A report on an auction in late February 2011 may not seem the most natural blog post in January 2014. I actually wrote this in April 2011, but only posted it on the Swedish version of my blog, and never got around to translating it in “near real time”. However, when I finally got around to writing up my notes from the 2013 auction, I realised that surprisingly many wines from the 2011 auction were on sale again in 2013. So it seemed like a good idea to translate the 2011 tasting notes first, if I am to translate the ones from 2013. The introduction about German wine auctions in general may still be worth reading, but the actual tasting notes of these small lot wines sold in 2011 is a bit of “a post for archive purposes”, i.e., I just post them here on their way to Cellartracker.
In Germany there is a rather extensive tradition of wine auctions arranged by the producers themselves and their organisations, with wines sourced directly from the producers. Originally, these auctions featured “regular” wines of the latest available vintage, and was sold by the barrel. Today, it’s primarily special lot wines (produced in small quantities) that are auctioned, but also some older vintages cellared by the producers themselves. The main season for these auctions is the autumn, when four auctions are held in as many days in a row in late September. Three of these are held by regional branches of the quality wine grower organisation VDP, and the auction in Rheingau is always held in Eberbach Abbey, called Kloster Eberbach in German. There’s also an auction in the spring at Eberbach Abbey, but this one only includes wines from the producer Hessische Staatsweingüter/Kloster Eberbach. (You have to read the fine print to find the Hessische Staatsweingüter part of the name, it’s Kloster Eberbach that you’ll se written large, at least on bottles of more recent vintages.) The quality of the wines is higher at the autumn auction, since that includes a number of other high-end VDP producers (Robert Weil to mention one), but the advantage of the spring auction (Frühjahrsversteigerung) is that it includes a significantly higher proportion of older vintages. Hessische Staatsweingüter is propably the German producer with the largest stock of old wines, in their “Cabinetkeller” (although the stocks of Bassermann-Jordan or Schloss Johannisberg are apparently also quite impressive).
The spring auction is held at the same time as the annual Rheingau Gourmet & Wein-Festival, so there are plenty of other activities in the region in the days and weeks around this auction. This includes events arranged by or in collaboration with Rheingau producers, as well as those arranged by restaurants, including some tastings of fine and rare wines with rather hefty price tags. An event I participated in was a tasting and dinner with old auction wines from Kloster Eberbach held the evenining before the auction. (That link goes to my blog post about the 2011 version. I also attended the 2013 version and wrote about that one here.)
All these auctions have the great advantage that the participants also get to taste the wines. In the morning there is a Vorprobe, a pre-tasting, which is very similar to a small wine exhibition, i.e., the wines are poured at a number of tables and can be tasted in any order as long as they last. The wines are then served again during the auction itself, at the same time they are auctioned. There are some exceptions to this rule. Very rare wines where only a few bottles are auctioned may not be on tasting at all, and if only a limited number of bottles are auctioned, they wines may be available for tasting only in the morning. But usually, a number of wines that sell for quite high prices and are produced in very small quantities, are for tasting at these auctions. The explanation is reasonably that these auctions are also marketing events.
An interesting piece of news in 2011, when the vintages 2009 and 2010 dominated, was that from the 2008 vintage, Hessische Staatsweingüter had introduced screw caps for all of its wines. This also includes their most expensive sweet wines and small lot auction wines sold at high prices. Hooray! say I, since I’ve had too many wines with cork taint, and I don’t see pieces of bark or cork screws as necessary part of my wine experience, irrespective of the type of wine or its price level. On the better wines, this producer use Stelvin Lux, a screw cap where the screw profile is not visible from the outside, giving a plain cylindrical profile, which I think gives a very neat look.
Most of the tasting notes below are based on two tasting opportunities on the same day in late February 2011: the pre-auction tasting and the tasting during the auction itself. When my impression was sufficiently different to make it difficult to fuse the two tasting notes, I’ve included them both, and written the one from the auction itself in italics. Below I indicate rounded-off final prices for the auction including commission (5%) and VAT (19%), i.e., what private buyers actually paid, with the “raw” hammer price in parenthesis.
