First riesling for a while. Decanted and tasted blind on a warm sunny evening, in Geoff’s garden. It was Domaine Saint-Remy’s Grand Cru 2009 from the Hengst site.
Bright yellow. I recognised, but couldn’t quite place the nose, which was lemony and smokey. The taste was lemon again, quite rich, of medium length, a good mouth feel, but with not quite enough acidity or complexity. I was sure it was from Alsace but the off-dry edge persuaded me it was pinot gris rather than riesling. As the wine developed I think I caught some of the well known ‘petrol’ aroma the grape produces but that may have been auto-suggestion. As the wine warmed up it started to cloy and we both felt it needed to be fridge cold to show at it’s best.
[I bought this from Gauntleys in Nottingham. It was lying rather forlornly, alone and slightly dusty in a wine rack. To me, it was not off-dry just rather rich in body and I can see why it could be mistaken for a PG. Later on, and cooler, it was still full-flavoured with little of the characteristic ‘petrol’ nose – or limes for that matter – but more cooked apple and pears, moving into more tropical fruits; I enjoyed this richness. 2009 was the third of three successive good vintages in Alsace – it showed in this wine.]
Sunday night’s duet of semillon and riesling was doubly enjoyable – for me, at least. The wine Richard served blind was a shock in as much as it wasn’t his type of tipple, namely a sweet wine from the Moselle’s Wehlen Sonnenuhr vineyard. I visited the area in the late-1970s, as a rookie wine shop assistant, and have always had a soft spot for Moselle rieslings. The wine is Dr F Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr (sundial) Auslese 2006.
The colour was a bright lemon-yellow with no green tinge and little obvious viscosity. It smelt of sweet, cooked apples and beeswax with some floral notes floating in the background. The taste was a shock, for the reasons above; long and sweetly rich , powerful and heavy in the mouth. At first, there was no hint of the petrol aromas we associate with riesling but later on (three hours) these had developed. On this tasting, I think Richard’s criticism of it being ‘one-dimensional’ was a fair one, however I have kept some to try tomorrow to see if it opens up a little. I’ll get back to you.
The following evening I tasted it a little more exactingly. The primary aromas and tastes were of tropical fruits which, because of its bottle ageing, developed into dried i.e. more concentrated versions of the same fruits. There was no typical petrol smell but some honey flavours. I think the wine had reached its best, possibly 12-18 months previously, and would not change much now. Verdict? On reflection, R’s one-dimensional comment was confirmed, a good sweet wine but not a great one .
[Richard: this is from the same case blogged here. Purchased in 2011, £13 for a half bottle which made it, I think, the most expensive of the selection. Not my style but I hoped it would be a pleasant drink in the garden on a warm April evening. And so it was but there was a disappointing lack of complexity and after one small glass I couldn’t wait to get back to the manzanilla.]
The second wine of our retro-Friday was the Trimbach Clos Ste Hune 2005 vintage (12.5%). Most of the literature I’ve read state that this wine is the pinnacle of Alsace Reisling. Who are we, mere oenological foot-soldiers, to argue with that? Stunning it was. And surprisingly, not obviously Riesling in style. Or, more likely, all previous Riesling tastings were banally typical compared with this. (All the background info. can be seen on the previous blog).
Looks: lemon yellow colour, beautifully clear and bright with some viscosity.
Bouquet: lemon freshness but not overtly so, a strong whiff of waxy flowers. I thought jasmine but also quite a ripe melon note. No petrol, which was a surprise and would have been a giveaway. Very slight honeyed edge.
Taste: very long, acidity balance, powerful but restrained, dry but again with slight richness, weighty. A wine to sip and roll round your mouth.
Re-reading the above I feel I don’t do this wine justice as other tasting notes (and there are a lot) list so many smells and tastes as to cover a flower and fruit market on a hot Saturday. My offerings seem so curt as to be rude. I need to brush up on my descriptions. However, this was a wonderful wine, balanced, powerful and obviously with a very long life in front of it (Well, not this bottle, but you know what I mean). Richard, the last one, I believe?
[Richard: still four left, from three different vintages. I can’t help but think we drank this too young but it was still wonderful. Objectively, even subjectively – it’s overpriced but that doesn’t take into account the rarity and the demand.]
