall the altitude of the vineyard.

 

It's a quieter wine than its siblings. More introverted in comparison, perhaps. The great producers of Blaufränkisch have often described a kind of crossover phase (at or around ten years old) where BF starts to resemble Pinot Noir, and here is a PN that has many of the more exciting elements of BF – which I mean as the highest of compliments – the focus, the verticality, the blatant minerality, the herbal resins, the rotundone. And in this case, the resplendently sweet-earthy finish that leads into some unmapped places in a taster’s guidebook to descriptors.

 

The wine is masterly, incisive, and truly intense. Its finish is deliberate, evolving, and haunting.

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2020 Rhini                                                                                            +++

Jurassien limestone with iron-retaining loam; 20 months in Aßmann barriques, 10% new.

 

I have a pal whom we entertained recently, who is a lover-of-wine but not an obsessive, and who would reject the moniker of “expert.” We roasted some Joyce Farm guinea hens with Burgundy truffles (they were on sale! We don’t keep fresh truffles in the pantry…) and we served him something I was sure he’d never had.

 

“It’s Pinot Noir,” I said. “Do you want to know more before you taste it?” He did not.

 

The wine was the 2016 Rhini. It did the job. It blew my friend away and it made me indecently happy to drink it. Rhini is the wine you “understand” again after the esoteric moment with Talrain.

 

At first glance this is one of those has-it-all wines; it delivers crazily mineral firmness with tautly structured fruit; its generous yet sinewy, powerful yet not musclebound; it has all the best aspects of Old-World Pinot Noir, and it isn’t Burgundy. Its virtues are so tangibly displayed you could even suspect it might be a little bit plausible, but then you’d realize you were being a pill. You know? “I understand this wine; thus it can’t be any good…”

 

I have a friend who runs marathons, and this wine is her spirit animal; it uses its energy economically, it hasn’t an ounce of flab, it has improbable stamina. There’s another surmise of “green” here, and this time it can’t be the elevation; it has to be that artichoke thing people say about certain Pinot Noirs. The wine has only 13% alc – “only.”

 

I returned to the Schulen – was I fooled somehow? No – it is really that good. So good that the (usually) “top” wines are not dramatically better, though they have more interior solidity, and something tells me they’ll come on when I taste them again in a couple days.

 

This one sure as fuck did. It has unfurled to display a fruit that’s like Pinot Noir turned into truffle and turned back into Pinot Noir. But that’s just the core. It’s encased in a frame of luminous stony solidity; it’s one of those wines that goes side to side and top to bottom, and the passage from start to finish seems to last longer than you can bear to keep it in your mouth. Apropos of which, this is seriously hard to spit, and even spitting, the finish lasts for at least a half hour.

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2020 Zipsin Pinot Noir  Jaspis                                                         +++  

Yes these are all Pinot Noir, but this time the (front) label says so; it also says “Jaspis,” which has been Ziereisen’s term for their ultra-best wines from their oldest vines.

 

I have been known to resist wines that are too overt, too obviously impressive. It’s a tic of mine, and honestly not one I’m proud of. A contrarian must guard against the reflex to dispute – you say it’s green? Well I say it’s RED.

 

I am also a man who finds it hard to surrender. Which means, of course, that I very much want to. A wine like this one asks for a suspension of disbelief, that anything could possibly be so delicious. Another thing I do – and this one feels all right – is to resist ratcheting up my language to mirror the intensity of the wine. I used to do that, and it isn’t that I’ve outgrown it so much as it's a question of how many times can you barf out superlatives?

 

So, as soberly as I can, I’ll try to say what this wine shows.

 

Generosity with restraint.

Fruit-sweetness with detail of nuance.

A panoply of suggestion.

Profundity without crude power.

Lavishness without sloppiness; endlessly juicy but not slobbery.

A palate-in-motion; something is always arising from the thing before.

The curiously haunting sense of divinity.

Most improbably, luxury leading to rigor; that is, the immense and enveloping gorgeousness of the central palate resolves into something firm and vertical.

 

If these things don’t add up to greatness, I wonder what would?

