While attending auction at Eberbach Abbey in March 2013 I also checked into the shop and tasted some Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) wines from Kloster Eberbach’s regular range. I’ve explained the buildup of their current range in the middle of this post. The “Cabinetkeller” (often seen with an “aus dem…” in front, meaning “from the Cabinet cellar”) range are the dry top wines at the level of Grosses Gewächs, using VDP parlance. “Crescentia” are wines at the second best level. Many of the red wines from Kloster Eberbach originate from the vineyard Assmannshäuser Höllenberg. As usual in Germany, Assmannshausen is the village, -er is the possessive form ending, and Höllenberg is the actual vineyard. (Not all vineyard names are unique, which is why the village name needs to be included.) and they can be found at both the “Cabinetkeller” and “Crescentia” levels. In the price list, I also found a Höllenberg that was just a Spätburgunder trocken and wasn’t listed as “Crescentia”, which seems to fall somewhat outside the model, since it is a vineyard-designated wine that isn’t a Crecentia.
To facilitate a comparison, I’ve included the tasting notes from the red auction wines (and the only rosé) in this same post. I already wrote about the Riesling wines at the auction in a previous blog post.
My conclusion is that 2011 is a very good vintage for Spätburgunder, at least from this producer. I’d say that the wines come close to the quality of the 2009s, and that was the best vintage I had tasted from this producer.
Wines tasted in the shop
2010 Kloster Eberbach Spätburgunder trocken
€ 9,50 in the shop on location.
Nose with cherries, spice, some tar and a hint of oak. A rather dark Pinot Noir nose. The palate is medium bodied with cherries, high acidity, and medium(-) rannins. Somewhat “angular” on the palate, but good concentration. Young, 86 p
2011 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder trocken
Nose with strawberries, some cherries, some flowery notes, some mineral; an elegant Pinot Noir nose. Some sweetness of fruit in the attack, palate with strawberries, spice, medium tannins, good acidity, and a hint of bitterness. Nice balance, somewhat tart style. Young, 87+ p
The nose of this 2011 is sweeter than that of the previous 2010, and the fruit component is lighter in colour.
2011 Kloster Eberbach “Crescentia” Pinot Noir trocken
Nose with ripe strawberries, slightly sweetish impression, some oak notes of the “oak plank” type. Powerful palate but not perfect balance, slightly sweetish in the attack, ripe strawberries, medium(+) tannins, a hint of alcoholic fire. Young, 87(+) p
In the range of Kloster Eberbach, the wines actually labelled “Pinot Noir” and without vineyard designation, usually show more pronounced oak barrel notes than those labelled “Spätburgunder” and with the Höllenberg vineyard designation. The exception is perhaps the simplest “Pinot Noir”, which includes grapes from smaller plots of Pinot Noir in various vineyards under their control. Before, they used to have a wine called Pinot Noir “R”, that received quite a lot of new oak and was sold at about the same price as the most expensive wine from Höllenberg. It seems to have disappeared from the range.
2011 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg “Crescentia” Spätburgunder Spätlese trocken
Nose with ripe strawberries and cherries, spice, oak, slightly flowery. Sweetness of fruit in the attack, palate with ripe strawberries, medium tannins, good acidity, a slightly fiery aftertaste. Young, 88(+) p
Darker nose than the previous Höllenberg wine.
2009 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg “aus dem Cabinetkeller” Spätburgunder trocken
€ 22/half bottle. Tasted from half bottle.
Nose with quite ripe strawberries, some oak, pronounced animal notes. Palate with some sweetness of fruit in the attack, ripe strawberries, some other red berries, medium+ tannins, good acidity, and mineral. Rather young but with some signs of development, 89+ p.
Sligthly more fiery/alcoholic and with more tannins than the previous wines.
As far as I understand, this wine has replaced their earlier Auslese trocken. In similarity to other VDP producers, their dry top wine is now formally just a Qualitätswein trocken. (They don’t use the Grosses Gewächs/Erstes Gewächs designation for this red wine, unlike the top dry white wines.)
These wines are a mixture of special bottlings of young wines (those called “Goldkapsel”, i.e., gold cap) and older wines stored by the producer, some of which are regular bottlings. Two of them (the Beerenauslese and the Trockenbeerenauslese) are sweet wines.
2011 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Frühburgunder trocken (Goldkapsel)
Nose of cherries, hints of flowers and tar, some spice, and a hint of oak. Palate with cherries, a hint of sweetness of fruit, rather high acidity, a hint of bitterness, medium- tannins. Young! 87+ p
Frühburgunder is also called Pinot Noir Précoce, and is basically an early ripening clone of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) that counts as its own grape variety. In German, früh means early and spät means late.
