Tag Archives: spätlese

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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A night spanning three continents…

Last night, we had my good blogger friend John, The Wine Raconteur, and his wife over for dinner at our place. The dinner had been a long time in the making, and I am glad we finally got to it. It has become a Christmas tradition in Nina’s parents’ house for me to cook a boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy) “between the years”, as we call the period after Christmas and before work starts again in early January. I had to tweak my established recipe (over at FX Cuisine’s stunning food blog) a bit, and figured John and his wife would not mind being the guinea pigs to give the new recipe a try.

I have always loved this dish, and pride myself in having mastered quite some skill in its preparation. It is time consuming, with the marinating and dealing with the meat, but it is also so rewarding! This photo is from FX Cuisine, and mine looks pretty much like this (and yes, I do serve it with mashed potatoes as well!):

Boeuf Bourguignon

As a French classic, a Burgundy Pinot Noir is normally a must to accompany this dish, but John had something else in mind. He had recently acquired a bunch of single vineyard reserve Pinot Noirs from California-based Tudor Wines and wanted to share this wine, which was very generous. He knows of my reservations as regards California Pinot Noirs (too fruit-driven, not enough earthy aromas), so he grinned and informed me that this had enough “dirt” in it. And oh boy, it did. We were drinking the 2007 Tudor Tondre Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands. It was such a pleasant surprise: The initial taste was this wonderful earthiness that a light Pinot Noir carries when done right, and it stretched through the mid-palate, only to be taken over a by surprising fruitiness of sweet cherry and berries. This fruit explosion was in no way a problem, it was so well integrated and part of the earthy tones. Just a great wine, wonderful with the meal as well.

After we were done with the Tudor bottle and our dinner, and conversation was flowing naturally back and forth, I was making eye contact with Nina. We had a bottle of Riesling in the fridge, but it didn’t feel right to crack that bottle just now. As John’s wife was describing how much she enjoys Cabernet Francs and has a penchant for big wines (just like Nina), Nina suggested we should open our last bottle of 2007 Tukulu Pinotage. John reported that he had only ever tasted his first Pinotage at a recent tasting and seemed not very keen on reliving that experience (who can blame him, a lot of the stuff sold here is not up to par), but we insisted. Nina and I have had a weak spot for good Pinotage ever since our time in Botswana, were amazing wines from this grape were available. Tukulu quickly became my favorite producer back then, and has remained so since. Tukulu was one of the first wineries in South Africa to be run by black entrepreneurs and deems itself a black empowerment project (granted, I do like the winery for that reason alone!). This particular bottle had been sitting for a while, and Cellartracker kept nagging me that its drinking window was closing…man, was Cellartracker wrong. The wine poured in a gorgeous purplish red, and swirled heavily through the glass. The nose was fresh and enticing, with typical rubber and dirt aromas mixed with red fruit. On the palate, the wine was wonderfully fresh. Great acidity, lots and lots of earthiness, mixed in that unique style that only good Pinotage can achieve with red fruit. Stunning, and by far not nearing the end of its drinking window.

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

Instead of dessert, as is common in our household, we opened a 2003 Vereinigte Hospitien Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. You all know my love for aged Rieslings by now, and this one did not disappoint. Petrol aromas in the nose, some mineral aromas and citrus. On the palate, the wine was a stunning mix of toffee and vanilla and underlying acidity and yellow fruit aromas. It still tasted very fresh, and was not on its way to (what I loosely describe as) the more sherry-like qualities of even older Rieslings. By this I am referring to a narrower scope of aromas, and a “thinner” mouthfeel (thanks to Frank for making me explain this a bit more!). I love this stage in a Riesling’s development: still supple and a good mouthful, but turning more towards the caramel side. In general, I find the 2003 Mosel Rieslings are great to drink at the moment, so if you have a bottle in your cellar, give it a try!

All in all we spanned three continents last night. Add in that we talked about our Asian trip as well, and we can make that four. I love how wine can do that, so easily. But as always, the best wines are worth nothing if not had in delightful company.