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2018 Bürgin Spätburgunder (“Jaspis”)                                         +++

 

It’s a quick developing vintage, ’18, and this wine doesn’t “mind” being drunk this very evening. It will reward you inordinately. 

 

It offers many of the gifts of the ’20 Zipsin; just a little more developed, and a lotmore tertiary, more marrowy, more foie-gras richness. You know what it’s like? It’s like a fresh-bottled “Riserva 890” from La Rioja Alta. Whatever oak it has is melted away into the fruit and savor. What’s left is a curious amalgam of honey and blood. That, and duck, porcini, and cloves. That, and an irreducible vapor one can only call ethereal.

 

And the finish takes you deep down into the lick of mystery. I keep willing this wine not to be so great, but its will is stronger than mine.

 

After two days, it poured out with a modest reduction that took about a minute to fade. It shows, for me, the acceptable side of gameyness, along with a charming dustiness and an appealing maturity. There isn’t much that one would call “fruit,” but there are tertiary notes of appealing dankness (think porcini or matsutake) and that wild-duck bloody-meaty jazz, and finally one of those mesmerizing estery finishes full of tenderness and questions, that makes you wish you were a better poet. 

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2018 “10-4” Spätburgunder (“Jaspis”)                                          ++

 

It denotes a wine made from plantings of at least 10,000 vines per hectare. You know the principle, right? The vine that has to compete for nutrients sends its roots deeper into the ground, so that the wine is both more concentrated and more “mineral.”

 

This is quite different from the Bürgin; less sweet, more solid, earthier. More physical, one could say. And in the best sense, more elementally pure Pinot Noir.

 

We do have, or seem to have, more oak with which to contend, but am I sure of that? I’m not sure how sure I am…

 

The Jancis glass shows a prominent (but not obtrusive) tannin, part of the grounded-earthy feel of this remarkable wine. It’s one of those Pinots that’s more than half-way to being food itself. It seems to be less lengthy than the Bürgin, but it’s actually another kind of length; that wine has a deliberate unspooling of estery esoteric or mysterious flavors, whereas this one starts out forthright and remains that way. Bürgin makes you want to drift off into its penumbra; this makes you want to swallow the hell out of it. Think leather and rich, ripe suede.

 

Many tasters will recognize what I’m calling great-wine-fatigue, in which you used up all your affect by wine # 5 but there’s three wines left to taste. As I’m not invited to vertical tastings of  Clos de Mesnil, I have mostly experienced this strange malaise at a certain winery in the Nahe, which resulted in a condition I’ve called “Dönnhoff Face,” in which one is so flattened by the repetition of gorgeousness that one’s face is incapable of even making gestures by the end, and you sit there in a kind of wide-awake coma.

PART TWO: GUTEDEL AND OTHER WHITES

 

I adore Chasselas. Have I told you this? Multiple times? The Germans know it as Gutedel, and regardless of its moniker, it is a thoroughly adorable wine almost all of the time.

 

The exceptions are the ever-fewer overcropped dilute bottlings essentially sold as plonk, and on the opposite end of the scale we have ambitious examples from old vines in privileged sites. But between these two poles we have wines that are fabulously innocuous and insanely drinky. I do not view “innocuous” as a dirty word. It isn’t the same as “mundane.” It is, if you like, a synonym for addictive drinkability and divinely simple deliciousness.

 

Among the Ziereisen series, their entry level  is the so-called “Heugumber” (grasshopper) and let me tell you, that bottle empties at warp speed. The others tend to peer in the direction of the Jura or even Burgundy. They have aims. They are not innocuous, though they often remain tasty.

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2021 Heugumber                                                glug-glug-glug, and  +

Again, it means “grasshopper,” and is their name for the basic Gutedel, with (again) 20 months in large cask on its lees, and wild-yeast fermented.

 

It is simply perfect everyday Chasselas, a wine that defines the concept of “drinky-ness,” except that you want less to drink it than to have an IV infusion of it. This modest (10% alc!) little wine offers more sheer joy than a thousand wines with greater affectations, let alone higher (god help me) “scores.”

