Aah, memories. Those of an industrial looking town in south Alsace (Thann), standing in a carpark looking across the Thur river to a 60 degree sloped vineyard on which crouched a chapel with a cross. That was, and still is, the Grand Cru Rangen vineyard. It is the most southern of the Alsace Grand Cru vineyards and sits on volcanic rock – quite unique in Alsace. The wine R kindly opened was Zind Humbrecht’s 2010 offering Clos Saint Urbain Riesling.
It was luminous green-yellow coloured and very bright with a very fresh, aromatic nose of honeysuckle, lime and jasmine. Interestingly, it had none of the petrol notes one associates with older Rieslings. The palate was a beautiful rich concoction of both sour and sweet notes, not completely dry with a lower acidity level – presumably because of its age. All was in balance and what was significant was its low alcohol level yet it still had bags of flavour. This and the Chinon belied the modern idea of high alcohol is a prerequisite of flavours. Two older wines, really well-made and not a fuzzy head to be had. Lovely.
(Even Richard, who bridles at any sweetness in wine, liked this. Even more remarkable)
[Richard, lovely wine, fully mature and well balanced. If you were fanciful a flinty note from the volcanic soil was evident. Not sure where I purchased it or what it cost. Possibly one of the last wines brought back from Alsace in 2013. The Rangen is a famous vineyard site in Alsace and has been recognised as producing quality wine since about 1300.]
Completely fooled by this one (Jurtschitsch 2014). Beautiful appearance, bright lemon green with plenty of viscosity. Slight reduction on the nose and I thought it might be a chardonnay. Great mouth feel, heavy, dense with a lot of power. Lots of fruit and very long. In fact an Austrian riesling, a combination never before tasted. Perhaps lacking the grape typicity of a riesling from Alsace. Delicious and very drinkable. One I’d look out for but it’s not listed on their website and I can’t see any UK stockists.
[Geoff: This was purchased from Tanners in Shrewsbury on the recommendation of a member of staff who knew I liked a richer style of white wine. I’m pleased I took his advice and wish I’d bought more as I think Tanners are out of stock. The price was about £17, great value. It improved through the evening with the vague notes of kerosene becoming more obvious. It’s from the Kamptal region, north Austria where the grapes benefit from warm days and cool nights thereby producing a balance of richness and fresh acidity. I can’t find any stockist either. Back to Tanners to see if there is any left.]
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.]