Preceding the unusual Pinot Noir we tasted a Riesling, Martin Schaetzel’s Grand Cru Kaefferkopf Granit 2011. Richard purchased this wine during our visit to Alsace; I can remember him saying the wines were renowned for their acidity levels – which usually determines a long drinking window.
The pronounced lemon yellow colours held no trace of green and there was little evidence of its high alcohol level of 14%. Initially, the dominant bouquet was of more general stone fruit rather than the aromatic, kerosene Riesling smell, though this did develop later but not greatly. There was some acidity in this weighty wine and a fullness that (again) was more typical of southern rather than northern French. And, once more, there was a lack of obvious fruit but more a loosely defined richness in style.
Like the 2003 Bonnes-Mares, the 2011 wine was the result of a dry year with the resultant lowering of acidity levels and somewhat uncharacteristic style. Another good wine, well made if a little lacking in obvious charm.
[Richard: as Geoff says, this wine was brought from the maker, in Ammerschwihr, after a tasting. Around €18 a bottle. The Granit indicates, as you might expect, a soil type, although you can’t taste any minerality even assuming vines can pick up flavours from the underlying bedrock. Not all that typical – possible too old or not quite old enough – and it is certainly different from my memory of the tasting. I’d be interested to try a bottle in 10 years time.]
Ribeauville contains two winemaker Sipps – Louis and Jean. This wine is from the latter and, as Richard will testify, the less easy to find, being further away from the large car-parks that dominate one end of the town. The wine is from 2009, named Les Terrasses du Clos and is also labelled H.D. Riesling. H.D. stands for higher density as Sipp’s website proclaims so, presumably, the potential yield per hectare is higher. That is certainly true of the ABV which is a lusty 14%, helped, no doubt, by the hot summer weather that year.
I tasted this blind and could not find any characteristics on the nose apart from a slight melon freshness. This did not change as it sat in the glass. The colours were a bright distinctively lemon yellow but its legs were not apparent. The palate was rich with the acidity staying high throughout the taste yet it was lacking in any fruit flavour (Richard called it ‘hollow’ in the mid-palate). What was almost unpleasant was its hardness, which was our abiding impression, unfortunately. The expected pronounced smell of petrol was nowhere to be seen – if that makes sense.
Richard was left with the majority of the bottle – he’ll report below.
[Richard: I have a clear memory of buying this wine. I asked the vivacious serveuse – a woman d’un certain age – which was her favourite riesling and she recommended the above. It was, I think, the most expensive as well, maybe around €14. Perhaps the two things are related. Given that 2009 was a good year in Alsace this wine was a disappointment with all the negatives Geoff mentions. Perhaps the first Sipp was the right one after all. The bottle has been vacuum corked so more to come.
Tried again on Thursday: more riesling character on the nose, increased lime flavour, smoother, less hard. An improvement.]
Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr is the co-operative in the Alsace town, an impressive, modern building with a welcoming visitor section. Richard and I visited it two years ago – he bought some wine, I came away with a relief map of Alsace. The wine was stored safely in the boot but the unfoldable plastic map – about 4 feet long – had to sit awkwardly in the car through the rest of holiday. It now resides in the spare room; Richard has drunk the wine he purchased. There must be a moral there, somewhere.
This Sunday we tried the Cave Vinicole’s Grand Cru Osterberg 2010. Although it was a Riesling it didn’t show the typical aromatic characteristics of that grape. The colour was pale lemon/green with evidence of some viscosity. The dominant bouquet was one of citrus but it’s freshness was it’s most attractive feature. The palate was dry and balanced, the full-flavour complementing a mouth-watering acidity. There was no hint of the renowned kerosene notes, possibly because it was still young in development. It was a wonderful, sipping wine – no need to rush this one, it just needed savouring. Excellent.
[Richard: this wine is a bit of a mystery as I cannot trace where it came from. There were two bottles originally and I specifically kept the second for Geoff to try. Not the usual places – like WS – and there doesn’t seem to be a UK stockist. Perhaps it was one of those purchased Geoff mentions above? In which case it would have been about €11. Anyway, fabulous wine with tremendous, mouth puckering acidity but in a good way with loads of balance. And if you are in the area, a great co-op to visit with a wide range of excellent and well priced wines.]