 

You can smell it a foot from the bottle as soon as you screw the cap off. What does that signify? Only that a wine can be modest and simple but still have energy, even with (one might say especially with) low alcohol. It also does a thing Chasselas sometimes does; appearing to fade on the palate only to return in thirty seconds and then not leave

 

And when I subject this humble little critter to the arcane ministrations of the Jancis glass, it starts babbling poems in another language – which is Wacko’s strange way of saying it gains a kind of articulacy but loses the juicy tangibility that makes it so addictive.

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2020 Viviser                                                                                             +

This is the archaic name for Gutedel; the wine sits for 20 months (!) on its gross lees in large casks, and arrives with all of 11% alc, reason enough to celebrate.

 

We have some color, not surprisingly. We have expressively nutty aromas, like some genre of the Jura without the flor or the special twang of Savignin. The wine is firmer than the color would suggest, and it’s a wine with a sneaky and deliberate umami, which belies its subdued first impression.

 

It's serious, in fact. If you’ve ever wondered what confers “length” on a wine, or assumed it was an aspect of power or intensity, you’ll have to think again. Because this little dickens is a classic still water running deep, a wine that arrives demurely – you could call it aloof – but then reveals the most improbable clinging length, not only the swollen mid palate, but the seemingly endless finish. It’s huge fun and makes no sense at all.

 

Eventually it shows herbal notes along with a white-tea brothiness. (It’s weirdly like some caricature of Raveneau…) And while it’s as suave as the best raw pizza dough, there’s also a vertical line that alludes to the mints and to nettles and summer savory.

 

It’s a kind of masterpiece, this little gleaming jewel.

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2020 Steinkrügle                                                                              +

On Jurassien limestone with loess; 40-year vines, also aged 20 months on the gross lees and also with 11% alc.

 

(My hands are sore from all this applauding…) There’ve been vintages of this that bore honest comparison to the better village Meursaults. This vintage is a tranquil marriage between that Jura “atmosphere” and a Côte d’Or mineral and meal. It’s both more intense and more interior than the Viviser, yet it isn’t any riper. This delights me more than I can fathom.

 

As it sits in the glass there’s an echo – maybe more than just an echo – or some of the serious old-vines (Grand Crus) from the Swiss Vaud. It’s a pan-European meisterwerk of Chasselas! Whence it derives its assertion and its strength, I couldn’t say, except to ascribe it to old vines, which seems facile. But believe me that it’s accurate to say that the wine smells and tastes like our kitchen smells when my wife’s roasting hickory nuts.

 

There’s more torque here, as well as a fetching saltiness, and most drinkers would agree it’s the “better” wine. That’s something it will take a few days to determine, but at first glance there’s certainly more stuff here, but is there as much intricacy?

 

It’s really a food-like wine. When we’re reducing chicken stock, there’s a moment where it stops smelling “sweet” and starts smelling more animal and “tacky” (the chef’s term), and that apex of “sweetness” is replicated in this wine.

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“V 21”                                                                                                      +

It is of course the 2021 Viviser Gutedel, sporting all of 9.5% alc and smelling like a dream you hope you never wake up from. It is the best vintage of Viviser I have tasted, and a miniature masterpiece of this neglected variety. Yes, I am using that “masterpiece” word a lot. Nothing else will do.

 

There’s less of the sous-voile note and more pure, pure nuttiness, along with the longest finish you ever experienced from a featherweight such as this.

 

2021 really starts to seem like a vintage that expresses its utmost genius the further south one goes. These are the best white wines I have tasted from Ziereisen. And this wine is elevated to vinous oratory in the Jancis, which teases out all the incipient finesse and – even – nobility, the little Spiegelau only implied.

 

AN ASIDE: I move out onto my ground-level deck to taste nearly every wine in the fresh air, as you may recall. These winter days with the trees bare, I have a view over to the Boston skyline, about seven miles northeast. Today in the late afternoon, I have a moment of looking at Boston and tasting southern Baden, where I could also look at the city of Basel, so that I stand here looking at my home city while tasting a place very far away yet the wine in my mouth is definitely of a place, and I’m liking this tiny moment of space-travel where I can be two places at once.

