What’s in the glass tonight May 27th – Barbaresco


Produttori di Barbaresco 2007

From the Cellar: Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano 2007 – $$$

14.5% alc. Dark carmine colour.

Gorgeously fragrant – violets, plums and prunes; savoury notes too; and boxwood and brown card.

Stunning fruit weight, texture and body in the glass. Silky tannins, then drying. Strong and spicy. Vanilla and a little oak. A hot finish.

A stunning wine and worth the wait.

Outstanding 96 points.

 

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MS German Riesling 2007 Tasting


MS Riesling 2018 1

This was a chance for me to expand my knowledge of the fine Riesling wine style from one of the original homes of the grape. Most of my drinking has been at the dry and off-dry end of the Riesling spectrum, so this was also an opportunity to try wines with more sweetness.

AS led the tasting, and prepared some amazingly in-depth notes, which I reproduce here:

“Firstly welcome to the first formal Magnum tasting of 2018. For this we are again exploring the 2007 vintage in Germany with respect to its most noble (and of course indigenous) variety: Riesling. However, unlike last year’s instalment on the 2007s which was principally an exploration of how one producer (Dr Loosen) dealt with the grapes – at various ripeness levels – from specific terroirs (abutting vineyards on steep red slate & red volcanic source material sandstone) this tasting is more a review of how great producers off selected of their signature sites handled the year.

It would be helpful also to recap on the specific nomenclature of how German wines are classified by ripeness. Accordingly, the outline of these levels is reproduced from last March’s tasting preview notes (of Loosen 2007 Urzig and Erden wines).

Kabinett – which literally means ‘cabinet’; the place where the vintner puts his finest (reserve quality) wines: must weight 67-82 Oeschle [Oe]; minimum alcohol level 7%. Fully ripened wines from the main harvest usually crisp and semi-sweet (NB sometimes up to 60-70 g/ltr residual sugar, possibly sweeter than Spatlese from the same site and vintage); occasionally quite dry.

Spatlese – ‘late harvest’; this is literal and not to be confused with ‘late harvest’ as a dessert wine connotation; must weight 76-90 Oe; minimum alcohol level 7%. Grapes have to be picked at least 7 days after main harvest. Normally Halbtrocken (half dry) and sweeter, fruitier (but not always) than Kabinett. Picking late obviously carries increased risk of rain and colder weather. However, the rewards in a warm, dry harvest season in terms of greater richness and expression is clear. From great sites in good years much of the crop can reach Spatlese level.

Auslese – ‘select harvest’: must weight 83-100 Oe; minimum alcohol level 7%. Made from very ripe, hand selected bunches. Typically semi-sweet or sweet, sometimes with a botrytis character. More dramatically, auslesen can be fermented dry (Trocken). However, the Auslesen Trocken designation for such wines from Grosse Lage (great sites) – not to be confused with Grosslage which is term for a wider subregional classification – is now discouraged in favour of Grosses Gewachs (dry wines Trocken from accredited great sites – in essence Grand Crus after the Burgundy and Alsace models; literally ‘great/top growth’ although technically only allowed for VDP members). In any event, Auslese is therefore the Pradikat level that covers the widest range of wine styles: from dry examples as mentioned, through off-dry, sweet-ish, to sweet dessert.

Beerenauslese – ‘select berry harvest’: must weight 110-128 Oe; minimum alcohol level 5.5%. As the name suggests, a berry selection of overripe grapes, often (noble rot) botrytis affected from individual bunches. Very sweet dessert wines. Expensive.

Eiswein – ‘ice wine’: must weight, as with Beerenauslese level 110-128 Oe and minimum alcohol 5.5%. From grapes naturally frozen on the vine. Must sweetness has to be the same as for Beerenauslese, but difference is that botrytis affected grapes are not permitted (by convention if not, strictly, by law).

Trockenbeerenauslese – ‘select dry berry harvest’: must weight 150-154 Oe; minimum alcohol level 5.5%. Made from selected overripe shrivelled grapes, mostly affected by noble rot. Confusingly, the ‘trocken’ in the designation refers to the dryness of the botrytis-affected berries, not the dryness of the wine. Which it certainly is not! Extremely rich and sweet; long-lived; and very expensive! Although on that price front some of the top GGs (Grosses Gewachs) are certainly giving them a run for their money nowadays.

As noted, the sweetness levels in the classification refers to the must weight (brix equivalent), which in turn is dependent on time and mode of harvest. And, as hinted, final sweetness is dependent on producer decision as regards how dry to ferment to. In these 21st century times of climate change, resultant overall warmer temperatures, and more sunshine through longer growing seasons that decision is increasingly being skewed toward dry. Commercial factors also contributing to the push, with market demand especially among the Germans themselves for drier wines. Layered on this again is the vignerons’ resultant propensity/ability to charge more for GGs (than for off-dry styles). The not truly complete dryness of German dry wines

Under EU law the maximum allowed sugar content of Trocken wines is 4 g/ltr unless residual sugar does not exceed acidity by more than 2 g/ltr in which case legally Trockens can contain up to 9 g/ltr of residual sugar. As an example, if a Trocken wine contains 8 g/ltr of residual sugar it will (or should) have at least 6 g/ltr of acidity. Of course with the penchant of the wider German palate for not appreciating wines with low acidity, allied to naturally high levels of acidity in most growing regions, it means that invariably German GG/Trocken Rieslings (and wines from other varieties) do indeed contain as much as 9 g/ltr of residual sugar.

So, having consumed this necessary spoonful of German wine fact, what are the wines (all from great sites) we are actually to taste?

From the Mittelmosel (Middle Mosel):

2007 Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

2007 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese

2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese

From the Upper Nahe:

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Trocken Grosses Gewachs

The two wine regions looked at are based on, around, and named after the Mosel and the Nahe Rivers. Both are tributaries of the Rhine. Both were named by the original Celtic inhabitants of the regions: Mosel, diminutive of Moseal Latinised to Mosella which means ‘little Meuse’ reflecting its origins in the Vosges and initial flow parallel with the Meuse River (originally ‘Mosa’); and Nahe, a derivative of the Latin word Nava supposedly based on an ancient Celtic linguistic for ‘the wild river’.

History

In last year’s preview notes I gave a broad sweep history of the Mosel and its development as a wine region (and primacy of Riesling as grape variety). From the initial impetus of Roman settlement (the Mosel being west of the Rhine and therefore part of the empire); through establishment of Winzerdorfer (wine villages) in the Middle Ages, the most prominent of which became Bernkastel (town charter 1291), and dominant ownership of key sites by the Church (Bishopric in Trier; monasteries; with this line contiguous through to the name of the Erdener Pralat (the ‘Prelate’ or ‘Bishop’) vineyard and Dr Loosen’s happy monk on the label of his bottlings from the site); or the names of two formerly Church owned vineyards at Graach (Graacher Domprobst – ‘Dean of the Cathedral’; and Graacher Himmelreich – ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’); plus superior legal status of Riesling over other varieties on great sites; to the commercial (including arrival of powdery mildew and phylloxera from North America which ultimately led to modern viticulture practices – although as a side issue, because the phylloxera louse cannot apparently survive in shallow slate soils, the majority of Riesling vines in the Mosel great sites are still grown ungrafted, enabling the traditional vine training on stakes to continue) plus political changes through the 19th and 20th centuries not only leading to increased production but shaping the style of wines produced.

The history of the Nahe as a wine region – geographically to the east of the Mosel separated by the Hunsruck Upland peneplain block – followed along similar lines, in as much as viticulture was introduced by the Romans and that by the Middle Ages vineyards were Church-run. However, although its vineyards developed a reputation for Riesling in the 19th century, until 1971 when the Nahe Wine Region was first defined under German Wine Laws it was sold as ‘Rhine Riesling’. Indeed, until recent decades the region was held back by its post-WW2 impoverishment and agricultural backwardness relative to the more industrialised Mosel and Rheingau.

The Upper Nahe (where most of the great sites are) is almost exclusively planted to Riesling, often on steep slopes like in the Mosel. The middle of the region, basically the area surrounding the town of Bad Kreutznach, is largely planted to Riesling on the better terraces above the town, with Muller-Thurgau and Silvaner predominating on the Grosslage on the flatter land to the south and east of the urban area (and river). The Lower Nahe, the river by now close to its confluence with the Rhine, and on generally flatter terrain, is planted to a more modern mix of grape varieties including promising Weissburgunder [Pinot Blanc], Grauburgunder [Pinot Gris] and red grapes (e.g. Dornfelder, Spatburgunder [Pinot Noir], Blauer Portugieser).

As a final historical point, it must be remembered that right through the 19th century and up to WW1, German Rieslings were predominantly made in dry and ‘drier’ styles than became the norm through the middle and late 20th century. The 21st century move away from sweeter back toward dry wines in Germany is in essence simply therefore a return to how it was, but with probably greater expertise on the part of the vintners.

