Monday, December 1, 2014

2012s (and a couple of 2011s) From Four Rheingau Estates

 Below are notes for 2012 German wines that I previously have not reviewed and other late-released German wines from the Rheingau. As 2013 (which I shall shortly be posting reviews on), was small and somewhat uneven vintage, and it appears that 2014 will not have been an easy vintage, readers should seriously look at remaining stocks of 2012.

GG is used as an abbreviation for Grosses Gewächs, a designation for top dry wines from top vineyards, but only those in the hands of members of the prestigious VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) organization for Grosses Gewächs, the designation that the VDP uses for top dry wines of its producers from their top vineyards. As a result, though, vineyards such as the Maximiner Grünhäuser Abtsberg and Herrenberg of Dr. C. von Schubert cannot qualify for GG status because the estate is not a VDP member. Nevertheless, the vineyards and the wines are universally recognized as among the best in Germany. See for further information on GG

In the notes below, I have mostly used the wording given on the label I have seen. Thus dry = trockenhalbtrocken off dry (but halbtrocken today usually means dry-tasting, and feinherb is usually used to designate an off-dry wine),Pinot Noir Spätburgunder. Words in parentheses are not found (by me) on the front label, but are indicated on the back label. However, labels can vary significantly by market or shipment. Scores in parentheses indicate that I tasted a cask sample.

One increasing, and I think positive, trend is to label all trocken wines as QbA; it makes sense because a Kabinett trocken and an Auslese trocken are the same style of wine, which is not true with fruity-style Kabinett and Auslese.

2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling trocken  (yellow seal) 91/A-
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Kabinett trocken  (red seal) 90/B+
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling   gg  (silver seal) 95/A
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling feinherb (gold seal) 93/A
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Kabinett feinherb   (red seal) 92/A

2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Spätlese  (green seal) 92/A
2012 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Auslese (pink seal) 96/A
2011 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Beerenauslese (pink/gold seal) 97/A
2011 Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese (gold seal) 98/A
2012 is simply a gorgeous vintage at Schloss Johannisberg, and where there were no very late harvest wines to show, the 2011s picked up the slack. We begin with the trocken, which has minerality in the nose. The mouth is medium-weight with minerality and yellow fruits, a smooth texture, calmness, some succulence, and the impression of moderate acidity (7.4 g/l). 12.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 007 13. The Kabinett trocken is off-dry (6.8 g/l residual sugar, 6.7 g/l acidity), calm, light, slightly chalky and austere, with minerality, fine acidity, and some yellow fruits. 11.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 004 13. The GG shows white peach blossom aromas. The white peaches continue in the mouth along with some yellow peach, with roundness, medium weight, elegance, and great finesse and length. It is one of the top GGs of the year. 6.3 g/l acidity, 6.0 g/l residual sugar. The feinherb has floral and apricot aromas. The mouth is elegant with white peach and golden fruit flavors, pinpoint precision, and calm. Despite 13.9 g/l residual sugar, this wine tastes dry and indeed is a great Rheingau expression. The Kabinett feinherb (possibly sold as Kabinett in the US) is fresh and floral with peach blossoms in the nose. The wine is almost dry, lively fresh, light, and pure. 17.5 g/l residual sugar here. 17.5 g/l residual sugar. 11% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 002 13.

In the fruity style, the Spätlese has floral aromas, followed on the palate by crispness in a medium-weight body with yellow plum and peach fruit, moderate acidity and good length. The wine does not come across as terribly sweet, although it has 88 g/l residual sugar. 7.5% stated alcohol. The Auslese includes some botrytis. Christian Witte said that the cold snap at the end of October wasn’t that hard at Johannisberg, but the dryness is what stopped development and so prevented still sweeter wines. The wine shows pure white peach skin flavors in a light body with elegance, calm, a little botrytis, and clarity. It is an Auslese that evokes the eighteenth century, if you will. 7.0% stated alcohol. The 2011 Beerenauslese has a golden, caramel nose, followed by Beerenauslese caramel flavors in the mouth with length, finesse, lightness, and purity. Last, the 2011 Trockenbeerenauslese features caramel aromas and flavors with some additional butter flavors, intensity, purity, and length, and acidity that perfectly cuts the sweetness.

