Alsace wines from Marcel Deiss

Marcel Deiss 20110708 skyltMarcel Deiss is considered one of the best wine-producing domaines in Alsace, as well as one of the most idiosyncratic. Deiss can be found in Bergheim (village profile at Per Warvinge’s Alsace site), and there is a Wikipedia article about Marcel Deiss. The domaine is run by Jean-Michel Deiss.

Deiss’ wines are very concentrated and in a style that is usually fruity and often shows some amount of residual sugar. What is most peculiar with Deiss is the vineyard wines, that all are blends of several grapes varieties. Thus, the labels only show the vineyard name, not the grape names.

The Deiss range is divided into three categories, with a focus on respectively the fruit (the grape variety), the terroir, and the vintage conditions:

  • Vins de Fruits – wines carrying a varietal designation.
  • Vins de Terroirs – all wines with a geographical designation, all of them blends of several grape varieties. This includes regional blends, wines with just a village name, and the vineyard-designated wines, both from grand cru vineyards and other vineyards.
  • Vins de Temps – wines in a style dependent on the vintage, which means the late harvested wines - Vendange Tardive (VT) and Sélection des Grains Nobles (SGN).

Those Deiss wines that are varietal wines are therefore found in the categories Vins de Fruits and Vins de Temps. Not having any varietal wines at the higher level is quite odd for an Alsace producer, since most Alsatian producers only produce blends at the entry level, if they make them at all. Deiss’ thinking is different in this respect, and the idea is to promote the terroir by doing a mixed plantation (field blend) of different grape varieties in the better vineyards. These wines are those that make up the category Vins de Terroir, and it is those that really are Deiss’ signature wines.

Originally, the appellation regulations said that all Alsace Grand Cru wines were only allowed to be produced from one of the four “noble varieties”, i.e., Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat (actually meaning three different Muscat varieties), and it was mandatory to indicate the grape variety on the label. Deiss simply ignored this, and in this case stubbornness paid off: since a number of years, varietal blends are officially allowed in two of the 51 grand cru-classified Alsace vineyards: Altenberg de Bergheim and Kaefferkopf. That it still isn’t officially allowed in the other 49 apparently hasn’t stopped Deiss from continuing to sell his blends from Mambourg and Schoenenbourg under a grand cru label…

Until recently, the other vineyards (good, but not grand cru-classified) in the Vins de Terroir range were called “Premier Cru” by Deiss (this was the case when I visited them mid-2011), but now, the label says “Cru d’Alsace”. As it happens, there is no official Premier Cru level in Alsace, and terms that are official in connection with protected designations of origin in one place (in this case e.g. Burgundy) may not be used outside official use, including in other regions. In this case, it seems that the rebel Deiss has been forced to adapt to official rules.

When I’ve encountered Deiss’ wines at wine exhibitions I have sometimes tried to guess which grape varieties that dominate, but my guess have often turned out to be wrong. (“Surely there is much Riesling here?” – “No, there’s no Riesling at all in this one.”) It’s difficult to tell if this really indicates that terroir trumps grape variety in Alsace, because I’m not too used to taste Alsace blends, and Deiss’ wine style is somewhat eccentric.

The residual sugar in Deiss’ wines is a story of its own. Although many wines that “ought to be dry” (they aren’t VT or SGN) show significant residual sugar (off-dry or semi-sweet style), there’s no indication on the label about what sweetness that can be expected in the bottle. However, there is a trend that the wines from some vineyards usually are on the dry side, for example Langenberg and Engelgarten. The Grand Crus I’ve tasted, on the other hand, have always had noticeable residual sugar (and enormous concentration). To be frank, I think that the lack of any indication of the wine’s place on the dry-sweet scale is somewhat problematic considering the large number of vineyard wines produced by Deiss.

Marcel Deiss 20110708 hus

The wines produced by Deiss are definitely impressive, but the somewhat varying and often high sweetness make it something of a gamble to buy a Deiss wine at random. If you stick to a specific vineyard, on the other hand, it seems that there are not too big surprises between the vintages. Those that enjoy fruity and concentrated wines and aren’t afraid of noticeable amounts of residual sugar, can buy at random in the Deiss range. My recommendation to those that would like to explore the concentrated style produced by Deiss, but at the same time wish to avoid too much residual sugar, would be to try Engelgarten, Langenberg, or the non-vineyard designated Riesling.

The tasting notes below are from two occasions: the Alsace wine day in Stockholm at the end of Januray 2014, and a visit to the domaine in July 2011 that I hadn’t blogged about before. The older tasting notes from 2011 are in italics. Since this means tasting notes from two vintages of many wines, it gave me a better picture of the style and consistency of the wines to put these notes side-by-side. I tried to estimate the level of sweetness in the wines I tasted this year, and for my notes I used the 1-9 scale in use by several Alsace producers, and where 1 = completely dry.

I would also like to add that the 2011 visit was very pleasant! We were received in a very friendly way and we got to taste many wines. A Jean-Michel Deiss in a good spirit popped in his head in the visiting room – where some additional groups also were tasting – and waved hello. When I saw that I was taking notes he commented “aha, taking notes for me?” and made a thumbs-up. One thing was somewhat comical, though. The range was too big for us to aim at tasting everything, but when I after tasting a few wines noted in the list that they had a Pinot Noir, I became interested in tasting that one as well. I then got a firm “no” from the nice lady who handled the visiting room and poured the wines. No because it wasn’t available for tasting, but because I had missed the chance to taste it by already tasting some wines that by necessity must come after the Pinot Noir, and definitely not before. :-) This thinking seems to be more common in Alsace than in other region, i.e., not just that the wines are better to taste in a certain order, but that the unconditionally must be tasted in a certain order. Well, as you can see below, there was no lack of wines to taste, although I did miss out on the Pinot Noir. :-)

Marcel Deiss 20140127

Vins de Fruits - varietal wines

These are the entry level wines in the Deiss range. Previously, some varietal wines included a village name or the soil from which they originate, but this seems to have been phased out in recent vintages.

2012 Pinot d’Alsace
Mostly Pinot Blanc, vinified in old oak.

Nose with apple, some pear, and a discrete spice note. Fruity palate with a hint of sweetness (about 2-3 on the Alsace scale 1-9), a hint of spice, some mineral. 86 p

2012 Riesling
I think I heard that this wine was produced in barrique, i.e., small oak barrels. This could explain the spice notes and the hint of bitterness, but I didn’t really find any oaky notes as such.

Nose with peach, spice, and with a discrete perfume note. Medium bodied, dry palate (about 1-2 on the scale 1-9) with ripe yellow fruit, spice, rather good acidity, and a hint of bitterness. Spicy for a Riesling, 87 p.

2009 Riesling

2011 impression: Fruity and powerful nose with zest, a hint of spice, and some mineral. The palate is medium bodied+, rather dry but still with some impression of sweetness, citrus with zest, powerful concentration, aftertaste with citrus. The focus is more on power than on elegance. Young, 88-89 p

2008 Muscat Bergheim

Typical Muscat nose, sweetish with elderflower, honey, flowery notes, hops, and some spice. The palate is off-dry (-), fruity with yellow fruit, rather good acidity, and some sweetness. 86-87 p

2011 Pinot Gris
(Here I think I heard something about large oak barrels being used.)

Spicy nose with fried apples and a hint of smoke. The palate is off-dry (2-3 on the scale 1-9) and spicy with good concentration. Foody, 88 p.

2003 Pinot Gris Calcaire

Nose with dried fruit, apricots, spice, and some botrytis notes. The palate is semi-sweet and very spicy with powerful concentration and medium acidity. The wine shows quite a lot of Vendange Tardive style but is not quite balanced. 86-87 p

Well, 2003 with its very hot summer has yielded a lot of odd wines. This wine, older than the other we tasted, was sold at a discount at my visit in 2011.

2011 Gewurztraminer

Nose with honey, lychee, mineral, and perfume notes (but still rather discrete for the variety). The palate is barely off-dry halvtorr (about 2-3 on the scale 1-9) and very spicy with mineral and fine balance. 89 p

2007 Gewurztraminer
From vineyards in Bergheim and St Hippolyte.

Nose with honey, spice, flowery notes and a slightly oily impression. The palate is semi-sweet, viscous and very concentrated, with honey, low acidity, spice, a hint of fiery notes and a hint of bitterness. Almost a Vendange Tardive style, 88-89 p

Vins de Terroir – regional blend without vineyard designation

I believe that blends without vineyard designations are a recent addition to the Deiss range.