Riesling – the facts re plantings

In 2013 there were 23,293ha of Riesling planted in Germany. The greatest dominance of the variety is in the Rheingau where 79% of plantings is Riesling. Next is the Mittelrhein 68% and Mosel 61.6%. Next largest is Nahe 27.9%, followed by Pfalz 24.3%, Franconia 18.5%, Rheinhessen 16%, Baden-Wurttemberg 12% and the Ahr (Spatburgunder territory) with just 8.2%.

Although percentage wise Riesling is a much less dominant variety in the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Baden-Wurttemberg, just over half of all Riesling plantings in the country (11,750ha) are across those regions. The Mosel has approximately 5,300ha; Nahe 1,150ha. Most of the rest is in the Rheingau (2,475ha). The acreage of Riesling in the great sites we are exploring in this tasting is: Urziger Wurzgarten 62ha; Wehlener Sonnenuhr 45ha; Graacher Himmelreich 55ha; Niederhauser Hermannshohle at a mere 8ha (NB Hermannshohle’s neighbouring vineyard Oberhauser Brucke is just 1ha). Given also that the entire ownership of vines (all Riesling) by two of the producers in this tasting is miniscule compared to Riesling overall in Germany (J J Prum 13.5ha; Willi Schaefer 4.2ha), albeit even those estates are large-ish by Mosel standards where there are approximately 2,400 estates overall with average holding of just 2.4ha. Either way, it is apparent that what we are looking at in our tasting is but a small part of the pinnacle of production.

As a comparison with areas planted to Riesling elsewhere in the world (there is about 50,000ha in total), after Germany, North America is next with circa 8,500ha under vine. Australia has about 4,400ha, Alsace 3,500ha, Austria 2,000ha. New Zealand’s plantings hover at about 1,000ha and may be in decline.

Geology

To recap from last year, geologically the Mosel region is dominated by schiefer (slate), a low grade metamorphic rock derived mainly from the sedimentary rock, shale, and of Devonian age (359-419 million years before present). With the river cutting through this country rock, it has left steep slate slopes with just a thin soil veneer. There are two distinctive slate terroirs covering all the great sites: principally blue-grey slate (weathered to such colouration due to predominance of ferrous iron Fe 2+ oxide) and red slate (contrastingly red due to ferric Fe 3+ oxide). Both terroirs are featured in this tasting: blue-grey slate from the famous ‘great wall’ on the right bank of the river immediately downstream of Bernkastel (covering sites from ‘appellations’ Bernkastel, Graach, Wehlen, Zelting); red slate (plus some interwoven ferric ‘volcanic’ sandstone deposits) from the even steeper Urziger Wurzgarten site next ‘appellation’ Urzig downstream of ‘the wall’ but on the opposite (left) bank at the head of a sharp bend/incised meander in the river. In general, the red slate (rotschiefer) is said to impart a more spicy character to the wines than blue-grey slate (tonschiefer).

By contrast, the geology of the Nahe is more complex. For the most part the river is itself the incised divide between the Hunsruck and North Palatine Uplands, with the chief difference between it and the Mosel region (principal outcropping bedrock for both is slate with schist) being the prevalence of volcanics, mainly rhyolite and andesite, dating from an intense eruptive phase in the early Permian (circa 275-300 Myr BP). Mineralisation associated with this ancient volcanic activity has led to precious metal deposits throughout the region, exploited over thousands of years by human populations from the Celts to the present day. Both the volcanic parent material and mining past are reflected in the ferric (Fe 3+) red andesitic & basaltic soils of the vineyards at Bad Munster (just downstream of the Niederhausen site featured in this tasting), and in the names of the Schlossbokelheim vineyards Kupfergrube (‘copper mine’) and Felsenberg (‘iron hill’) which are upstream but close to Niederhauser Hermannshohle (for which the ‘hohle’ [‘hole’] also refers to a mine). As it happens, the viticultural area of the Upper Nahe surrounding Oberhausen (Schlossbokelheim and Niederhausen are either side) is particularly complex and a single vineyard within the locality can, for example, contain soils derived from a melange of sandstone, slate, porphyry (an igneous rock with distinctive large crystals set in a more uniform silicate groundmass) and melaphyre (a particular basaltic porphyry). Soils for Hermannshohle itself are principally derived from rhyolitic and slate parent material.

Climate

The propitiousness of the Mosel for viticulture is principally due to the shelter provided to the west and north by the Eifel Upland. The warmth of the best sites is further enhanced by the heat retentive qualities of the slate bedrock and the sheer steepness and therefore sun trap quality of the south and southwest facing slopes on which these best growing sites are found. Average July temperature is 18C, and frequently in excess of that for the great sites. Note the name of several top Grosse Lage: Brauneburger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Wehlener Sonnenuhr; Sonnenuhr = ‘sundial’; a large sundial within each of these vineyards (and several others with the Sonnenuhr suffix) is a prominent and permanent feature of them.

This is not to say it does not rain in the Mosel! Precipitation can indeed be sufficiently heavy to make viticulture marginal. However, this where the slate again comes to the vignerons’ rescue as its porosity and permeability allows rapid absorbtion and/or run off of excess water.

The Upper Nahe has a similar climate, sheltered by surrounding uplands, and not only like the Mosel by the Eifel Upland (plus the intervening Hunsruck Upland) to the north and west, but by the Soonwald ranges to the northeast and rocky foothills of the Palatine Upland directly to the east. If anything, it is drier than the Mosel, often said to have a ‘Mediterranean’ climate. As opposed to the Mosel’s ‘Atlantic’ climate.

There is also a school of thought that supposes that the Nahe contains the ideal terroirs for dry (or indeed all) Riesling. Giles McDonagh of Decanter Magazine argues “You can’t plant Riesling anywhere in Germany and expect good results. Riesling likes primary rock and some regions don’t have it. The grape has purity and if you go further south where it’s too warm it loses that. Nahe stands in the middle so a perfect Nahe Riesling will have the purity and lightness of fruit of the Mosel but some of the body of the Pfalz. In a way it’s in the perfect position. It also has these volcanic soils unlike anywhere else in Germany, with these huge boulders all over the place which give their own identity to great Nahe wine. Nahe is the insider’s tip if you want the body of a southern Riesling but the subtlety of a northern one.”

2007 Vintage

The 2007 vintage across Germany was well thought of and eagerly anticipated at the time. In hindsight this view was probably inevitable given the combination of warm spring following the mild 2006-07 winter. Growth was therefore earlier than normal with a good summer – rains offsetting a July heat spike – in which the conditions generally remained dry enough to naturally keep disease pressure (mildew and botrytis) in check. Although as ever, success on this front is also greatly dependent on the vigilance of individual growers. In any event, the largely benign growing season was followed by an almost perfect autumn for Riesling ripening: dry, sunny, warm days counterpointed by cool nights. Remembering also that initial enthusiasm for the vintage was partly because it followed two tricky harvests in 2005 and 2006.

Perhaps, though, the conditions were simply too benign with easy heat/warmth. Healthy fruit was harvested and there was quantity as well as quality. But edgier conditions often create greater wines (famously in recent memory, 1993 Red Burgundies, and potentially what we may yet see in NZ from certain 2017 Central Otago Pinot Noirs). And eleven years on the general verdict regarding vintage for Mosel & Nahe wines is simply “good”. Some commentators think maybe overall lack of balanced acidity (initially quite high but never resolving, reflecting less finesse long term); others noted an oily sheath in the young wines and average-at-best concentration and/or dry extract – too warm?

Hugh Johnson’s 2018 edition pocket wine guide [drafted in 2017] rates the 2007 vintage in both the Mosel and Nahe at 8-9 out of 10. Although additionally it notes that overall the Mosel Rieslings are “now approaching maturity” and that the Nahe’s “dry wines (are) now mature – drink”. Taking up that latter point, in a Decanter article September 2014, Joel B Payne of Gault Millau German Wine guide suggested that 2007’s dry Rieslings had similar balance to those in the subsequent also warm 2009 vintage; but that the 2007 Trockens should be drunk by 2016. On the other hand – relevant given we have one in the tasting – Johnson in an earlier 2012 [i.e. drafted 2011] edition of his pocket wine guide commented that ’07 Mosel Kabinetts were “beautiful … with high levels of acidity”.

Overall theme of this tasting This being a handy point to introduce the theme of the tasting: simply, is the skill of the producers looked at enough for their 2007 wines to rise above the merely “good” tag of the vintage and really create something special? As befits the producers’ long held, and justifiably earned, reputations, are their 2007 wines great? Or, to put it slightly differently, does producer style trump the hallmarks of the vintage? Plus can you find site markers for the different – and supposedly distinct – terroirs?

