2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabi, Loosen

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Every now and then you stumble across a real gem in a wine shop… or something you might not have expected to see. I’m in Brisbane visiting family and friends at the moment and much Riesling has been drunk… but this is one of the highlights.

The product of very early flowering and then a very late harvest resulting in uniformly advanced physiological ripeness but a fine acid line. I’ve found Auslesen from 2007 still demanding patience, but this Kabinett (that rather feels like an Auslese; lush, creamy and honeyed) is lovely. 7.5% alcohol.

My Dad picked this up. Thanks Dad!

2016 Benjamin Leroux release

Such is the variety of sites that Benjamin Leroux works with that each year the release of his wines offers a unique snapshot of the vintage. 2016, according to Leroux, was a year in which terroir was able to confidently assert its presence… and so the 2016 release, held in Melbourne at Iki Jime, was educational to say the least!

Leroux presents as a softly spoken, intelligent and charming man but his apparent humility belies his experience making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy. The former Domaine Comte Armand winemaker established his own small négociant business in 2007 with the help of an English investor and hasn’t had much cause to look back.

In Australia, as in other countries, Leroux’s wines continually gain popularity, apparently borrowing a little of the old-school and a little of the new. Though the 2015 vintage yielded a couple of blockbusters, the 2016 harvest (despite its troubles) seemed to give wines with ample fruit but also acidity and good tannin structure. Stems are managed well and use of new oak is minimal.

From memory Leroux’s 2015 Chardonnays all showed a poise and tension that carries over to the 2016s. It was the Auxey-Duresses that won my favour amongst the village wines; at once lush and tense, very graceful. The Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault were both classically styled with the former seeming to win over most tasters.

The premier crus offer a noticeable step up in quality. The Chassagne-Montrachet Les Baudines, creamy and lush with not just acidity but some tannin bringing the wine into balance. Les Embazées offered something a little earthier and more firmly mineral,  delicious.

It was the Tête du Clos that had my attention though. A lieu-dit within Morgeot that rarely appears on labels is celebrated with great style in Leroux’s wine. Pure and bright, white peach nose. Supple on the palate, concentrated and showing great balance and length.

Though Leroux is far from my favourite Burgundy producer (not being critical, just a matter of taste), his Savigny-les-Beaune wines I find to be consistently beautiful. Sadly, due to frost, the premier cru Hauts Jarrons was missing from the 2016 line up and useable fruit from that site found its way into village Savigny-les-Beaune. Both the 2014 and 2016 were shown together, the former more fragrant, prettier and brighter (as expected) and the latter a bit firmer and darker toned overall but a wonderful wine.

Of course, the Pommard and Volnay village wines showed well and were classic. The Les Mitans premier cru of Volnay again was presented with a 2014 beside it, a wonderfully savoury, earth/mushroom laden and satin-textured wine, very seductive. The 2016 was darker and fuller.

The premier cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs showed very strongly. Powerful, firmly tannic and mineral. Very good indeed and deserving of considerable patience. 2016 marks the tenth vintage in a row that Leroux has worked with this site. Clos de la Cave des Ducs is a monopole owned by the family of Leroux’s friend Jean-Charles Carré.

The Gevery-Chambertin was probably the pick of the three village Côte de Nuits wines shown at this tasting (alongside Morey-Saint-Denis and Vosne-Romanée). Leroux is the proud owner of a 3500l foudre that houses a third of this cuvee during elevage. This is not an excessively muscular Gevery, still dark fruited and faintly smokey but not brutish. Very nice.

Benjamin Leroux’s Clos Saint-Denis grand cru comes from a parcel of vines planted in 1962 which, we’re told, is (and always has been) managed organically. The wine is destemmed entirely and one third of the barrels used are new. It’s concentrated and powerful but beautifully perfumed. It’ll last in the cellar for anyone who’s interested.

When you look at the prices Leroux charges for his wines and the quality level they sit at, it’s very easy to see why people (consumers and trade) fawn over them so. They don’t always move me but the 2016 vintage has yielded some very fine wines indeed.

A cure for the cold, and the blues.

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It’s not actually winter yet and I’ve already come down with a cold! I decided to follow advice relayed by way of anecdote from Lars Carlberg (who else?)… Eberhard von Kunow (of Von Hövel), apparently would drink a bottle of Saar Riesling anytime he felt a cold coming on…

And so the prescribed medicine this Easter weekend was a bottle of Florian Lauer’s (Weingut Peter Lauer) 2015 Unterstenberg… from a parcel at the foot of the Ayler Kupp.

I won’t wax lyrical about this bottle. I haven’t the energy, mirth or critical faculties available to me at this moment in time. Needless to say, even if it didn’t cure my cold… it certainly made me feel a little bit better!

Frohe Ostern!

Italien?

In conducting a thorough study of Italy in recent weeks my drinking habits have taken a departure from the wines of Germany (some importers of German wine have expressed their concern). I have also been otherwise occupied and have not afforded much attention to my beloved blog.

Still, there is never a Riesling too far from my lips and the 2016 G.D. Vajra Langhe Riesling recently won my affection. Dry… a little rugged even. Really good!

For those who follow my Instagram account, fear not, the German Riesling pictures will return shortly.

Loimer and Alois Lageder

I haven’t been very prolific of late and I can’t say I’ve been particularly busy doing other things… but never mind, I did attend a tasting last week…

Stefanie Lobner, visiting from Loimer in the Kamptal and Urs Vetter, from Alois Lageder in Alto Adige, presented a masterclass together, hosted by importer Red + White, in the Hellenic Museum’s beautiful Henderson Room.