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“ST 21”                                                                                                  ++

It is of course the Steingrüble    b (and note the return to the old spelling), and at this point I am expecting something blissful – and here it is.

 

It’s the best Meursault I’ve ever had that wasn’t actually Meursault. (and that had 10% alc, which is another matter…) It is also a fabulously weird set of food associations, wherein  jasmine rice and porcinis sauteed in duck fat seem to intertwine.

 

You have to be willing to attend, studiously, to a wine that doesn’t blast at you, and the additional richness of these vis-à-vis the Viviser is something incipient; there is simply more more to this. But it won’t register as the things we call power or strength or intensity or concentration. It is just a richer umami, the phô you cooked for three days instead of two.

 

Texturally it’s more sedate than its earlier siblings, but what it loses in verve it makes up in an unruffled surface that’s deliberate and lapidary. Gutedels of this elegance have a lot of sweet peony scents  and the savors of the best white teas.

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2020 “10-4” Gutedel (Jaspis)

Again, at least 10k vines per hectare now, a self-described “wine for history” and yet somehow it sports a mere 10.5% alc.

 

The wine asserts a point, and the point is, it is profound, and priced accordingly. Therefore it is controversial.

 

Ambitious it surely is. The aim seems to have been to make a “Montrachet of Gutedel,” or at least to prove the variety could rise to a level of seriousness that no one supposed. Does it? I think it might, but it’s a difficult wine for the taster, as it constantly shape-shifts and its superficial attributes, those making up your first impression, are misleading – but you only establish that after many hours or days.

 

Thus we begin with a concatenation of nuts-oak-lees, and you wonder, is he forcing the point? (And “Haven’t I tasted this sort of thing a zillion times?”) But then you have to consider this porridgey mid palate and the whole-wheat doughiness. You start thinking you ought to decant (as he suggests for all his wines) because some inchoate thing is hiding in the shadow and you don’t see its face but you hear its breathing. Or so it seems on first encounter.

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2020 Roter Gutedel “Jaspis” – Unterirdisch

An amphora wine. You know the drill. The berries were placed underground (in the vineyard) in an amphora for a year, and then spent two years in wood; bottled without sulfur, and stabilized with a part of the yeasts. I suppose it was only a matter of time before he did it.

 

It smells like cigars. Animals, and beets you ought to have cooked a month ago. The palate is phenolic, obviously. Yet the wine is curiously at the very least interesting, and possibly even tasty if your food or occasion or general disposition calls for such a thing.

 

I’m glad he let me taste it. It’s both rough and also intriguingly sweet. I don’t mean to sound snooty, and I freely admit I don’t like this “kind” of wine, but it’s meaningful to me if it’s not actively disgusting. I actually kind of don’t hate it, and I’m wondering what Deirdre Heekin (of La Garagista in VT) would think.

 

I am not qualified to review this wine. I’m qualified (as all of us are) to assess it, and I bring a great wariness to the rim of the glass, clearly. But apropos La Garagista, I so approve of that winery that I really must ask myself, if this were one of their wines would I expect to like it? And would that color my view?

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2021 Weißer Burgunder

Large-cask aged for 20 months, and like all these wines, wild-yeast fermented.

Here’s another instance where we harken to the Jura, stylistically.

 

Yet after that opening fragrance the palate is surprisingly firm (that’s ’21 for you). Hanspeter writes of a “grapefruit” character but I’m not picking it up; what I am registering is a lovely Fino snap permeating a sweet-lees umami I’ve been known to call “wet cereal.” The influence of loess wouldn’t surprise me, but if you wait a few minutes a wild herbal second flavor arrives.

 

This wine has all kinds of yum-quotient and I can’t wait to tuck into it with food, yet I suspect it benefits from the backbone of 2021 and I might not like it as much in a “regular” vintage, which could lack the lift to justify the mid-palate succulence and ride alongside that nip of Fino.

 

On second glance, interpolated by a glass pre-prandial in the kitchen while dinner was cooking, it does “read” like a Fino/Jura hybrid, with the interior dispersion of umami Pinot Blanc can show at times – though that describes more Hanspeter’s style than the grape’s typical behavior. I like the wine, especially from the Jancis, and I’d be pleased to drink it if it were there to drink. But those Gutedels are one hard act to follow….