Wines to taste – details of site and producer

All four vineyards featured in the tasting are very much ‘great sites’, indeed four of the greatest Grosse Lage in all of Germany. Furthermore, the renown of each site is to a large extent tied up the historical skill and performance of the each of the producers concerned.

2007 Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett

Urziger Wurzgarten (‘spice garden’ vineyard at the village of Urzig) was one of the three Dr Loosen red slate vineyards featured in last year’s tasting. (The others were Erdener Treppcen and Erdener Pralat.) Three 2007 Loosen Wurzgartens were tasted (Spatlese, Auslese, Auslese Goldkapsel) looking for a common thread. My notes indicated commonality of a salty, dusty, mineral element with the Goldkap (GK) clearly being the spiciest, richest and plushest of the three, edging it just over the straight Auslese (both attaining gold award from me – and Magnum group as a whole – on the night).

The Spatlese was slightly gawky by comparison, perhaps with a more slatey, flinty edge and only a bronze award. (It was also a wine where Magnum’s customary reserve bottle was needed as the first opened bottle was badly corked.) This lesser performance for the Spatlese (compared to the Ausleses) may reflect the position on the vineyard from where the fruit was drawn. Dr Loosen owns a specific plot within Wurzgarten called Urgluck (‘original luck’) which is sited immediately above the village of Urzig and contains the oldest vines among all Loosen’s vineyard holdings, at circa 120 years old. Loosen Wurzgarten Ausleses typically comprise fruit from 100+ year old vines, i.e. mainly from Urgluck, whereas the 2007 Loosen Wurzgarten Spatlese was from vines averaging at the time about 50 years of age, i.e. mainly from parcels elsewhere in the vineyard.

The 2007 Loosen Wurzgarten Kabinett, like the Spatlese, is made up of wine from (ungrafted) vines averaging about 50 years. Yield for the cuvee typically 70 hl/ha (compared to cropping level of 50 hl/ha for the Spatlese) albeit I have been unable confirm exactly what it was for this particular vintage. As Wurzgarten is the steepest vineyard in the Mosel (the steepest of the steep) it clearly had to be hand-picked. Will need to confirm on night as to the alcohol by volume (ABV) but expect it to be 7-8%.

I have been unable to find any relevant tasting notes via the internet although understand David Schildknecht at the Wine Advocate scored it at 90 points. As a comparative, however, I have recently opened the same wine (Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett) from the 2002 vintage, a similar season albeit more rain/moisture late summer. The 2002 suffered slightly from poor closure (and I note that for more recent vintages than 2007 Ernie Loosen bottles his Kabinetts under screwcap) but nonetheless, after 16 years the 2002 did show mature notes of honey and waxiness of texture, though rather short on the finish.

As already specified, the vineyard has only a thin soil veneer over red slate and red volcanic sandstone, and occupies a broad amphitheatre sweep of the hillside above the village of Urzig, on the north (left) bank of the Mosel River where the river forms a dramatic bend; 62ha planted all to Riesling (unclear what percentage is Loosen’s); south to east-southeast orientation. Dr Loosen is one of 14 owners on the site. Other notable producers include Jos. Christoffel , J J Christoffel-Erben, Monchhof, Markus Molitor and Dr Hermann.

The history of the modern Dr Loosen estate under Ernst Loosen (last 30 years) was detailed in the preview notes from last March. Suffice here to summarise that key modernising changes made when Ernie first took over in 1988, e.g. reduction in cropping levels, Bernie Schug made cellarmaster, remain at the core of the operation. Bernie still heads up the winemaking. Viticulture practice is dominantly organic. Although, as also noted last year, it is not clear whether their organics regime is simply no more than sufficient to comply with minimum German environmental and sustainability regulations. The trick for this tasting is – if you were present and can recall the Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten wines from last year – to try and see whether there is more a specific Wurzgarten marker or Dr Loosen style thread running through this wine (especially in comparison to the Spatlese)?

2007 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese

Wehlener Sonnenuhr (‘sundial’ vineyard at the village of Wehlen) is a very famous ‘great site’ stretching up high on the ‘great wall’ within the Grosslage Munzlay (the Grosslage name is a reference to the slate terroir). It is actually on the opposite bank of the river (right bank) from the home village of Wehlen (on the left bank) but adjacent to the bridge that spans the Mosel from Wehlen. Weathered blue-grey slate with a south-southwest facing aspect, rising steeply – up to a 70% gradient – from the road along the riparian flat, it sits neatly between Zeltinger Sonnenuhr (downstream) and Graacher Himmelreich (above and upstream) and Josephshofer (Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt monopole, also a Graach site, which too is immediately upstream).

Although the vineyard is very old, the term ‘sundial’ was only used orally until the first Erste Lage classification and map in 1868. And indeed it was not until 45 years later in August 1913 that it was formally approved as a name and the vineyard’s size precisely defined – then at only 10ha, later increased in 1953 to 35ha and (after a ten year legal dispute 1970-80; the municipal council wanted to increase its size to 58ha!) it was finally settled at 45ha exclusively planted to Riesling (J J Prum’s holding is 5ha). The actual sundial in the vineyard was created in 1842 by Jacodus Prum (to, er, give his workers a better awareness of the time it took to complete activities while toiling on the steep slopes among his vines) although at that time the site was as much referred to as Lammerterlay as Sonnenuhr. There are currently 17 owners/producers of parcels within the vineyard: aside from J J Prum and estates of other members of the Prum family (S A Prum, Studert-Prum, Dr Weins-Prum), these include other producers featured in this tasting (but for other vineyards), Dr Loosen and Willi Schaefer, plus also notably Max Ferd. Richter, Markus Molitor, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Schloss Lieser, Kerpen, Wegeler and Dr H Thanisch.

The four Prum estates are all based at Wehlen, as the family has been since the 16th century. Going farther back, the Prum family’s history in winemaking in the Mosel dates to 1156. However, it was only in 1911 that Johann Josef Prum (1873-1944) founded the eponymous J J Prum estate. Dr Manfred Prum (grandson of Joh. Jos.) has led the estate since 1969, initially assisted by his brother Wolfgang, and since 2003 by his daughter, Dr Katharina Prum, with Katharina fully taking over in the last 4-5 years. In total the estate owns 13.5ha across four sites (Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Graacher Himmelreich, Bernkaster Badstube) with 70% of their vines ungrafted.

Hugh Johnson: “J J Prum wines are legendary for being delicate but extremely long-lived with astonishing finesse and distinctive character”. It was Joh. Jos.’s son (& Manfred’s father), Sebastian Prum, who from the 1920s onward largely developed the J J Prum style and built its reputation. Unsurprisingly, that style and quality is mostly due to work in the vineyard: great sites, old vines (at the time of the 2007 harvest, Prum’s vines from Wehlener Sonnenuhr were from a 50-60 year old parcel around the sundial), the lowest yields, very late harvesting and selection of only the best berries. This careful vineyard work followed up by a classic non-interventionist approach in the winery. Not only do the wines live a long time, they also typically need a number of years to show their best, albeit, as noted by Hugh Johnson and others, can then live and improve for decades. The question is how much of this longevity and house style is due to the heavy/obvious application of sulphides (SO2 inoculation) during vinification? And also therefore, the degree to which individual drinkers may be put off by the sulphur when the wines are still young. I’m not, although nonetheless personally still prefer to see them at their best with significant age. Further inquiry for this tasting is therefore just how unevolved the 2007 J J Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese might be? And will it matter? Do you even like the style? – the sulphuring; late harvest.

2007 Spatlese note: ABV 8.5%; no information on residual sugar (information released by the estate is sparse) but likely 50+ g/ltr. Critically well received: Jennie Cho Lee 96; Wine & Spirits Magazine 95; Wine Spectator 93; Wine Enthusiast 92; Falstaff 92; estimated drinking window now-2025+. Joe Czerwinski (Wine Enthusiast), January 2009: “Shows some characteristic Prum stinky notes, but there’s plenty of fruit lurking underneath. Pear, honey, melon and citrus flavors give an impression of great ripeness, amplified by the creamy texture and custardy mouthfeel, but there’s also enough crisp acidity for balance.” Jennie Lee Cho, March 2012: “Very intense late harvest Riesling with well integrated sweetness and ripe nectarine and peach notes. The finish is floral and delicate. This wine has the depth and layers of a great Mosel Riesling with decades of aging potential. Very long finish.” Wine-Beserker blog note from Jayson Cohen, February 2018: “Aromas … vibrant though there is an overarching slight hint of petrol that comes in and out. The nose is leaning toward ripe Granny Smith, unripe peach and orange blossom, with wafts of caraway seed, anisette, mustard seed and coffee bean. It is heading toward tertiary but still shedding some baby fat. A rich mouthfeel with integrated acidity is slightly thicker than normal for this wine – again the baby fat of the vintage is still present – but acids keep ripeness in check and the finish is long with a refreshing quinine/lime bitterness that again indicates this is still adolescent. I love it. Still a long road ahead.”

