Riesling Downunder 2018

For those of you not already planning on attending, Riesling Downunder 2018 runs from the 2nd to the 7th of February in Melbourne and Sydney. This is the most significant event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Riesling Riot runs on Sunday the 4th here in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre Plaza Ballroom and on Wednesday the 7th in Sydney at the Sydney Town Hall. Tickets to either of the five-hour symposia are very affordable and the list of outstanding producers from around the world is exhaustive.

Head to Riesling Downunder to read more. I hope to see you there.

Riesling Downunder is presented by Frankland Estate, Jim Barry and Pikes. Event partners include CellarHand.

Frohes neues Jahr!

Hello all,

It’s been an intensely busy festive season and time has been short. I do hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and enjoyed many a fine bottle of wine with family and friends.

I will be attempting to broaden the content and information available on the site over the next month or so. The idea is to take it from a ‘here’s what I drank last night’ blog to an actual resource for both wine lovers and those in the trade.

I am leaving my sommelier position at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Melbourne this month and am looking forward to making some positive changes for the future.

Fondest regards,

Phillip

Kabin class.

IMG_2348

Mosel Kabinett, whether fermented dry or left with residual sugar, counts lightness (low alcohol) and elegance amongst its most redeeming qualities. The capacity they have to age is remarkable and they show great versatility with food.

The term Kabinett (formerly Cabinet) has a long and complicated history which I won’t go into in great detail here. It first appeared on labels in the Rheingau with Schloss Vollrads claiming to have used the designation for a reserve wine as early as 1716.

In 1971 the term became embedded into German wine law as part of the Prädikat system (Qualitätswein mit Prädikat – or QmP – until 2007… now Prädikatswein) and sits at the bottom end of the scale with Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein following in ascending order. Prädikatsweine are graded according to must weight (ripeness) and are unchaptalised.

These days, owing to global warming, growers most often achieve must weights well above the 73 degrees Oechsle (just under 10 Baumé) required for Kabinett in the Mosel. In fact, because there is no legal maximum limit of ripeness for Prädikatsweine, many Kabinett wines are Spätlesen (even Auslesen in some cases) that have been ‘declassified’ purely for commercial reasons. One could easily view this as a slight abuse of an otherwise useful (if far from perfect) system, but many quality growers pick based on flavour and not simply numbers alone. Most ironically, winemakers now selectively harvest for Kabinett in an age where Spätlese and Auslese are becoming commonplace.

Up to and including Auslese, Prädikatsweine can be made anywhere between dry and sweet and so understanding a winemakers’ style and philosophy is as, if not more, important than deciphering words on a label.

Joh. Jos. Prüm and Dr. Loosen are two producers of high quality and age-worthy Kabinett that are very well represented in the international market. Ernst Loosen himself is one of the more outspoken advocates of the style. Both estates produce exceptional examples from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr… Prüm’s wines demand far greater patience, however.

 

Hofgut Falkenstein

fullsizeoutput_3d0

Living in Melbourne, I’ve seldom had the opportunity to drink the wines of Hofgut Falkenstein. Based in a side-valley in the north of the Saar called the Konzer Tälchen, father and son Erich and Johannes Weber produce a range of light and mostly dry Riesling wines bottled not simply by vineyard, but by cask. They farm about 8 hectares of old vines, a portion of which are ungrafted, and adhere to a strict low-yield policy. In the cellar fermentations occur with ambient yeasts in 1000 litre Mosel Fuder.

Despite specialising in dry wines the Webers still label with a Prädikat (Kabinett trocken, for example) and chaptalisation is out of the question, not merely because it’s not allowed for Prädikatsweine but on principle; the practice is redundant for wines of this style in any case. As a rule, a Kabinett trocken will be lighter than a Spätlese trocken.

The Saar is a special place, there’s no doubt about it. There is a feeling of tranquility about the region that makes the Middle Mosel feel almost metropolitan by comparison. Temperatures in the Saar are on average lower than in the Middle Mosel and the rainfall is higher, as a result the wines here are far racier; must weights are lower and levels of acidity are more pronounced. To some palates the Saar offers the purest and most profound expression of Riesling on the planet.

I drank the following two wines recently and stashed another away for lunch on Christmas Day…

2016 Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese
Stunning clarity, pure, tense, tropical accented fruit… incredible detail and length. There is a breathtaking lightness, a coolness, about this Auslese and it only tastes at sweet as some Spätlesen, I am mighty impressed.

