Category Archives: I Am Wine

Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 1 – Wines of the Month April 2014

2012 Hölle Riesling trocken from Thörle for Euro 19,60

2012 Frauenberg Riesling trocken from Göhring for Euro 11,15

Of course, most of the German wine scene is currently totally fixated upon the 2013 vintage – new Rieslings and much else besides! Nearly all the regular 2013 wines are now on the market, and many of the high-end wines either be tasted at the producer or trade tastings like the Rheinhessen presentation yesterday in Berlin – mega-new Rieslings and much else besides! Since I returned to Berlin in late March I’ve also been immersed this stuff and can now say with some confidence that 2013 was a difficult vintage that yielded wines of extremely varied quality, with a tendency to sharp acidity and quantities are short to very short. That’s not exactly what the market is looking for…

There’s a clear family resemblance between 2013 and 2008. As in that vintage some locations (stony soils!) and some winemakers (dedication to canopy management during the summer, strict removal of rotten grapes in the fall!) did way better than the rest. This next thought may not be pleasant for some readers, but a number of 2013 wines have been successfully deacidified. However, there are others that suffer from this being misjudged or even going wrong. In short, there’s everything from a few sensational wines that will a lot longer before they show their best to some wishy-washy stuff.

2011 and 2012 are already getting forgotten by the wine scene, although these were back-to-back top vintages: the 2011s powerful and muscular; the 2012s more charming and elegant. Thankfully today the top wines don’t come out before September and some of the best 2012s are therefore still around. They include the remarkable 2012 Hölle Riesling from Winzerhof Thörle in Saulheim/Rheinhessen. Pictured above is Jungwinzer Johannes Thörle who has matured really fast as a winemaker during the last vintages. A few years back some of his high-end wines were very impressive, but tended to be a little bit top heavy. This wine has a wonderful aroma of super-ripe pear, is rich and concentrated, but the considerable power at the finish is not a jot too much. And the wine is just entering its best youthful phase. I’d say that it was up there in the first league of Rheinhessen dry Rieslings alongside the best GGs from the established VDP producers!

More seductive and charming is the 2012 Frauenberg Riesling trocken from Arno Göhring of Weingut Göhring in Flörsheim-Dalsheim/Rheinhessen (just around the corner from the famous Keller estate). All manner of yellow fruits pour from the glass as if it were horn of plenty, and there’s a great balance between the full body, ripe fruit and fresh acidity. For this evening this is a great bottle of dry Riesling and a no-brainer for just about any kind of fish dish (also Southeast Asian or Chinese). With wines like these around nobody needs to rush to the 2013s, all the really successful dry Rieslings from which need some time, even if its only a couple of months in some cases.

 

Winzerhof Thörle

Ostergasse 40

D 55291 Saulheim/Rheinhessen

Tel.: (49) / 0  6732 / 5443

Email: info@winzerhof-thoerle.de

 

Weingut Göhring

Alzeyer Straße 60

D 67592 Flörsheim-Dalsheim/Rheinhessen

Tel.: (49) / 0  6243 / 408

Email: info@geohring-wein.de

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 30 – Wine of the Month March 2012 (Eroica is a steal at Trader Joe’s!)

2012 Eroica Riesling for $18.50 at Trader Joe’s

This is a wine I’ve written about before, because when the first vintage (1999) was first released it was the first innovative American Riesling of the modern era, and because it subsequently went on to become the benchmark against which all new drier style American Rieslings are judged by the somms and wine merchants. Since made Bob Berthau became the chief winemaker of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State a decade ago he and Ernie Loosen of the Dr. Loosen winery in Bernkastel/Mosel have been one of Planet Riesling’s great winemaking teams and Eroica has gained in charm and brilliance. The 2012 Eroica with its vibrant white peach and pink grapefruit aromas is at once juicy enough to be a no-brainer, but also offers a lot of subtlety if you give it some time in the glass and pay close attention. It is also a Riesling that is dry enough, but not too dry (like all good Washington State Rieslings its not short on acidity!) to be a great combination with a wide range of food. I pan-fried a piece of king salmon and cooked some green asparagus with pesto and it was damn near perfect with it and made it feel like spring had already arrived in New York Wine City, although the temperature was still below freezing. I found it at Trader Joe’s wine store just down the road on East 14th Street where the price is very friendly (I give the inclusive NY sales tax price) compared with the $20 plus state tax norm.