Further note: in addition to Kabinett and Auslese bottlings, at Spatlese level in 2007 J J Prum did three separate Wehlener Sonnenuhr bottlings – a regular Spatlese; AP11; AP24 reflecting the degree of ripeness/late picking/which pass through the vineyard (refer notes on Spatlese regulation at commencement of these notes). I will confirm which bottling we have for the tasting on the evening.

Lastly, it should be borne in mind that the J J Prum estate and the Wehlener Sonnenuhr are intrinsically linked. The perfect Riesling growing conditions of the site combined with exemplary handling. It has repeatedly been said that above all, Wehlener Sonnenuhr wines should possess excellent structure, have ripe aromas and flavours (typically, as picked out by Jennie Lee Cho above, stone fruits such as peach, nectarine, apricot). While as Stuart Pigott has written: “J J Prum’s Sonnenuhrs are classic examples of the way in which the best Mosel wine’s natural sweetness magnifies, rather than obscures, their character. These are the perfect marriage of Riesling’s peach-like, floral and mineral aspects. White wine cannot be fresher, more vivid and delightful.”

2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese

Graacher Himmelreich (‘the kingdom of heaven’ vineyard at the village of Graach) is also a famous ‘great site’ high on the ‘great wall’ within the Grosslage Munzlay. It ‘overshadows’ the small village of Graach, which unlike Wehlen is properly on the right bank of the river. Again blue-grey slate with a southwest facing aspect, it is less steep (although this is relative) and has a deeper soil horizon that its neighbour Wehlener Sonnenuhr. It also abuts Josephshofer and, partly, Graach’s other noteworthy site, Graacher Domprobst.

The deeper soils of Himmelreich act as good reservoirs of moisture, and as a consequence it is often said that especially in hot, dry years the vineyards’ wines challenge Wehlener Sonnenuhr’s for supremacy. There is some very recent research in viticulture (Dr Andrew Pirie in Australia) hinting that distinctive regional character in wines may be related to humidity level and soil moisture. In any event, compared to its neighbour, Himmelreich wines generally possess racier acidity, more pronounced minerality (crushed rock?) and fruit aromas, and flavours more in the citrus spectrum. Furthermore, Himmelreich wines are normally both deliciously mouthwatering when young and accessible/mature earlier.

The vineyard area is 57ha planted mainly to Riesling. However, two estates, Markus Molitor and Gunther Steinmetz also grow Spatburgunder . Altogether, there are 16 owners/producers of parcels within the vineyard: in addition to Willi Schaefer, the leading lights are J J Prum, the other three Prum family estates, Dr Loosen, Max Ferd. Richter, Markus Molitor, Kerpen and Wegeler . The Willi Schaefer estate owns 2ha, comprising numerous parcels with varying slope character.

Like the Prum family, the Schaefer family also has roots in Mosel viticulture going back to the 12th century. The Schaefers believe their forebears have been in Graach since 1121; documented as such since 1590. The current winery has been in family hands since 1950, Willi Schaefer taking over its running in 1971. He is still there, assisted now by his son, Christoph and Christoph’s wife Andrea. In addition to the 2ha held in Graacher Himmelreich, the estate holds 2ha in Graacher Domprobst and a tiny 0.2ha allotment in Wehlener Sonnenuhr. In fact although we are tasting Willi’s 2007 Himmelreich Spatlese, a number of wine writers (e.g. Stephen Brook and Stephan Reinhardt) are of the opinion that the estate’s best wines are instead from the Domprobst site. Again, like most top producers, the majority of the Schaefers’ vines (60-70%) are ungrafted ; oldest around 60 years.

With a high proportion of older vines, yields are naturally low. When harvesting particular care is made to avoid botrytis; Willi certainly does not like its influence in his wines, even in the sweeter styles. As regards vinification, the estate champions six months of fermentation and maturation on lees in old 1,000 litre foudres. Just 2,000 to 3,000 cases per year, with only a small amount fermented dry into Trocken/GG bottling. For Himmelreich in 2007, Willi Schaefer bottled wines at Kabinett, Spatlese, Spatlese Feinherb (bottling at 10-20 g/ltr of residual sugar) and Auslese levels.

For the 2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese: ABV 8%; again residual sugar unknown but assumed 50 g/ltr or more (contrast with the much drier Feinherb). Critic notes and scores: Wine Spectator 91; 22 separate postings on CellarTracker averaging out at 91. Most recent posting on CellarTracker, August 2017: “Golden yellow, oily nose, delicious stony dry Riesling.” Previously from two separate posters in December 2016: “This is ripe, not so much a racy acidity and minerals style, this has lots of Riesling flavour, excellent with food”; and “Man, Willi does not disappoint. We all swooned at those (sic) nose – so light, crisp and clear. Beautiful aromas of apple, lime, spice, minerals, and some grass/herbs/mint, and honey. The palate wasn’t quite as good or consistent: some tastes were excellent, but some were a touch sweet/heavy. Lots of apple, some honey – the best sips had that electric zing showing lime and minerality, Also some herbal notes. The finish varied like the palate. Maybe with another 5 years this would (sic) have locked into place in the lighter and more racy vein.” Those last notes remind me of what I think of as a Willi Schaefer wine marker: a limey, minty, herbal streak. We shall see. Something to look for in the tasting, along with vintage character, and Graacher Himmelreich typicity.

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese GK

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Trocken GG

Oz Clarke: “Helmut Donnhoff is the quiet winemaking genius of the Nahe, conjuring from top sites some of the most mineral dry and naturally sweet Rieslings in the world. The very best are the subtle, long-lived wines from the Niederhauser Hermannshohle (literally, ‘Hermann’s Hole’ vineyard at Niederhausen village) and (its neighbouring; and Donnhoff monopole) Oberhauser Brucke (‘the Bridge’ vineyard at Oberhausen village) vineyards.”

Hugh Johnson: “(Helmut Donnhoff has) fanatical commitment to quality, and a remarkable talent for winemaking.”

Helmut Donnhoff: “Riesling has to be like rock water or a mountain stream. It can be shy to start with but should have length and acidity that dance across the palate.”

Based at Oberhausen, the Hermann Donnhoff estate dates back to 1750, although global acclaim for its wines has largely been over the past 2-3 decades due to the leadership and work of Helmut Donnhoff who first inherited the reins in 1971. Helmut has in fact been retired for 4-5 years and his son, Cornelius now controls all matters in regard to the estate including viticulture and winemaking. However, Helmut was very definitely still in charge for the 2007. There is the suggestion from Hugh Johnson, among others, that Cornelius favours a slightly drier style of wine than his father, although this might just be a reflection of wider commercial and/or climate trends. Of up to 24 separate cuvees that Donnhoff may at present make in any given vintage, 13 are Trocken, and unlike three of the sweeter styles which are dependent on vintage conditions to make, those 13 are made every year. Six of the dry wines are estate bottlings of Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder , Chardonnay, and blends of these varieties. The rest (18 different wines) are Riesling at various ripenesses and fermentations: Trocken, Trocken GG, Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Eiswein (and very occasionally in the past, BA and/or TBA). Altogether the estate owns 25ha of vines, with holdings in nine separate sites, from each of which at least one single vineyard Riesling is produced, at dryness or sweetness to match terroir character.

One of the jewels in the Donnhoff crown, perhaps the jewel, is the Hermannshohle vineyard, which since the early 20th century has been revered as perhaps the Nahe’s top site, although a case could probably be made for either of the Schlossbokelheim great sites. Hermannshohle is not an especially large site, just 8ha, although Donnhoff is the major owner. I am aware of at least two others: Jakob Schneider and Weingut von Racknitz.

The vineyard slopes steeply up from the river (on the left bank side) right on a bend the Nahe takes northwards after flowing downstream from Schlossbokelheim, and before it twists through a gorge to Bad Munster a little further downstream. Orientation is south facing and slope lies between 130 and 175 metres above sea level. Soils are derived from a patchwork of blackish-grey slate, rhyolite, porphyry, and even limestone slivers. Exclusively a Riesling vineyard, vine age of the Donnhoff vines is up to 65 years of age. The Donnhoffs themselves are unequivocal in pronouncing that the wines from Hermannshohle are truly Grosse Gewachs/Grand Cru, delivering power and elegance.

Re the vineyard’s name: the ‘Hermann’ prefix is totally unconnected to the Hermann in the Donnhoff estate’s full name. It is much, much older, maybe 2,000 years or more, ‘Hermann’ being a derivation of Hermes, the Roman god of messengers and travellers, hinting at the site being an ancient pre-Christian place of worship. Similarly, the ‘hole’ as in ‘Hohle’ is not just any old extraction or hideaway, but a reference to old mine workings in the middle of the vineyard.