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“Lü 21”

That’s the entirety of the front label, while the wine is actually a Weißer Burgunder from the site Lügler, 20 months in large cask after pressing in a basket press. It is obviously the “premium” Pinot Blanc, and I suppose the obscure title has to do with trying to squeeze this go-your-own-way estate into the strictures of the new German wine law. 

 

We get intensity now, for what it’s worth. We do not get more overt cask notes, but we have more alcohol and the many things it totes along. It’s smoky, with the sense of embers from expired flames; it has more ambition but its reach exceeds its grasp. Other palates friendlier to this form of power will “get” the language here, and think I am churlish.

 

But I’m missing the organizing principle of the “little” wine, the sense of a nucleus around which the flavors orbit. This is all swirling and wisping amorphously; it doesn’t work as a “big” wine and it’s too diffuse to be really drinky. I’m willing to change my mind, and I’ll let you know if I do.

 

Tasted twice, sipped once (before dinner and at the table), I find my “judgment” unaltered but my convictions softened a bit. There are things to like here; the salty/mineral finish from the Jancis is pleasant. But it’s a wine where I’d say – we agree to differ.

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“HA 21”

It’s a Chardonnay , aged in 5% new and 95% used barriques from Aßmann for 20 months on the lees. That said, the opening aromas are sweetly oaky, by no means unpleasant, but anodyne and generic.

 

For all its overt oakiness, the wine is reasonably structured and certainly pleasant unless one is fervidly put off by oaky flavors. But the larger issue is a bit of dismay at the kitchen-sink approach to the white wines from an estate that is commanding and regal with its Pinot Noirs, and more-than-interesting with its Syrahs.

 

Not to even mention the outstanding group of Gutedels, certainly among the world’s most compelling expressions of Chasselas, and I have to wonder…why dabble in the likes of Chardonnay at all when one is showing utter mastery of Chasselas and Pinot Noir? Do their local customers demand it? Are they deeply curious about it?

 

But now I’m perhaps being too jaundiced, because the wine is good, with air, and with a decently open mind. Whether it “needs to exist” is maybe beside the point; it exists, and is tasty in its way, a genre of white wine toward which I am very cool. Yet I could rustle up some saffron risotto and drink this wine happily.

 

It's curious how a wine this oaky doesn’t taste slathered with oak, but maintains instead a certain reserve. This is true even in the MacNeil, which I worried might make it too Cal-Chard-ish. Paradoxically, that glass emphasizes the Europeanness of the wine, though one still wonders – why? I mean, come on Hanspeter, lone wolf that you are; isn’t it time someone proved you could ripen Humagne Blanche in your terroirs? Savignin??

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2020 Chardonnay Nägelin (Jaspis)

 

His back label is atypically reticent, saying only that the wine is “subtle and honest.” Nägelin is an old established family name being used for this particular wine (having to do with tip-toeing around the new wine law, about which the less said the better.)

Alc is 12.5%, and the initial aroma is a clean leesy Chardonnay, actually rather fetching. Oak shows but doesn’t obtrude. The finish is like French Toast without syrup; egg and brioche and butter. The wood underscores the physio-sweetness of the fruit.

 

It’s an agreeable glass of wine, elegant in its way. I’d be glad to drink it – I will be glad to drink it and see how it works with a suitable meal. But it is so manifestly less interesting than the Gutedels, you have to ask if Chardonnay, here, is more than ancillary.

 

Yet the wine has delights of its own to share. Sure the oak is plausible, but the wine is graceful and has a winning disposition.

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2021 Grauer Burgunder                                                                     +

Large cask for 20 months on the lees. Quite a substantial reduction when first poured. It takes 2-3 minutes to disappear.

 

What’s behind it is one of the most interesting, tasty and unlikely Pinot Gris I’ve had a quite some time.