www.traderjoes.com

PS In Germany you can find the excellent 2011 Eroica Riesling at the following address for Euro 22,50

www.vinexus.de

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 8 – Wine of the Month February 2014

2012 Kiwi Wine $22 per half bottle from Hermit Woods Winery

My humble apologies for the delay in posting the new wine of the month, but as soon as I got back to NYWC the last vital round of corrections of BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story, landed on my desk and there was no choice, but to push everything else aside. I only just completed that task and writing some urgent columns.

Of course, I’m well aware that you’re all going to say I’m totally crazy for declaring a wine made 97.6% from kiwis and 2.4% from apples in New Hampshire my wine of the month. And honestly, before I met Ken Hardcastle from Hermit Woods Winery I also couldn’t imagine that something made that way could be of interest to anyone who likes good Riesling (or, for that matter, other wines made from the co-called “noble” grape varieties). But something I learnt during the last years is that the world of wine is very much bigger and fuller with surprises than any of us, including me, can imagine.

All of us have convictions and suffer from them, because they create a rather rigid framework of preconceptions and prejudices which shape the way we see the world around us, and how we taste the world of wine. The reason I couldn’t imagine a kiwi wine tasting good is that the kiwi was a fashion fruit during early my twenties, when it made New Zealand seem cool long before the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc did or anyone had thought of filming the Tolkein novels on those green islands in the South Pacific.

Then, just over a decade ago I had my first epiphany with fruit wines when I encountered the apple and pear sparkling wines from Eric Bordelet in Normany/France, then Andreas Schneider of Nieder-Erlenbach close to Frankfurt/Germany started producing equally astonishing sparkling and still wines from those fruits. Those experiences opened my eyes to the fact that exciting wines can be made from all manner of fruits, as long as those fruits have exciting aromas an flavors. I have to admit though, that this is the first kiwi wine that I enjoyed drinking, and that I still don’t know if this is just one of a kind.

Actually the wine’s bouquet reminds me as much of passion fruit as kiwis, and perhaps that’s the reason that it also smells a little bit like a good Riesling. The balance is very different though, for the acidity is fresh, but doesn’t have the drive of Riesling. Then there’s a tannic element in the aftertaste which is different to the tannins of any grape wine I can remember drinking, but if it’s made from kiwis, then surely it should taste very different from Riesling or any other grape wine. It certainly made me sit up and say, “what the hell’s that?” Yes, a kiwi wine from New Hampshire blew my mind!

Hermit Woods Winery

56 Taylor Road

Sanbornton, NH 03269

www.hermitwoods.com

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 65 – Wine of the Month, January 2014

El Maestro Sierra Oloroso (15 years old)

Euro 11,95 in Berlin from www.vinos.de

$ 19,99 per half in NYC from www.flatiron-wines.com

Not Riesling? Not even a complex aromatic white? Nor even a rich and subtle red?

No. My wine of the month spot finally returns after a long break due to work on BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (pub. Stewart, Tabori & Chang June ’14) with the wine I have been enjoying the most during the last few days. This is a wine style which Riesling can’t do, because the kind of long-term and hard-core oxidation which developed the toasted nut and dried citrus peel aromas of this elegant, discreetly bitter Oloroso sherry just destroys the things which make Riesling enticing and fascinating. In contrast, the Palomino grape seems to lap this kind of treatment up revealing a completely different side to its personality to the fresh and lively character of pale and young Fino and Manzanilla sherries, that I also enjoy in summer. This is one of the great winter wines, and it’s still too little appreciated right around the world outside Spain. If the bitterness of this Oloroso is a bit too much for you, then try it with blue cheese. Yes, this combination is anything but classic, but the slightly sweet creaminess of blue cheese make this kind of sherry taste yet more mellow. My only wish is that I could buy it here in New York for the friendly price I can get it in Berlin!