2012 Alsace
A blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris (i.e., this is a high-class Edelzwicker).

Nose with apple, discretely aromatic. Rather dry palate (sweetness about 2 on the Alsace scale 1-9), rather noticeable acidity, some mineral. A foody wine, 87 p.

Vins de Terroir – vineyard-designated wines at the “Cru d’Alsace” level

These are the vineyard wines that are not Alsace Grand Cru. Until fairly recently Deiss called these wines “Premier Cru” but the designation is now “Cru d’Alsace”, as noted above. In similarity to the Grand Cru wines, they are grown and produced as blends.

2011 Langenberg
Vineyard in Saint Hippolyte with a lot of granite.

Nose with apple, discrete perfume note, and mineral. Dry palate (1 on the scale 1-9), fruity with apple, peach, and good acidity. 89 p

Driest of all the Deiss wines I tasted in early 2014.

2008 Langenberg (“Premier Cru”)
Grape varieties Riesling, Pinot Gris, Beurot(?), Muscat, Pinot Noir(?).

The nose is noticeably herbaceous, somewhat aromatic, and slightly spicy with yellow fruit and some honey. The palate just show a little bit of residual sweetness – it is off-dry (-) – and quite a bit of acidity, a lot of citrus, yellow fruit with some honey, some spice, and some oily/viscous feeling. A fresh style with good acidity! 88-89 p

I believe the herbal note could be a vintage effect, because I also found it in the 2008 Engelgarten.

Marcel Deiss Engelgarten 20102010 Engelgarten
Vineyard in Bergheim with a lot of gravel (supposed to give higher acidity).

Nose with ripe apple, a hint of peach, spice and discrete perfume. Rather dry palate (approx 2 on the scale 1-9) with a high acidity, apple and citrus, foody style with citrus aftertaste. Good acidity, rather young, 89(+) p

I believe this wine could serve as a good introduction to the Deiss style, but in a reasonably dry (if not bone dry) and fresh version.

2008 Engelgarten “Premier Cru”
Grape varities Riesling, Pinot Gris, Beurot(?), Muscat, Pinot Noir(?)

The nose is herbaceous with honey, some dried fruit and apricots, and gives a more sweet impression than the 2008 Langenberg. The palate is basically dry (but still has some sweetness masked by the acidity) with citrus (blood grapefruit), powerful concentration, some grapefruit bitterness, and spice. 89-90 p

2009 Grasberg
I noted the following about the vineyard: “high location, no clay”.

Nose with peach, ripe fruit, some apricot and discrete perfume notes. Off-dry palate (approx 3-4 on the scale 1-9), good concentration, good acidity, apricot and spice. Comes across as a typical Pinot Gris style on my palate. 89 p

2007 Rotenberg
50 meters from Engelgarten, but more chalky soil. Grape varieties: Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Noss with ripe citrus fruit, some flowery notes and some green notes that are not disturbing. The palate is off-dry and spicy with ripe citrus and yellow fruit, some dried fruit, honey, herbs, and good acidity. Good concentration but not as fresh as the 2008 Langenberg or 2008 Engelgarten. 87-88 p

2007 Schoffweg
Chalky soil, grape varieties: Riesling and Pinot Gris.

The nose is slightly nutty with notes of almond, slightly herbaceous with yellow fruit, vanilla or white chocolate, and some honey. The palate is almost dry (with the slight sweetness hidden by the acidity) with high acidity and yellow fruit, some spice and bitterness, and a long aftertaste. Concentrated style, fresh and balanced. 90-91 p

2009 Burg
Hot location with dark clay soil, is supposed to give long-lived wines.

Nose with ripe yellow fruit, peach, apricot, honey, and a hint of spice. The palate is definitely off-dry (approx 4-5 on the scale 1-9) with powerful concentration, peach, honey, good acidity, and spice notes. To me a Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer style that goes in the Vendange Tardive direction. 90 p

2007 Burg
Was stated to contain “all grape varieties”.

Nose with honey, spice, yellow fruit, great concentration of aromas with some aromatic oil character. Semi-sweet palate with great concentration, rather spicy, yellow fruit with some dried fruit, honey, rather good acidity. Vendange Tardive-styled, 89-90 p

Marcel Deiss 20110708 Gruenspiel glas2004 Gruenspiel
A cooler location with marl and clay. Grape varieties Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Gewürztraminer.

The colour goes in the orange direction with just the tiniest bit of rosé. Nose with some dried yellow fruit, some red berries, spice, some honey and a slightly developed note. The palate is off-dry (-) and very spicy with yellow berries, some red berries, citrus, powerful concentration, gives a slightly oily-viscous impression, and has a good acidity. Rather fresh style, pleasant development, 89-90 p.

2007 Huebuhl
Pinot, mostly Pinot Gris, some Muscat

The nose is slightly herbaceous with a flowery note, yellow fruit, some spice, and with a light botrytis note. The palate is semi-sweet with yellow fruit, grapefruit, honey, powerful concentration of fruit, a tiny bit of alcoholic fire, and a long aftertaste. Vendange Tardive style, 89-90 p.

Vins de Terroir – vineyard-designated wines at the Grand Cru level

2009 Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru

Nose with ripe peach, perfume, mineral, and some honey. The palate is off-dry+ (sweetness about 5 at the scale 1-9) with powerful concentration, honey, citrus, and spice. “Sneaky Vendange Tardive”, impressive, but rather discrete nose for such a powerful palate. Young, 92+ p.

2007 Altenberg Grand Cru
Grapes affected by noble rot.

Nose with honey, dried yellow fruit, zest, spice, and some herbaceous notes. The palate is semi-sweet, spice, herbaceous with honey, some mint, citrus, mineral, and rather good acidity. Vendange Tardive style. Slight more prominent acidity and minerality than the rest with such high sweetness. 90-91 p

Vins de Temps – late harvested wines

2004 Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive

The nose is spicy with honey, som flowers and oily notes. The palate is semi-sweet, oily, and noticeably spicy, with honey, dried fruit and a tiny bit of bitterness in the aftertaste. 89-90 p

Swedish version here.

Posted in Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling | Tagged | 1 Comment

More Pehu-Simonet Champagne

Francophile wine “pusher” Martin a.k.a. Caviste recently released this year’s batch from Champagne producer Pehu-Simonet. It’s the second year he does that at about this time of year, and I tasted them last year as well.

Pehu-Simonet is located in Verzenay, a Pinot Noir-dominated grand cru village in the Montagne de Reims part of Champagne. Some of their vineyards are located in the surrounding villages, including Verzy, Sillery, and Mailly.

Pehu-Simonet 20140521

Selection Brut Grand Cru NV
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, base vintage 2011. Bottled in April 2012 and disgorged in January 2014.

Nose with ripe apple, in particular red apple, bread, and some flowery notes. The palate shows good fruity notes and concentration, with rather apply character, good acidity and some mineral. Approachable now, fruity but still rather firm style, 88 p.

This bottle had been open for about 3 hours. A bottle just opened came across as somewhat more firm and with more mineral notes and less fruit-dominated. This indicates a Champagne that is still rather young.

I also took a sniff at last year’s release of the same Champagne (base vintage 2010) that showed somewhat more developed and bready notes. So one year in the cellar apparently makes a difference in this case.

Brut Rosé Grand Cru NV
80% Pinot Noir of which 10% red wine, 30% Chardonnay, base vintage 2010. Bottled in April 2011 and disgorged in March 2014.

Nose with red and green apple, wild strawberries, slightly bready, and a hint of herbaceous notes. Palate with red apple, with an impression of a fresh bite into a tart apple, noticeable minerality, good acidity, and an aftertaste with mineral. 87-88 p.

Here my impression was that the 2010 vintage character came through when it was placed next to the 2011-based white version. This means higher acidity and less concentration of fruit. This release of the rosé might benefit from some time in the cellar.

I also tasted last years’s release of the rosé. Interesting enough, it’s exactly the same batch as this year, as both are 2010 base vintage and were bottled in April 2011. They differ by a bit more than a year in their disgorgement dates, i.e., this bottle had been longer on its cork. The nose is a bit more smoky with a more pronounced wild strawberry note. Palate of wild strawberries, red apple, good acidity, and a slightly herbaceous note. 88 p.

Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru NV
100% Pinot Noir, base vintage 2010. Bottled in April 2011 and disgorged in March 2014.

Nose with ripe apple, both red and yellow apples, and a discrete flowery note. Palate of apple, good concentration, powerful minerality, and good acidity. Comes across as rather young, became a bit more flowery in the glass, so it will probably benefit from cellaring. 88-89 p.

At present less fruity than the regular Brut (that is 2011-based), but not as firm as the rosé (that is 2010-based).

Basically, my impression of the Pehu-Simonet Champagnes is the same as last year: they are well-made in a rather fruity style and show good concentration. To some extent, they come across as a bit firmer than last year’s batch, and they would benefit from at least some months in the cellar (or perhaps a year), but I suppose this is because two of them are 2010-based and are quite recently disgorged. However, they are not really made in a style that really calls for extended cellaring. There’s a positive element of “good and uncomplicated” about them.

Swedish version here.

Posted in Champagne, Pinot Noir | Leave a comment

Dinner with 1990 DRC Richebourg 1990 and 1990 La Tâche

There are unique and memorable wines that have brought great joy when tasted, but where there’s good reason to assume that you won’t be able to taste these wines again, given the inevitability of older vintages being consumed or becoming far too expensive for mere mortals to buy (or avoid selling). A prime example of this is older first-rate vintages of the wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC), generally and with very good reason seen as the best producer of Burgundy. A little less than three years ago I had the great opportunity to taste five of their wines from the stellar 1990 vintage. This was a wine club tasting where P. was even more generous than usual, and made these wines the theme of his annual prestige tasting. That tasting was crowned by the second-best red wine of DRC, La Tâche. Their very best and most well-known wine, Romanée-Conti, I’ve actually never tasted.

So I was very surprised when an opportunity showed up to taste the 1990 La Tâche again,  together with the 1990 DRC Richebourg. Even better, this was in a dinner setting.

DRC 1990 201404111990 DRC Richebourg
Burgundy, Pinot Noir.

Nose with ripe strawberries and a hint of decaying strawberries, some cherries, spices, pronounced mint notes, a hint of herbaceous notes of the slightly green type, and mineral. Lovely and developed classical Burgundy notes, perfect maturity but still with a youthful character. Palate with ripe strawberries, fine tart berry character with a lot of freshness, mineral, spice, mouthfeel with a certain viscosity, and a great length. Perfect maturity but fully vital, and I think we opened this bottle at its absolute summit. 97 p

This was a completely different beast from the bottle I tasted in 2011, and it clearly demonstrates why Richebourg used to be the obvious number three among the reds of DRC (i.e., directly behind La Tâche), before Romanée-Saint-Vivant started to offer serious competition.

It was also interesting to note how velvety this wine was, since Richebourg in its youth tends to show very pronounced tannins.

1990 DRC La Tâche
Burgundy, Pinot Noir.

Powerful nose with ripe strawberries, some cherries, some flowery notes with violets, mint, spices with a hint of liquorice, iron filings, some animal notes and some green notes in the background, as well as just a touch of raspberry candy. A nose with great complexity that is more powerful, darker and younger than the Richebourg nose. Palate with enormous concentration, cherries, ripe strawberries, really good acidity and a fine tart berry character, tannins, and pronounced spice notes. Long aftertaste with ripe strawberries, tannins, and a strong minerality. Surprisingly young, powerful concentration, and should benefit from more time in the cellar. 98 p

Definitely more powerful and younger than the Richebourg, and hasn’t reached its peak yet. This wine is rather similar to when I tasted it in 2011, but this time I appreciated it even more since there was more of it in my glass and I could follow it for a longer time. This wine really needed time to unfold in the glass, and several around the table liked the Richebourg better at least during the first hour.

The 1990 La Tâche is truly a monster wine, but this is not a negative opinion since there are some very nice monsters around, and even Godzilla is supposed to be nice and merely misunderstood in the most recent film incarnation. And on the theme of misunderstood, the development curve of this wine is a cause for reflection, since it doesn’t seem to follow any reasonable rules of thumb. If a Burgundy wasn’t fully mature at 21 or 24 years of age, I’m somewhat hesitant to judge how long a perfectly stored bottle really will need to reach perfect maturity. I see a big risk that another 5-10 years won’t do the trick. So will 30 years be enough? Or will 40 years be needed? In any case case, so long will be needed that differences in cellaring conditions will have a noticeable effect on the wine.

So why not 99-100 points? The need for further cellaring makes this wine difficult to score since it falls a little beside regular rules, I must say that the palate actually isn’t quite as elegant and velvety as the 2010 DRCs (and to some extent the 2009s), but actually goes one small step in the “rustic” direction, compared to the quintessentially perfect Burgundy. (Don’t get me wrong, it still is the best wine I have tasted so far in 2014…) Perhaps it is unfair to expect anything else of Godzilla, but the Richebourg demonstrates that also 1990 DRCs can combine concentration with a velvety character!

Both wines were excellent with food! We had them to two dishes, and the Richebourg excelled with the bird while the La Tâche showed better with lamb.

Other wines before and during dinner

In order to get warmed-up on Pinot Noir and 1990 we started with:

RD 90 baksida 20140411RD 90 Joyau 89 201404111990 Bollinger R.D.
Champagne, 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Chardonnay, disgorged 5 September 2002.

Clearly developed nose of dried yellow fruit, yellow apples, winter apples and apple compote, some nutty notes, sherry, some mushroom, and a hint of vanilla. Palate in powerful style with quite a bit of concentration, yellow apple and some green apple as well as winter apple, citrus, fresh acidity and mineral, and spices. The palate is more fresh than what could be expected by the developed nose. 94 p

I don’t think there’s too much reason to cellar this Champagne any further. I’d say it is a bit more developed than the 1988 R.D. (disgorged 2002) that I tried last summer, which is perhaps what one can expect from 1988 and 1990 when they have spent approximately the same time on the cork.

1989 Boizel Joyau de France
Champagne, 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay.

Rather golden colour. Nose with ripe yellow fruit and some sweet fruit, quite a bit of smoke, some notes that made me think of steel and iron filings, some development with nutty notes. Palate with powerful concentration, yellow apple, some sweetness of fruit in the attack, noticeable minerality and a fresh aftertaste. 92 p

Somewhat lighter in style than the Bollinger R.D. Not entirely similar to how it came across when I tasted it in December 2013, when I definitely felt vanilla in it.

Kistler 201404112000 Kistler Russian River Valley Les Noisetiers Chardonnay

Corked! Quickly replaced with a somewhat younger vintage (the same wine name but actually different AVAs)…

2002 Kistler Sonoma Coast Les Noisetiers Chardonnay

Golden colour. Nose with honey, some tropical fruit, ripe yellow apple, butter, a bit of oily impression with some oak and some mineral. Full-bodied, the palate is spicy and oily with medium acidity and yellow apple. Fully mature. 90 p

Sött 201404112008 Château Aydie Pacherenc du Vic-Bilc
Sud-Ouest (Southwest), France. Petit Manseng is the main grape variety, together with a small proportion of Gros Manseng.

Light golden colour. Nose with yellow fruit, sweet fruit, white raisins and some vanilla. The palate is sweet (but doesn’t quite show Beerenauslese or Sauterness sweetness) with ripe yellow fruit, some tropical fruit, good acidity, and some spice. 90 p

2001 J.M. da Fonseca Moscatel de Setúbal
Setúbal, Portugal. The grape variety Moscatel de Setúbal is the same as Muscat of Alexandria, the somewhat more spicy and less perfumed of the common Muscat varietals.

Definitely amber-coloured and going somewhat in the rosé direction. Nose with pronounced spice, slightly flowery, dried fruit, some notes of maturity, typical fortified wine notes  and Moscatel character. Sweet palate with spices and alcoholic feeling, rather good acidity, and dried fruit including dried apricot. 89 p

Many thanks to R. for this wonderful opportunity to renew my acquaintance with the two 1990 DRCs!

Swedish version here.