2012 Kiedricher Sandgrub Riesling 86/B-
2012 Erbacher Steinmorgen Riesling 90/B+
2012 Riesling feinherb (apn 027 13) 78/F

2012 Riesling Kabinett    baron k 86/B
2012 Hattenheim Riesling Kabinett 84/C
2012 Kiedricher Sandgru Riesling Spätlese 89/B
2012 Erbacher Steinmorgen Riesling Spätlese 90/B+
This estate, with great holdings, had started on the upswing a few years ago with new ownership, but now seems to have been backsliding. Let us hope that is only a temporary phenomenon. Although not so indicated, the Kiedricher Sandgrub is technically a dry wine – barely, with 8.5 g/l residual sugar (9 g/l is the upper limit for a dry wine). The wine tastes off dry, as acidity is only 7.5 g/l, and it is one-dimensional with some minerality to white fruits, but it lacks depth and character. The past few years here had shown a real uptick in quality, so it is disappointing to find a recidivist example such as this. 11.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 024 13. The Erbacher Steinmorgen was much more to my taste. The wine is medium-weight, dry, and firm with stony overtones to its yellow plum fruit.  12.0% stated alchol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 020 13. The feinherb is a different lot from that reviewed in Issue 142. This one is sold in a liter bottle.  The wine lacks purity and definition, and even for a supermarket wine is disappointing.  10.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 027 13.

Knyphausen’s Kabinett Baron K usually is on the dry side, but this one tastes moderately sweet for a Kabinett, perhaps due to the acidity, which seems moderate. The wine is light in weight and on the palate with slightly unfocused lemon flavors, and it lacks a little crispness to my palate, although others might be happier with the wine the way it is. 10.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 1413. The Hattenheim Kabinett has light almond flavors and a little sweetness, but lacks a bit in integration and tightness. 10.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 006 13. Much, much better is the Kiedricher Sandgrub Spätlese. The wine is light on the palate with some sweetness, balanced by a tangy acidity and showing some golden apple fruit. It is very good on its own or with food. 8.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 007 13. The Erbacher Steinmorgen Spätlese shows similar golden apple fruit with just a touch of spice. It, too, is light on the palate and shows some, but not too much, sweetness. There is more finesse here than in the Sandgrub. 8.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 005 13. Importer: Valckenberg, International, Jenks, OK.