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 5 – Wine of the Month July

2012 ‘Blanc de Noirs’ from Schlossmühlenhof for $13.99

Rich, but bone-dry Blanc de Noirs made from the Pinot Noir grape (called Spätburgunder in Germany) are hardly a traditional strength of the German wine industry. However, that’s exactly what this month’s wine of the month is. What makes this all the more astonishing is that this is something I “discovered” in NYwineC very recently. When I saw the name I thought, “who the hell is that?” and “why don’t I know this producer?” When I tasted the wine, which manages to combine a considerable amount of power with great clarity and near-perfect balance, I was doubly amazed. The color was very distinctive too, with just a pale hint of rose like some champagnes.

This wine is a testament not only to a talented young winemaker, Nicolas Michel of Kettenheim – “where the hell is that?” I thought – who has obviously learnt a great deal in very few years, but also to the region of Rheinhessen which a few of years ago I started calling the Dream Factory of German dry white wine. The reason for this piece of journalistic hyperbole is that no other German wine region has so dramatically turned itself around in such a short time. That wouldn’t have been possible without a great network of young winemakers there, and obviously this network has now grown to the point where it’s so large that even I’m not aware of all its members!

Congratulations are also due to NYwineC importer Savio Soares for discovering this one faster than I did!

2012 Schlossmühlenhof Spätburgunder ‘Blanc de Noirs’ is $13,99 at

Gotham Wines & Liquors

2517 Broadway (at W 94th Street)

New York, NY 10025

Tel.: (1) 212 932 0990

Internet: www.gothamwines.com

PS The umlaut (those two dots above certain German vowels) is actually easy to use. It just softens the vowel. For example, “ü” is pronounced “ue”.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 9 – Wine of the Month June

2012 Briedeler Riesling trocken & feinherb from Weingut Walter for Euro 7

It may not yet be June as I write these lines in New York Wine City (NYWC), but I’m doing so with my computer balanced precariously on the windowsill in order to get at least a breath of fresh air on this hot summer’s day. A breath of fresh air is exactly what these dry and medium-dry Rieslings from Weingut Walter in Briedel are. But wait a moment, “Briedel, where the hell’s that?” I can sense a bunch of you thinking. Well, it’s just down the road from Pünderich on the Mosel where the famous Clemens Busch estate is based, although Busch’s fame is also a rather new. Only a few years back Pünderich was also off the radar screen for most somms and journalists on Planet Wine. “And who the hell is Weingut Walter?” many of you are no doubt also wondering. Well, I met Gerrit Walter in November 2008 when I was a guest student at the Geisenheim wine school on the Rhine. I immediately sensed that he not only had a dangerously sharp sense of humor, but was also a really good winegrower in the making. Gerrit, who’s now in his mid-twenties made his first wines in 2009, and 2012 is his breakthrough vintage; this time every wine is excellent. And the prices are still really friendly!

Why did I pick these wines, which are not available in the US and even in Germany are best obtained direct from the producer? One of the purposes of this website is to counter the influence of rigid structures in the wine market which make it difficult and sometimes nearly impossible for talented young winegrowers like Gerrit Walter to get a toehold there, which denies you the consumer the choice you ought to have. This is the fundamental reason for my opposition to those rigid structures, apart from my general and long-standing opposition to rigid structures of almost all kinds (constitutional rights are a rare exception).

These wines would delight so many of you this June. The 2012 Briedeler Riesling Spätlese trocken has a crisp acidity, but also masses of fresh herbal aromas (think mint!) and a lot of power in spite of the moderate 12.5% alcoholic content. For anyone who finds this wine not fruity enough in character, and for those of you who prefer their Riesling with a hint of natural sweetness Gerrit Walter’s 2012 Briedeler Riesling Spätlese feinherb is almost sure to please. It’s brimming with peach and blackcurrant aromas, is really juicy without being frankly sweet which means it would be ideal with spicy (also spicy and sweet-sour) Asian dishes. What about a green Thai curry and this wine to make you break a sweat and cool off? That question is also addressed to wine importers. Let me be blunt: why aren’t these wines available even in NYWC?