Posted in 1990, Burgundy, California, Champagne, Chardonnay, Muscat, Petit Manseng, Pinot Noir, Portugal, Southwest France | Leave a comment

Older German Riesling including a 1929 Liebfraumilch

BLH 20140327 Liebfraumilch 1929 flaskaOne of the out-of-town members of our wine tasting club, who blogs about wine for a regional newspaper and therefore regularly “comes to town” to taste new arrivals, arranged a tasting on the theme “mature Riesling”. In this case, “mature” didn’t refer to adolescent wines of 10-15 years, but to those that were mature for real. The vintages of the ten regular wines of the tasting stretched from 1929 to 1986, with 1971.8 being the average vintage. (1974.1 if I include a youngish extra wine of the 1997 vintage.) All wines were German Rieslings with varying degree of residual sugar, with Prädikate ranging from Kabinett to Beerenauslese.

This wine tasting club, AuZone, definitely includes the odd wine n*cr*philiac, but also there, it is definitely not common to encounter 1929s. It’s fair to say that wines up to about 30 years of age show upp rather regularly, and that wines from the 1970s (about 40 years of age) show up now and then. Anything older than that is quite rare. From the 2013 tastings I particpated in I remember a 1947 Massandra wine of “white Port” type and a (red and bona fide) 1966 Vintage Port, but nothing older. In the 2012 tasting, some older sweet Loire wines from Moulin Touchais – vintages 1949, 1959, and 1964 – can have been the oldest. It was even more surprising with such an old wine, since it wasn’t a fortified wine. Good Riesling does indeed age with grace, and those with residual sugar usually age better than the dry ones. However, corks don’t live forever, so even if you have an ideal cellar I’d recommend to limit yourself to cellaring wines for up to 30-40 years rather than 80+. :-)

BLH 20140327 Liebfraumilch 1929 etikettThe wines were served in semi-blind flights (i.e., the order was not known). But first, the grand old lady of the evening was served open, and it came with the caution “a curiosity, no guarantees whatsoever!”

1929 Liebfraumilch Spätlese, Werger & Cie
Rheinhessen. Bottled by Werger & Cie, Worms, while the matching neck label indicates that the bottle was sold by Findlater Mackie Todd & Co. Ltd. in London, a company founded in 1823 that once consisted of a whole chain of wine shops. The company was bought in 1993 by Waitrose.

BLH 20140327 Liebfraumilch 1929 glasThe wine: amber colour. Nose with dried fruit, fried apples and old winter apples, hazelnuts, chocolate, petroleum, some smoke, burnt sugar and Madeira notes. The palate is off-dry(-) with rather good concentration, winter apples, high acidity, and oxidised notes. Obviously developed with old notes, the nose is better than the palate, but the palate also sticks together. Definite exciting to taste! An honest score based only what was in the glass: 86 p. “Experience points” with the age included: 95 ep.

Quite fascinating that this 85 year old wine was fully drinkable, if old in style. The nose reminded me quite a lot of Riesling from the 1950s and 1960s, on the Spätlese or Auslese level, that I have tasted over the last 5-10 years.

The subject of Liebfraumilch deserves some additional words. The short version is that in the beginning, Liebfraumilch was a good wine, and a 1929 Liebfraumlich shouldn’t be expected to be entirely similar to a Liebfraumilch from the 1950s or later. This wine should rather be considered as a 1929 Spätlese that also happens to be labelled Liebfraumilch, and it should be noted that German Spätlese in the 1950s and earlier tended to be heavier than these wines were in the 1960s to 1980s.

Now the longer version follows. Scroll down to the next flight if you don’t have a special interest!

The wines that have been designated Liebfraumilch in the last couple of decades aren’t too impressive, to put it mildly. The infamous Blue Nun (which today is likely to be both drier and better than its reputation) was a Liebfraumilch once upon a time, but they stopped using that designation a long time ago, since it was seen as negative for the brand. The modest requirement for being a Liebfraumilch today is that the wine is a Qualitätswein consisting of a minimum of 70% of the grape varieties Riesling, Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, or Kerner, and originates from any of the wine regions of Nahe, Pfalz, Rheingau, or Rheinhessen. I can guarantee that there isn’t too much Riesling in a typical Liebfraumilch today, because the other permitted varietals are cheaper to buy in, and Liebfraumilch is produced by bulk producers, not by small growers who bottle their own wines.

Liebfrauenkirche in Worms with surrounding vineyards that are still owned by Valckenberg.

The designation Liebfrau(en)milch – apparently documented back to 1687 – originally referred to a wine from vineyards around the church Liebfrauenkirche in Worms in Rheinhessen. In the early 19th century, the wine merchant Valckenberg succeeded in buying much of these vineyards and established Liebfraumilch as a well-known brand on the export market. Around 1900 it seems to have still been considered a very good wine. The name wasn’t protected, though, and other producers started to call their wines Liebfraumilch as well. In 1909, Valckenberg established the brand “Liebfraumilch Madonna” which was exclusive to them. By the way, Blue Nun was launched with the 1921 vintage (an excellent vintage in both Germany and France), and was once considered a good wine. However, it was the mass-produced off-dry wines that ruined the international reputation of German wine from the 1970s, and even more in the 1980s.

Although 1929 Liebfraumilch can have meant anything in terms of origin, it is a Spätlese and it was bottled by a winery in Worms, the origin of the designation. Therefore, it is not entirely surprising that this bottle was filled with a good wine once upon a time. This 1929 could very well have been a varietal Riesling, and if it wasn’t I think it’s likely that it was a Riesling with some Silvaner blended into it.

The original vineyard around the Liebfrauenkirche is called Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstück, and can be seen in the picture above. Today, it is a vineyard classified as a VDP Grosse Lage, which means that it can be used to produce top-class dry wines under the designation Grosses Gewächs. The vineyard consists of 14.3 hectares, almost completely consisting of Riesling. This can be compared to the 57 000 hectares from which today’s Liebfraumilch may be sourced.

BLH 20140327 flight A glas

Flight A: “A visit to the Doctor”

Some wine from Bernkasteler Doctor, the most famous vineyard in middle Mosel, and some other nearby vineyards.

BLH 20140327 flight A flaskor

1970 Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Hochfeine Auslese, Freiherr von Schorlemer
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (the name of the region in those days, before it was shortened to Mosel)

The colour is orange or light amber. Nose with petroleum, fried apples and winter apples, dried fruit, “firne” (old Riesling notes) and noticeable smoke notes. The palate is off-dry with winter apples, good acidity, and spice. Somewhat short with a certain bitterness in the aftertaste. Not too complex, but rather typical mature notes for an older Riesling. Honest score: 83 p.

Yes, the 1929 was better. I suppose that also here, the age might justify a slightly higher “experience score”: 86 ep.

Voting within the flight gave this wine 3 worst votes, including mine. (No best votes.)

I guessed that this wine was at Spätlese level. 1970 was a good vintage, although it is less known than 1971. That an Auslese from Mosel is able to handle some 40 years better than this wine was clearly demonstrated by the next wine:

1969 Wehlener Abtei Riesling Hochfeine Auslese, Klosterhofgut Wehlen

Intense yellow colour. Nose with dominating notes of citrus and zest, some yellow apple, smoke, and various mature notes hovering in the background. The palate is semi-sweet with pronounced citrus notes, high acidity, viscous mouthfeel and a lot of depth. The aftertaste is long and citrus-dominated. Auslese style with development but with “Auslese+” weight, and with a lot of vigor and energy. 91 p.

Fabulously fresh for its age – this is how a mature Auslese should be!

5 best votes (including mine) and 1 worst vote, and thus voted the best wine of the flight (tied with 1983 Pauly-Bergweiler wine).

By the way, the designations hochfeine and hochfeinste (both adjectives of which the latter is the superlative form, the meaning is “very fine”) are sometimes seen together with the Auslese designation on pre-1971 wines, the year of a major reform of the German wine law. I’ve never seen them used on any younger wines. Since then, “Goldkapsel” and star designations seems to have taken over, and I interpret hochfeine Auslese as approximately Auslese ** and hochfeinste Auslese as approximately Auslese ***.

1983 Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese, Weingut J. Lauerburg

Medium yellow colour. Nose with citrus, pronounced smoke notes, kerosene, elderflower, and slightly “sharp nose”. Off-dry palate, citrus including grapefruit, high acidity, good concentration. Fresh and somewhat lean style, my guess had been Spätlese if it wasn’t a Mosel wine. 88 p

Received 1 best and 2 worst votes.

