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A Second Look at 2009 German Riesling: St.-Urbans-Hof

Is 2009 another great vintage for German Riesling?
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 1, 2010 11:31am ET

I had the opportunity to taste another range of German Riesling from 2009 recently. Nik Weis, the proprietor of St.-Urbans-Hof was in New York and presented his range of Mosel Rieslings to our New York tasting coordinator Alison Napjus and myself. This was my second opportunity to taste the 2009 vintage after a recent lunch with Raimund Prüm and his wife, Pirjo Oksanen of S.A. Prüm.

“The 2009 vintage was an elegant vintage,” said Weis. “The wines are ripe and full-bodied, but truly elegant.”

Weis also characterized ’09 as "a vintage of more residual sugar, especially for [the wines of the] Saar.”

“The reason for this is the fact that the grapes offered both high sugar content at harvest and a good acidity level,” he explained. “This paired with the high ripeness of the grapes, which also means nicely developed flavors, is the basis for really great Mosel wines. I think that one can only bring this greatness to the max, when you leave enough residual sugar.”

Nonetheless, despite leaving more sweetness in his cuvées compared to 2008 and 2007, for example, he describes his range as drier than many of his Mosel colleagues.

Weis and his team began harvesting the first week of October, finishing mid-November. St.-Urbans-Hof also has a new look. The labels have been redesigned, emphasizing the vineyards.

We began the tasting with a barrel sample of the Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Leiwener Laurentiuslay Grosses Gewächs. The Laurentiuslay is a warm, dry site producing full, round and spicy Rieslings. It was planted in 1951. Usually made in a drier style, the 2009 is actually dry, with about 8.0 to 8.5 grams per liter of residual sugar. Its fragrant nose and flavor profile evokes savory herbs, lime, nectarine and peach. There is lovely balance, with good cut, freshness and a juicy character, ending in a long finish (90-93 points, non blind).

The Nik. Weis Selection Riesling QbA Mosel Urban, an inexpensive Riesling made from purchased grapes in a separate cellar, is now in its fourth vintage. This is a great introduction to the range, offering fresh, clean apple, lime and floral notes matched to a light, elegant and juicy frame (89 points, non-blind).

The estate Riesling QbA Mosel is a step up, a round, fleshy white with orange and herbal tones, a chalky minerality and a long citrus finish (90 points, non-blind). It was chaptalized lightly to add body, the goal being to express the full range of Riesling flavors that reflect the regional profile of the grape.

The kabinette, spätlesen and auslesen from St.-Urbans-Hof focus on two great vineyards: Piesporter Goldtröpfchen in the Middle Mosel and nearly 15 acres of Ockfener Bockstein in the Saar Valley.

The Bockstein Kabinett delivered precise aromas of lilac, mineral and mandarin orange, with the citrus, floral and slate themes carrying through in the mouth, accented by herbs. It was elegant and long, with a dry, chalky feel on the finish (91 points, non-blind). By contrast, the Goldtröpfchen Kabinett exhibited more muscle and complex aromas and flavors of savory bouillon, black currant and herbs. Layered and intense, it lingered with a tantalizing salinity on the aftertaste (92 points, non blind).

At the spätlese level, the aromas were even more intense, with the Bockstein Spätlese exhibiting rose, peach and stone, all very juicy, complex, dense and long (93 points, non blind). The Goldtröpfchen screamed black currant and apricot, with a savory, stony components, great clarity and expression of slate (93 points, non blind).

Then it was on to the two auslesen. “There are vintages where auslese is just a sweeter wine,” mused Weis. “In a really great vintage, it doesn’t taste sweet, but riper, not more intense, but much more present, there’s more to it,” he continued.

Indeed, the pair of auslesen bore an extra dimension. The Bockstein Auslese displayed fine intensity and notes of jellied citrus and fresh flowers allied to a juicy, concentrated profile, a beautiful and compelling Riesling (94 points, non-blind). The Goldtröpfchen was a “wow” wine, in the sense that it drew me in right from the black currant, white peach and hops aromas to the juicy, harmonious feel on the palate. Sweet, yet deftly balanced, it was long, a complete wine (95 points, non-blind).

“You cannot predict what a vineyard gives you from year to year, otherwise you might as well make an industrial product,” said Weis. “It’s the individuality we look for.”

And individuality was abundant in this 2009 range from St.-Urbans-Hof. Weis noted that there was good botrytis and dehydration in ’09, allowing for some beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese too. This is a fine series of Rieslings, as good as the 2001s, 2005s and 2007s that Weis and his team made, possibly even better.

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