2007 was typical for Donnhoff over the last 15 years for Hermannshohle in that three separate Riesling bottlings were produced. We will taste all three:

2007 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese: ABV 9.5%; based on recent tasting comments (below) residual sugar probably touching 100 g/ltr, if not higher; cropping typically at 40 hl/ha; selective hand harvested; fermented and matured in stainless steel vats. Critics notes and scores, universally praised: The Wine Advocate 96; Wine Spectator 94; 69 notes on CellarTracker averaging 94; Stephen Tanzer 93. Most recent two postings on Cellartracker: ‘BamBam’ November 2017 “Showing age and the residual sugar shows. Deep golden color, no secondary flavours yet. Thick in the mouth, red delicious apples and honey. Tastes more like a dessert wine today.” (93); J Erhardt September 2017 “Golden yellow; I’m surprised how mature this is looking. Quite rich and sweet for this level. At the very early stages of secondary development. Will last a long time, when to drink just depends on your preference.” While preparing these preview notes I have in parallel been drinking a bottle of the 2007 Donnhoff Oberhuaser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, i.e. the equivalent wine in the same vintage from the vineyard (Donnhoff monopole) that immediately abuts Hermannshohle upstream (in the riparian strip next to the river). This wine was also featured in a previous Magnum German Riesling tasting in March 2016. I report on it here as a calibrator for the Hermannshohle Spatlese: Striking gold colour; plush, wrapped with citric and flinty, chalky hints; seemingly weighty, sweet palate with citrus of all varieties plus autumn fruits; taut, exciting acid spine with long, drier and dancing, lifted finish. Plenty of life left; pleased I have two more bottles from an original six pack! Cannot now wait to compare with the Hermannshohle on the 25th!

2007 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese GK: ABV 8.5% (to be confirmed on evening of the tasting); residual sugar probably at least 150 g/ltr, possibly way more; cropping typically at 20 hl/ha; an extreme selection hand harvest as befits a goldkap bottling; fermented and matured in stainless steel vats. Critics notes and scores, universally praised: The Wine Advocate 95; Stephen Tanzer 94; Wine Spectator 93; 36 separate postings on CellarTracker averaging 93. Most recent two separate postings on CellarTracker: T Stephanos June 2017 “Excellent Auslese, tropical fruit, unctuous texture with high acidity balancing it and making a delectable and refreshing sweet wine” (94); L Edwards August 2016 “Mouth puckering peach with hints of apricot. Streak of acidity runs throughout” (93).

2007 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Trocken GG: ABV 13.5%; cropping typically at 40 hl/ha; selective hand harvested; fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and oak barriques. Critics notes and scores, universally praised: The Wine Advocate 95; Stephen Tanzer 95; 58 separate postings on CellarTracker averaging 93; Vinum 18.5/20; estimated drinking window now-2020. Most recent two separate postings on CellarTracker, February 2018: M Hensel “Dark yellow, red shimmer. Nose saline and vanilla vapour, sea breeze, citrus notes, very appealing. Palate fresh, acidic, silky, yellow fruit, citrus fruit, dried apple, some orange peel, minerals, nice tartness, green aspects, red grapefruit, some flint stone. Finishes pretty long on on (sic) fruity aspects, so elegant tartness and minerals. Ageless, a beauty, elegance and vivacity, very tasty and approachable.” (94); T Stephanos “Sublime dry Riesling. Nose full of ripe fruit, peach, orange peel and floral notes. On the palate it was very smooth, rounded, with acidity hidden beneath the fruit but still mouthcleansing. Long, tasty and very satisfying. At a very nice point to drink, smoothed out but nowhere near decline.”(95).

It is therefore quite possible, based on the reception these three wines have received to date, that ultimately this coming Magnum tasting might just collapse into a lovefest for Donnhoff and Hermannshohle. Wow, I hope so.”

MS Riesling 2018 2

And to the wines:

2007 Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett – Light gold colour – Delicate nose of citrus and apple and wet stone. Crisp sweet attack, freshness, raciness, notes of mandarin. Balanced. Hint of kero.  I scored this Gold

2007 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese – The palest wine at pale gold – reductive at first. Notes of citrus and apple. Open. Acid and sweetness to drink. Balanced, long and gorgeous golden fruit. It builds with purity and intensity. Razor sharp. I scored this Gold, as did 18 others.

2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese – light gold – light citrus, slight kero note. Dumb in this company. Sweet attack, showing fruit over acidity, but overall a pleasant balance. Smooth rich and silky. I scored this Gold, as did 14 others.

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese – light gold – bouquet of honey, apricot, rich spice, pine resin, developed. Sweet and elegant to drink, composed, ripe apricots, minerality, a hot finish. Really nice. I scored this Gold, as did 23 others, and it was my WOTN.

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel – gold, deepest colour of the flight – honey, confected, Turkish delight, comples. Sweet liquid honey in the mouth, with mild acid. Short, ripe and intense. Viscous. Silky. Lacking in acidity, almost syrupy. I still scored this Gold, as did 11 others.

2007 H Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Trocken Grosses Gewachs – gold colour – oxidative, flat, brown, developed ripe stonefruit aromas. Sherry-like, with an acid finish. Thinning fruit, somewhat flat, metallic, disjointed. I scored this Bronze.

The wines had been opened and decanted about 6 hours before the tasting. They suffered a little though warming up over the evening past their optimum temperature, and this was remarked on.

Five of the wines were between 8% – 9.5% ABV, with the GG at 13.5% ABV. I thought they underwhelmed as far as their aromatics were concerned, and had muted florality, but this could have been a function of the serving temperature.

I found them hard to tell apart, to be honest. Not a style I much like either. I think I much prefer the lean, austere and bone-dry styles of Riesling.

 

What’s in the glass tonight November 22nd – Chenin Blanc


Millton Chenin Blanc 2007

From the Cellar: Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc Gisborne 2007 – $$$

From the foremost of the few producers of this varietal in New Zealand. I can’t say enough good things about Millton. One of the first wines I collected for the Pool Room.

Brilliant gold colour. 12% alc. A biodynamic wine.

Richly aromatic. Satisfyingly complex secondary and tertiary aromas have developed over the past 10 years under my roof – oranges and golden mangoes and honey, bready and unctuous, cardboard, a citrus tang. Lovely.

Sweet and lively to drink. Juicy and mouthwatering. Bright acid throughout, with golden fruit, mango and orange flavours which end on a slightly bitter biscuit finish, long and hot.

There is such youthful vigour here. There are years ahead for this wine. Wish I had more!

One of my Wines of the Year!

Outstanding 96 points

What’s in the glass tonight September 23rd – Riesling


Bishops Head Riesling 2007

Bishops Head Reserve Riesling Waipara 2007- $$$

An aged Riesling from Wineseeker. Tasted instore; bottle bought to take up to the ski club for our last ski weekend and the Club Championships.

12% alc. Gold green straw colour.

Developed volitiles, lifted ripe apples, some grapey-ness and kero notes.

Sharp and acidic entry. Lean and brisk fruit, tart, with green apple flavours. A layer of secondary development. Bitter finish.

Recommended 88 points

Not my trophies, alas. I trailed the field in both the Slalom and GS races.

 

What’s in the glass tonight March 12th – Riesling


VM CS Riesling 2007

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Riesling Marlborough 2007 – $

One of my favourite wines from one of my favourite producers. Enough said.

Pale green straw colour. 11.5% alc.

Clear and crisp and expansive aromas of citrus and apple. So open, so appealing!

So much life in the mouth! Crisp citrus and crunchy green apples. Austere and of-minerals on attack. Sweet through the mid-palate. A long finish. Still so zingy and fresh. Aging slowly under scfrewcap. There is another 10 years in this wine. Pity I don’t have another.

Highly Recommended 94 Points

MS Tasting – 2007 Brunello di Montalcino


montalcino

2007 Brunello di Montalcino

This was another style of Italian wine I have not had a chance before to try and appreciate. Again, an opportunity to taste, listen and learn, under the guidance of Italian wine fan and Society member DB.

Brunello di Montalcino, from Wikipedia, is a red Italian wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 80 km south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. Brunello, a diminutive of bruno, which means brown, is the name that was given locally to what was believed to be an individual grape variety grown in Montalcino. In 1879 the Province of Siena’s Amphelographic Commission determined, after a few years of controlled experiments, that Sangiovese and Brunello were the same grape variety, and that the former should be its designated name.

The wines we are trying tonight:

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – $60.00 (historical cost)

2007 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino – $100.00

2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino – $68.00

2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino -$80.00

There were some excellent notes compiled by DB to accompany the Society tasting:

“Brunello has been called “Classico on steroids”. In hot years like 2003, Classico can outperform Brunello at a much lower cost. But, putting the price difference aside, it is very easy to contrast Montalcino’s physical aspects with those of Classico, and when you come to taste the wine, the impact of those differences becomes clear.

