Late last year, I had the privilege of attending this small German wine tasting c/o one of our suppliers. When I got the invite, I literally freaked and RSVP’ed. My eyes twinkled for the rest of the days until I got to the event, thinking about all the amazing German Rieslings (and other grapes) I would be tasting.
I thought it would just be an informal tasting but it was actually a structured tasting which was a good thing. While my first love is German Rieslings, I don’t know a lot about it. I know the basics but not the nitty-gritty, especially what the words mean on the label other than the Erste Lager and Grosses Gewachs and the quality levels.
The tasting was called “The Finest German Wines of the 2009 and 2008 Vintage” and was presented by Joel Payne. He is a wine journalist, the author of Gault Millau and contributor to a bunch of wine magazines and (a definitive guide to German Wines), and has a long history in the wine industry. Read more about him here: Joel Payne
We were joined by dignitaries from The German Embassy here in the Philippines. This was held to create more awareness about German Wines and expand our knowledge about it. Here in the boondocks called the Philippines, we don’t get much selection as people are still starting to learn about wines.
I don’t need awareness. If you say German Riesling, that is the Pavlov bell for me to start salivating.
When I walked into the room, I got crazy eyes. I saw all the bottles and my heart started racing. They gave us the pamphlet and I read through it with all the bottles we were tasting step-by-step. Of course, I took a bunch of notes before we got to tasting.
I learned a lot of German that day from Mr. Payne as he went through one by one on what the German producer names mean in English. Don’t ask me to say it out loud though. I’ll stutter.
Some Vocabulary I learned:
Domdechaney – cathedral that has a bishop
Sonnenschein – in the sunshine
Hofer – courtyard
Marcobrunn – fountain source
Kirchenstuck – “kir” (church) and “stuck” (piece)
Kirschgarten – church garden
Feuerberg – fire mountain
After the in-depth lesson on German wines, its production, quality levels and vocabulary, we went through the tasting with the help of Mr. Payne.
1) 2009 Schlossberg Silvaner Grosses Gewachs
Fürstlich Castell’sches Domnänenamt Franken
Look! A Bocksbeutel bottle! Kind of looks like a cognac bottle.
Silvaner ripens two weeks earlier than Riesling and has larger crops. Until 1964, silvaner was the widely planted grape.
I keep a few bottles of German Silvaner at home and they are pretty high in acidity. This one was pretty high in acidity as well. It had the same citrusy-limey, crisp pear qualities and lower on the alcohol range.
2) 2009 IM Sonnenschein
Weißer Burgunder Grosses Gewachs
Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz Pfalz
This Pfalz Riesling strangely had a local aroma (dalandan) and a kind of just about to ripen citrus and some old ripened apple. Weird combination, but it worked. On the palate, it was crisp apple and kind of had a soapy aftertaste and a long lasting persistence of finish. The petrol was there, definitely.
3) 2009 Josephshöfer Riesling Grosses Gewachs
Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt
On the nose, I could pick this out in a blind tasting as a German Riesling although it was a bit shyer than others I’ve had. I could pick it out (when I practiced a lot more in class then) even with a cold. It has that white peach, apricot, lime and tangerine notes but a dry finish with acidity. My note said “COOL” so I liked this one, obviously.
The next two Rieslings, I liked even more. It both had giant checks on it. I have weird symbols on my tasting notes to remind me of which ones I really loved.
4) 2009 Domdechaney Riesling Erstes Gewachs
Domdechant Werner’sches Weingut Rheingau
This Riesling had a riper fruit quality on the nose, some scented oil and orange blossoms, and that trademark petrol smell. It was definitely richer and heavier in body than the previous. It had more fruit on palate and the acid was less visible (it sure it was there) but the riper fruit on the palate masked the acidity.
According to Mr. Payne, 2009 was a great vintage and it’s difficult to distinguish the lower wines from the top wines because it seemed like everything made in this vintage was good.
5) 2009 Baiken Riesling Erstes Gewachs
Hessiche Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Rheingau
This Riesling’s style is the one I’m most familiar with though richer than the Mosel Rieslings. The ripe stone fruits hit you all the way to the end with the acidity fighting through it. Amazing balance. LOVE LOVE LOVE. This winery is one of the largest wineries in the region. The region was notoriously underperforming previously until the state decided to invest.