1983 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Weingut Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler

Rather light yellow colour. Citrus-packed nose with pronounced notes of zest, some dried apricot and petroleum notes with kerosene. Off-dry palate, citrus and grapefruit, definitely high acidity, a long and fresh citrus aftertaste. A fresh style with a lot of citrus notes and decent weight. 89 p

Received 4 best votes and voted the best wine of the flight (tied with the 1969 Auslese above).

1986 Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Kabinett, Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch

Medium yellow colour. Nose with citrus, other yellow fruit, pronounced smoke notes, some notes of dried wood. The palate is off-dry (-) with citrus, some mineral, not too concentrated, finishes with a light bitterness. Pleasant nose but a palate with a somewhat “hollow” structure compared to the other wines, as well as a drier style, so it wasn’t surprising that this was a Kabinett, i.e., a more lightweight wine. 85 p

Received 6 worst votes and was voted the worst wine of the flight.

1976 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese, Freiherr von Schorlemer

Intense orange colour. Nose with oranges, dried fruit, flowery with perfume notes, honey and a strong note of beeswax, some oxidation notes in the background. The palate is semi-sweet/sweet, rather viscous, with medium acidity, some spice, a rather long aftertaste and a hint of bitterness. The nose is a bit odd for a Riesling, and more aromatic than expected. Different and exciting, but a bit difficult to score – 89 p? with an addition of 91 “experience points” for the generous scorer.

3 best and 1 worst votes.

This wine went somewhat in the direction old sweet Muscat or Gewürztraminer, without going all the way, so I started to think about a blend of Riesling and some more aromatic varietal. Admittedly, it’s not very easy to find such blends, at least not at higher levels of sweetness.

BLH 20140327 flight B glas

Flight B: Rheingau and Pfalz

BLH 20140327 flight B flaskorRheingau and Pfalz usually produce wines in a slightly heavier style than Mosel does.

1970 Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Cabinet, Freiherr Langwerth von Zimmern

Deep but bright yellow colour. Nose with citrus, noticeable smoke, yellow apple, some dried fruit, petroleum, and some beeswax. Off-dry palate, yellow apple, citrus, high acidity, a long and fresh citrus aftertaste, and some some old wine notes (firne) in the palate. Fine development and fine balance, Spätlese style, foody. 89 p (91 “experience points” since it is a wine carrying a designation that was retired in 1971.)

In this flight it received 6 best and 7 worst votes (including mine) and therefore the wine that was met with the most divided opinions.

Comment: until 1970, Cabinet, usually written with “C”, designated a better wine that had been put away to be sold later, corresponding to how the designation “Reserve” is used (or at least was meant to be used) in many countries. It was an additional designation and not a Prädikat in its own right, so on older bottles combinations like Trockenbeerenauslese Cabinet can be seen. Kabinett, always with a “K”, was introduced in 1971 as the lowest Prädikat in terms of grape ripeness, and at the same time the requirements for a Spätlese (the next level) was set rather low for a designation which literally means “late harvest”. When a pre-1971 wine just says Cabinet without any Prädikat, it usually corresponds to a Spätlese using the standards of 1971, since the better wines (those put away for Cabinet status) tended to be higher in ripeness than the basic level.

1976 Deidesheimer Hofstück Riesling Auslese, Rechsrat von Buhl
Rheinpfalz (the name was later shortened to Pfalz, and is also known in English as the Palatinate)

Golden colour with some amber notes. Nose with yellow winter apples, some dried fruit, milk chocholate, spice, petroleum, and some smoke. Semi-sweet palate, good weight, spice, yellow apple, dried, fruit, good acidity, slightly green-apply aftertaste with hard acidity, some oxidation notes and a hint of bitterness. Developed style with both hot and cool vintage signs, despite being of distinctly hot vintage. 90 p

Received 5 best and 2 worst votes, and therefore voted the best wine of the flight.

This was the heaviest wine of these three, so I thought this was the one from Schloss Johannisberg, since the tradition of going quite high in sweetness is more common in Rheingau than in Pfalz. Or at least that was what I thought, I’m not 100% sure about how things stood in 1976. On top of that, the alcohol could be felt a bit more in the next wine, which seemed to fit with putting that one in Pfalz.

1976 Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Rosalack Auslese

Deep golden colour with amber. Nose with honey, oranges, dried yellow fruit, some smoke, petroleum, beeswax, discrete flowery notes – a heavy and elegant nose. The palate is off-dry plus, shows some alcoholic fire (when compared to the other two), spice, high acidity, notes of winter apples and yellow apples, and a good acidity in the aftertaste. Good balance, 90 p.

Somewhat less sweet than the previous wine.

Received 2 best votes (including mine) and 4 worst votes, and therefore voted the least good wine of the flight.

BLH 20140327 Graacher Dompropst 1997As an unusually young extra wine, we finished with:

1997 Graacher Dompropst Riesling Auslese, Weingut Max Ferd. Richter

Nose with citrus, yellow apple, some smoke, and petroleum. The palate is off-dry plus with citrus, in particular grapefruit, high acidity, and a long and fresh aftertaste. 89 p

Truly a great tasting! Older Riesling can definitely be very fascinating.

Swedish version here.

Posted in AuZone, Mosel, Pfalz (Palatinate), Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Riesling | Leave a comment

2012s from Georges Descombes – serious Beaujolais

Georges Descombes is a high-end Beaujolais producer, and their (French-)Swedish distributor Caviste just launched some of their 2012s, from three different crus. Last year, I tasted some of the 2011s and wrote about my impressions of them. At the same time, I wrote some words on Beaujolais in general, so it might be worth clicking your way to that entry.

Descombes 20140507

The three 2012s tasted. The bottle of Brouilly at the left has a label of the design that is used for all Descombes’ wines from young vines. The label design of the other two – Régnie and Morgon – is used for old vines, Villes Vignes.

The three 2012s were tasted in order of increasing cellaring ability. The wines had been opened the same morning, and the two Vieilles Vignes were decanted for three hours and then poured back into their bottles.

2012 Brouilly

Nose with cherries, some liquorice, some flowers, a tiny hint of herbal notes. Rather good fruit notes in the nose. Palate with cherries, some blueberries, good and noticeable acidity; shows a combination of freshness and firmness, with a bit of toughness due to the acidity. Comes across as rather young, 87 p?

This is the wine that is least meant for cellaring of the three 2012s. I would still advice to decant it if served this year.

2012 Régnie Vieilles Vignes

Nose of cherries, just a hint of liquorice, rather flowery. Palate with cherries, good concentration, mineral, some tannins, noticeable acidity. Rather noticeable acidity, rather firm, comes across as rather young and could probably develop. 88(+) p?

It’s probably good to give this wine a few years in the cellar. Those that like firm wines could serve it this year, but then it should be given some hours in a decanter. Drink before the Morgon VV.

2012 Morgon Vieilles Vignes

Nose of cherries, some liquorice, a bit of spice, just a hint of herbaceous notes, and a hint of oak. Palate of cherries, good concentration, noticeable acidity, spice, some tannin, and a tannin-dominated aftertaste. Comes across as young, could develop, somewhat difficult to assess right now so I score it a cautious “87+ p?”.

Should definitely be cellared, and should be cellared longer than the Régnie VV. Both the 2011 and the 2010 (also an acid-rich vintage) came across as young, so I’d guess 3-5 years as a suitable time frame to cellar this wine. If a bottle would be forgotten until its 10th birthday in 2022, it wouldn’t really be a problem.

In summary, these 2012s show fine fruity notes in the nose, in some cases together with a hint of herbaceous notes, but has more noticeable acidity than the 2011s. They therefore show a somewhat cooler and more firm style than the 2011s that were a bit more “juicy”. I’d therefore categorise the 2012s as a bit more of a vintage for the cellar than the 2011s. 2012 yielded a small harvest, more like half of a regular harvest in the case of Descombes.

After a discussion with Martin, who runs Caviste, I concluded that 2012 is a vintage where it isn’t possible to generalise across all of France in the same way as 2009, 2010, 2011. Style and quality varies more. Perhaps the most obvious sign is that Bordeaux and Burgundy don’t seem to be in sync – Burgundy is considered to be better. Beaujolais seems to have show a cooler style than the Burgundian heartland further to the north, where 2012 shows rather high ripeness. Something the two regions seem to share, though, is a small 2012 harvest.