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Minor Thoughts on the 2012 Mosel Riesling vintage

Somewhere along the Mosel, November 2013

Somewhere along the Mosel, November 2013

I’ve spent the last five days at the Mosel, where I was lucky to taste 2012 Rieslings with some of my favorite producers, and new contacts. Most of these tastings were dedicated to the 2012 vintage, but it was hard not to talk about the 2013 harvest, which was just finished a few days or weeks ago, depending on the winery, so let me start with that.

2013 seems to have been a very difficult year: It started with low temperatures which led to late bud break and flowering, followed by a very dry summer. Some areas saw early summer hails that led to some areas remaining without any yield. Once harvest time came around, the weather started turning wet and rainy, which meant vintners and their staff had to time picking grapes quite well in order not to get grapes that were either too soaked with water or brought in a bunch of water.

All in all, 2013 seems to have reinforced the need for a lot of work in the vineyards throughout the year (e.g. cutting down grape clusters very early once it was clear that the ripening period was shorter). What I tasted from the barrel showed quite some acidity (as was to be expected from a very mixed weather year), but aromas seemed to be alright. Most winemakers lamented how low their yield was, but that they were fine with the result in the barrels. This is the third in the last four years that brought significantly lower yields than on average, and it could mean financial difficulties for some….for now, a lot of the wines are still bubbling, and it is wait and see.

Barrel tasting 2013s at Immich-Batterieberg

Barrel tasting 2013s at Immich-Batterieberg

But now to the 2012 vintage. Let me recap the growing conditions, with the help of Mosel Fine Wines (if you haven’t signed up for their free newsletters, go and do that now!):

March 2012 was unusually warm at the Mosel, which led to an early bud break. Through uneven weather conditions in June, the yields fell quite a bit and there was early rot due to a rainy July. Other than that, conditions were normal. And a standard September weather brought a quick rise in sugar levels, maintaining higher acidity levels as well. The October had cool nights which made the acidity remain rather high and grapes remained mostly clean with low levels of botrytis.

All in all a rather good year, with the problems of low yields arising from June and July.

I had not read much about other people’s assessments of this vintage, so I was excited to go and try for myself. As you may recall, 2011 along the Mosel was, for my taste, a bit too low in acidity. Back in June 2012 I wrote: “2011 (…) was a year with high yields and very, very healthy grapes. (…) Nina called (what we tried of the 2011s) subtle, I would add sophistication. They also showed great mellowness. Think of 2010 as a crazy, modern art painting and of 2011 as a well composed and pleasing piece of art.”

In retrospect, and having tried more 2011s, I think I am really struggling more than I realized back then with their low acidity. Which was good for the dry Rieslings, but made the fruity and sweeter styles more difficult.

Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese 2002 and 2012

Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese 2002 and 2012

The 2012, in contrast, cannot complain about too little acidity. The wines all showed a nice balance of healthy acidity and enough sweetness. They were light and elegant, and refreshing. I probably benefited from trying them longer after their bottling than the 2011s, but it seemed to me that these wines were more to my liking. The interplay between sweetness, fruitiness and acidity is such an important part in a Riesling. And it seemed to work in most.

I also tried a bunch of 2012 dry Rieslings. I do think I still prefer the subtler style of 2011 over the stronger acidity-determined 2012s, but I found many of them surprisingly good. My range of assessing vintages is still very limited, so I cannot really compare or give advice on where this vintage lies (and, I also realize more and more that there are no good or bad vintages, it is more easier or harder vintages for the winemakers….or as a winemaker put it: There are no bad years, just bad winemakers.).

The guys at Mosel Fine Wines, whom I have come to trust quite a bit, think 2012 will be one of the great vintages when we look back in several years, especially for clean and juicy, i.e. fruity Kabinett and Spätlese (they see potential to play in the same league as the great vintages of the 1970s)…

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