The Montalcino region is lower in altitude, closer to the coast, more rounded in terrain, less wooded, more exposed to sea breezes, and is warmer. The vineyards seem larger today despite Montalcino having a history of small holdings. The plots have less variety in their aspects and their soils than Classico and mostly they achieve a higher degree of ripeness. Brunello can be richer, warmer and more powerful than Classico, (but this can be overdone) while Classico is usually fresher with higher acid.

Very simplistically, there are two basic terroirs in Montalcino. To the north, around the town, the vineyards are higher, steeper, and cooler. The soils are stony with lime and sand. The wines are very similar to Classico Riserva being more aromatic and elegant than other Brunello. In the South along the hills which slope down to the Orcia river, an area known simply as the Colle, the vineyards are bigger, more broad sloped, southward facing, with more clay in the richer soils, and produce more powerful, riper, heavier wines which can be harvested as much as two weeks before those in the north. In a good year, Montalcino will take advantage from all its terroirs. In a cool year, the Colle will do better, and in a warmer year, fruit from the north provides freshness and a foil to what can easily be over ripeness in the Colle. This latter point – potential over ripeness in the lower, warmer sited Sangiovese has proven on occasion to be Brunello’s bane.

 Brunello has three levels of classification:

Rosso: Aged for one year with 6 months in wood

Brunello (normale): Aged for four years, minimum of two years in wood and 4 months in bottle

Riserva: Aged for five years, minimum of two years in wood and 4 months in bottle.

We will not be able to contrast Normale with Riserva and form our own opinion, as all six wines are Normale. It will be interesting to consider, however, that if we see a spectacular wine (I’m sure we will see more than one!) just how it might have been “improved” if it had been given Riserva treatment. Another dimension for us to think about is the contrast between the northern and the Colle wines. We have two from the area around the town, and four from the south. Will we see a difference?

Regarding the vintage, this from Antonio Galloni:

Vintage 2007 is more than a worthy follow-up to 2006. It is hard to remember two consecutive vintages of this level in Montalcino. For most growers, 2007 was a warmer overall year than 2006. Temperatures remained above average pretty much the whole year, but never spiked dramatically as they did in 2003. Cooler temperatures and greater diurnal swings towards the end of the growing season helped the wines maintain acidity and develop their aromatics. Overall, the 2007s are soft, silky wines that are radiant, open, and highly expressive today. My impression is that most of the wines will not shut down in bottle and that 2007 will be a great vintage to drink pretty much throughout its life. I tasted very few wines that were outright overripe or alcoholic. Many of the best 2007s come from the centre of town where the higher altitude of the vineyards was critical factor in achieving balance. Overall, I rate 2007 just a notch below the more structured and age worthy 2006, but in exchange the 2007s will drink better earlier.

montalcino-map

Fuligni

2km east of Montalcino on quite open rounded hills facing east-southeast at elevations of 380-450 metres. 11ha under vine. An old Tuscan family but making wine since only 1923. Tending towards a traditional style: aromatic, elegant and subtle rather than fruit forward. Aged in 500lt French tonneaux for 4-5 months in an old convent on the vineyards, then for 30 months in large Slavonian botti deep underneath the family’s 18th century palazzo in the centre of the town.

Costanti

2km southest of Montalcino only a few hundred meters south of Fuligni above. A very old family property which first exhibited its Brunello in 1870. Vineyards face southeast on quite a steep slope at 310-400 meters. 12 ha under vine. Soils are blue-grey chalky marl. Costanti uses new BBS clones 5-25 years old. Wood ageing is mixed with 18 months in new and used 350-500lt French tonneaux, and 18 months in 3000lt Slavonian botti.

Lisini

Lisini is about 8km due south of Montalcino at 300-350 meters, just to the northeast of Sant’Angelo, down a dirt road through dense scrub. The soils are soft, sandy, volcanic with some stones and are exposed to sea breezes. 20ha undervine. Lisini is one of the region’s historical producers and remains one of the more traditional. The family has been farming here since the 16th century. Mainly massale selection with some vines up to 75 years old. There is one small block remaining of pre-phyloxera from the mid 19th century. Wines are aged in large 1100-4000lt Slavonian botti for up to 3 years.

Il Poggione

Another one of the Brunello pioneers of 100-120 years ago. This is quite a big estate with large blocks spreading down a long south facing slope above the Orcia river valley. Once, it was even larger but in 1958, half was split off to form Col D”Orcia. The vineyards are spread between 150 and 450 meters. They have made extensive use of new clones since the 1990s but the only major change in the cellar is to move from large Slavonian wood to large French. Typically, this wine spends 3 years in these 300-500lt formats. Belfrage calls Il Poggione archetypal because, as he says, it is the Brunello you go to when you want to demonstrate a benchmark. There are better wines, in his view, but none more authentic.

Uccelliera

We have two wines from this producer: their own normale Brunello and a regional blend called Voliero. Uccelliera, founded in 1986, is on the southern limits of the town of Castelnuova dell’Abate atop a series of gently undulating slopes which continue right down to the banks of the Orcia. The vineyards face south-southwest and are at 150-350 meters. 7ha are under vine and vine age varies between 8 and 35 years old.

Brunello di Montalcino – The wide altitude range does give some small variations in ripeness levels, and therefore winestyle which enhances blending options. This wine is aged for 36 months in Slavonian and French botti. It is known for its heady aromas, succulent fruit and density. A typical Colle example.

Voliero –  In 2006, Uccelliera started a new project along with some other producers, friends of theirs in the area, with the aim of taking advantage of the different aspects of each terroir. The contributing vineyards have various features but are between 250 and 450 meters high, and vine ages are between 10 and 20 years old. The resulting blend is traditional in style with the wine ageing for 30 months in large Slavonian and French casks. The wines are made at another winery but bottled at Uccelliera.”

ms-2007-brunello-tasting

And to the wines, all Normale:

2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino 14.5% alc. Tawny dusty carmine colour. An excellent start – perfumed hot and spicy, with vanilla and wood smoke. Bold. Scents of cut dates and blackberry. Minty. Bright fruit attack in the mouth, sweet and rich, good acid, fresh and powerful, with a long hot finish. Off young vines too. I scored this Gold.

2007 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Perfumed and floral. Higher in volatiles than the first, with scents of vanilla, pencil shavings and graphite. Hot. Bright fresh fruit and acid on attack. Fine tannins. Power and linearity. Minty. Hot finish. Very traditional in style I was told. I scored this Silver.

2007 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Lighter and dumber that the first two, from the cooler north was my pick, dusty and dry. Linear, less acid and intensity, earthy, more tannin and drying. Sweet up front, a taste of dried figs. I scored this Silver.

2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Deep tawny dusty carmine colour. Funky and sweaty, but this blew off. Dominant warm fruit characters. In the mouth I loved the richness of the fruit, the complexity, the crunchy mouthfeel, the drying tannins and hot spicy finish. It was delicious with thw supper, and showed savoury, meaty, shroomy. Some lanolin also. I scored it Gold and my WOTN (wine of the night).

2007 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Fruity bright and intense, with vanilla. Somewhat 1-dimensional after the Uccelliera, but showed drying characters, more wood, and high alcohol. Dates and dried fruit in the mouth. Blackberries, dried plums. Grippy and tight. Some thought austere. I saw depth and focus. I scored it Gold. A large number in attendance saw it as their WOTN.

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Tawny dusty carmine colour. Light-ish, lean-ish and dumb-ish. Clean fruit, some cherries. Lighter and leaner to taste, drying, with attractive complexity and layers of flavour. Fine. Sweeter with food. Length went on and on. I scored it Gold. Lots of attendees saw it as their WOTN.

As a novice on all things Italian/vinous, my overall impressions were that the wines showed remarkable homogeneity of style. They were perfumed, with bright acid (after 9 years age), possessed a clean clear structure and had a deep underlying fruit intensity.

These wines retail for over $120 nowadays. It was a pleasure and instruction to enjoy them tonight. Thanks to the host and the cellarmaster.

 

MS Tasting –Barbaresco


Magnum Barbaresco 2007 2

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco

An unknown for me, Barbaresco. So I was very keen to attend this month’s Society tasting.

It provided the very rare opportunity to taste an cellared horizontal of wines from one fine producer – a co-operative – from across each of the Barbaresco crus, with the exception of Pajè. Our Cellarmaster was kind enough to round out the flight with Rabajà from his own cellar.

As usual, the notes provided were excellent, this time by AH:

The current cooperative was founded in 1958 by the Reverend Don Fiorino Marengo as a countermeasure to the urban drift that was gradually depleting his congregation. It was effectively a revival of a previous cooperative, the Cantine Sociali, started by Domizio Cavazza, a Barbaresco resident and head of the Royal Enological School of Alba. The original cooperative went into decline during World War I and closed in 1923 after failing to survive the harsh economic conditions under the fascists.

