Tag Archives: auslese

Tasting at Gunderloch Part 2: The sweeter wines

My tasting notes.

My tasting notes.

As promised in my piece about our wonderful tasting at Weingut Gunderloch that I published last week (if you missed it, check it out here), this installment brings you the tasting notes on the sweeter wines. Bear in mind that I am naturally a lot fonder of the sweeter versions in general.

From the flagship dry wines, the Grosses Gewächs (GG), we moved on to one of the most ubiquitous Gunderloch wines of all: the 2011 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett. The wine is named after a character in Carl Zuckmayer’s “The Merry Vineyard”, a play from the 1920s. Zuckmayer was actually born in Nackenheim and the play was quite scandalous. The Jean Baptiste Gunderloch in the play is a winery owner with some twisted ideas about morality. Only in the 1950s and 1960s did Nackenheimers and Zuckmayer reconcile…but I digress. The wine is available all over the world: I have seen it in restaurants in Seoul, Korea in 2000 and I had it in Anchorage. It is the wine that made Gunderloch known to the more general public. I have tried pretty much every vintage since the early 2000s at our local wine festival. I started out really liking it but found the ones produced in the mid-2000s a bit wanting. But that’s enough of an introduction, let’s see how the 2011 fared: In the nose I got gooseberry and a nice freshness, probably carried by acidity. On the palate, it showed some moderate sweetness, was fruity with a nice acidity. I thought the vintage worked alright. There are definitely other Kabinetts out that offer more drinking fun, but at least this one is available widely.

We followed the Kabinett with the 2011 Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Spätlese (for those familiar with the German wine classification system we went in the right order, up a notch). According to Johannes, none of the grapes used for this wine were botrytized, which means they showed no signs of the noble rot that can get to grapes. In the nose, we got a great spontaneous fermentation nose that is initially a bit off-putting (because they smell a bit bad), but usually heralds great things for the glass. I got a lot of exotic fruits and the wine also smelled of cream. A very nice nose indeed. On the palate, it was really creamy and felt wonderfully balanced: some acidity, healthy sweetness, all in great symmetry. The best thing for me was its finish. My notes read: “loong, looooooong, very, very long”. It was just a beautiful rendition of a rich Spätlese. And unlike the GG from Rothenberg, this seemed quite accessible already.

In the classification scheme, what comes after a Spätlese? … Yes, an Auslese. So we followed that wine with the 2011 Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese. Johannes told us that in contrast to the Spätlese, 100% of the grapes used for this wine had the noble rot on them. In the nose, I got mostly pineapple. The wine looked heavy in the glass. On the palate, there were minor signs of ripeness, thanks to to the botrytis. This Auslese distinguished itself by being nicely mild. There was a noticeable and welcome acidity (some winemakers struggled with the low amounts of acidity in that vintage). All in all the wine was warming and very expressive in a gentle way. Definitely different from a lot of Mosel Auslesen I know that can be overwhelming that young. This one was not out to be a rock star, rather it seemed to hold back a bit and just letting on that it is a great wine. It should be interesting to taste it in a couple of years.

The tanks holding Trockenbeerenausele at Gunderloch

The tanks holding Trockenbeerenauslese at Gunderloch

After that, we got lucky. As in seriously lucky: The photo above shows the three tanks that stood in the tasting room: two 190 liter tanks of Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) and an 8 liter glass bulb full of single vineyard TBA from the Rothenberg. The unpronouncable Trockenbeerenauslese is the highest ranked and most rare of Germany’s wines (ice wine might be rarer, but I am not even sure it is). It literally translates to dry berry selection and that gives you an idea. The grapes are usually very shrivelled and picked individually. The juice you press from them is thick and syrupy, with concentrated sugars and low water to dilute it. The wines made from them are masterpieces, and take a long time to ferment. We had the tasting in late June, and the wines were still slowly fermenting. Johannes said they’d give them as much time as they need to finish the job. And he let us try some.

2011 Gunderloch Trockenbeerenauslese

2011 Gunderloch Trockenbeerenauslese

It is a rare occasion to try one of these, yet even rarer to try them at the winery while they are still fermenting. I remember, when we visited Dr. Hermann winery once in spring, Christian was just filtering the 20 liters of TBA he had made. And he proudly shared some of it with us. It makes you feel quite blessed when that happens. As you can see from the photo, the wine is of dark, dark amber color and highly viscous. In the nose, we got ripe plum and raisins. On the palate, it was still all over the place, which TBAs tend to be for quite a while after bottling, too, but there was definitely honey (which is a standard you taste in a TBA) and a nice spicy note to it. It was definitely exciting. Johannes said what every winemaker will tell you about their TBA: this one will be good in a hundred years. I am still looking for folks to either invite me to try a 100 year old TBA, or who are willing to wait it out with me. Should be fun. I already envy future generations!

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1997 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* and 1999 Bonnes et Guerre Pommard AOC

Two beauties, meant for each other

Some pairings seem to be made in the heavens: Think steak and malbec, think cheese and sweet riesling, think cooked beef and burgundy wines…the list is endless. But sometimes, we have the chance to reconsider our preconceived ideas, and be surprised, because a whole new horizon opens up as we do.