 

What an odd variety this is. I mean, forget the supposedly “difficult” grapes like Petit Manseng or its ilk; Pinot Gris has so many ways it can go wrong, from excessive sweetness to excessive alcohol (from vintners seeking to avoid excessive sweetness) to overall sludgy blandness to an excess of chest-beating bellowing power, such that it is a minor miracle when one of them works, and then you realize the obscure, almost inexplicable pleasure a good Pinot Gris can deliver.

 

What this wine is, is cogent, convincing, even compelling. With just 12.5% alc is offers the voluminousness of the variety riding above a firmly organized core. This is rare. It also gives us a wine that occupies a highly particular place in terms of how we might use it. Because in effect the wine is a higher octave of food we have braised for a long time, that has acquired a collagen richness and a saturated umami we can achieve no other way. 

 

Assertive wines don’t work with that food. Pale or delicate wines certainly don’t. So what we’re usually left with are oaky bruisers or big-alcohol wines often coarse or bland. What do you reach for with a roast duck? With an exotic mushroom sautée? With a big old veggie stir fry with leftover beef or lamb or farro of barley?

 

I’ll tell you what you reach for; you reach for a wine that usually doesn’t work. Maybe this PG is a 1-off wine, never to be repeated, but believe me, I’m gonna make a phone call to try and score every bit of this they’ll let me have, because this is a prayer-answering Pinot Gris of a type you’d have to taste 49 wines to reach this number 50.

 

Just be careful if you’re looking for the usual oily succulence. This wine does not have that. I subjected it to the “wrong” glasses just to watch it squawk, yet it worked; it doesn’t require the kind of stem in which it would show “creamy,” because it doesn’t seek to do that. It’s a more pedagogical Pinot Gris that answers the question But what does the wine actually taste like below all the gooey richness?

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“MUS 21”                                                                                                  +

This is Moosbrugger Pinot Gris, basket-pressed, oldest (over 45) vines, 20 months in large old cask.

 

The color is butterscotch, and the aroma has more caramel now. But the fragrance is pure. And among Ziereisen’s ambitious Pinot Gris, this one makes the most sense to me. You’d wish you could preserve “2021” in amber, so that all the “Burgundian” whites would be like this.

 

In the rich, mushroomy idiom you couldn’t dream a more useful and successful Pinot Gris. It’s thick yet, amazingly, also silky, and its wonderful (umami) “sweetness” has no need of oak. Nor does any quantity of outré examples of this variety lay claim to a fraction of the sensible beauty of a wine like this.

 

Lest we forget – with 12.5% alc.

 

Apropos of which, and to be scrupulously fair, there is a fleeting note of naphthalene in this, which I only noticed when I really dug into the wine (aided by the strictures of the Jancis glass) but which I wouldn’t have registered otherwise.

 

Next time through, on a lark, I used the MacNeil Creamy & Silky stem, which would seem tailor-made for a wine like this. Indeed it was expressive, but mostly of alcohol and naphthalene. The Jancis glass seemed to calm the wine down in a most useful way.

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2020 Grauer Burgunder Würmlin (Jaspis)

 

This is anything but ancillary, as Hanspeter is a great lover and defender of this variety, and to the extent he concerns himself with dinky little me, he wonders why I’m so cool.

 

We have 13.5% at last! We have a shallot-skin color, and we have a big-bellied aroma, as though you could smell the corpulence. And we have, in fact, the kind of wine we don’t see too much of.

 

In its way it is singular. You could drink it with Osso Bucco. It almost tastes like veal stock, in fact.

 

If you want to know what I mean by “physio-sweet” just taste what seems like RS here, in a wine with 0.7g/l residual sugar. The market for serious Pinot Gris may be small, but that may also be because too few wines are like this one.

 

It bears mentioning that both this and the Chard tasted oakier two days later when I sipped them casually in the kitchen during dinner prep. The Gutedels are free of this element; another reason to appreciate them.

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PART THREE: SYRAH

(All in halves except for one, which I’ll note.)

 

 

2020 Gestad

(Syrah appears only on the back-label. Spend 20 months in Aßmann barriques, 15% of which were new; alc. 12,5%)

 

The quality of Hanspeter’s Syrah was the biggest surprise of last year’s tasting. It seems plausible to speculate they are more than a diversion for this grower; he’s serious.