The style of Descombes is definitely “serious”. Today, many Beaujolais crus (meaning those with a specific village name indicated, such as Morgon) are definitely serious in terms of fruit concentration, aromas and a more or less “Burgundian” character, and free from the Beaujolais Noveau-like notes of candy flavoring. However, many of the Beaujolais producers that have become popular in recent years produce wine in a style where the youngest vintage is quite drinkable. The wines of Georges Descombes are more suited for cellaring, at least the Vieilles Vignes wines.

Some 2011s and a 2010 from Descombes

As a reference, we got to taste some wines from 2011 and 2010, none of which were of sale right now. (Two of them I tasted last year.)

2011 Morgon (the young vine version, not Vieilles Vignes)

Nose with blueberries, ripe cherries, notes of dark berries, smoke, slightly herbaceous. Juicy palate with cherries, some blueberries, good acidity, some mineral. Fresh style with some structure, can be consumed now, but could also be cellared for a number of years. 88 p. (I notice that I scored it 87 p last year and perceived the fruit notes as a bit more on the red side, i.e., less dark than this time.)

2011 Morgon Vieilles Vignes

Smoky nose with some animal notes, cherries, and liquorice. Here we also find notes that give a clearly Burgundian impression with “Pinosity” and complexity. Juicy palate with cherries, some tannins, noticeable minerality and good acidity. Rather young, could develop more, 89(+) p.

Here, the difference between the wine produced from young vines and the one produced from older vines plus oak was quite noticeable, despite the same appellation (Morgon) and the same vintage. If the 2012 will develop the same Pinosity with cellaring, there’s a potential upside to the score.

2011 Régnie Vieilles Vignes

Nose with cherries, some animal notes, slightly flowery, some liquorice, and slightly smoky. A certain similarity to the 2011 Morgon VV, because here we also find Burgundian vibes. Juicy palate with mineral, cherries, good acidity, some tannins, and a noticeable minerality in the aftertaste. Rather young, 89(+) p. (Last year I also noted the minerality and scored it 89 (+) p.)

This Régnie VV comes across as in a bit less need of cellaring than the Morgon VV, just as was the case with the 2012s.

2010 Morgon Vieilles Vignes

Nose with cherries and red berries, some meat juice and other animal notes, mineral, some developed character. Palate with cherries, red berries, noticeable acidity, mineral, and some tannin. Still rather young, 88(+) p.

Comes across as more firm and less juicy than the 2011s. Although there are noticeable developed notes in the nose, I’d say that 2010 should be cellared longer than the 2011s, when the acidity is factored in.

Descombes baksida 20140507

“Our Cuvée Vieilles Vignes (old vines cuvée) is produced from the best grapes that are carefully hand harvested. After being raised in oak barrels bottling is without filtering or fining. Store below 14°C.”

Some final words on the bottles and labels of Descombes. The labels with some red lettering and a bit of “writing style” to the text, are found on the bottles produced from younger vines, and they are basically steel tank wines with no oak. The black-and-white lables with more regular print letters, are found on wines produced from older vines, vieilles vignes, and they are raised in oak. This fact can be confirmed by turning the bottle and inspecting the back label. The back label is absent from the young vine versions. In previous vintages, I’ve also seen an oval label, and that label also signifies older vines. The vieilles vignes bottles are sometimes found with a wax capsule, and sometimes with a regular foil, but this different doesn’t really mean anything in terms of wine quality.

Swedish version here.

Posted in 2012, Beaujolais, Gamay | Leave a comment

2012 Rieslings from Georg Breuer with Theresa Breuer

The Vinothek in Rüdesheim (situated in Grabenstraße).

Georg Breuer is one of my favorite wine producers, all categories. There are more bottles from Breuer in my cellar than from any other German wine producer, both because I like them and because I consider many of their wines suitable for cellaring. In my opinion, no visit to Rheingau is complete without a visit to their Vinothek in Rüdesheim for a tasting of the current vintages of their range, and naturally for a bit of topping-up of the cellar.

Some history

In a region where several of the well-known properties (in particular those with an aristocratic or ecclesiastical background) have a long history, the history of Weingut Georg Breuer as a notable wine producer is much shorter. On their website, they do point out a background in a wine trading firm – Scholl & Hillebrand – founded in 1880 in Rüdesheim. This company also had some production of their own.

Bernhard Breuer (1946-2004). Picture borrowed from

However, the “real” history of WG Georg Breuer as a wine producer to be reckoned with, doesn’t start until about 1980. It wasn’t Georg Breuer (1910-1982) who was behind this, but primarily his son Bernhard Breuer who was the one who created the winery in the form we have come to know it. In the 1980s, their own vineyard holdings were expanded, in a first stage to about 15 hectares (about 37 acres). Today they own about 30 ha/some 75 acres, and supplement this with some bought-in grapes. At the same time, Bernhard Breuer was active as a wine writer, and in the 1980s he wrote a series of wine guides to the various German wine regions together with Hans Ambrosi. They appeared in a new edition in the 1990s under the title Deutsche Vinothek. (As far as I am aware they have not been translated from German into any other language).

Breuer was one of the German pioneers for production of high-quality dry wines in the 1980s. This trend started in Rheingau and meant breaking with the production of off-dry wines as the main product, something that had been the norm for the previous 30 years or so. In 1984, he was one of those who took the initiative to found the Charta association of wine producers in Rheingau. Charta was also used as designation for (more or less) dry Rheingau wines of good quality. By introducing a vineyard classification that was in part French-style and in part historically inspired, Charta later developed into the Rheingau designation Erstes Gewächs for dry top wines from the best sites of the region. The corresponding designation in most other German regions is Grosses Gewächs (although things have become complicated by additional reshuffling of some designation in the last couple of years), but Rheingau was the first region to introduce this type of designation. So Bernhard Breuer was definitely one of the forerunners of the modern era of high quality dry German wines, a trend that started in the 1980s and really took off in the 1990s.

The style and quality of the Breuer wines developed throughout the 1980s. The few remaining bottles from the 1980s may seem less concentrated than the norm today and perhaps not achieve at the “Erstes Gewächs/Grosses Gewächs” standard of the 2000s, but they were very good for their time. Around 1990 they seem to have reached approximately the quality they have held since (except, perhaps, for a slight dip for a few years following Bernhard Breuer’s death). A Nonnenberg 1990 that I tasted in 2005 struck me as one of the very best dry white wines I had ever tasted. Many other producers that today enjoy a top-class reputation only reached their current quality level in the end of the 1990s or a few years into the 2000s. So I suppose that in the 1990s and early 2000s, Breuer must have stood out more among their German peers on a relative scale, since the competition has increased considerably since then.

Already from the start, Bernhard Breuer had his sights set high. The best wine, Berg Schlossberg, carries a vintage-specific artist label since the 1980 vintage, and the inspiration for this pratice came from Château Mouton Rothschild. The vineyard Nonnenberg in Rauenthal, a monopole vineyard for Breuer, was purchased in late 1980s. Breuer considers this vineyard to be their second best after Berg Schlossberg in Rüdesheim. Most wine critics agree, which makes Breuer’s Nonnenberg one of the best dry Rieslings from Rheingau. It must therefore have been very surprising when Nonnenberg failed the test as an Erstes Gewächs-classified vineyard, on the basis of the “physical” parameters chosen. A very high proportion of the Rheingau vineyards did make the cut, something that perhaps isn’t too surprising since much of Rheingau is a well situated south-facing slope between the Taunus mountains and Rhine, providing excellent conditions for wine production. The result of Nonnenberg being left out, despite producing excellent wines, was that Breuer left the VDP (the top-quality wine grower organisation), and chose not to use the Erstes Gewächs designation for any of the wines.

Theresa Breuer

In 2004, Bernard Breuer died quite unexpectedly at the age of 57. The management of the winery was then taken over by his brother Heinreich Breuer and the daughter Theresa Breuer, who started by handling primarily the marketing activities, and thus became the face of WG Georg Breuer. A few years ago, Theresa took over the management of the winery, but she still handles the marketing as well. Since they were of some size, they also had an employed winemaker, Hermann Schmoranz, providing continuity. In recent years, Swede Markus Lundén has taken over as winemaker, while Hermann Schmoranz is now the vineyard manager. Markus worked as a sommelier in Sweden, but wanted to become involved in wine production, and got into Breuer via an internship. I seem to remember that he has said that he has a German mother and thus was fluent in German, so I suppose going to Germany was his natural choice of a wine-producing country to work in. He later became assistant winemaker.