The Produttori del Barbaresco currently comprises 51 growers, led since 1991 by Managing Director Aldo Vacca, son of the founding Managing Director Celestino Vacca, who retired in 1984. Gianni Testa has been the winemaker at Produttori since the late 1980s and under the current management the cantina sociale has earned a reputation as one of the world’s best best cooperatives, certainly as far as value for money is concerned. Production is around 550,000 bottles per year. In years when the riserve are made they are divided among Barbaresco (50%), single vineyard Barbarescos (30%) and Nebbiolo Langhe (20%).

At harvest the farmers bring their grapes to the piazza where they are analysed for parameters such as sugar, phenolics and tannins, which determines the amount each producer is paid. This ensures that quality does not take a back seat to quantity. The grapes are sent down a chute to the cellar, which makes use of the steep hill on which the town sits to permit gravity feeding between the three levels for fermentation and racking before the wine is taken to another facility next to the nearby Ovello vineyard for aging in 22 – 55 hectolitre botti.

The Barbaresco “normale” spends two years in botte. In good years the cooperative may decide to produce individual riserve from each of the nine Barbaresco crus, which spend three years in botte. The decision on whether to bottle riserve is made, not so much on the quality of the riserve in good years, but on the quality of the normale in poorer years. In other words, if higher quality fruit is needed to maintain the standard of the normale, the riserve will not be made.

As with every vineyard in the Langhe, aspect and position on the hillside are important determinants; the south facing sites on the mid to upper producing the best wine. When asked to describe each of the nine Produttori crus in one word, Aldo says Pora is approachable; Rio Sordo, elegant; Asili, austere; Pajè, bright; Ovello, lively; Moccagatta, floral; Rabajà, complete; Montestefano, powerful; Montefico, austere. I usually find that the crus starting with “p” are softer, more elegant expressions, whereas those starting with “m” are more structured, especially Montestefano. Asili and Rabajà usually stand out in the line-up for their balance and complexity. Whereas Aldo would be no more likely to rank his children in order of preference than rank the Produttori crus, my personal order of preference would look something like Rabajà, Asili, Montefico, Ovello, Montestefano, Rio Sordo, Moccogatta, Pajè, Pora.

On the quality of 2007 vintage the opinions of critics vary. Jancis Robinson says simply…”Hail and arid conditions resulted in a low-yielding year, but of good quality fruit”….but she is referring to Piemonte as a whole and what is true for Barolo is not necessarily true for Barbaresco, thanks in part to the influence of the Tanaro river. The Galloni and Tanzer web site Vinous rates 2007 as the best vintage in Barbaresco since 1996, giving both these vintages 96 points. Here is their description of the 2007 vintage: “The 2007 Barbarescos possess dazzling aromatics, silky tannins and generous, at times explosive, fruit. Although 2007 was a warm year, temperatures were remarkably stable throughout most of the summer, which allowed for full ripening, even in less well-exposed vineyards. As a result, many entry-level Barbarescos are unusually delicious. One of the defining characteristics of the vintage is that the differences from vineyard to vineyard are more attenuated in 2007 than they were in more typical, cooler years such as 2001 and 2004. Because of the unusually warm weather in the spring, the entire growing season was moved up in the calendar, but the cycle from flowering to harvest turned out to be close to normal. These conditions resulted in wines that combine elements of warm and cool vintages to an extent I have never seen previously.

We would be tasting all but one of the nine riserve; Pajè missing the cut on this occasion

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Asili

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Muncagotta

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Ovello

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà

Magnum Barbaresco 2007 1

And to the wines:

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora – Deep tawny red colour. Florals, roses, vanilla, oak, almonds, lifting. An excellent start. To taste I saw raspy acid, tannic dryness, bright red fruits – plums and cherries. Refreshing. It softened in the glass, and was transformed by food. I scored it Silver.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo – Deep tawny red colour. Vanilla pod notes, somewhat reticent to begin with. There was engaging suppleness in the glass, refreshing, with a good tannic backbone. Deep red fruits. Lively acid finish. Lovely length. Charming. I scored it Silver.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Asili – Deep tawny red. Vanilla notes on the nose, softer than the previous wines, with elegance, spice, almost dusty. Brambly red fruit to taste, bright entry, delicious complete marriage of acid and fruit. Ripeness and persistence. A drying finish. Ticked my box. I scored it Gold. One of my two Wine of the Night(s) WOTNs.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà – Deep tawny red. Dusty, with boxwood, tannins, & superb concentration. A step up in intensity. It showed lighter and sweeter in the mouth than the previous wines. Delicious again, ripe gorgeous fruit, svelte balance, complete. I scored it Gold.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Muncagotta – Deep tawnier red. Aromatic, and dusty. With oak, vanilla, roses and varnish. Sweet entry on palate, mouthcoatingly textural, with red fruit flavours. Some hint of dryness and austerity on a long finish. I scored it Silver.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Ovello – Deep tawnier red. Slightly dumber than previous. Some vanilla, baking spice, cloves, dry straw and oak. Grippy dense black fruit, austere, slight body, sinewy and drying. I scored it Silver.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montefico – Deep tawnier red. Spice, pepper, violets, volatile acids, deep perfume and roasted meat on the nose. Layered, intriguing, complex. In mouth I saw this as a complete expression – ripe red fruit, acids, texture, length and bosy. It was made in a bigger style, almost full throttle. Power and balance. I scored it Gold. My second WOTN.

2007 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano – Deep tawny red. Dusty, with phenols (whiteboard cleaner), most primary. Admirable flavour and grip. Great balance and structure, drying finish. I scored it Silver

The wines were all dusty on nose, with bouquets of roses and cloves and vanilla, and textural on palate. There was great concentration of fruit. The acid and tannin profiles point to years and years of life ahead for these wines

This had to be one of the most enjoyable tastings I have attended. It was a new variety (for me) and the similarities and subtle differences between the wines really made me work hard and think.

Here we had the same winemaker, same grape, same winemaking, and same vintage. All the same, yet differences emerged.  Fascinating, illuminating.

 

 

 

MS Tasting – 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape


Magnum CDP 2007 1

I recently attended another much-anticipated Society wine tasting, this time of a selection of 2007 Chateauneuf du Papes

The first and only CdP I have tasted thus far was done so only a few weeks ago at the Game of Rhones. So I had a lot to learn.

AE hosted the tasting, and compiled the excellent accompanying notes. I was tapped up to provide the supper, and thus prepared boeuf bourguignon avec grillés purée au fromage, et pain avec fromage. I was glad to receive all gold scores for the supper, thanks…

AE writes, “John Livingstone-Learmonth notes that the Southern Rhône’s seductive 2007 vintage has been rapturously received, with merchants trumpeting its wares. The wines are good, but do they have the structure to age.

Most of the experts agree. Robert Parker notes that the 2007 vintage shows purity, extraordinary concentration and remarkable freshness – despite the fact that the wines are big. He commented that these factors have resulted in very aromatic wines of laser like focus, and amazing purity as well as depth. Parker stated that 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape was “the vintage of a lifetime” and even suggested that, it may be the most compelling vintage of any viticultural region he has ever tasted.

He says further, it is important to recognize how much has transpired in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation over the last two decades. When he first began tasting Châteauneuf-du-Pape seriously in 1978, there were no more than 8-10 estates making world-class wines. Today, there are 60-75 doing so, and several new estates arrive with each new vintage. The newer generation of winemakers has greater appreciation of the terroirs and they also possess a more worldly view concerning the competition they confront. Consequently, they have raised the bar of quality dramatically.

Parker gave 100 points to two of the wines we are tasting (RPscore below)! But then, Jeb Dunnuck also scored all these wines between 96 and 100.

So what has made 2007 so special? The great vintages of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are like great vintages anywhere in the world. Full phenolic maturity is achieved over a long period of time, not retarded or rushed by excessive heat, but built slowly and incrementally. The factors in Châteauneuf-du-Pape that can change maturity include excessive heat as well as how many days the Mistral winds blow, and whether the nights in August and September were cool. In fact, 2007 had more days of Mistral during September than any other year except 2001, 1990, and 1978, three other years which produced superb wines. It was also a drought year, but some of the most stunning statistics are that while the average daytime temperature was well above average, the average night-time temperature, when the grapes have a chance to recover and develop aromatics, was among the lowest of any vintage measured in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, particularly for the month of September. That month also had a record number days of Mistral.