As a general note, “Goldkapsel”, means Gold Cap, and is how the auction lot wines are differentiated from the regular wines of the same vineyard and designation. I’ve made a special note of those wines that are from Hessische Bergstraße, another wine region in the state of Hesse where Hessische Staatsweingüter also owns vineyards.
I’ve broken out the red wines to a separate post.
2009 Bensheimer Kalkgasse Riesling Kabinett trocken
Hessische Bergstraße. 72 bottles, final price € 11,25 (€ 9)
Riesling-typical nose, some herbs, good acidity, dry (but a tiny bit of sweetness can be felt after tasting the red), a hint of bitterness, medium bodied. 86-87 p.
2009 Steinberger Riesling Kabinett trocken (Goldkapsel)
150 bottles, final price € 15,60 (€ 12,50)
Riesling-typical nose with some honey, good acidity, medium bodied, some menthol notes, mineral, a tiny hint of bitterness. 87-88 p.
Gives an impression of slightly more grape maturity and concentration than the Kalkgasse wine.
2008 Bensheimer Kalkgasse Riesling Kabinett trocken (Goldkapsel)
Hessische Bergstraße. 48 bottles, final price € 13,75 (€ 11)
Citrus, menthol, emerging developed aromas compared to the 2009s, less than medium bodied, not as concentrated as the 2009s, good acidity, citrus, dry, a hint of bitterness. 85-86 p.
2008 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Kabinett trocken (Goldkapsel)
30 bottles, final price € 18,75 (€ 15)
Riesling perfume and emerging development, some honey, menthol, mineral, good acidity, good concentration, a hint of bitterness. 87-88 p.
Slightly more concentrated than the 2008 Kalkgasse, comes across as drier than some of the previous wines.
2006 Heppenheimer Steinkopf Riesling Spätlese trocken (Goldkapsel)
Hessische Bergstraße. 60 bottles, final price € 13,75 (€ 11)
Menthol, herbs, mineral, some development, good acidity, some bitterness, some green notes, medium bodied. Comes across as rather typical for 06. 86-87 p.
2007 Heppenheimer Steinkopf Riesling Spätlese trocken (Goldkapsel)
Hessische Bergstraße. 60 bottles, final price € 13 (€ 10,50)
Riesling perfume, some hints of development, some herbs, mineral, the most elegance in the nose of the first six dry wines. Slightly less than medium bodied, mineral, a hint of herbs, good acidity, some bitterness (that reduces my score). 86-87 p.
2007 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese trocken (Goldkapsel)
Raised in young oak (Stückfass, should be 1200 liter barrels) and bottled after 18 months, in June 2009. 120 bottles, final price € 33,75 (€ 27)
The nose is very Riesling-typical, but the “baby fat” is gone, slightly perfume, honey, herbs, mineral, and a hint of oak. The palate is slightly more than medium bodied, again honey and herbs, yellow apple, good acidity, long aftertaste (where the alcohol can be felt a tiny bit) with herbs and mineral. Rather ready to drink, but should be able to take a long time of additional cellaring. 89-90 p.
The small oak note was detectable if one know what too search for, but it didn’t disturb in this case.
2003 Rheingau Chardonnay Qualitätswein trocken
The vines grow in Rauenthaler Gehrn, as I recall. 24 bottles, final price ?? (the starting price was € 12)
Nose with honey, yellow apples, some spice, well integrated oak; a nose that reminds me of Chablis with emerging maturity. The palate is medium bodied, a hint of alcoholic fire, with yellow apples, herbs (but another herbaceous note than the dry Riesling wines), some oak bitterness. The nose is better than the palate, which doesn’t stick together 100%. The acid is less fresh and less present than in a Chablis of the corresponding style. 85-86 p.
Chardonnay from Rheingau and the hot 2003 vintage – talk about odd! Based on this wine, I can’t really see a reason for them to reduce their acreage of Riesling in favour of Chardonnay…
2009 Steinberger Riesling Kabinett (Goldkapsel)
240 bottles, final price € 15 (€ 12)
Riesling-typical nose with perfume and honey. Medium bodied, off-dry, OK concentration of aromas, pure aromas, some mineral. 87-88 p.