2012 Briedeler Riesling Spätlese trocken / feinberb is Euro 7 from

Weingut Walter

Hauptstraße 188

D 56867 Briedel

Tel.: (49) / (0)  6542 98690

Email: info@weingut-walter.de

Internet: www.weingut-walter.de

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 2 – Wine of the Month May

2012 Westhofener Riesling trocken from Rupper-Deginther for just Euro 6!

Sorry Riesling friends in America, Japan and a bunch of other countries. You can’t just pop out to the neighborhood liquor store and buy this delicious dry Riesling from Jungwinzer Justus Ruppert of Dittelsheim-Hessloch/Rheinhessen! However, that is not a valid reason to ignore such wines as these, rather it’s a good reason for STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL to draw attention to these jewels that are just lying around waiting to be picked up by smart and innovative wine importers!

“Dittelsheim-Hessloch, where the hell is that?” I can hear you all saying. Yes, I also said that when I first heard the name exactly nine years ago in the early hours of the morning of 1st May 2004. Then I tasted a wine from Jungwinzer Stefan Winter (vintage 1980) called Leckerberg, tasty hill, and was amazed both by the rich peachy flavor of the wine and its beautiful balance in spite of hailing from the often heavy and clumsy 2003 vintage. Then I was stunned to hear that Leckerberg is actually the officially recognized name of a vineyard site. And it’s no the only vineyard site in this corner of Rheinhessen with a funny name. There’s also one called Mondschein, moonlight, and another called Lebkuchenberg, gingerbread hill, but more of that later.

Stefan Winter just became a member of Germany’s elite VDP winegrowers association, and as such can hardly qualify as a Jungwinzer any more, but Justus Ruppert (vintage 1987) certainly does. We first met in November 2008 when I was a guest student at the Geisenheim wine school back in November, and since then he’s become one of the most talented Jungwinzer  in Rheinhessen, (although even Dittelsheim-Hessloch offers him stiff competition in the form of the Wernersbach brothers, Stephan and Florian). This wine is perhaps the best value for money in his wide range of impressive dry Rieslings, Silvaners and Grauburgunders (Pinot Gris). Although it weighs in at only 12% alcohol it has a bouquet of yellow peach and ripe mini-banana, tasting at once really ripe and delightfully fresh. Here is the taste of the Wonnegau area of southern Rheinhessen without the bulky body and ponderous power you sometimes find here due to the combination of a favorable climate and sometimes rather deep, fertile soils.

If you want to taste the best dry Riesling Justus made to date, then you’ll have to wait until September when the 2012 vintage of his “Weisser Stein”, white stone, a wine from the Lebkuchenberg site, is released. It’s only called that name, because the name Lebkuchenberg is currently banned by the Government wine inspectors, after having been abolished under the auspices of the 1971 wine law. This is much more herbal and mineral wine with underplayed power, and it costs just over double the price of the new wine of the month. However, it’s worthe wait and the money!

2012 Westhofener Riesling trocken is Euro 6 from

Weingut Ruppert-Deginther

Kämmerergasse 8

D 67596 Dittelsheim-Hessloch

Tel.: (49) / (0)  6244 292

Email: kontakt@ruppert-deginther.de

Internet: www.ruppert-deginther.de

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 11 – Wine of the Month April

