Wegeler Riesling tasting

Unusually many wines in a tasting with many participants translates into unusually many glasses and hard manual labour for the helpers. 11 of the 13 wines are waiting on this table, poured into 913 tasting glasses. The other two wines and the remaining 166 glasses were on two side tables, out of view.

A couple of months ago I attended a tasting featuring wines from Weingüter Wegeler, a winemaking company located in two German wine regions: both in Rheingau, in the village of Oestrich, and in  Mosel, in the village of Bernkastel. Wegeler only produces Riesling wines. At 60 hectares, of which 45 ha in Rheingau and 15 ha in middle Mosel, Wegeler is one of the larger privately owned German wine producers. They end up at 27th place in the total size ranking, but some of the largest producers are owned by German states or foundations. The historical background of Wegeler is the Deinhard company, primarily a large Sekt producer. This company was sold to Henkel in 1997, while the owner family kept the other vineyards.

Until a few years ago, Wegeler was larger than currently. They had a third Gutshaus in the Pfalz (Palatinate) region, in the village of Deidesheim, which probably made them unique among German wine producers. I know some that are active in two wine regions, but not in three. The Pfalz part of Wegeler produced its last vintage in 2006, since the Pfalz vineyards had been leased since 1973 rather than owned. As far as I’ve been able to find out, these vineyards originated from another part of the Deinhard group, known alternatively as Dr. Deinhard or von Winning, and which was bought in 2007 by Achim Niederberger, who already owned Bassermann-Jordan and von Buhl. These vineyards are today found within von Winning (which the new owner apparently aims at establishing as a prestige producer) and Dr. Deinhard.

And now back to the Wegeler of today. Although 3/4 of their vineyards are located in Rheingau, their holding in Bernkasteler Doctor in Mosel is probably their most famous vineyard. Wegeler is one of six owners and one of five producers (since one of the owners leases to two of the others). Wegeler’s part of Doctorberg was bought in 1900 at a price of 100 gold marks per vine, which in those day received a lot of attention. For their Doctor wines they use a retro-styled label, and the prices of these wines tends to be significantly higher than their other wines at the same quality level. I guess they still need to pay back on all those gold marks.

Tom Drieseberg

The tasting was led by Dr. Tom Drieseberg from the owner family, and included sparkling, dry, off-dry and sweet wines, including young and old wines in some of the categories. It’s always generous when a producer gives the opportunity to taste older wines directly from their cellars. We tasted a total of 13 viner, which apparently was a new record for this type of large-auditorium tasting within this wine tasting club (Munskänkarna).

The tasting consisted of pairwise comparison between five pairs of wines – one from Mosel and one from Rheingau of the same style and vintage (or in one case vintages next to each other) – and three solitary wines: one Sekt, one quite old (1959!) and one Beerenauslese. Also among the dry wines, an unusual number of mature vintages was served, which made the tasting even more interesting.

Sparkling

Geheimrat “J” Riesling Sekt brut 2007
Rheingau

Bright yellow with a discrete mousse. Nose of ripe yellow fruit, some notes of tropical fruit, slightly smokey and perfumed. Dry on the palate, clean fruitiness, high acidity, slightly smokey hints and grapefruit notes in the aftertaste. Fresh in its style, definitely a good Riesling Sekt. 86 p.

Both this wine and the dry non-sparkling wines designated Geheimrat “J” are sourced from several top quality vineyards in Rheingau, that could be sold on their own as Erstes Gewächs wines. They both use vineyards in lower Rheingau that tend to show a more pronounced minerality – Rüdesheimer Berg and Geisenheimer Rothenberg – and vineyards in central Rheingau that tend to give more fruity wines, such as Oestricher Lenchen, Winkeler Jesuitengarten and Winkeler Hasensprung.

Dry wines

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese trocken 2009
Mosel

Light to medium yellow colour. Perfumed nose with elderflower, some yellow apple and citrus. Fruity taste with “mixed fruits”, rather dry, rather high acidity. Overall a fruity impression, comes across as simpler than the next wine. 83 p.

Geheimrat “J” Riesling Spätlese trocken 2009
Rheingau

Light to medium yellow colour. Fruity in the nose, yellow fruit, citrus, peach, a hint of smokey notes, minerality. Fruity and dry on the palate (drier than the previous wine), mineral, good concentration, elegant. More strict in style than the previous wine. 86 p.

Geheimrat “J” Riesling Spätlese trocken 2001
Rheingau

Golden yellow colour. In the nose petrol notes (more obvious than in the next wine), some smoke, yellow apple, discrete honey notes. Rather dry on the palate, yellow fruit, honey, good acidity, not too concentrated but elegant. Quite developed but fresh, can be cellared more. 87 p.

2001 is a very good vintage for German Riesling, in general wines with a lot of mineral character and high acidity. 2007 is a later vintage that is probably rather similar in style.

Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2000
Mosel

Golden yellow colour. In the nose petrol notes, ripe fruit, honey. The nose gives a fruitier and sweeter impression than the previous wine. Rather dry on the palate, good fruit concentration, honey notes, yellow and green apple, high acidity. 88 p.

Heavier style than the previous wine, but slightly disjointed with notes of both ripe fruit and green apples. This is probably due to the vintage, since 2000 was a difficult vintage in Germany.

Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 1996
Rheingau

Golden yellow colour. Nose with discrete flowery notes and some petrol, hints of beeswax, some smoke. Rather dry on the palate, very good concentration, honey, high acidity, mineral and menthol. Very nice development, could take some more cellaring. 90 p.

Some in the audience were a little skeptical to the nose of this wine when compared to the next wine, but to me this was the clear winner among the dry wines.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese trocken 1996
Mosel

Golden yellow colour. Nose with pronounced petrol notes, yellow apples, some smoke. Dry on the palate, yellow apples, some mint, a hint of bitterness, good acidity. Quite developed, but not as elegant as the previous wine. 86 p.

Off-dry to semi-sweet wines

Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 1959
Rheingau

Deep golden colour. Pronounced petrol notes with smoke, yellow apple, some honey. Off-dry on the palate, good concentration, balancing acidity. Closer to Auslese-styled, quite developed but fresh. 90 p.

1959 was a top vintage with hot weather (similar to e.g. 1976 and 1989), that produced large quantities of high class wines high-Prädikat wines such as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.

Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 2002
Rheingau

Medium to golden yellow. Nose with ripe yellow fruit, some flowery notes, melon, a hint of honey, and hints of developed notes. On the palate off-dry+ in sweetness, ripe fruit with peach, good (balancing) acidity, good fruit concentration. A good Spätlese with some development. 87 p.

Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Spätlese 2002
Mosel

Bright yellow colour, a faint green tinge. In the nose peach, ripe fruit, some perfume notes, some mineral and smoke. A bit more elegant nose than the previous wine. Semi-sweet on the palate, quite good concentration, ripe peach, balancing acidity. To me very much an Auslese style, young but somewhat development. 89+ p, and potential for more.

The difference between the two previous wines is not really typical for Rheingau versus Mosel, since the Mosel wine was sweeter and heavier. What is displayed here is Doctorberg vineyard rather than Mosel in general, or possibly the ambition of the producer to make sure that the pricey Doctor wines are produced from more ripe grapes for a given Prädikat.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2010
Mosel

Light yellow colour. Nose with perfume notes, ripe fruit, peach. Semi-sweet to sweet palate, honey, ripe fruit – peach, apricot – and good acidity. Young, very fresh, pure aromas. 90+ p.

Geisenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 2010
Mosel

Light yellow colour. Nose with perfume notes, a slightly odd but pleasant nutty note that made me think of hazelnut creme (possibly some filling in wafers), mineral. Sweet on the palate, very concentrated, peach and citrus, high acidity. Fresh style, young, even a little more concentrated than the previous wine. 91+ p.

Noble sweet wine

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese 2006
Mosel. 219 g/l residual sugar.

Rich golden colour. In the nose dried apricots, strong botrytis notes, orange peel, some perfume, spice. Very sweet on the palate (corresponding to Beerenauselse+/Trockenbeerenauslese), dried apricot, quite spicy, balancing acidity but not exactly high for a Mosel Riesling, rather fresh, fruity aftertaste. Can be cellared for a long time, but rather ready now. 92 p.

This wine shows a style rather typical for its vintage: 2006 was a year where botrytis was running rampant in the vineyards, with the result that it was difficult to produce decent dry wines in e.g. Mosel and Rheingau, since almost all of them became clumsy and had bitter notes. The off-dry and sweet wines from 2006 are significantly better, but show a rather “heavy” style with less finesse than usual. This wine shows good concentration and balance, but not quite the elegance and lightness I expect from a Beerenauslese typical of Mosel. This wine shows more general noble rot style than obvious Riesling character. If it hadn’t been for the low alcohol content (8%) it could have been an unusually heavily botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc from middle Loire – perhaps a Vouvray or a Coteaux du Layon from one of the so-called “sugar hunters” – or perhaps a Pinot Gris Sélection des Grains Nobles (SGN) from Alsace. This doesn’t make the wine at all bad, but somewhat untypical for its label. The fact that it comes across as rather ready to drink already, at least for my taste, also make it atypical for noble sweet Mosel Riesling.

Some producers who harvested more grapes affected by noble rot than they could sell at their usual pricees chose in 2006 to sell Beerenauslese without a vineyard designation (for example Dr. Loosen) or under a more unspecific Großlage designation, at a considerably lower price than usual, i.e., more at Auslese price level. In many cases, bottles of 2006 also contained considerably heavier and sweeter wines than you would expect from their labels. I heard about a Spätlese from Doctorberg that had been harvested at a must weight (Oechsle number) that would allow the producer to call it a Beerenauslese. It was also said about 2006 that the vintage hardly produced a single “genuine” Kabinett wine.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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