 

It’s a sweet-smelling wine that only indirectly refers to Syrah in particular, and it is paler and more limpid than most of what’s emerging from the Swiss Valais. But it is enticing.

 

As Syrah it is allusive. It tastes as much like an ambitious Zweigelt – again, at first. From the Jancis glass it’s more peppery and expressive. If it had more overripe blackberry and less bacon-fat I might even have guessed Blaufränkisch, and I wriggle around pointing all this out because if you approach the wine with, I don’t know, St. Joseph as your guide beacon, you’ll be disappointed. Yet….

 

If you are open minded to the possibility of a delicious and useful wine that will “remind you” of Syrah, you’ll be highly content. You won’t mind the translucent shroud of tannin because of all the ripe sweet fruit on display. I’m not tasting anything earthy, gamey, or bretty. It also tastes more northerly than the Pinots, which are comparatively sumptuous.

 

We’ll see what time and oxygen will bring, but I’ll be surprised if the wine develops dramatically.

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2019 Gestad

(Again “Syrah” is inconspicuous on the back label. Same vinification as the ’20, this time with 13% alc, and the full-bottle is cork-finished)

 

The wine is burlier and more animal from the robustly ripe 2019 vintage. It’s more decidedly Syrah on the palate. Depending on your frame of reference it’s either “dilute” or “deliciously transparent and graceful.” You wouldn’t reach for it at the winter solstice with a foot of new snow outside. You’d want it on an early Fall evening before you stowed away your grill for the winter.

 

I like it a lot, but then I appreciate access to Syrah’s varietality without drinking anything too thick and sludgy and fatiguing. Clearly there’s a world between these two poles, and the greatest wines reside therein, but these delicate wines don’t get their share of kudos, besotted as we are with sheer muscle.

 

Mind you, there’s plenty of strength here, but it’s expressed as a sinewy ripple, and it sits below a tranquil surface. It’s more charming than lusty, but I must emphasize that it isn’t slight or attenuated – it’s real red wine with a graceful coolness and just enough mojo to be taken seriously.

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2020 Däublin Syrah Jaspis                                                                   +

(The top-level Syrah has 13% alc)

 

And now we have a fragrance to contend with. Smoke and wood and raw bacon and, oddly, a top note of celeriac.

 

On the palate this does remind me of some of the Valasian Syrahs, though if I was really being fussy I might infer a cuvée of Syrah and Cornalin. In any event the wine is delicious, idiosyncratic, and entirely compelling.

 

At this level we can refer to the more “noble” elements that we cherish from Syrah, though we remain spared from any overstatedness. Instead we get ample smokiness and a grilled nightshade umami – and that curious metallic clang –  and a grownup expressiveness that doesn’t have to bang itself on the chest to tell you to pay attention.

 

With air the bouquet becomes almost elated, and the palate’s luscious sweetness is perfectly contained within a gliding, gracious body.

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2018 10-4 Syrah Jaspis                                                                        ++

 

2018 is developing its own aroma, regardless of color or variety, and we have it here. There’s also a deranged sort of concentration in play, like scattering the puzzle pieces across the floor. Those first notes are intensely bloody, yet not bretty as far as I can discern. You could call it “brooding.”

 

The palate is pure 2018. I last smelled the aroma in a Pfalz Scheurebe, and I couldn’t describe it then and I can’t describe it today. Strangely it’s applesauce, peony, mace, to which is added a Syrah pepperiness, the metallic twang (again)

 

The palate is like one of those great-tasting gut burps; the flavors seem to rise out of your own body rather than entering you from the glass. It’s earthy and loaded with umami, and it’s the least “sweet” among the Syrahs – the least sweet and the most meaty.

 

Because it has so many of the important-red-wine elements, I’m somewhat skeptical. I know, I’m weird that way. But – it makes it all the better when I’m overcome, as I am here. This is simply beautiful red wine, the one among the Syrahs that can stand alongside the Pinot Noirs in sheer quality, length, capaciousness and gloss.

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