2012 Riesling trocken from K.H. Schneider for just Euro 6,40 !

Andi Schneider of the K.H. Schneider estate in Bad Sobernheim/Nahe pictured above at the ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf a few weeks back was one of my big discoveries last year. It may not always be the case that the 2012 German Rieslings are better than the 2011s, but for Jungwinzer Andi Schneider this is undoubtedly the best vintage to date. This wine, his basic dry Riesling, is brimming with grapefruit, white and yellow peach and floral aromas. It’s ripe and juicy, yet racy and light-footed, weighing at only 11.5% alcohol. In short it’s liquid joy! With spring finally on the way in Germany my thirst for this kind of Riesling is about to increase dramatically. Many readers are no doubt enjoying spring far from still chilly Berlin where I write these lines. One problem there could be for you is that wine importers in many countries have been slow to pick up talented young German winemakers, even when they’re as hot as Andi Schneider. So if this winemaker’s Riesling are not yet available where you are, then tell your friendly local wine merchant/importer to contact Andi at the address below NOW. By the way, this really is the simplest dry Riesling Andi made in 2012. He picked all his Riesling after the first of the night of 28th-29the October and in the Nahe that turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, even though the frost knocked all the leaves off the vines, so the grapes couldn’t ripen further (which is counterintuitive). And if you think this Riesling is quite something, then just wait for the others!

2012 Riesling trocken is Euro 6,40 direct from,

Weingut K.H. Schneider

Meddersheimer Strasse 29

55566 Bad Sobernheim

Tel.: (49) / (0) 6751 / 2505

Email: wgt-schneider@t-online.de

Web: www.weingut-schneider.com

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 33 – The sensational value for money Wine of the Month March 2013

2011 Riesling trocken ‘Alte Reben’ from Schneider – das Weingut

The Mittelrhein region of Germany is small and little-known, although this is the Romantic Rhine which inspired poets and painters from the early years of the 19th century. More important for wine lovers is the fact that like the Mosel it has steep vineyards with slate soil in a narrow and winding river valley; ideal conditions for growing sleek, racy and aromatic Rieslings. Lack of renown means that most Mittelrhein Rieslings are very good value for money. This one from the tiny start-up winery of 30 year old Sebastian Schneider is sensational value for money at just € 6.50 direct from the winery to private customers! It has the ripe peachy aromas, subtle spicy notes, textural richness and mineral freshness that you expect in a wine costing double or more this price. Although it doesn’t say so on the label it comes from Oberheimbach close to Bacharach where the Mittelrhein’s longest established quality producers Toni Jost and Ratzenberger are based. Sebastian Schneider began building up his own vineyard holdings in 2006 and has now amassed just 2.3 hectares, or 5.7 acres. Quantities are therefore small, which means that once word gets out about these wines they will sell out real fast. This puts me in the rare situation of imitating Wall Street and recommending you BUY!

€6.50 direct from

Sebastian Schneider – das Weingut

Markenweg 8

53557 Bad Hönningen/Mittelrhein

Tel.: (49) / (0) 2635 / 3116

E-Mail: s.schneider@schneider-das-weingut.de

Internet: www.schneider-das-weingut.de

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 5 – Wine of the Month Feb. 2013

2012 Weißburgunder trocken from Gysler

It’s way too early to think of drinking the better quality 2012 Rieslings from the Northern Hemisphere yet. Most of them are still in a raw state and some of them are still fermenting! One of the great advantages of the Weißburgunder / Pinot Blanc / Pinot Bianco grape is that due to its moderate acidity, and with the help of a relatively brisk fermentation (which also helps prevent the wine becoming too broad or heavy), it can give pleasure within a few months of the harvest. That’s certainly the case with this wine from Alexander Gysler of the eponymous estate in Alzey-Weinheim/Rheinhessen, one of the new star winemakers of the region. It has a ripe apple and apple blossom aroma, tasting at once creamy and fresh, and the balance of supple acidity, medium-body and ripe fruit already spot on. The way 13% of alcohol is unobtrusively tucked away in the wine has a lot to do with the cool and windy conditions around Weinheim and the stony “red slate” soils which predominate there.  So, here is a first taste of 2012 in Germany which suggests that this is another very good to great vintage with wines that are lively and not as weighty as the three preceding vintages. Like all Gysler’s wines it’s also very good value for money.

2012 Weißburgunder trocken is Euro 7 from

Weingut Gysler

Grosser Spitzenberg 8

D 55232 Alzey-Weinheim/Rheinhessen

Tel.: (49) / (0)  6731 / 41266

Email: info@weingut-gysler.de

Internet: www.weingut-gysler.de

 

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