This post is inspired by my fellow bloggers’ writings in the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #3, which just concluded and featured articles around the theme “possession”. A common thread in most posts was the idea of how possession of wines is only fully realized when they are consumed. But not just alone, but shared with friends, fellow wine lovers or loved ones (this theme hit me especially forceful in Anatoli’s entry as well as John, The Wine Raconteur’s piece)… My buddy Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist, posted something about how to deal with your wine possessions and I literally exclaimed in the comments section that the most important rule was not to wait for special occasions, in my view, a special wine IS the occasion on any given night. So let me reiterate: If you have a special bottle stashed away somewhere and you are still waiting for that right moment to open it, why not make tonight that night?
The articles inspired me to search my modest cellar for a special bottle that I had been keeping there for a while: A bottle of 1989 Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling Auslese (and its twin, I actually have two bottles of this wine). So much about this wine is special: I received these bottles in a special shipment from my friend ManSoo (who confided that this was at the time – spring 2013 – his favorite wine), the label itself is special (as you can see), the year is very special, especially for a German, and a more than 20 year old Riesling is special anyway…but label and bottle also caused some head-scratching, which I will let you in on in a minute. Very dear friends of ours had invited us for dinner, and I decided it was a great occasion to bring this wine because one of them loves aged Rieslings and the other loves Riesling of any kind.
As I unearthed one of the bottles (yeah, my holdings are not
very well sorted at all…), I paused and looked at the label. The photo of the Berlin Wall coming down is still giving me chills. To this day, 24 years later, I remember my dad calling my brother and me downstairs so we could see the live footage that fateful night of November 8/November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. I remember his tears, although we didn’t even have relatives in East Germany. The next days were crazy, with teachers only talking about this, no matter the subject. It was all very emotional. So naturally, the label touched a very soft spot for me.
But there is some mystery to this wine when you look closely. The bottle mentions Saar Mosel Winzersekt, a cooperative, as the wine’s shipper, not bottler. So the label was attached by the cooperative and is probably sold by the cooperative, but it was not made by it. Who made it?
The clue came when I pulled the cork: There emerged a coat of arms, and the name “Erben von Beulwitz”, which is a winery in the Ruwer valley with significant holdings in the vineyard Kaseler Nies’chen. So that settled that. The wine was made by Erben von Beulwitz winery, but somehow some of it ended up receiving this special label by the cooperative. How? I have no clue…
Then, while drinking the wine and looking at the label again, I realized that there was something else that was odd. I’ve written before about the AP number, a special number that needs to be printed on every bottle of wine produced in Germany. You can read more about it here, where I explained that concept in detail. But to cut things short: Every bottling in Germany gets a unique number and sample bottles of these bottlings have to be retained in order to ensure the quality and that no fakes are being made. The AP number’s last two digits stand for the year in which the wine was approved as wine. Usually, that is one or two years after the vintage. So for a 1989 you would expect to see a “90” or “91” at the most. However, this label shows the digits “99”, which means it was only submitted for review and approval in 1999, ten years after the grapes were harvested!
Now I am not sure whether the wine spent that long in steel tanks or barrels (which seems unlikely but what do I know?) or whether it was bottled but never labelled and therefore only submitted for review when the labels were attached…
I love these detective instincts that labels can and wines can trigger. This was a special case, because usually it is confined to checking out the vineyard and winemaker, trying to see where in particular the grapes are coming from. This one had several weird clues, and I relished investigating them. There is so much to wines!
Needless to say, the wine was really yummy. Everyone around the table seemed to enjoy it, and I had a particularly great time because I love it when my friends have one of my treasured Riesling moments. I have no descriptors or any of that sort today, will save that for a later date when I drink the second bottle. Today is just an exercise in investigative wine journalism…