2011 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg “Crescentia” Spätburgunder trocken (Goldkapsel)
Raised in large oak barrels.
Nose with cherries, some ripe strawberries, spice, some herbaceous and animal notes, and oak; it shows a “regular and good” Pinot Noir character. Palate with good concentration, some sweetness of fruit in the attack, spice, ripe cherries and other berries, medium tannins, good acidity, and a spicy aftertaste. Good balance, young, 89(+) p
2003 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder Auslese trocken Mauerwein
Those Spätburgunder wines that are labelled “Mauerwein” are produced from more ripe grapes that grow on the vines closest to the stone walls of the terraces in Höllenberg, which is a terraced vineyard.
Colour with faded edge. Nose with some notes of oxidation, red and dark berries, some animal notes, spice, and oak. The attack is sweet and fiery, palate with red berries, mineral and slate, rather high acidity, medium tannins, and some bitterness. In my opinion, it doesn’t “stick together” ideally and the alcohol is too prominent. Unlikely to improve with further cellaring, 88 p?
This Mauerwein has been produced in small quantities in several vintages, and usually isn’t too cheap. It is usually an impressive wine that has obviously been produced from very ripe grapes, but not all vintages have been entirely balanced (I’ve tasted several vintages, but only bought it once, a few years back). This wine – the 2003 – is stylistically farther removed from a Burgundy than other wines are. To me, their Spätlese trocken wines, both the regular version and the auction version (i.e., the previous wine above) are usually much more balanced. This sample made me doubt a bit about the cellaring potential of the Mauerwein versions, because the heavily oaked non-auction 2003 that was served the day before (Kloster Eberbach Pinot Noir “R” 2003, at that time their most expensive “regular” red) didn’t show the notes of oxidation I found here. Admittedly, 2003 is a weird and hot vintage, and it would be unwise to believe that the behaviour of a 2003 is an indication of how other vintages will show. I should also add that many participants at the auction tasting seem to appreciate the red Mauerwine much more than I do, i.e., they seem to hold it higher than the Spätlese trocken Goldkapsel, which is often my favourite. The Mauerwein is definitely interesting to taste, since it represents such an extreme style of Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir.
2003 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder Beerenauslese
A very unusual style of wine for Rheingau, since it was produced from grapes that got sun-dried (“raisined”) in the vineyard, as opposed to being affected by noble rot as is usually the case with white Beerenauslese. Half bottle.
Nose with dried red berries including raspberries and cherries, mineral, flowery and perfumed, spice, some fortified wine nose, and elegance. Sweet on the palate (typical Beerenauslese level), noticeably spicy, dried red berries, medium tannins, some bitterness. Slightly fiery, some fortified wine feeling. Slightly odd, but shows good vigour. 89 p
1963 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder Cabinet
Orange colour with some amber at the edge. Nose with smoke and malt, red berries, some dried fruit, and hints of animal notes. The palate is rather dry, not too concentrated, with red berries, some apple, just a hint of tannin, some bitterness and a rather minerally mouthfeel. Drinkable, but too old. 84 p?
This wine is completely different than the 1953 below. Those times I’ve tasted 1960s and 1970s vintage reds from this producer in recent years, they have never been really impressive. They’ve tended to be off-dry and not had sufficient concentration to last well for 40-50 years, which of course isn’t something I expect from “any ol’ wine”.
1953 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder Natur
At this time, “Natur” meant that the wine was unchaptalised, and by implication a wine from good grapes. Today, this would correspond to a Kabinett (trocken) or a Spätlese (trocken).
Orange colour with amber. Nose with ripe red berries, yellow apple, some dried berries, spice, noticeable smoke. Palate with a slightly sweet attack, powerful concentration, red berries, yellow apple, dried fruit, rather high acidity, some tannin, and mineral. 88 p?
I also tasted it at the dinner the evening before (although the designation was slightly different on that wine list) and scored it “89 p?”. This wine is more powerful and has kept much better than the 1963. It is also better than any red from the 1960s or 1970s I’ve tasted from this producer, and it showed rather consistently compared to the day before, not a small feat for a 60 year old wine! Given the wine’s age, my “honest to what I actually found the glass” is very impressive, and it was completely fascinating to get to taste a Höllenberg back from the days when they obviously were very good.
1989 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder Weißherbst Trockenbeerenauslese
Weißherbst = rosé wine. Half bottle.
Amber colour. Nose with dried fruit, baked apple, some red berries, noticeable spice some petroleum? Sweet palate, “Beerenauslese(+) level”, noticeably spicy, dried berries, baked apple, rather high acidity. 91 p
Swedish version here.