2006 Steinberger Riesling Kabinett (Goldkapsel)
90 bottles, final price € 15,60 (€ 12,50)
Light golden colour. Slightly developed nose, honey, yellow apple, an almost Auslese-like nose. The palate has “Spätlese sweetness”, honey, a hint of botrytis, rather good acidity, some spice, a hint of bitterness, a bit disjointed palate. 87-88 p.
This one shows some 2006-typical character with a hint of bitterness and some “non-balance” on the palate, but those features are not too disturbing in the case. Its style is more of a “Spätlese Goldkapsel”, i.e., quite high sweetness for a Kabinett. In 2006, many producers (at least in Rheingau and Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, as it was still called then) bottled significantly “heavier” wines under a certain Prädikat than is usually the case. There are hardly any “genuine” Kabinett wines from this vintage.
2009 Steinberger Riesling Spätlese Mauerwein (Goldkapsel)
180 bottles, final price € 28,75 (€ 23)
In the nose quite a lot of mineral, honey, Riesling-perfume, a typical nose. In the palate is is semi-sweet and “Auslese-styled”, with honey, peach, good acidity, and mineral, 89-90 p.
This Mauerwein (Mauer = wall) was produced by grapes growing on the vines that grow directly at the wall in the Steinberg vineyard, which is a genuine wall-enclosed vineyard, i.e. would be called a clos if it was situated in France. This wine, which has been produced in many vintages has always been a Spätlese when I’ve seen it. (There’s another red Mauerwine from Höllenberg, which is usually an Auslese trocken.) The term “Mauerwein” doesn’t feature on the front label – I think it is because Prädikat wines are not allowed to be sold under “brand names” – but there is a sentence about the wall on the back label. This Mauerwein Spätlese is often rather Auslese-like, and this is definitely the case in the 2009 vintage.
Anyone who happens to have bought this wine may share a pairing recommendation given by the auctioneer Leo Gros during the auction: Brillat-Savarin and apricots.
2007 Steinberger Riesling Spätlese Mauerwein (Goldkapsel)
60 bottles, final price € 23,75 (€ 19)
Nose with mineral, noticeably herbaceous, emerging development, a very elegant nose that is unusally little “sweetish”. The palate is off-dry, with good acidity, mineral, herbs, some honey, peach, yellow apple. Elegant, restrained and balanced. Could possibly be headed for a “dumb phase”. 88-89 p.
2001 Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spätlese (Goldkapsel)
36 bottles, final price € 25 (€ 20)
Elegant nose, citrus, perfume, some petroleum, and mineral. The palate is semi-sweet, some notes of maturity, good (but not really high) acidity, spice, yellow apple, some dried fruit. 88-89 p.
2001 Steinberger Riesling Spätlese (Goldkapsel)
60 bottles, final price € 23 (€ 18,50)
In the nose citrus, petroleum, mineral, noticeably developed, elegant. On the palate off-dry+, very fresh acidity, honey, citrus, developed notes. 88-89 p.
Not a Mauerwein as far as I understand, but stil an auction version Spätlese since it is a Goldkapsel.
1999 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese (Goldkapsel)
60 bottles, final price € 23 (€ 18,50)
Noticeably developed nose, petroleum, slightly smoky, spicy with dried fruit. Much “older” nose than the 2001 Steinberger. On the palate off-dry, noticeably spicy, some bitterness, dried fruit, rather good acidity. Fully mature, unlikely to improve. 87-88 p.
As a big fan of Breuer’s wines I can’t really consider this wine completely Schlossberg-typical. Schlossberg is supposed to be able some yield some of the most elegant and mineral wines of Rheingau, with quite good acidity. In recent vintages, Kloster Eberbach’s Erstes Gewächs from Schlossberg has definitely been in that direction. In this case, the wine felt more spicy, as if it was from e.g. a Hochheim vineyard. It could be the vintage playing in.
2006 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Spätlese (Goldkapsel)
60 bottles, final price € 30,60 (€ 24,50)
In the nose beginning development, honey, botrytis, yellow apple. The palate is semi-sweet, with a lot of honey, botrytis, some dried apricots, fresh acidity, some 06-typical “disjointedness”. Comes across as an Auslese Goldkapsel in weight. 88-89 p.
Another typical 06, both in its notes and that is bottled with an unusual “weight” for its Prädikat.