2012 Riesling trocken 90/B+
2012 Rüdesheim Riesling trocken 88/B
2012 (Hochheim) Herrenberg Riesling trocken 91/A-
2012 (Rüdesheim) Berg Roseneck Riesling Kabinett trocken 91/A-
2012 (Hochheim) Kirchenstück Riesling Kabinett trocken 92/A
2012 (Hochheim) Hölle Riesling Kabinett trocken 92/A
2012 (Rüdesheim) Bischofsberg Riesling trocken   alte reben 93/A
2012 (Rüdesheim) Drachenstein Riesling trocken 92(+)/A
2012 (Hochheim) Stein Riesling trocken 92(+)/A
2012 (Hochheim) Stielweg Riesling (trocken)   alte reben 92(+)/A
2012 (Hochheim) Domdechaney Riesling trocken 92(+)/A
2012 Rüdesheim Berg Rottland Riesling  (trocken)   gg 93+/A
2012 (Kostheim) Weiss Erd Riesling (trocken)   gg 93(+)/A
2012 (Hochheim) Kirchenstück Riesling (trocken)   gg 94/A
2012 (Hochheim) Hölle Riesling (trocken)   gg 94/A
2012 (Hochheim) Hölle Riesling trocken   (gold capsule) 95/A
It’s interesting how reputations work. Gunter Künstler had one, maybe two, poor vintages at the beginning of the 2000s as he struggled to digest a great increase in his estate through the purchase of the Aschrott estate. Since then, he’s been back on track producing absolutely superb Rieslings, yet I still run into supposedly well-informed people who regret that the wines are not what they once were. Rest assured, when you buy from this estate, you are purchasing from one of the relatively small number of producers who continue to show the very high potential quality that made the Rheingau vineyards so famous. The trocken is quite floral in the nose. The mouth is crisp with good acidity, iron, red plums, and complete dryness. 12.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 004 13. The Rüdesheim trocken is more mineral and pointed with more power but not quite as much clarity as the previous wine. It is quite firm. 12.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 043 13. The Herrenberg trocken is medium-weight and earthy with very good acidity and stoniness. The wine needs more time in bottle, though. It has a fair amount of power. 12.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 009 13. The Berg Roseneck Kabinett trocken has floral and mineral aromas. The mouth shows a good acidic attack and is medium-light with good liveliness. 12.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 028 13. The Kirchenstück Kabinett trocken shows the finesse of Kirchenstück and is medium-light and flowing, long, and almost lacy in the mouth. The wine shows some minerality and promises more with time. 12.5% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 008 13. The Hölle Kabinett trocken has finesse but is more open than the Kirchenstück. The wine has minerality, a gentle attack, and notable length in a medium-weight, medium-firm body. 12.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 010 13. The Bischofsberg trocken “alte Reben” is a little buttery in the nose. The mouth is light with minerality, medium acidity, and good length with minerality and incipient white fruits. The vines are are on gray slate and quartzite. 13.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 019 13. The Drachenstein trocken is from the same vineyard as Johannes Leit’s Dragonstone, a wine well-known in the U.S. (Leitz uses the English translation of the vineyard name). This wine is medium-weight with dark plum fruit, acidity, slight oiliness, and good length. 13.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 042 13. The Stein trocken shows some floral notes in the nose. The mouth is very mineral and lemony with medium-light body, good length, and finesse. 13.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 035 13. The Stielweg “alte Reben” is from a vineyard that had been part of the Domdechenay, arguably Hochheim’s greatest vineyard, until Napoleonic times. The wine shows tropical fruit notes with good underlying acidty. The wine is light on the palate and shows good length. 13% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 014 13. The Domdechenay trocken is from a part where chalk was added in Napoleonic times to make the vineyard flatter. The wine is fleshy with acidity supporting yellow fruits. This wine needs time but is promising. 13.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 012 13. The Berg Rottland GG is medium-light with elegant acidity and more integrated than the previous wines with yellow fruits and some minerality. It is a wine of elegance. The Weisserd GG is an wine you are unlikely to see unless you fly Lufthansa first class, as Lufthansa bought the entire production. It shows white flowers in the nose. The mouth is medium-weight with a slight oiliness and is smooth and dense with yellow peach and apricot fruit. It is quite forward compared to the other wines. The Kirchenstück GG has sharp apricot fruit and is dry, medium-light, chalky, and almost ethereal – as Kirchenstück should be.  The Hölle GG has nectarine blossom aromas. The mouth shows nectarine fruit with nervosity ina medium-weight body and there is perhaps the slightest hint of cocoa here. Künstler has a second dry wine from the same vineyard, the Hölle gold capsule that is only made separately in years in which it stands out. This wine is from 50 year-old vines, whereas the GG is from 40 year-old vines. The nose is fresh with yellow peach fruit. The mouth is very light, ethereal even, but shows good intensity with an almost creamy texture to its nectarine flavors. The wine is long and quite different from the GG. 13.0% stated alcohol. Last digits of A.P. Nr.: 025 13. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, New York.

Geheimrat J. WEGELER
2012 Riesling trocken 88/B
2012 Oestricher Riesling trocken 88/B
2012 Rüdesheimer Berg Scholossberg Riesling trocken  gg 89(+)/B

2012 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 92/A
2012 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese 91(+)/A-
Tom Drieseberg characterized the vintage as a long one with no botrytis. Wegeler’s trocken is fresh with minerality and a medium-light body that shows a bit of juiciness and yellow fruits. The Oestricher trocken is from the Lenchen vineyard. The wine shows yellow and red plum fruit with a medium-weight body, moderate acidity, elegance, smoothness, airiness, and some succulence. The Berg Rottland GG seems rather low in acidity. The wine has golden apple and spices with just the slightest sweetness in a medium-light body that is smooth without being silky in texture.

The Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Kabinett has lemon blossom aromas. The mouth is mineral and light with a bit of lemon minerality and good purity and focus. 7.5% stated alcohol. The Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Spätlese has spicy strawberry aromas and flavors with intensity and length, but also lightness. The wine should improve over the next few years. Importer: Encore Wines, Pleasanton, CA.