Tag Archives: 1987

Our Annual Wine Party

Cork collection

It has become a tradition in our house that every year for Nina’s birthday we throw a wine party. It used to be that it was a wine and cheese party, where we provided the cheeses and opened Nina’s huge treasure chest of mustards and fruit mustards, and everyone invited was asked to bring a bottle of wine they liked or always wanted to try or thought we just had to try. The tradition started back in Germany, where naturally almost everyone brought Rieslings…over the last couple of years we have also been able to open Rieslings from Nina’s birth year which has been fun and educational.

These days, the party has evolved to just a wine party. Nina still gives some guidance regarding what folks should contemplate bringing, and it is usually respected. One cool thing is that a number of friends that come are not really into wine, but are willing to explore and try things out. I always love that. The other cool thing is that it gives me an opportunity to see what others consider when they look at wines and try to bring something to a specifically wine party. Here are some of my impressions from this year’s party:

1) Pinot noir seems to be gaining ground like crazy. I’d guess that half the wines that were brought to the party were made from that grape. Pretty much all of them from the US or other New World locations, mainly because we tend to limit money spent to grad student salaries. I enjoyed seeing that not so into wine folks are embracing that grape more and more, yet some of the wines were clearly underwhelming…it’s just hard at that price range.

2) A Portuguese friend of ours brought a bottle of Alvarinho, a white,  called Deu La Deu from the Portuguese sub-region of Monção e Melgaço. Our friend introduced it by saying it was a vinho verde, and she knew we like vinho verde, but that it was a “next level” vinho verde. I was naturally intrigued, given how much I enjoy vinho verde. When I tried it, I was quite impressed: It has all the citrus and refreshment that I love about vinho verde, the sazziness, the fun. But it also has a more serious air about it: It carries more weight, is a bit creamier, a bit more mature, I guess I would say. At 12.5% ABV it is great to drink, and made for a wonderful surprise! More about the wine here.

A next level Vinho Verde

A next level Vinho Verde

3) Our newly found blogger friend Hannah (of Next Stop TBD) and her fiance Mark brought a bottle from a winery visit in California last year: A 2011 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley. They wanted to retry the wine, because memories of it were a bit hazy, and so we were happy to oblige. You know how I usually see Cabernet Sauvignons with trepidation, but it was a really tasty wine: bold, juicy, chewy, with enough depth. Nina was shocked I liked it, which was probably the other reason I liked it even more. Nothing like surprising your spouse once they think they have you figured out.

4) The amazement that has been Vouvray whites is continuing: Our great tasting buddies and real life friends, coffee roaster Jay and his baking-wine nut wife Sarah brought another bottle: Noel Bourgier 2012 Vouvray, this one retailing for a mere $11! It was just what I described as a winter white in my post about Vouvray a while back: creamy and full, round and enticing. Uncomplicated and quaffable. Go find a Vouvray and let me know what you think!

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

A nice Vouvray at a bargain price

5) As the highlight of the night, we opened yet another 1987 Vereinigte Hospitien Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese (we have had this wine before, last year we had a Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen, and we have had Vereinigte Hospitien’s ’87 Erdener Treppchen before). We are now 27 years in, so I begin to worry a bit about how these Spätlesen are going to hold up, especially from a not ideal vintage. I have been telling Nina numerous times that we need to start stocking up on Auslesen and even BAs from that year, if there were even any produced. The cork was moldy on top, but came out seemlessly, and the wine presented itself in fantastic condition: I had gotten the decanter ready, to potentially breathe some life into it, but the tiny sip I tried made me push aside the decanter and go straight for glasses: The wine was firm and structured. There was very bright acidity which held the wine together and led to citrus aromas dominating the wine. The finish was holding up, and so all in all a very solid expression of what an aged Spätlese can taste like. I thought it was very tasty and definitely has a couple more years ahead of it, which I find astonishing….and reason enough to buy a couple more of this when we are in Germany next…

Stunningly fresh

Stunningly fresh

So, when are you throwing your next wine party and encourage friends to bring what they want you to try or share with you?

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1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese

As I mentioned before, one of the things that have become a tradition at Nina’s birthday parties is that we open a bottle of 1987 Riesling, this time a Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Spätlese. We’re not sure for how much longer we can continue this, but for now we still have a few bottles…

Some of you might remember that one of my early posts on this blog was about the 1987 Vereinigte Hospitien Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese which we had for her birthday last year (see the post here – in an aside, I am just realizing that that post only garnered one like, from my good old blogging buddy Julian at Vinoinlove. Thanks, Julian!!). Back then I explained, that 1987 is considered a weaker year along the Mosel, so it is always a bit of a surprise when the wines held up.

