I was going through some bottles in my cellar and found the last of six bottles of a German Riesling spätlese I had purchased for $20 a bottle in 1997. It was the Rheingau Hochheimer Kirchenstück 1996 from Franz Künstler.
The 1996 Rieslings had screaming acidity. I recall the vintage tasting in New York at the time. My teeth hurt for days after tasting about 60 young Rieslings. However, there were several I thought had great balance between fruit, residual sugar and acidity. The Künstler was one of them.
The bottle had a little seepage under the capsule and down onto the neck label, so I figured it was time to open it. What a pleasant surprise. Medium golden in color, the wine offered a profuse bouquet of apricot and quince paste followed by flavors of honey and mineral; it was rich yet racy, with concentrated fruit, citrus and mineral flavors. Overall, it showed fine texture, harmony and terrific length. I gave it 94 points, non-blind. At 14 years of age, it could easily have gone another 10 to 15 years.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Franz Künstler Riesling Spätlese Rheingau Hochheimer Kirchenstück 1996 (92, $30).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among recently rated German Rieslings.