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bruce sanderson decanted

A Spätlese Vintage: Part II

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 30, 2009 9:20am ET

This is the second installment of two German tastings I attended recently in New York. Two major importers were previewing the 2008 vintage, among other years.

I arrived late to the Terry Theise tasting at Tribeca Grill, so was unable to taste through everything I wanted, but did get a good impression of several growers. I missed Leitz and Christoffel, so I must wait to taste these lineups for official review later this year.

There was an assortment of dry wines, of which the Wagner Stempel Qualitätswein Trocken Rheinhessen Siefersheimer Vom Porphyr stood out. Bright and full of peach flavor, it was dry and beautifully balanced. Herbert Messmer’s Spätlese Trocken Pfalz Schiefer also delivered loads of fruit backed by a mineral essence.

From there I moved on to Selbach-Oster, represented by the indefatigable Johannes Selbach. “We had almost as long hang time in 2008 as '07,” he explained, “but '08 was about 5 percent lighter, with more apple flavors. It's perfect for kabinett and spätlese, whereas in '07 we achieved higher prädikats and more botrytis.”

This is a terrific range, with the Kabinett Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Zeltinger Sonnenuhr standing out for its floral and peach notes and lovely balance and harmony. This year, Selbach added another single parcel bottling to his “Rotlay” (Zeltinger Sonnenuhr) and “Schmitt” (Zeltinger Schlossberg) labels. The Zeltinger Himmelreich Spätlese Anrecht is detailed, delicate and rich, with long lasting flavors of apple, citrus and peach.

The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Rotlay was full of apple and brown spice notes, while the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Zeltinger Schlossberg Scmitt seemed drier, featuring more mineral and chalk tones. Selbach is moving away from using the aulsese designation on the label in order to focus on these special terroirs.

Things don’t change as quickly in Old World regions as in emerging areas of the New World, but nonetheless, they do change from time to time. Karl Loewen of Weingut Carl Loewen has taken over winemaking responsibilities at Schmitt-Wagner. There is more finesse, cut and mineral character in the wines, as evidenced by the Kabinett Mosel Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg. From Carl Loewen, I liked the Spätlese Mosel Thörnicher Ritsch for its classic Mosel lime, peach and slate flavors.

The Nahe furnished several delights, first from Hexamer, whose QbA Nahe Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Quarzit oozed with juicy apple, bordering on peach, all supported by fine acidity. Jakob Schneider’s Kabinett Nahe Niederhäuser Klamm exuded apple and savory notes, a succulent texture and excellent definition.

Dönnhoff’s range progressed from juicy to creamy to rich, with the Spätlese Nahe Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube offsetting its richness with a mineral quality and dry, citrusy finish. There was a mouthful of juicy apple and peach from the Kruger-Rumpf Kabinett Nahe Münsterer Kapellenberg and Schlossgut Diel’s Spätlese Nahe Dorsheim Pittermännchen, the harlequin, flaunted its gorgeous citrus, peach and apricot flavors and nuanced profile.

The 2008 Riesling QbAs (estate Rieslings) and kabinetts are delicious wines to drink this summer. The best spätlesen can also be enjoyed over the next year or so, but are capable of aging for 20.

Stay tuned for full tasting notes and scores in upcoming issues of our weekly Insider newsletter and fall 2009 issues of Wine Spectator.

James Suckling
 —  July 1, 2009 8:45am ET
Reading between the lines, sounds like 2008 in Germany was not very ripe considering the low Oechsle levels and apple acidity, which I assume suggest high malic acidity.
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  July 1, 2009 9:08am ET
The delay in harvesting caused by rain actually allowed the tartaric acid to increase, so those that picked late were rewarded by ripe acidity profiles in the wines. It also allowed for physiological maturity and the slow development of aroma and flavor compounds. The lack of botrytis makes them sleeker and, along with an end to photosynthesis late in the season, resulted in fewer higher pradikat wines. I think they are ideal for a hot Tuscan summer.
James Suckling
 —  July 3, 2009 8:11pm ET
Sounds good. I am running out of my Kabinetts from the 1990s!
Steve Buck
Bay Area —  July 6, 2009 2:19am ET
Bruce,We are a month away from our first trip to Burgundy and Mosel (with a week in Paris in-between). We were unable to secure appointments in Burgundy due to holiday schedules at major negociants. Any suggestions for alternative places to try to taste in Burgundy?Also, what do you recommend for Germany? We wanted to try driving through the Mosel river valley but were unsure if there are places to taste. Alternatively, we were looking at the German Weinstraβe as an alternative to Mosel. What do you think?Thanks,Steve and Amie Buck
Steve Buck
Bay Area —  July 6, 2009 2:19am ET
Bruce,We are a month away from our first trip to Burgundy and Mosel (with a week in Paris in-between). We were unable to secure appointments in Burgundy due to holiday schedules at major negociants. Any suggestions for alternative places to try to taste in Burgundy?Also, what do you recommend for Germany? We wanted to try driving through the Mosel river valley but were unsure if there are places to taste. Alternatively, we were looking at the German Weinstraβe as an alternative to Mosel. What do you think?Thanks,Steve and Amie Buck
Domaine Christian Moreau
July 9, 2009 1:45am ET
For the attention of Steve BuckIf you are not afraid to come to a small Domaine !!!You will be most welcome in Chablis starting August 17.Chablis is a small part of Burgundy ( Maybe the best......) Best to You. Christian Moreau
Steve Buck
Bay Area —  July 11, 2009 12:47am ET
Thank you very much Christian for your offer of hospitality. Your vineyards in Chablis look superb. We are coming through Chablis on August 16th. We will stop to see if you are there on our way to Paris. Best, Steve
Steve Buck
Bay Area —  July 11, 2009 9:52pm ET
Christian, you'll be pleased to know we just picked up a bottle of your 2006 Chablis Les Clos. Even if we don't make it to your Domaine, we'll enjoy your wine.
Ken Oliva Jr
New York, NY —  August 2, 2009 1:55pm ET
For the attention of Steve Buck and Mr. Sanderson.Did you receive a reply from Bruce regarding your upcoming trip to the Moesel River Valley?I am in the process of planning a similar trip and am finding information hard to come by. My wife and I truly enjoy the freedom of touring wine regions at our own pace. One of our favorite trips was touring Piedmont following the recommendations and advice of a Wine Spectator article entitled "Local Favorites in Piedmont" from January 2005. We are hoping to have a similar experience in Mosel. We would be extremely grateful for advice on vineyards to visit and taste as well as restaurant recommendations. Thanks!

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