Rare and unique wines are par for the course at the Wine Experience, but Friday's seminar on Germany's Rieslings took this to another level. Managing editor Kim Marcus led a tasting of four sought-after dessert wines, each representing the pinnacle of quality from their region and all produced in minuscule quantities.
"I'm a very lucky person today, and so are you," said Marcus, as he pointed out that the total value of the wines the four vintners donated for the tasting was more than $175,000. The tasting included two beerenauslese (BA) and two trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) wines from four of Germany's main wine regions.
"This is the extract of what Germany is all about," said Nik Weis, owner and winemaker of St. Urbans-Hof, his word play emphasizing that BAs and TBAs achieve their concentration through the careful selection of botrytized grapes harvested only when conditions are ideal. Weis presented a mouthwatering 2010 BA from his estate's Saarfeilser vineyard (94 points, $175), located in the southern part of the Mosel Valley known as the Saar.
The Saarfeilser BA owes its grace to a fine backbone of acidity, a feature that was on full display in the 2010 BA from Bassermann-Jordan in the Pfalz region. Gunther Hauck, commercial director for the winery, referred to the expansive flavor profile of the wine as "taste created by terroir"; he said the concentration of the Deidesheimer Hohenmorgen bottling highlighted the unique conditions of the 2010 vintage that resulted in incredibly low yields.
Next, one of Germany's most historic estates, Schloss Johannisberg (formerly Schloss Johannisberger) in the Rheingau region, poured the Goldlack TBA from 2011. Winemaker Christian Witte explained that this vintage featured one of the earliest harvests in the winery's long history; an Indian summer allowed them to harvest grapes for the TBA at what he considers the ideal must weight. "The very best ones are between 180 and 220 Oechsle, because then you still have the acidity that dances and gives life to the wine."
The seminar concluded with a 2007 TBA from the Rheinhessen region's Gunderloch winery, owned by the Hasselbach family. Johannes Hasselbach explained that the winery's philosophy is centered on their vineyards: "We see ourselves as employees of our vineyards and nature."
In 2007, a hot, dry summer resulted in incredibly healthy grapes and created an almost unheard-of scenario: Although it wasn't really a vintage for botrytis, the clean state of the vines allowed some of the grapes to stay on the vine until early February 2008. During this time, they slowly dried and concentrated, and the 2007 Nackenheim Rothenberg TBA (95, $480) was born.
Any one of these outstanding dessert wines would have been a star on its own, but all together they represented an eye-opening chance to explore the sweetest side of German Riesling, which few people have the opportunity to experience.
St.-Urbans-Hof Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Mosel Saarfeilser 2010 (94 points, $175)
Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Beerenauslese Pfalz Deidesheimer Hohenmorgen 2010 (NYR)
Schloss Johannisberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Rheingau Goldlack 2011 (NYR)
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