Trying the 1987 Karl Erbes Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese was particularly interesting because the wine has pretty much exactly the same properties that the Hospitien wine had: Both from the same vineyard (albeit probably different areas within the vineyard), both 100% Riesling and both at Spätlese level, the medium category in the German wines with distinction level, which means they had comparable levels of ripeness in the grapes as measured in degree Oechsle.

The Treppchen borders the Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Prälat vineyards, in the photo it begins on the far right hand side.

Three grand cru vineyards (from left to right): Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Erdener Treppchen

Three grand cru vineyards (from left to right): Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Prälat and Erdener Treppchen

The wine had 7.5% ABV and was made by Stefan Erbes’ father Karl Erbes. One of the many wonderful things about this winery is that they retain a significant number of older vintages at the winery which are for sale. So if you ever make it there, make sure to ask for their older wines, too. They are also quite affordable still. You can find out more about the winery in my post here.

But now to the wine: The cork was in perfect condition and I decanted it for about 30 minutes. It poured in a light golden color, with some visible signs of ageing. The initial nose was very unappealing, strong musty aromas, some hints of leather, hardly any other aromas detectable. At that point, I was worried it might be flawed from that nose. On the palate, it was surprisingly fresh. The mustiness was not detectable when I tasted the wine. It was very delicate, and had contracted quite a bit, making it rather thin. It showed a good acidity structure with just a hint of sweetness. There really were no noticeable fruit aromas, I got more petrolly, aged Riesling flavors. A finish of medium length.

All in all, this was a bit weird. The nose was definitely not nice and it did not improve when I retasted a day later. The wine tasted still decently, but I thought the Hospitien wine we had last year had held up better. But another year of bottle age can also make a lot of a difference, so it is virtually impossible to compare the wines if you don’t try them on the same day. That said, this wine is most likely on its way out.

But hey, it held up for 26 years! And remember, this was “just” a Spätlese, not an Auslese or Beerenauslese. And it was from a vintage that is considered a rather weak vintage…so, absolutely nothing to complain about. The bottle cost us around $16 at the winery, if I remember correctly.

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1987 Vereinigte Hospitien Erdener Treppchen Spätlese

Photo taken from the winery’s homepage

I mentioned this wine in an earlier post, when I was talking about how German rieslings can age. I think it is proper to describe the wine in full.

The Vereinigte Hospitien (“Unified Hospices”) winery in Trier has a loooooong history and tradition. Its name stems from the fact, that until German Mediatisation in the early 1800s, most hospitals were run by the Catholic church. The Trier hospitals, that were also called hospices at the time, were unified into one corporation under public law in 1804 by Napoleon. A lot of these hospitals financed themselves by owning vineyards and selling the wine (just like universities at the time). The Vereinigte Hospitien are still a corporation under public law, maintaining several hospitals and nursing homes, and are a big employer. But they also never gave up winemaking, though. Through the church possessions, they own property in some of the most prestigious hills along the Mosel and Saar rivers. Most notable is the Scharzhofberg, one of the most famous German vineyards at the river Saar, but also Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Wiltinger Kupp and others.

The winery has a tasting room were you can try the wines for free. Even better, ask for a wine tasting with friends in their cellars, which are among the oldest in Germany…dating back to Roman walls of the fourth century AD. I have been quite fond of their good but affordable quality wines. If ever you get to Trier (be it for its Roman ruins, medieval history, or any other reason), I recommend you go and check out this winery.

The bottle with the deteriorated cork

Now, this 1987 I got at the winery shortly before I left for Ann Arbor. It happens to be Nina’s birthyear (not a very good year for German wines), and Erdener Treppchen, a vineyard in the central Mosel valley, is one of my favorite. To me, there is something special about old wines. I immediately have to think about what happened in that year, and it feels like the wine gives me access to a time that is passed. It is like a captured moment in time, that has aged as well, and will be gone when I finish (or pour out) the bottle. It is almost magical.

We opened it for Nina’s birthday party.  I decanted it for about half an hour. As you can see on the photo, the cork had deteriorated quite a bit, but when I pulled it, it was clear that it had not destroyed the wine. The color was a lighter rhine stone. The nose seemed quite complex, I smelled honey as the strongest. The taste was surprisingly fresh, with a well boiled down alcoholic tone. Unfortunately, and I guess this owes to the rather weak vintage in general, acidic notes were strong and dominated the palate to a degree that some found objectionable. I thought it was still an acceptable level…it was yummy!

Cork art

With older wines, it is interesting to see how they taste after they have been open for a while. So, we preserved some and after two days, tobacco and leather smells started dominating the nose, but with beautiful hints of strawberry. It just kept wowing me.

And to give you an idea why I am often surprised by the wine prices in the U.S. I think I paid about 15 euros for this bottle, that is $20. For German standards, that is already a rather expensive wine…

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