Breuer’s quality scale

Weingut Georg Breuer use their own quality scale for their dry wines. It consists of the four levels I-IV, and is built upon the Burgundy classification:

  • I corresponds to Grand Cru, and at this level we find the four vineyard-designated dry wines, representing the top of the dry range.
  • II then corresponds to Premier Cru, but isn’t used for the second-best vineyards. Instead, it is used for a second selection of the top vineyards, blended together and sold under the designation Terra Montosa. So it is a a “collective second wine” of their four vineyard wines.
  • III corresponds to Village, and are the two village-designated Estate wines: Rüdesheim and Rauenthal.
  • IV corresonds to Regional, and are the two wines that are only specified as coming from Rheingau: the dry Sauvage, and Charm that is designation halbtrocken, meaning slightly off-dry.

The Roman numerals mentioned above can be found on the back label of a Breuer wine, usually at the bottom and in small print.

Wine style

I’d characterise the “house style” of Breuer to be in the elegant direction, with firm, mineral-driven wines, that have a lot of intensity but still are somewhat restrained or even somewhat lean, rather than being among the richest or most opulent at their level. In many cases, the wines are very well adapted to cellaring, in particular the vineyard wines. Berg Schlossberg is usually the Breuer wine most in need of cellaring. There are other Rheingau producers that produce more powerful, rich and spicy wines, that may be easier to enjoy when young, but those may not always reward cellaring in the same way as a Breuer wine. If I would try to compare to wines of other German regions, I’d say that Breuer produces Rheingau wines that goes in the Mosel direction rather than in the Pfalz direction.

This year’s tasting

Theresa Breuer 20140402

Theresa and the two double magnums that were served.

A very pleasant and yearly recurring event in the calendar of Breuer’s Swedish importer Vinunic is a visit by Theresa Breuer, to coincide with the launching of a new vintage of their vineyard wines. This usually happens in springtime, about 1.5 years after harvest, which is half a year later than most other German producers launch their top dry wines. This year’s event was a few weeks ago, and this time we tasted the 2012 Riesling wines. In addition, we got to taste two older wines – 1986 Schlossberg and 1991 Nonnenberg, each from two bottle formats: a regular 75 cl bottle and a double magnum (300 cl). These bottles came directly from Breuer’s own cellar.

General impression of the 2012s

Summing up the 2012 German vintage, with a focus on Rheingau Riesling, I’ve found it to be a vintage of rather ripe grapes (but not excessive ripeness), quite pure aromas and high acidity. In my opinion, this is a profile that is excellent for dry wines in a fresh, acid-driven style, and by all means well suited also for lighter-style off-dry wines in an equally fresh style, such as classical Kabinett wines. This makes 2012 the fourth excellent vintage in a row for dry German Riesling! Stylistically, I’d put 2012 somewhere in the middle of the quartet 2009-2012. 2012 shows less ripe aromas than 2009 and 2011, but the acidity is perhaps not quite as prominent as in the 2010s.

By the way, Breuer hadn’t produced any sweet 2012s at all, which fits into the pattern of hardly any noble rot in this vintage (at least not in Rheingau). We’ll have to see what the combination of excellent dry wines and hardly any sweet wines will mean for the overall score of the vintage in various wine guides, because this combination is not very usual for Germany. I’m not sure that we’ve actually seen this combination since the dry wines (re)established themselves as the standard style of German Rieslings, i.e., over the last 15-20 years. In former times, the German vintages were more-or-less judged by the quality of the sweet wines that were produced, and to some extent by the quantity of the higher Prädikat wines.

Breuer 20140402 2012or

2012 Sauvage
Dry Riesling, “level IV”

Nose with peach, some citrus including some zest, some typical Riesling perfume. The palate is completely dry with citrus, apple, peach, mineral, good acidity, and a firm and mineral-driven aftertaste. Young, but drinks well now, 86 p.

The 2012 shows a pure style and rather ripe aromas for a Sauvage, that sometimes tends to go more in the direction of green apples. I’d actually consider the fruit notes to be more ripe in Sauvage than in the other 2012 Breuer wines, although it is a lighter wine. That doesn’t mean that the wine gives a “hot vintage” impression, because its acid level is quite good and it shows fine freshness. Compared to the other wines, Sauvage is more fruit forward, and in this vintage I think it could be detected that Sauvage is produced in steel tank, as opposed to the large and fairly neutral oak barrels that are used for the top wines. In any case it is a very good Sauvage vintage!

2012 Terra Montosa

Nose of ripe yellow apple, citrus including zest, hints of aromatic oil or essence of citrus, mineral, some spice; a rather powerful nose. Palate with powerful concentration and a dominance of citrus, in particular lemon and zest, high acidity, noticeable minerality, and some spice. Rather young, 90(+) p.

Compared to the 2012 Sauvage, the 2012 Terra Montosa shows a more muted nose, higher acidity and is more citrus-dominated, as well as being more foody. Terra Montosa is usually a wine well worth its price, and is often just a little “simpler” (and at the same time slightly less in need of cellaring) than the top wines, at about half their price. The 2012 is unusually good, and it is definitely not far behind the vineyard-designated wines. I actually can’t remember tasting any vintage of Terra Montosa that I considered better than this one, although a few previous ones may perhaps match its quality.

We then move on to the four vineyard-designated wines at the top of their range, where the first three are from Rüdesheim, the home village of Breuer, and more specifically from Rüdesheimer Berg. The “Berg” part is included in their proper vineyard name, but I must admit that “Berg Schlossberg” always has felt a bit like unnecessary repetition to me.

2012 Berg Roseneck

Nose with citrus including zest, mineral with some mint notes, just a hint of spice; the nose indicates a firm and elegant wine. Palate with powerful concentration, citrus-dominated with grapefruit notes and some zest, powerful minerality, some spice, high acidity, and a long and grapefruit-dominated aftertaste with mineral. Young, 91+ p.

Stylistically, Breuer’s Roseneck always tend to be a firm wine in need of time in the cellar, and it is that of “the other wines” that is most similar to the top wine Schlossberg, but usually somewhat lighter in style. Of these 2012s, Roseneck is the wine that is most citrus-dominated.

2012 Berg Rottland

Nose with citrus including zest, yellow apple, some spice and mineral. Palate with powerful concentration, citrus-dominated with some yellow apple and green apple as well as some peach, high acidity, mineral, a hint of spice, and a long and citrus-dominated aftertaste. Young, 91+ p.

Rottland is usually a somewhat more powerful and less firm wine than Roseneck, and that rule of thumb works fine this year as well. Compared to Roseneck, Rottland shows a bit more powerful and less mineral-packed nose (but since it is a Riesling from Rüdesheimer Berg, this doesn’t mean it is lacking in minerality on an absolute scale…), and a more powerful and spicy palate. The 2012 Rottland actually holds 10 g/l of residual sugar, so technically it is not a dry wine (9 g/l being the upper limit of trocken), but is rather halbtrocken, although Breuer uses neither designation on any of their vineyard wines. Due to the high acidity of the vintage, this is not something that’s obvious.

2012 Berg Schlossberg

Nose of citrus with a pronounced zest note, some peach, some perfume with some “heavy” flowery notes; an elegant nose. Palate with powerful concentration, very mineral-dominated attack with mint notes, citrus, some peach and apple in the background, some spice, and a citrus- and mineral-dominated aftertaste. Young, 92+ p.

In this vintage, Schlossberg shows a bit more of ripe notes than Roseneck and Rottland, but not as much as Nonnenberg. As usual, Schlossberg is in a style that is well suited for cellaring. For this vintage, my scores for the four wines come quite close of each other, but it can be difficult to judge the true potential of Schlossberg when it is tasted young.

The 3.8 ha Breuer owns in Schlossberg consist of seven parcels in the lower, middle and upper parts of the vineyard, and can yield wines/barrels of rather different characters. Three out of seven (large) barrels were chosen to be bottled as Schlossberg in the 2012 vintage, and the other four ended up in Terra Montosa.

2012 Nonnenberg

Nose with peach, citrus, some perfume, some spice. Palate with powerful concentration and a bit of body, citrus, peach, high acidity, spice, powerful minerality, and a long aftertaste with citrus and mineral. Rather young, drinks rather well now, 92(+) p.

