Tag Archives: spätlese

1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese

Some of you may recognize the iconic black label of St. Urbanshof, because I have previously written about a wine from this winery, a wine I really like. This one however, a St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Spätlese, does take us back a couple of years (1997, the year in which I finished my alternative military service, the year in which I first moved to Trier to take up my studies, and oh did I hate Trier and Mosel valley at the time for being forced to go to my fourth choice school despite very good grades…but I digress). I need to write a somewhat longer introduction on this one…bear with me.

When Nina and I visited Germany last year, we naturally spent time with our wonderful friend, my wine mentor and former Korean teacher ManSoo (you have heard that name often enough by now). During our long, delicious dinner, he was gracious and kind enough to open many bottles of Riesling, among which were a just degorged 1992 Riesling champagne and this bottle of wine, a 1997 Scharzberg from St. Urbanshof. The wine had, as all wines do, a history: ManSoo had laid hands on some of these bottles through the president of Saar-Mosel-Winzer Genossenschaft, a cooperative that mostly makes Sekt, the German champagne, but also other wines. If I remember correctly, the president told ManSoo that he found several cases of this wine in the deep cellars of the cooperative. The wine label bears a special imprint that shows a bird and reads “Singapore Duty Not Paid – Not for Sale”. What the heck? Well, turns out that this particular wine was bought by Singapore Airlines to be served in first class service in the late 1990s, early 2000s and it was a special bottling. Apparently, Singapore Airlines had not taken all of the bottled wines, so some ended up, for whatever reason, in the cooperatives cellars….and now ManSoo got a couple of bottles.

We tried the wine back in June 2012 and really liked it. And I had firm plans to write about it, but to this day I have been unable to unearth the tasting notes from that evening….usually a sign that I had a tremendous time, but also quite unnerving!

Fast forward to May 2013. Friends of ours are heading to Denmark for a wedding and have the idea that maybe ManSoo could send them 12 bottles of Riesling for them to take home, because they love Riesling. So I contact ManSoo, tell him to send a package to Denmark, give him an idea of the price per bottle, and tell him “you know what we like”. Which was horribly unclear and naturally ManSoo assumed that the wines were for Nina and I. So he decided to ignore my pricing ideas and packed a box of very much more expensive wines than anticipated. When my friends posted photos of the contents, I almost screamed out at the screen! We were able to rectify the situation by them bringing the wines, and us exchanging them for wines more in their price range that we already had here….

This box, besides many treasures that I intend on sharing with you as we progress, contained a bottle of this wine, the 1997 St. Urbanshof Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Spätlese. Some of you might know that I am very fond of the vineyard Scharzhofberg. Notice the -hof- which differentiates that vineyard from the current bottle. It is confusing, and I believe it was designed to be confusing. The 1971 German wine act created 160 vast tracts of land under vine (so called Großlage) which received certain names which any winemaker who produced wines from that area could use. Some of them might sound familiar to you: Kurfürstlay, Michelsberg, Schwarze Katz, Domherr, Gutes Domtal and Rehbach, to name a few. Let me be clear: Winemakers were allowed to use these names for grapes that come from anywhere in that vast area. It is the opposite of terroir idea or single vineyard denominations, although it sounds like a single vineyard denomination…

The name Scharzberg is awfully close to Scharzhofberg, and one can only surmise that it was chosen to make sales easier because of that proximity in name. It is rare that one finds the name of the Großlage on a bottle from a renown producer. Usually, they put the single vineyard on there or, if they don’t, they do not even bother to put the Großlagen name on there and just sell it as a regional or even German table wine. Why did they do things differently on this one? I don’t know…but it is noteworthy.

After this long introduction, let me get to the wine which we shared with the carriers of the box it came in last week. The cork was dried out and very crumbly. I cursed myself for not having brought my two-prong bottle opener, which would have dealt with this situation. As it was, I had to crumble out what I could, and then push the last bit into the bottle. We then poured the wine through a very fine sieve into a decanter, where we let it sit for about 15 minutes.

It poured in a honey-tinged yellow with hints of green in the glass (it looked much more golden in the decanter). Great color. In the nose, the first thing I noticed was a vibrant acidity. There was also petrol, which I expect in a Riesling this age (not necessarily in a young Riesling, mind you!). There were also some honey aromas, but the most prominent for me was tangerine. The wine smelled quite citrussy, I noted down lemon rind and some butter aromas. One of our friends remarked that it smelled like kumquat to him, and I think that nails it: it was a tad more bitter than tangerine, so kumquat definitely made sense. The nose was just beautiful. There was so much going on, and it had this vibrant freshness to it, despite the cork disaster that made me cringe. On the palate, the wine was light bodied with great acidity, and I mean that, just  a backbone of great acidity. The residual sugar did its job of balancing the acidity beautifully. The wine tasted incredibly fresh, was very creamy (something I usually associate with Scharzhofberger). Fruit-wise I got gooseberry, petrol, white currants, tangerine and some slight vanilla. The wine’s finish was rather shortish.

