Cellar Favorites, Germany
I’ve always been a huge fan of Schloss Johannisberg, which won’t surprise any die-hard Riesling lover. After all, Schloss Johannisberg is not just one of the oldest wine estates in the world (the first documented wine harvest took place there in 817 A.D.) and is an absolutely iconic Riesling address.
Mother Nature presented a host of obstacles in 2014. But as a wide range of outstanding wines and numerous consistently excellent collections testify, these obstacles could be overcome using quite diverse strategies, at times resulting in wines that taste as though they must have come from two completely different vintages. A number of growers in Mosel turned in memorably fine collections.
Meteorological adversity in the Mosel in 2014 led to inevitable compromises, yet intrepid growers scored some improbable successes. In general, the Mosel Rieslings of 2014 are not meant for long keeping. But there are some notable, even spectacular, exceptions.
The Ruwer is a tiny Mosel tributary that enters the Mosel just downstream from Trier. Only its last three miles are flanked by vines, and then sporadically, representing a surface area far smaller than it was in the mid-20th century, let alone 175 years ago when Karl Marx, himself the inheritor of family vine acreage at the edge of today’s Maximin Grünhaus Herrenberg, penned an impassioned plea on behalf of his beleaguered fellow wine growers. This article covers releases from the challenging 2014 harvest.
Germany: Saar, Germany, featured
Praised since the late 19th century for achieving the height of Riesling perfection, the Saar has got its mojo back, as witness successes by both old-line estates and relative newcomers in the challenging 2014 vintage. The best Saar Rieslings of the vintage share vibrant, at times mouth-shaking acidity and, even at the dry end of the sweetness spectrum, alcoholic levity.
Two thousand fourteen will be remembered in Germany for an extremely stressful growing season and challenging harvest. But in Rhine regions that had luck with the weather, circumstances conspired to permit outstanding quality from growers whose viticultural regimens are scrupulous and who had skilled, motivated and outsized picking crews.
Cellar Favorites, Germany
One question that I am often asked is whether Riesling is better dry or sweet? The answer is seldom black or white. This is not to say that it is about shades of grey, but rather that Riesling is one of the few varieties that excels in more than one discipline.
Two thousand thirteen is not a vintage for the faint of heart. High in both acidity and dry extract, the 2013s were quite austere after bottling. Over the last several months, however, the wines have gained both depth and body. The vintage also saw a great deal of botrytis. How these various components were managed at each individual estate was the key to the success.
Germany, featured, Verticals & Retrospectives
After the extreme heat in 2003, 2004 was a cooler, more classical vintage that many consumers quickly wrote off as of little interest. Indeed, not all producers were up to the challenge, nor have all the wines aged as gracefully as I might have hoped, but ten years down the road the vintage speaks a clear message, with finesse rather than sumptuous depth playing first fiddle.
Two thousand four was dismissed ten years ago by many in the trade before they had seen, much less tasted, the full scope of the vintage. After the cool, wet summer there were, it is true, very few winemakers, not even Helmut Dönnhoff from the Nahe, who in late August had high hopes for the year. But those who took the necessary risks were, in the end, able to make wines of incredible personality.