On one of these days, Nina and I were visiting Stefan Erbes of Karl Erbes. We were trying our way through his newer wines and on to older wines. I mentioned it before, but the cool thing with his winery is that his father has stashed away wines of virtually every vintage. We were trying the 1996 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese against this 1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* (they make up to a *** Auslese to distinguish between them according to what Stefan and his father consider the most stellar ones). Both tasted beautifully, unfortunately I cannot find the tasting notes for that visit. Stefan started explaining that he had had the 1997 with a grilled steak the other day and that that was amazing. This is when I intervened and told him to stop pulling my leg. I was incredulous. A steak and a Riesling Auslese? I know Riesling is versatile (think Korean food and riesling), but that versatile? Stefan just laughed, handed me a bottle and challenged me to try it out.

The next day, we did. We threw coals on the grill and seared beef steaks with friends. And, oh man, did it work. The wine nor the steak were ruined by the pairing. Incredibly, the sweetness of the wine gave the steak a new feel and aroma, and the smokiness of the steak gave the wine a certain depth. I was stunned. We stocked up on the wine (because it is amazing, steak or not) and were looking forward to the next BBQ Riesling dinner.

The occasion arose when we made plans with two good friends for dinner. She is falling more and more in love with German Riesling, while he has remained a bit skeptical, but is definitely indulging in the older vintages we’ve brought along. We agreed on steak, a butternut squash with sage risotto and baby potatoes. This was to be followed by a cheese platter, our usual routine.

I knew I wanted to take another bottle of wine, too, and my eyes fell on a bottle of 1999 Bonnes & Guerre Pommard. It was a gift by my French exchange partner and great friend Fred (another match made in the heavens). Pommard is a very well renown village just south of Beaune on the Cote d’Or and my friend knew full well that it is also the sister city of my home village Nackenheim. He had brought two bottles of this wine. I have not been able to find out anything about Bonnes & Guerre, so if any of you know them, please let me know. The first of these bottles I shared with two friends in my last weeks in Germany before heading over to Ann Arbor. It was an utter disappointment: The wine had clearly been dead, whether of cork or another flaw or just bad wine making, I could not determine it. It was just sad. So, I had been worrying about the bottle sitting here in Ann Arbor for a while, and I decided it was time to take it and see…

The Pommard and the decanter

The white was opened and left to breathe for about 30 minutes prior to tasting, the red was decanted and stood for about 45 minutes. We had parts of the Würzgarten with our steaks, and then some of the Pommard as well. That led over to the cheese course, where we also had both wines.

My notes on the 1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese* (the wine had 7.5% ABV): The color was surprisingly light, not as ambered as one would expect an Auslese to be when 15 years old. The nose initially was not very prominent, I could not distinguish any particular aromas. As the wine opened up, there was peach in the nose. On the palate, the wine was very fresh, no significant indications of ageing. The peach aromas came through very nicely, the acidity in the wine balancing the reduced sugar beautifully. I guess I was most endeared by how fresh the wine still tasted. About 2 hours into the evening, the wine opened up further and there were tropical fruits coming in. The wine paired nicely with our steaks, but we were also happy to have preserved some for the cheese, because it definitely shone more on the cheese course, when it opened up and was supported more by the goat cheese we were having. It is a marvelous piece of art that Karl Erbes created…

So light…

I knew this bottle of 1999 Bonnes & Guerre Pommard AOC was not flawed as soon as I uncorked it. The cork looked clean and intact, and when I poured the wine into the decanter, a full blown raspberry attack was going on. I don’t recall ever to have had such a prominent and distinct raspberry aroma in the nose. The wine was incredibly light in color, almost translucent. There was no darkening or browning on the edges when poured into the glass. It was remarkably fresh as well. In the nose, the raspberry aromas persisted, with some jam and tartness mixed in. I also smelled something like dough batter, but that might have been my brain playing tricks on me (I love raspberry tartes). There were also notes of chalk in the nose. On the palate, the wine was condensed, but very fruity. The alcohol of 13% ABV was noticeable, but at no instance was the wine heavy. Later in the evening, when we were having cheese, the wine showed cherry, plum and slight tomato notes. There was also a certain earthiness to it. The wine was such a surprise to me. I had expected it to be flawed or a heavier, darker pinot noir. The light color deceived that it was deep and subtle and strong. The finish was long, and it shone through.

Was this a pairing made in the heavens? I think it was. Trying old wines with friends, from two regions in the world that matter a lot to me, both fruity, both light, both deep. They expressed some great European wine making, and to have them side by side, was an experience I likely will not forget for quite some time…

Playing with filters to show how light it looked…

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The Vereinigte Hospitien tasting in June 2012

The line up

Finally, here are the tasting notes for our awesome tasting at Vereinigte Hospitien in June. As you might remember (if not, here is the initial report), we were sitting in Germany’s oldest wine cellar (the walls dating back to the 300s A.D.), soaking in the awesome atmosphere as our host Marc was picking up some bottles to try. And he did not let us down!