6) 2009 Wisselbrunnen Riesling Erstes Gewächs
Weingut Josef Sprietzer Rheingau
Here in Rheingau, the warmth of the river and sunlight is reflected off the river. The vineyards at the bottom of the slope are of a better position in this year because it was a cooler year. The grapes are grown on a chalky marl soil and it showed as the wine had more minerality and acidity than the previous wines and kind of similar to the first wine I tasted.
This grapes for this wine is harvested by hand and tastes better as you age.
7) 2009 Marcobrunn Riesling Erstes Gewächs
Weingut Scloss Schönborn Rheingau
Here in Rheingau, one can find the largest collection of grand cru sites. And in Rheingau, you can find the Schönborn family which is one of the old noble families in Germany. I really liked this wine. It had the stone fruit aroma but also stale beer and kind of a greeny, leafy quality. It was a little bit closed on the nose but on the palate, it was gripping. This one was more approachable for me.
8) 2009 Aulerde Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Weingut Wagner-Stempel Rheinhessen
This Riesling was very minerally and kind of had that old beer scent combined with sweet lime and yellow peach. (To my Filipino friends, I bet you think I’m a douche for saying all these things but I eat a lot and can remember the scents and aromas of everything I eat, and I can tell you that you can really smell these things in the wine HAHA). This wine was about acidity over the fruit.
9) 2009 Höllberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Weingut Wagner-Stempel Rheinhessen
This wine was very aromatic with a lot of fruit on the nose. On the palate, The acidity carried through all the way to the end.
Lots of checks and stars on the upcoming wines. Not a lot of legible notes anymore. I must have lost concentration on writing and truly gave up because I was mesmerized by the wines.
10) 2009 Sonnenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
Weingut Siegrist Pfalz
11) 2009 Kirchenstück Riesling Grosses Gewächs
WEingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Pfalz
This winery practices biodynamic viticulture which I’ve heard about from our field trip to Randall Graham’s new project. In layman terms, it’s using the sun and the moon and its movements to farm the land. This wine was stone fruit dominant with a richer body. The fruit was more persistent on the palate with a seemingly lower acidity.
12) 2009 Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Spatlese
And yes, we finally get to Spatlese! That rich aroma of which I have to come to know and love in Spatlese. It had a lot of local aromas that my fellow citizens can pinpoint, durian, langka (jackfruit) and yellow peach, basically, a lot of really ripe fruit. This wine was not as rich as other spatleses I had which is probably why I loved it and had a giant star next to it. I’m sure I would have a hard time tracking this down if I didn’t travel anywhere else to buy it.
The last two wines were reds, spatburgunders, or pinot noirs to us, non-Germans.
13) 2008 Kirschgarten Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs
Weingut Knipser Pfalz
This wine had an amazing aroma and reminded me of a lighter Burgundy. It had that damp earth and gamy notes of raw pork and uncooked bacon while giving off an old rhubarb scent. This wine also had smoke and tobacco notes so kind of like a Bordeaux as well?!
And finally we get to the end, I didn’t want it to end, but it had to.
We closed the night with…
14) 2008 Feuerberg Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs
Weingut Bercher Baden
This one still had that rhubarb scent but was more linear and focused. It had an ashy quality and more tannic than the previous one. It also kind of had a wet band aid scent. That would put people off but it’s really not a bad quality. It’s just one of the few things you smell in the wine. This wine had vanilla notes so was aged in wood.
I am truly privileged to experience this kind of tasting in my country. We don’t get a lot of tastings like these. Thank you to Mr. Joel Payne for giving the structured tasting and for all the information you gave us that night. Thanks to my supplier for inviting me! MUCH MUCH APPRECIATED.
I am currently looking for wine tours to Germany and Austria and I found a cruise that would take me there but that won’t be until for Summer 2013.
I’m hoping for a more in-depth tour or an enrichment tour though so I hope someone holds a contest about wine or writing so I can try and win it. I would really love to visit the German wine regions.
Until then, I’ll just dream about it.