My beloved Koehler-Ruprecht

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It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this… but I’ve recently been enjoying the 2016 Kallstadter Kabinett trocken at my local wine bar and it’s reminded me of  why Koehler-Ruprecht is one of my very favourite wine estates.

Stuart Pigott and Hugh Johnson’s ‘Wine Atlas of Germany’ (1995) boldly states that “Nobody in Germany makes better dry Rieslings than Bernd Philippi.” Obviously you are free to make your own mind up on this matter and since that book was published many estates in Germany have evolved considerably and now produce dry Riesling wines of exceptional quality even if they historically produced sweet wines.

The estate is based in Kallstadt, just north of Bad Dürkheim, and is the most important landholder in the Saumagen site. They also produce single site Riesling from the nearby Steinacker; these are also of very high quality. Annaberg and Kreidkeller are the two other sites. Koehler-Ruprecht also cultivates Spätburgunder as well as other white varieties seen on both sides of the Rhein and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon is also grown.

Saumagen is German for stomach, I haven’t yet visited but a topographical map indicates that the site is indeed (at least vaguely) shaped like a pig’s stomach. Saumagen is also a famous dish from the Pfalz; a sow’s stomach stuffed with meat, potatoes and vegetables.

The elevation of the Saumagen site means that the harvest occurs a little later than in other nearby vineyards and is conducted in a series of passes sorting grapes for the various predicates. These are destined to be bottled as Prädikatsweine and therefore chaptalisation is not practiced at Koehler-Ruprecht. 

These are not wines concocted for simple drinking pleasure… I find them very deeply moving. If you concede to the indulgent and thoroughly individual style of these wines you will be generously rewarded. They pair a shapely succulence with finesse, structure and fine acidity. They boast many layers of flavour within their rich textures and maintain remarkable balance.

[edit] An email from Koehler-Ruprecht forwarded to me by a friend in the UK had this to say:

Before bottling, the wines need to taste the expected way:
Kabinett: lightest by taste of the three
Spätlese: most elegant of the three
Auslese: the most complex of the three
Something with an R on it has the plus taste of the Spätlese or Auslese

I thought this summed it all up fairly well, so I opted not to paraphrase.

Fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts after up to a full day on skins before the wines are aged in a variety of casks (Halbstück, Stück and Doppelstück) for nearly a year. Most of the Riesling wines are fermented dry, but some residually sweet styles are produced and are delicious. The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is released after six years of age. These are the wines for which this estate is famous. They are paradoxically powerful and yet fine and are capable of ageing very gracefully. ‘RR’ is something of a rarity.

In 2009 Koehler-Ruprecht was purchased by American investors however Philippi was retained as CEO and also winemaker until the young and very capable Dominik Sona took the helm. Philippi divides his time between Koehler-Ruprecht and his endeavours in Portugal (started with Werner Näkel and the late Bernhard Breuer) and other estates around the world (South Africa, China etc).

From Koehler-Ruprecht, the Kallstadter Saumagen Kabinett trocken is a consistently beautiful wine. It’s also very affordable. Though the village level Kallstadter Kabinett trocken alone is a bargain, the single vineyard wine possesses an added layer of intrigue. It’s almost multi-coloured in aroma, bright, floral and very fresh.

The Auslese trocken ‘R’ is a real thing of beauty. The 2008 was deeply coloured, rich and high in dry extract. It’s a beautiful wine. The 2009 Auslese trocken ‘R’ by comparison shows more finesse, there’s a little more tension about it but it’s no less layered and flavoursome. Incredible length.

Koehler-Ruprecht has become one of my very favourite producers of Riesling in Germany. At Riesling Downunder 2018, after a long day pouring wines (and still recovering from the previous nights Riesling Riot and late night bottle of Schoelhammer) the glass I chose to relax with was from a bottle of the 2009 Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Auslese trocken ‘R’.

Only the Rieslings are available in Australia at present, but of some the estate’s Spätburgunder is already on its way over. I’d like to quickly note that I have deliberately not elaborated on the fact that Koehler-Ruprecht left the VDP in 2014; I think the decision shows integrity, but I try not to dwell on it too much. 

Koehler-Ruprecht is imported into Australia by Cellarhand.

Official Site: www.koehler-ruprecht.com

New Arrivals

Heart & Soil had some new arrivals on show at Arlechin this week. I was quite surprised to see Keller sporting a new label (about which I haven’t made my mind up) but on the whole it seems that the 2017 vintage promises some real treasures despite having been a very difficult season.

Here were the Germans on show…

2017 Keller Grüner Silvaner Trocken (Rheinhessen)
I like this wine… it’s consistently delicious. Very fragrant and shows real clarity. I wish there were more German Silvaner available on the market here.

2017 Keller Riesling Trocken (neuer Etikett) (Rheinhessen)
A very fine Keller trocken, succulent, floral, aromatically intense and focused. Great poise and length. Punches well above its weight. The product of a very troubled vintage and a good one at that. Best yet… so they say.

2016 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Trocken (Nahe)
An elegant and playful trocken wine… very light and fresh. An absolute bargain.

2015 Joh. Bapt. Schäfer Riesling Norheimer Pittermänchen Grosses Gewächs (Nahe)
Characterful and charming, a very supple, sweet scented GG. It’s dry, obviously, but the fruit really sings. Very persistent and artfully balanced. Delicious!

2016 Wagner Stempel Porphyr (Rheinhessen)
Very well made. Ferrous and earthy, but not rustic… in fact, very polished and dignified… pure and bright… very drinkable indeed.

2016 Wagner Stempel Riesling Kabinett (Rheinhessen)
Only slightly too sweet for my palate but a well made wine. Definitely at the riper end of the spectrum.

2016 Von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett (Saar/Mosel)
A beautiful and tranquil wine, the acidity is high and the wine has a briskness and levity about it that can’t be replicated in other regions. It drinks well at this stage but deserves serious patience. I’m so glad that the wines of Von Hövel have made it to Australia.

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.