The wines, tasted across six brackets, were as diverse as they were compelling, all from single sites and all grown biodynamically. Even if you maintain a heathy skepticism when it comes to biodynamics you must at least concede to the fact that wines grown with such care are quite often appreciably finer than those grown conventionally. As Lobner explained, perhaps more eloquently, the natural inhibition of yield from vines grown biodynamically has an immediate impact on quality. Furthermore, it’s a healthy practice whichever way you look at it.

Both Lobner and Vetter were incredibly knowledgeable and engaging speakers. The wines are all brilliantly crafted, complex and drink with remarkable finesse.

Fred Loimer began working biodynamically in 2006 and is a founding member of respekt-BIODYN. The 2016 Grüner Veltliner wines from the Loiserberg and Spiegel sites were followed by Rieslings from Seeberg and Steinmassl. All were fine and complex wines with moderate alcohol levels. The 2016 Steinmassl Riesling was my pick of the bunch; succulent golden-toned fruit is balanced by a fine line of acidity, it’s seamless, a sublime wine.

I’ve something of a fetish for Gewürztraminer when it’s made well and the 2015 Alois Lageder Am Sand was jut that: dry, of course, with great varietal character and remarkable elegance. The 2016 Forra Manzoni Bianco, too, was brilliant. Manzoni Bianco is a Riesling and Pinot Blanc crossing created and most widely cultivated in the Veneto. It’s a particularly aromatic grape, textural, but dry extract imparts definition.

Both producers offered outstanding Pinot Noir. Loimer’s hailed from the Anning site of Gumpoldskirchen in the Thermenregion. Lageder’s from the Krafuss site west of Bolzano. Both wines had an attractive sweet tone to the fruit and a refreshing quality. Loimer’s perhaps offered a little more density… whichever you prefer is up to you.

Finally, we tasted Lageder’s 2015 Cornus Lagrein Riserva. Not a variety you see on shelves in Australia very often. There’s an almost red-lolly like character to this wine and a bit of the old farm animal. It’s bright and juicy and yet almost paradoxically firm and savoury. Is it for everyone? No… but I liked it a lot.

Riesling Downunder 2018 (in brief)

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Riesling Downunder 2018 has been and gone! I found plenty of inspiration over the three days that the symposium raged here in Melbourne, but here is a brief rundown…

Sunday’s Riesling Riot, held in the Regent Theatre’s Plaza Ballroom, was open to both consumers and trade and was well attended. The atmosphere was convivial and, thankfully, free of snobbery.

My feeling was that the Pfalz represented its self particularly well, notwithstanding the likes of Robert Weil from the Rheingau and Dönnhoff from the Nahe. VDP president Steffen Christmann presented his own brilliant wines while Reichsrat von Buhl and Ökonomierat Rebholz offered Rieslings of the highest possible quality. Tom Benns from Bürklin-Wolf came with no current release wines but this proved to be a blessing in disguise; both the 2011 Gerümpel P.C. and 2014 Gaisböhl G.C. were stunning.

Marc André Hugel kindly presented both the 2007 and 2008 vintages of the outstanding Schoelhammer Riesling this year. Schoelhammer is a small 0.63 ha parcel within the Schoenenbourg Grand Cru; the wines show incredible complexity and finesse, they are released late and in very small quantities. I first tasted Schoelhammer in 2016 when I finally made the pilgrimage to one of my favourite estates. Also not to be missed from Hugel are the Grossi Laüe* wines. It was great to have Marc André as a visitor to Melbourne once again!

Of course, I am always partial to the wines of the Mosel and whilst Ernst Loosen drew a relentless crowd throughout the day the wines of Heymann-Löwenstein and Ansgar Clüsserath seemed to make a profound impression on punters… naturally.

The very eloquent Mike Bennie presided over two days of masterclasses held at the Arts Centre Melbourne with very special guests. Producers in attendance, together with a contingent of formidable Australians, included the likes of Theresa Breuer, Philipp Wittmann, Cornelius Dönnhoff, Hansjörg Rebholz, Johannes Hasselbach and Vincent Bründlmayer amongst others. Estates such Robert Weil, Heymann-Löwenstein and Egon Müller were very well represented.

With an element of friendly competition and a rotating panel of learned speakers, conversation over the two days ranged from the influence of terroir and winemaking technique to the relevance and future of Riesling in the market. As expected there was a strong bias towards dry Riesling and there was not one dry wine of the 2016 vintage shown that was not exceptional.

From the Mosel, Kathrin Starker of Heymann-Löwenstein spoke with great insight and deftly answered questions from the audience and Veronika Lintner, who represented Egon Müller, was one of the very few to speak so eloquently of residually sweet Mosel wines, dismissing the notion that terroir is most clearly expressed in dry wines. The 2016 Scharzhofberger Spätlese, just quietly, was a special wine indeed.

Given the exceptionally high quality shown across the whole event it’s very hard pick just three standouts… as well as the aforementioned Schoelhammer, these were the wines that stood out for me:

2016 Dönnhoff (Niederhäusen) Hermannshöle GG, Nahe – This wine stole my heart with its  almost Saar-like coolness and tranquility. Aristocratic, crystalline, pure and seemingly infinite.

2009 Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kallstadter Saumagen Auslese trocken ‘R’, Pfalz – It’s no secret that I love the wines of Koehler-Ruprecht dearly. The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a mature release and always a hedonistic wine.

2015 Ökonomierat Rebholz (Birkweiler) Kastanienbusch GG, Pfalz – Lauded by everyone present and for good reason. Ripe and succulent with a firm mineral frame; a masterful balance of fruit and acidity.

*Grossi Laüe is ‘Grand Cru’ in the Alsace dialect.

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