1971 Heppenheimer Centgericht Riesling Spätlese
Hessische Bergstraße. 24 bottles, final price € 62,50 (€ 50)
Rather smoky and malty nose with “firne” (old wine note). Off-dry palate, rather noticeable bitterness, noticeably development, smoky with some dried berries, not too concentrated fruit. 85-86 p. Has most likely passed its peak.
2001 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Auslese (Goldkapsel)
12 bottles, final price € 70 (€ 56)
Honey, botrytis, Riesling perfume, citrus, mineral, an impressive nose. Semi-sweet on the palate, medium bodied+, good concentration of aromas, citrus, peach, some dried apricots, good acidity, mineral. Very pure aromas, still young. 90-91 p.
This wine shows the style I expect from Schossberg.
1986 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Auslese
18 bottles, final price € 56 (€ 45)
Nose with winter apples, some petroleum, smoky notes and spice. Semi-sweet on the palate, honey, winter apples, dried apricots, noticeably spicy, noticeably developed, OK acidity, perhaps some botrytis note? 87-88 p.
Intresting enough, it is not older in its aromas than the 1999 Spätlese from Schlossberg.
2005 Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Auslese (Goldkapsel)
36 bottles, final price € 50 (€ 40)
In the nose honey, Riesling perfume, peach, apricot, emerging development, some botrytis. On the palate “Beerenauslese sweet”, very great concentration, apricots, botrytis, good acidity, spicy. 91-92 p.
2001 Steinberger Riesling Beerenauslese (Goldkapsel)
18 half bottles, final price € 187 (€ 150)/half bottle
Honey, botrytis, mineral, hints of herbaceous notes, some development, a big nose. On the palate somewhat more than “Beerenauslese sweet” (almost like a TBA), concentrated honey notes, apricots, very fresh acidity. A big wine. Young, but drinkable now. 92-93 p.
1991 Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Eiswein
18 bottles, final price € 212 (€ 170)
Deep golden colour, in the direction of amber. Developed note with malt and some firne, petroleum, dried fruit, spice. On the palate “Beerenauslese sweet”, very fresh and high acidity, noticeable spice, a lot of honey, dried yellow fruit. Good aftertaste, Eiswein-typical palate. The palate is better than the nose. 91-92 p.
1981 Steinberger Riesling Eiswein
3 bottles, final price € 362 (€ 290)
Amber/dark golden colour. Very developed nose, somewhat madeirised, slightly smoky, somewhat spicy, some leather, some dried fruit. The palate is sweet (at Beerenauslese level), with good acidity, honey, noticeable spice, dried yellow fruit, good length and good concentration of aromas. The palate is better than the nose. 90-91 p.
1991 Heppenheimer Centgericht Riesling Eiswein
Hessische Bergstraße. 6 bottles, final price € 137 (€ 110)
In the nose malt, some firne, petroleum, some perfume, dried fruit, honey, and spice. On the palate “Beerenauslese sweet”, spicy, a great concentration of honey, dried berries, zest, good acidity, some botrytis impression. 91-92 p.
Somewhat sweeter and perhaps a little less “typical Eiswein” than the Rheingau Eisweins, but a good, spicy style.
2009 Heppenheimer Centgericht Riesling Eiswein
Hessische Bergstraße. 60 half bottles, final price € 69 (€ 55)/half bottle
Powerful honey nose, some spice, dried apricots, Riesling perfume. The nose reminds me rather much of noble rot (botrytised) wine. On the palate more than “Beerenauslese sweet”, with dried apricots, spice, good and high acidity, great concentration, good length. 93-94 p.
2007 Steinberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
18 half bottles, final price € 275 (€ 220)/half bottle
In the nose dried apricots, botrytis, great nose with powerful concentration. The palate is more(!) than “Trockenbeerenauslese sweet”, with an enormous concentration, dried apricots, botrytis, very good acidity, some spice, and a long and pleasant aftertaste. A truly great wine. Young, but could be consumed now by those who are impatient. 94-95 p.
I didn’t include the handful of old wines that were not for tasting, but I couldn’t withhold the price of the most expensive wine in the auction: 1921 Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. 1 bottle, final price € 7 000 (€ 5 600).
Swedish version here.