2017 von Hövel

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When a name like Scharzhofberg is so intrinsically linked to one estate alone, it’s hard to imagine that anyone else could coax wines of any value from the same site. Well, enter von Hövel. I’ll readily admit that I’ve written about this estate often and so I apologise if I come across as repetitive. That said, the 2017 vintage is fresh on our shores.

In the Mosel, 2017 saw growers completing a trifecta of excellent, albeit very different, vintages. All three presented their own challenges but devastating April frosts might have made 2017 the most difficult of the three. Losses are reported at between 30-40% on average, though some (a few) sites were spared such a malady.

The weather did take a turn for the better in the end, though rainfall meant that disease pressure was high, and whilst BA and TBA was produced at the finest addresses, no Eiswein was made.

In comparison to the filigreed and cerebral 2016 vintage, the low yielding 2017 has produced juicer wines with concentrated and succulent fruit, high extract and firm tannins (small berries, thick skins).

If Max von Kunow’s  Feinherb and Kabinett Rieslings aren’t convincing enough then the Kabinett “S” (from the Silberberg parcel within the Krettnacher Altenberg that’s been otherwise ignored by the VDP) should turn some heads. It’s exotic, juicy and layered with sorbet like acidity bringing the wine into total harmony.

The Kabinett was the only wine from the Oberremmeler Hütte on show and was ever so slightly subdued. It has on it’s side, however, good structure and length and promises a bright future. Other than a stunning 2015 GG, I’ve not had the fortune of tasting much else from this renowned Monopollage.

Whilst the Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines show beautifully in youth, they all demand and deserve considerable patience. It was the 2017 Auslese #48 (from one Fuder) that swept me off my feet. There is no denying the supreme quality of fruit here and the indulgent richness of this wine is tempered with a firm structure and vibrant acidity. The #48 promises great rewards for anyone willing to lay a few bottles down for the next 20-30 years, if not more.

Also on show were 2016 wines from Simon Bize in Savigny-lès-Beaune and 2015s ad 2016s from Robert Chevillon in Nuits-Saint-Georges. I’m a fan of both estates, Chevillon in particular. The premier cru Vergelesses from Bize was fantastic, nourishing, savoury with beautiful fruit and good line (as one would expect from a year like 2016). The Chevillon wines all showed brilliantly and I was most impressed by the 2016 (again) Bourgogne Passetoutgrain and the gorgeous 2015 premier cru Vaucrains which was characteristically dense and firm.

As I said before, I’ve written about von Hövel both often and quite recently. They’ve become one of my personal favourite addresses for supremely crystalline Saar Riesling and I’d like to see them on more dining tables in the future.

Imported into Australia by Heart & Soil.

Weingut Jean Stodden pre-arrival

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Here’s something you don’t see in Australia very often… Spätburgunder from the Ahr! Heart & Soil has picked up the Jean Stodden wines and staged a little pre-arrival tasting at their office last week. These will be available in very small quantities.

Alexander Stodden could rightfully be considered one of the most sensitive interpreters of the Pinot Noir grape in Germany. This was my first time tasting the wines and I was delighted by what I was shown.

These wines are harvested from very steep slopes around the village of Rech, in the western Ahr. The propagation of Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir has a long history here but sadly, due to economic pressures, the region has shrunk over time and now only some 548 hectares are planted with vines. This special region is actually further north than the Mosel, but the combination of steep slopes and a little warmth from the river creates a fairly consistent climate for grape growing. The early ripening Frühburgunder is also an important grape variety around the Ahr.

Alexander picks his best fruit from an ungrafted portion of the Recher Herrenberg. You find greywacke amongst the loess and loess-loam in this very well exposed site. Not all growers here benefit from such choice parcels of land.

2017 Spätburgunder
I think that the appearance of this wine will make an immediate impression on most tasters. It’s a brilliant, very translucent garnet that promises a pure and filigreed Pinot Noir… and it delivers. Sweet fruited, floral and as fine as quality China but in no way as brittle. What a wonderful start to the line up. Aged in 1000 litre barrels.

2015 Spätburgunder ‘JS’
A little more power here, but not too much… deeper colour, for sure. This shows a more savoury tone than the previous wine. Barrique ageing does it’s work here. Firmer tannin structure and greater concentration.

2014 Spätburgunder Recher Herrenberg
Offers all of the sex appeal of great Volnay, if I may be so bold. It’s a very elegant and seductive wine that comes wrapped up in a tight crimson dress. The full spectrum of sweet forest fruit, undergrowth and rose petals is on exhibit here. Really fine. I have to add that it was my favourite wine on show.

2016 Spätburgunder Recher Herrenberg
Unfortunately this had fallen victim to it’s closure… looking through the TCA, the quality was very apparent.

2015 Spätburgunder Recher Herrenberg GG
This wine spent 19 months in new oak, it gives a certain element of polish and ‘flash’ but it’s certainly not a monster. In fact, it’s amongst the most refined GG Spätburgunder available. Really poised, fleshy, bright and very long.

2016 Spätburgnunder Alte Reben
From old (60 plus) year old vines in the Recher Herrenberg. It’s a dense wine with a chewy tannin structure. It holds the 100% new oak well. There’s no denying the quality of fruit here… but it deserves a few more years allowance to shed some weight and let the fruit speak. Otherwise, it’s powerful, evocative and really delicious. 

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.

Montille Pézerolles ’04

2004 Pommard 1er cru Les Pézerolles, Domaine de Montille

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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?