Compared to the other three vineyard wines, Nonnenberg is the most fruit-dominated and shows the most ripe notes. This is the case is most vintages, making it the most accessible wine when young, out of the four vineyard-designated wines. There have been exceptions in a few vintages, and sometimes Nonnenberg goes into a less accessible “dumb phase” when it is a few years old. I was very surprised to hear form Theresa that analytically, Nonnenberg is always the highest of the four in acidity, because to me, the perceived acidity is always higher in Roseneck and Schlossberg. Similar to Rottland, the 2012 Nonnenberg is has 10 g/l of residual sugar and is technically not dry, but the high acidity definitely gives a dry impression.

Older vintages in different bottle formats

Breuer 20140402 1986-19911986 Berg Schlossberg (75 cl bottle)

Deep yellow colour. Nose of yellow apple, citrus, smoke, petroleum, and some spice. A typical older Riesling nose with good development. Dry palate, quite a lot of mineral, citrus, high acidity, green apple, and typical notes of old Riesling. 89 p

This 1986 is definitely leaner than more recent vintages of  Schlossberg. Some years ago, I tasted a Schlossberg from the early 1980s and had the same impression, while those I have tasted from the 1990s come across as more similar to those from the 2000s. Theresa also mentioned that several of the 1980s vintages had been difficult. However, this must have been an excellent dry German Riesling for its time, and it is holding up very well for a 28 years old dry white wine.

Breuer 20140402 dubbelmagnum1986 Berg Schlossberg (300 cl bottle)

Deep yellow going a bit in the golden direction. Nose with ripe yellow apple, some honey, hints of dried fruit, some oranges, some smoke, some spice, old winter apples, some petroleum; a typical older Riesling nose but rather that of an old Auslese. Dry palate with a pronounced minerality, old winter apple, some green apple, spice, high acidity. 88 p?

Here we were somewhat surprised, because directly when the wine was poured we could see that this wine was darker than that from the 75 cl bottle, i.e., the reverse of what we had expected. The wine was also more developed in the nose and on the palate than that from the 75 cl bottle. Its nose had reached the state where the petroleum note diminishes and is replaced by other notes, and then a Riesling can safely be called old rather than just mature. In my opinion, this bottle also showed more ripe notes and “deeper” notes in the nose, but didn’t follow up with the same characteristics on the palate. If served blind, I wouldn’t have guessed that the two glasses contained the same wine. The explanation came when we were told that the cork had been found to be wet all the way through when the bottle was opened. This indicates a cork that isn’t in top condition.

Theresa mentioned that the rare 300 cl bottles, that have a cork with a larger diameter, are handled manually when it comes to filling and corking. If what we had here was a variation that originated from the cork itself or the bottling procedure is difficult to know, but it had resulted in a wine that was a bit more oxidised than expected and therefore further in its development. Magnum bottles at Breuer are filled and corked in the same way as 75 cl bottles, though. At the wine journalist lunch earlier the same day, a comparison between 75 cl bottles and magnum bottles had been made. In that case, the difference had been the one expected, i.e., the larger format bottle was better and fresher in style.

1991 Nonnenberg (75 cl bottle)

Deep yellow colour. Nose of citrus, some green apple, mineral, some smoke, and some petroleum; slightly cool impression in the nose and rather developed in style. Dry palate with citrus, green apple, definitely high acidity, quite a bit of mineral; a rather lean profile and very fresh. 90 p

In the vintage tables, 1991 is considered as a medium-quality German vintage. (Medium for real, not marketingspeak “average”, which is usually an euphemism for quite bad.) Decanter rates it *** out of five and considers the wines to be “lean and tart”, which fits the profile found here, once you know that Nonnenberg usually is more full-bodied than this. Parker summarises the Rhine wines with score “87R” where R is for “ready”. The 1990s vintages vary from 85 points for 1992 to 96 points for 1990.

1991 Nonnenberg (300 cl bottle)

Deep yellow colour. Nose with citrus including zest, some yellow apple, some green apple, mineral, some smoke, and petroleum. Dry palate with citrus and some zest, green apple, definitely a high acidity, quite a bit of mineral, a fresh style, and a long and citrus-dominated aftertaste. 91 p

Compared to the 75 cl bottle, the 300 cl bottle shows a slightly deeper nose, with more of a Spätlese/Auslese style, and a slightly more powerful palate. Both the nose and palate come across as younger, but the nose also shows more petroleum. Here, the difference between the two bottle formats was the expected: the wine in the larger bottle was younger in style and a little better. A very interesting comparison!

Some Youtube clips

The online wine shop Weinwelt Rheingau has uploaded a whole series or short “Winzerfilm” clips to Youtube (link to their channel), where a number of leading producers in their range present themselves and speak a little about some of their wines. The clips are in German, though, but well worth seeing if that’s understandable to you. In the case of Breuer no less than eight video clips with Theresa Breuer were uploaded in 2010.

The introduction is here:

And the other clips:

Swedish version of the 2012 Breuer tasting here, and of the general profile (plus a visit in 2011) here.


Posted in 2012, Rheingau, Riesling | Leave a comment

Alsace wines from Gustave Lorentz

Gustave Lorentz is a sizable Alsace producers with a long history, located in Bergheim. Per Warfvinge’s Alsace website has both a village profile and a producer profile. They have 33 hectares (about 82 acres) of their own vineyards, of which 13.5 hectares (about 33.5 acres) are classified grand cru: 12 ha in Altenberg de Bergheim and 1.5 ha in Kanzlerberg. However, those vineyards are only enough for 20% of the total Lorentz wine production, and the remaining 80% is produced by bought-in grapes from small growers in the Bergheim area. A recent development at Lorentz’ is that their own vineyards are certified organically since 2012.

I find the wines to be of good quality. Going from my Swedish experience (this could possibly vary between markets), I find the price of the basic level wines to be honest in relation to the quality in the bottle. The wines I tasted all possessed good acidity, and in terms of residual sweetness, all Riesling wines were completely dry. On the other hand, some Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris wines weren’t completely dry, so I think it would be a good idea for Gustave Lorentz to introduce some sort of sweetness scale on their labels, since this is lacking today. At the basic level, some of the bottles were sealed with screw caps or synthetic corks.

Alsacedagen 20140127 Gustave Lorentz

All wines were tasted at the Alsace Wine Day in Stockholm in late January.

2012 Pinot Blanc Réserve
Fruity, dry, 83 p.

2012 Riesling Réserve
Fully dry palate, peach, some mineral, 85 p.

2012 Riesling Evidence Vieilles Vignes
Organic wine.
Nose of apple and stony mineral notes. The palate is completely dry and very stony, with rather good concentration. Firm and classical! Potential for development, 87(+) p.

2010 Riesling Burg
Nose with peach and apple. The palate is dry and apply with some ripe fruit notes, mineral, and good acidity. 87 p

2012 Pinot Gris Réserve
Nose with apple, some smoke, and a hint of apricot. The palate is fruity and almost dry, with notes of apple and apricot, and good acidity. 87 p

2007 Pinot Gris Schofweg
Partially (20-25%?) made from botrytised grapes.
Nose with dried apricot, spice, honey, and some developed notes. Off-dry palate with honey and dried apricot. The off-dry palate is less sweet than what the nose leads you to expect. 88 p

A note: it seems that the producers disagree how the name of this vineyard should be spelled. Gustave Lorentz writes Schofweg with one f, while e.g. Marcel Deiss writes Schoffweg with two f.

2012 Gewurztraminer Réserve
Nose with honey, spice notes, and lychee. The palate is rather dry with apple, peach, and medium acidity. 87 p

2007 Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Vieilles Vignes
Nose showing ripe peach, apple, mineral with slate and petrol notes. The palate is completely dry with apple, peach, pronounced and stony mineral note, and high acidity. 89 p

2007 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim
Nose of baked apple, dried fruit, spice, and developed notes. The palate goes slightly in the off-dry direction, with honey, pronounced spice notes, and good acidity. 89 p

2007 Pinot Gris Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim Vendanges Tardives
Nose with honey, dried fruit, spice notes, and some mushroom. Palate with typical VT sweetness, honey, dried fruit, medium+ acid level and rather good concentration, 89 p.

Swedish version here.

Posted in Alsace, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling | Leave a comment