It was a great wine. So fresh, so well held up. It brought some silence around the table, while everyone was pondering it and comprehending it. I was glad we got to share it with our friends, who are both Riesling nuts and are able to appreciate a good bottle of Riesling. But then again, I seriously believe this bottle would have impressed anyone, even the fiercest Riesling hater. It made me remember the dear friendship that brought the wine to me, and it brought memories of the night I first tried it. It made me feel damn lucky. This wine is not available anywhere for sale as far as I know, and yet I have been able to try it twice already. I’m a lucky bastard, I know…Oh, and thank you Singapore Airlines for never picking up all the bottles!

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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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2003 von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Spätlese

2003 von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Spätlese

2003 von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Spätlese

From one of his frequent trips to Germany, a friend of ours brought back a mixed case of German wines that my friend ManSoo had put together for us. It contained some Kurt Hain wines, a sparkler, some 1989 Auslese and three wines by von Hövel, a VDP winery at the river Saar, one of them this 2003 von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Spätlese.

Now, for those not familiar with the Mosel region, the Mosel has two tributary rivers, the Saar and the Ruwer that are part of that wine growing area. The Saar, as I have explained before, meets the Mosel just south of Trier, in the town of Konz. It commences in France and then flows into Germany. It is a mere 246 km (152 miles) long, but only its final stretch in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate is used for growing wine, mostly Riesling. It is known to produce more mineralic, somewhat tarter Rieslings than the middle Mosel. The microclimate is cooler than at the Mosel, so the grapes tend to ripen later and can reach acidity levels without the higher sugar levels you can find on the Mosel, which gives them a distinct character. Most of the vineyards used to belong to the Catholic church, but in the course of secularization in the 19th century, many private investors bought plots and began wine making. Rich families began to settle later in the 19th century which led to the term “Saarbarone” (baronets of the Saar, a term derived from “Ruhrbarone” which was used for the industrialists in the Ruhr area that made a fortune when the industrial revolution took off). A lot of the estates on the Saar are very grandiose, unlike most Mosel estates.

Weingut von Hövel has been owned by the von Hövel family since 1803 (just in time for secularization) and is one such rather big mansion. It is a member of the prestigious German association of quality winemakers, VDP, and owns 11 hectares (27 acres) in the Saar valley which are planted with Riesling only. Its annual production is around 60,000 bottles. Since 2010 Max von Kunow has been the owner of the estate. Besides holdings in the legendary Scharzhofberg, the winery exclusively owns the vineyards Kanzember Hörecker and Oberemmeler Hütte, the vineyard this wine was from. Oberemmeler Hütte is a South-west facing tiny plot of land. Unlike most vineyards in the area, it is quite far removed from the river, on a higher lying plateau. In the 1868 Prussian taxation map, which marked vineyards according to their property value and therefore -indirectly- quality, Oberemmeler Hütte is in the same category as the Scharzhofberg, i.e. very highly ranked.

I was excited to try this wine, because while we lived in Trier, we were only about a 7 minutes drive away from where the Saar meets the Mosel and Oberemmel is pretty close to where that happens. We actually had our wedding celebration in a BBQ hut only a couple of miles away from this particular vineyard. So this is as neighborhood as it gets for Saar wines for us.

The wine poured in a very clear pale, almost white color. Absolutely no ageing was noticeable when looking at it. The nose was delicate, with fresh aromas of citrus, white peach, cream and hints of vanilla. There were some traces of age in the nose, but not prominent at all. On the palate, the wine was light bodied and surprisingly thin in texture. It had a somewhat ethereal feel to it in its lightness in general. The taste was still clean and fresh. There were no citrus aromas, but apple and pear had come in. There was hardly any minerality noticeable which was a bit surprising. The finish was medium long.

The wine was very interesting to me, because it was a combination of still quite fresh, but also seemingly contracted from age, which were the two poles that this wine was tied to. At times, I wanted it to be a bit firmer, and at other times I enjoyed its lightness. It was a type of aged Riesling I don’t think I have experienced in the past. Good to very good, I would say.

Check out the vineyard’s location here.

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