Here is the wine list:

1) 1987 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese

2) 1987 Erdener Prälat Riesling Spätlese

3) 1990 Kanzemer Altenberg Riesling Auslese

4) 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett

5) 2003 Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese

6) 2011 Trierer Augenscheiner Riesling Spätlese

We began with a tasting of two 1987 wines from two of our favorite vineyards: Ürziger Würzgarten and Erdener Prälat. It is Nina’s birth year and Marc had learned that from the blog. We had tried the Erdener Treppchen Spätlese before, so now we were able to compliment this tasting experience that I described here.  Just think about that: we were able to try three similar quality wines from three connected vineyards of a 25 year old vintage. Maybe it is just me, but I get pretty excited about that!!

Both wines were spätlesen and they had remarkably similar profiles. The Ürziger Würzgarten had 10.4 grams of acidity per liter, with 41 grams of residual sugar; the Erdener Prälat was slightly higher in acidity at 10.5 grams and sweeter with 45 grams of residual sugar. At 84 degree Oechsle (a scale to measure the sugar in the harvested grape), it had the highest Oechsle for any of their spätlese in that year.

The Ürziger Würzgarten’s nose was flowery and fresh, one could say a typical nose for this vineyard. On the tongue, it had a sizeable amount of acidity, which gave it an incredibly fresh taste. The acidity persisted throughout the tasting. It was hard for me to discern what fruits I tasted.

The Erdener Prälat was remarkably well preserved. The nose was full of peach and once the wine reached our mouths, it broadened out, fully taking command of our taste buds with peach and apricot. The acidity only appeared more towards the end. It had a long finish.

It was interesting to see how different these two wines tasted. You could definitely tell the terroir in them, but the higher residual sugar in the Prälat probably helps explain why the acidity was less pronounced in it.

Two beauties

Another interesting thing we learned was that Vereinigte Hospitien did a chemical analysis of the Würzgarten and it produced a fascinating result. One thing that you hear over and over again when tasting older rieslings is that they tend to be more balanced, because the sweetness goes down and the acidity stays, so the wines become less fruit-pronounced. However, the chemical analysis showed that the amount of sugar in the wine had not gone down – at all. There was still the same amount of sugar in the wine! We just do not taste it anymore. Apparently, there is no real explanation for that. One guess is that the sugar transforms into longer-chained molecules that our taste buds cannot taste…crazy, right?

We then went for a 1990 Kanzemer Altenberg Auslese. Kanzem is at the river Saar, a small contribuary that meets the Mosel just south of Trier. Saar wines are usually more mineralic and have higher acidity levels than the Mosel, which makes for very interesting wines. Kanzemer Altenberg is one of the top vineyards along that river. The bottle had been recorked. The wine has 52 grams of residual sugar, harvested from fully ripe grapes.

Upon opening and pouring, we saw a dark orange wine, with a salty and sherry like nose. On the tongue it was weirdly metallic, some hints of passion fruit. It then fell flat fast. We decided the bottle was flawed (actually, Marc, who knew how it should taste decided…but it did taste odd). The second bottle we opened was very different: lighter in color, the nose full of gooseberry. On the tongue, it had a fabulous acidity, lively fruit notes and just gave us a great mouth-full of wine. The texture was wonderful. A great wine!

We then tried a 2011 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett. The Scharzhofberg is the Saar’s most famous vineyard and its wines rank among my favorite. It has a hard to describe terroir note to it that I just find incredibly endearing and comforting. This one did not let us down. At 88 degree Oechsle, this Kabinett is actually a wine that could have been labelled as an Auslese, two spots higher. It has 9.8% ABV. The nose was fruity and flowery. On the tongue I tasted banana and apricot, with a looooong finish. Just a very decent, yummy wine.

Nina’s highlight, and I was pretty impressed, too, was the 2003 Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. Initially a single-owned vineyard by Vereinigte Hospitien, they are now leasing some out to other winemakers. The color was light and fresh. The nose full of strawberry and cream, with vanilla thrown in. On the tongue, the same tastes prevail. The sweetness is wonderfully balanced by a fresh acidity. Later on, we tasted caramel notes creeping in. Long finish, too. It was such a fun wine. We have had another bottle since, and that was just as good. A great wine at a great price ($15).

We finished the tasting with a 2011 Trierer Augenscheiner Riesling Spätlese, a vineyard completely owned by Vereinigte Hospitien. At 72 grams of residual sugar and 92 degree Oechsle, the first thing we noticed was sweet peach in the nose, complimented by perfumy and flowery notes. The taste was floral as well (I am bad with discerning different floral notes), the texture silky. The wine seemed incredibly concentrated, and definitely not yet ready for consumption. I bought a couple of bottles to see where this one is headed to…

As you can see, it was quite the outstanding tasting: old and new, Saar and Mosel. The full variety, even of just the sweeter rieslings, came out beautifully. I am looking forward to many more tastings there…

Bliss…

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