This weather scenario produced a vintage with depth of fruit, brightness, and exceptional purity. In short, it was a hotter than normal year overall, but it was also a much cooler than normal year in terms of night-time temperatures. Moreover, despite being hotter than normal, the year rarely had any days over 30 degrees Celsius. For example, in 2003, during the critical months of July and August, there were 55 days where the temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius. In 2001, there were 37 days, in 1998, 39 days, and in 2007, there were only 24 days, again dramatically less than in any other vintage. Moreover, in the month of September, 2007, there were no days above 30 degrees Celsius, which was the first top vintage since 2001 where this occurred. The other characteristic is that 2007 set an all-time record for hours of sunshine during the course of the year. It was also a record year in terms of the lack of rain in both August (none) and September (just over 2 inches). In contrast, 3+ inches fell in both 2001 and 2000, 4.5 inches fell in 1998, and nearly 3 inches fell in 1990. Only 1989 had less rain in the month of September than 2007.

Châteauneuf’s success, like that of Bordeaux, has traditionally been due to its age-worthiness and the fact that, as a blend, the traditional mix of grapes can balance out any unevenness in the wine, but things have changed. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is still permitted to use all 13 grapes in the appellation in their wines but many Châteauneuf producers are taking the easy way out and making blockbuster-style, Grenache-based reds that can be easily over-oaked, high in alcohol and one-dimensional that disintegrate with age. Some are just there to be massive and impressive early on, and to score points. But do they age as well as more traditionally made styles?

Now to the wines…

Magnum CDP 2007 2

2007 Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape – $69.99 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour with garnet rim. Smoky nose, green wet earth, savoury funkiness. Hint of dirty antiseptic, dark red raspberry fruits slightly stewed. I saw a quite lively attack, jammy flavours, salad lettuce leaf, mayonnaise finish (oddly). 92 points

2007 Vielle Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape – $115.00 – RP96 – Dusty dark brown carmine colour. Aniseed on nose, lean with jasmine florals. Dense deep flavours, secondary complexity emerging, strong aniseed, and quite alcoholic. Spicy, hot and soapy. 92 points

2007 de Cristia Chateauneuf du Pape VV – $145.00 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour. Medicinal nose, powerful, with depth and tension. Aniseed again, with wild flower scents, cherry plum and chocolate. It was quite sweet to drink, delicious, complex, concentrated and muscular. 94 points

2007 Clos des Papes – $130.00 – RP99 – Dark brown carmine colour. Medicinal again. Sweetness. Vanilla.  Funky.This was a challenging at first but I have rarely met a wine I didn’t like (at least a little). Very ripe in the mouth. Port-y. HOT. Jammy. Intense. 89 points

2007 de la Mordoree Châteauneuf du Pape Reine des Bois – $89.00 – RP96 – Dark brown carmine colour. Perfumed, sweet, with honey, very appealing. It was a heavy wine to taste. Big big big! Ripe red fruit, herbal, black olives, powerful and intense. 95 points

2007 Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pâpe Mon Aieul – $165.00 – RP100 – Dark brown carmine colour. Lean and somewhat dumb in this company. That medicinal undernote is apparent, aniseed and leather. Sweet and involving to drink, which was a surprise. I saw cinnamon. It was long, and oaky, with tannic heft, and a drying finish. It turned out very lovely. Very complete. 96 points

2007 Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Vielle Vignes – $155.00 – RP100 – Dark brown carmine colour. This was a classic wine to finish. Complete, poised. Layers of subtle scent, violets. Powerful. There is a hit on the palate of intense fruit, bright acid, savoury over sweet, and long. Quite dazzling and intoxicating…(but as all the wines were very hot, this effect may have been cumulative)…My WOTN (wine of the night)… 96 points

Well, that was a fascinating look at a range of top Chateauneuf du Papes. My fellow tasters were in agreement that the style is evolving in a disagreeable manner. Getting hotter. Becoming alcoholic fruit bombs. Losing the CdP terroir typicity they were used to. Is the the result of Climat Change?

Me, I saw some gorgeous, distinctive, hot and flavoursome reds that go remarkably well with rich cheeses, roast chicken and stewed meats.  Get over it. The Aussies have. No problems at my end.

Hurrah!

What’s in the glass tonight November 11th – Cab Merlot Malbec


Newton Forrest Cornerstone 2007

From the Cellar: Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay 2007 – $$$

This was a remarkable wine to retrieve from the Pool Room. The huge hit of vanilla on the nose was unlike anything I had smelled before. Hot at 14%. Dark bricking carmine in colour.

Continuing, the nose showed sweet and soft and strong, with powerful vanilla notes and licorice.

Very sweet to taste also, almost cloying. Sitting and savouring this wine in the evening dusk of my backyard, the ripe flavours drew all manner of small flies and midges to my glass. I had to retreat inside. Strong vanilla notes flowed through on palate, and was almost off-putting. Soft tannins. An odd and unique wine.

I went back to it two days later. The vanilla had backed off a little, and some of the underlying structure was showing through. The flavours were full, and there was no sign of oxidation or metallic standing taint.

An impressive and powerful wine.

BTVG 4+

 

MS Alsace 2007 tasting – September 27th


Alsace 2007 2

I like Riesling!

My friend HD and a friend of L’s, GE, both kindly invited me to attend this Magnum Society tasting. The Magnum Society is a long-established local wine appreciation society. It was formed to buy and cellar a wide variety of European wines for later appreciation, and has scheduled tastings stretching out to infinity, or so it seems :-).

I was very pleased and excited to attend.

GE prepared these introductory notes for attendees: “Magnum has held 11 Alsace tastings since 1996. An interesting characteristic has been that every tasting has been either a mix of years, a mix of varietals or a comparative tasting with another area such as Australia or Austria. This tasting is the first to look purely at a single vintage of Riesling.

So what to expect? I think we’re really starting to see some of the influence of climate change – there has been a tendency for slightly richer wines in recent times. The racy acidity isn’t as prevalent as it once was,  with growers having to deal with higher sugars and thus alcohol levels and the challenge of achieving development of the full flavour profiles that are desirable without letting the sugars get away. There is a wonderful richness about these wines, but producers are having to change their winemaking practices and adapt to the earlier ripening. The average temperature in Alsace has increased by approx. 3 degrees since 1972, increasing both at the minimum and maximum end of the scale at a rate of approx. 0.05 degrees pa.

Thanks to the meticulous record-keeping of the French wine industry, we can see the hard evidence of the impact of this in black and white. Harvest date for one producer in Alsace was Oct 16 in 1978; in 1998 Sep 14; in 2007 it was August 24.

So the producers must adapt to the ongoing changes and do what they do best – produce a wine that reflects the terroir. As the terroir changes with the impact of increased temperatures and potentially lower rainfall, how will the producers respond? What new issues will the temperature changes bring to the vignerons?

2007 was ultimately a great vintage in Alsace, and N should be thanked for assembling a tasting of the quality we have here. The wines are:

Alsace 2007 1

2007 Boxler Riesling Brand Old Vines K

2007 Mann Riesling Schlossberg

2007 Josmeyer Riesling Hengst

2007 Dirler Riesling Kessler

2007 Dirler Riesling Kitterle

2007 Schoffit Riesling Rangen Schistes

The wines ranged in alcohol from 13-14%. They were decanted some 3 hours before the tasting, and served blind. We tried the wines first on their own, and later with food.

2007 Mann Riesling Schlossberg – Pale green yellow. Rich entry with cut thru. Hint of kero. Viscosity and pairing mouthfeel. Rich yet dry, with a great line of piercing acidity. Long mouthwatering finish. Hints of cocnut and salinity. A lovely wine, and a great start to to the tasting. My second favourite.

2007 Josmeyer Riesling Hengst – Pale green yellow. Suppressed, closed, shy to start with. Light aromas of apple core. Lightly flavoured as well, with racy acidity. It did get better in the glass as the tasting progressed. A long finish. My least favoured wine of the flight.

2007 Dirler Riesling Kitterle – Brilliant green yellow. The nose was very different to the preceding wine – phenolic, medicinal notres, with aniseed. More developed and oxidative. Pineapple in there too. Oxidative on palate as well. Sweet, with flavours of Golden Delisious apples. Phenolic finish on the bitter side.

2007 Dirler Riesling Kessler – Brilliant green yellow. A very intriguing and distinctive wine. Developing flavours and aroma profile. Rich and delicious, ripe apples, soft and pretty, a focussed wine. Apple pip finish. My favourite wine of the night. Very good with food too.

2007 Boxler Riesling Brand Old Vines K – Pale green yellow. Linear, open, long and elegant nose. Fresh flavours, citrus, quite dry, great balance of acid and fruit flavour. Intense and powerful. In the top three.

2007 Schoffit Riesling Rangen Schistes – Most golden colour of the wines tonight. An outlier. Tropical fruit, apples, oranges – an open gorgeous nose – smokey, with botrytis, sweet, malo, flavours of lollies and honey, pears, drying on the mid palate, a lovely finish

A lot of fun! We were done and dusted in less than an hour and a half, and enjoyed some tasty tasting plates with the wines. Thanks HD.