Tag Archives: spätlese

2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kranklay Riesling Spätlese

2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kranklay Riesling Spätlese

2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kranklay Riesling Spätlese

Last weekend, we met with friends for an afternoon of playing Super Mario Kart, wine, cakes, cheeses and minestrone (talk about an eclectic mixture). We had a Pinot Noir that I was not very fond of so I am not writing about that one (Nina liked it quite a bit, which is always a mystery to me…but she likes red wines with sharp edges, I don’t). But, with the cheeses, we did share this bottle of wine, the 2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kranklay Riesling Spätlese. Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with the winery, if you aren’t, I wrote about it in detail here. The winemaker Stefan Erbes has become a good friend of mine.

Some of you should also be familiar with the Ürziger Würzgarten by now, one of my preferred vineyards along the Middle Mosel. But you might wonder what that word “Kranklay” behind it means. Let me explain briefly: The German Wine Act, passed in the early ’70s, did many things that I can just look at in amazement these days. One of them was merging single denomination vineyards into bigger single denomination vineyards by expanding particular plots and getting rid of the old names. So, what used to be a rather small vineyard, the Ürziger Würzgarten, is now a pretty big stretch of land. The incorporated vineyards lost their single vineyard denomination and vanished. Among these merged plots were some pretty good ones: in Erden for example the “Herzlay”, or in Ürzig the “Kranklay”. The German Wine Act prohibits wineries from putting the names of these now defunct vineyards on the label, even if the vineyards are in these old plots.

A younger generation of winemakers has realized that terroir actually matters (it really does not in any way to the German Wine Act). So, some of them have started putting the names of the deleted vineyards back on the labels because they believe they are unique and should be identifiable. While this is not allowed by the Wine Act, it depends on the wine commissioner to assess whether to exact penalties or not. The Middle Mosel is quite lucky in that regard as the current commissioner does not seem to care too much. So you will find the denominations Kranklay or Herzlay on bottles of Karl Erbes or Dr. Hermann.

Other areas fare worse: Weingut Peter Lauer, on the Saar river, has to come up with creative names for their wines that resemble the old vineyard names in order to be able to print something akin to the vineyard name on the label. It is complete bureaucratic idiocy at its “best” and everyone seems to agree that the Wine Act is in desperate need of an overhaul…but legislatures move slowly (as Americans know all too well)…so for now, we are stuck with a system that is generally considered bad, which is arbitrarily applied. Talk about the rule of law…

The Kranklay then is part of the Ürziger Würzgarten. It is located in the higher, Eastern parts of the South facing Würzgarten, close to where the Erdener Treppchen begins. It is a perfect amphitheater and has a pretty good micro climate. Stefan decided it is worth pointing that out and putting the name back on the label. The wines tend to taste a bit riper in my experience than the rest of the Würzgarten.

But let’s move on to the wine: it has 7% ABV and was from the super ripe 2011 vintage, so we knew we were in for a sweet treat…In a short exchange, Stefan told me that the 2011s are now beginning to shine.

In the glass the 2011 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Kranklay Riesling Spätlese was strikingly bright yellow. To me, the nose was a bit subdued, with floral aromas. On the palate the wine was quite sweet, showed honey and peach aromas. It still retained a decent amount of acidity but the sugar level definitely gave me one of those very welcome sugar burns in the throat (I have no clue if you understand what I mean: it is this mixture of acidity and sugar that can create a warm, fuzzy feeling in the upper throat region. I quite enjoy that in a good Riesling). The wine had a long finish. After a while I began tasting red apples and some orange rinds. It was a perfect match with the goat cheeses we had (goat gouda, goat manchego, two other hard goat cheeses and a soft, Greek goat cheese). We like to eat those cheeses with some kind of fruit mustard, but who needs that when you have a wine like this in your glass?

It is still in the early stages of its development. To a certain degree, it seemed more like an Auslese than a Spätlese in its intensity and I am rather certain that the must reached Auslese levels in degrees Oechsle. If you like sweet German Rieslings, this is a great bottle of wine for you.

I just checked the guys over at Mosel Fine Wines (if you have not signed up for their free newsletter, I encourage you to do it: great wine reviews for pretty much all wineries that matter at the Mosel and it is free), and they noted yellow fruits and passion fruit. They remark that it is clearly botrytized (I thought the opposite last night, but what do I know?) and also got the honey notes. Their suggested drinking window is 2016 to 2026. So you might want to give this wine some time…

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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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2009 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese

2009 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese

Just a short tasting note today. We had this beauty to finish up our Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday. You can read more about the winery, of which I am very fond, here, and I have waxed on lyrically about the Würzgarten before here.

The 2009 Karl Erbes Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese poured in a lemony, yellow color. The nose was a bit subdued, but had the typical floral and herbal aromas, with a notable freshness to it (I don’t know how else to describe it). On the palate, it was on the heavier side of light-bodied, with a healthy dose of sugar and yellow fruit. What made me love this wine was  a great lemon-flavored acidity that lingered on my tongue long after I had swallowed it. It was a great companion to chill after overindulging on turkey, mashed potatoes, red cabbage and creamy onions or gruyere-baked butternut squash. Finally something light and refreshing…

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