2016 Krettnacher Ober Schäfershaus Riesling Spätlese Trocken
The Ober Schäfershaus is a 0.2 ha parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that was recently purchased by the Webers. Amongst slate and quartz, you find the basaltic diabas, also found in the Saarburger Rausch. This, more than the Auslese, illustrates what the Webers do best. Flinty and faintly smoky, a whiff of iodine even. Very tense, very elegant. It does benefit from a little air.

The Webers also farm plots in the Niedermenninger Herrenberg, Niedermenninger Sonnenberg and Falkensteiner Hofberg. The wines of Hofgut Falkenstein are imported into Australia by Andrew Guard.

Montille Pézerolles ’04

2004 Pommard 1er cru Les Pézerolles, Domaine de Montille

img_4953.jpg

Pézerolles is a premier cru in the north of Pommard close to the border with Beaune. Though Pommard wines are typically muscular, the vineyards in the north of the appellation tend to yield a Pinot Noir with considerably more finesse and perfume (Les Grands Épenots being the exception).

The wines of Domaine de Montille are made traditionally; partial de-stemming, 20-30% new oak, bottled without filtration etc… typically pure and terroir expressive… they drink beautifully when allowed enough time to grow out of their austere youth (5 years at least, but Hubert claims 20 years of patient cellaring is most ideal). Hubert de Montille,  a Beaune based lawyer, began his work at the domaine with the 1947 vintage and was among the first to begin bottling his own wines. Domaine de Montille is now run by his son Etienne and has expanded its holdings throughout the Côte de Beaune, and into the Côte de Nuits, considerably over the last couple of decades.

The general consensus with this vintage is that many wines, even at higher quality levels, hadn’t quite enough stuffing to go the distance. While the best wines are very elegant, the less fortunate are brittle and hollow, others austere and tannic. This ’04 was spared such a malady and offers a bouquet of red and black fruits, eastern spice and rose petals… what gets me is that faint aroma of tilled wet earth. It’s Pommard with a drinkability, a satin like texture to the fruit that is more Beaune… or Volnay?

Dr. Loosen Kabi, more than nostalgia…

We’re beginning to see the 2016 German vintage trickle into the country and despite a challenging year, with heavy summer rainfall and significant disease pressure, quality is very high indeed. Reports that I’ve read show unanimous favour amongst Mosel enthusiasts for the open knit, fruity and charming Kabinett wines from this vintage.

I don’t need much of an excuse to drink Kabinett, a night at home alone is all it takes really, and the low-alcohol associated with the style brings an added appeal. I’m also not much of a home cook… so some smoked salmon on rye was very enthusiastically washed down with a 2016 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett the other night. It’s a classically styled, juicy white peach Sonnenuhr Riesling; supremely elegant, refreshing and long.

Ernst Loosen focuses a great deal of energy on promoting powerful dry GG wines from top Mittelmosel sites, particularly those around the villages of Erden and Ürzig, he has however committed to keeping the Kabinett style alive. It’s easy for consumers to forget these elegant and fruity wines when faced with the wow factor of an Erdener Prälat GG for example, but both have their place.

For me, like most drinkers in Australia that have fallen in love with the Mosel, it all started with a Dr. Loosen Kabinett.

Campania dreaming…

You don’t have to stray far from Parliament station to find a good Pizza in Melbourne, the gastronomic traditions of Campania (and the rest of Italy, to be fair) have deep roots here… so why is it that the wines are so poorly represented in even the finest wine shops around town? I understand if Taurasi DOCG is not your ideal mid-summer heat-remedy but the region is home to some delicious and food friendly whites. The DOCGs Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo are well-known… but there are delicious wines made from varieties like Coda di Volpe that are as refreshing as they are full of flavour. Goodbye Grigio!

Recent years have seen the planting of new varieties in regions such as the McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills and many of them are from the south of Italy. It’s forward thinking behaviour, to say the least, especially in a warming climate. Fiano appears to have been most successful in South Australia.

At lunch today I enjoyed a 2016 Domenico Nardone Greco di Tufo DOCG. There is much in the way of lemongrass, red apple, pear skin and rockmelon about this wine; generous texture and a pleasant saltiness to round things out. It’s nothing short of delicious and cost me $22 at my local independent food store (they have a very switched on wine buyer named Ernie).

If it means anything, lunch was a tin of anchovies in olive oil, a tub of buffalo mozzarella and half a baguette. I tried to stick to a one-glass-only limit but the heat got to me and I gave in to my thirst.