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Something Old, Something New: Mainzer Weinbörse, Part I

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 7, 2008 2:52pm ET

The final day of tasting in Germany's Rheingau featured the VDP members presenting the new 2007 vintage. After two days of aged Riesling, it was time to taste some fresh, young wines at the Mainzer Weinbörse.

I tasted about 150 young wines from 2007, mostly Riesling, but a few sparkling wines, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder), Scheurebe, Silvaner and Spätburgunder.

Riesling lovers who cut their teeth on the crisp, elegant style of wines made prior to 1990 will welcome this vintage. Those new to Riesling should enjoy the 2007s for the light, fresh, mineral- and fruit-filled profiles that can only be made in Germany’s northern regions of Mosel, including the Saar and Ruwer Valleys, Nahe, Rheingau and Rheinhessen. The Pfalz, being slightly warmer, continues to establish itself as a source of dry Riesling, along with fuller-bodied, spicy styles of off-dry estate Rieslings and intensely sweet dessert wines.

The 2007 vintage is a return to the light-weight, mineral, floral and fruity Rieslings that are defined by their vibrant structures. They are pure and precise, with tremendous clarity and detail. And there are true kabinette. Think 2004, but with more density and dry extract (all the non-volatile solids and sugars remaining in a wine after the liquid has been evaporated).

A few of the dry-style Rieslings from the northern areas like Mosel and Nahe at the lower end of the quality categories, such as qualitätswein bestimmter anbaugebiete (QbA) and kabinett were austere, but most of the wines I tasted had recently been bottled, so they will need some time to achieve their inner balance.

Unlike the sometimes heavy and plodding 2006s, the ’07s offer a transparency that reveals the individual terroirs.

Here’s a short list of some favorites, all tasted non-blind. Remember it is early in these young wines’ evolutions. Most will improve dramatically with another 6 months in the bottle. Look for my reviews from blind tastings in upcoming issues of Wine Spectator.

From the Mosel (with the 2007 labels, shortened from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer), I was impressed with the pure, mineral and fruit expression of Zilliken’s Riesling Auslese Saarburger Rausch. The Gold Cap was a step up in intensity and concentration. Von Hovel’s Riesling Scharzhofberg Kabinett and Spätlese were precise and slate-filled, as was Schloss Saarstein’s Riesling Spätlese Feinherb (off-dry) and Kabinett, with its peach note and creamy texture.

Karthäuserhof’s Riesling Spätlese Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg showed plenty of fruit and mineral. Always a sucker for a good Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, I found Reichsgraf von Kesselstatts’ ’07 very seductive. It was matched by the black currant intensity of the St.-Urbans-Hof Goldtröpfchen Spätlese and more opulent Auslese.

Another master of the Goldtröpfchen, Theo Haart, of Weingut Reinhold Haart, exhibited wonderful versions in both Kabinett and Spätlese, matching its baroque profile with his leaner, stony Piesporter Grafenberg Kabinett and Spätlese.

I’m sure there must be some brotherly competition between Thomas Haag and younger sibling Oliver, but the real winners are the consumers, for these are some of the most pure and precise expressions of Mosel Riesling. Oliver, making the wines for Fritz Haag, reveals the precision and racy character of the Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr, while Thomas, at the helm of Schloss Lieser, turns out fleshier, more viscerally aromatic and savory versions. And don’t miss his Rieslings from the Lieser Niederberger Helden site.

From the Nahe, Schlossgut Diel’s Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Eierfels was impressive for its clarity and balance. It’s declassified portions of the Burgberg and Goldloch vineyards that didn’t find their way into those Grosses Gewächs bottlings. Emrich-Schönleber’s two sites from Monzingen are always loaded with fruit and minerals and the ’07s are no different. Look for the Frühlingsplätzchen Spätlese, with its elegant and tensile profile. The Halenberg Auslese shows more richness, body, structure and mineral intensity.

The more I taste from Franken, the more I like the wines. It’s also a region where I can be persuaded to stray from Riesling, because Franken is an excellent source of dry Silvaner. The Silvaner Spätlese Trocken Iphofer Julius-Echter Berg “S” and Riesling Spätlese Trocken Iphofer Julius-Echter Berg “S” from Wirsching both offer depth and intensity, with a saline character on the finish.

I also enjoyed the Graf von Schönborn Hallburger Schlossberg Spätlese Trocken in both Riesling and Silvaner.

I know the special bottle from Franken, the bocksbeutel, is a major pain for retailers and sommeliers, but I have to admit, I like it. So here’s a plea to save the bocksbeutel from extinction.

Look for part II of my day at the Mainzer Weinbörse in an upcoming blog.

Zurich, Switzerland —  May 14, 2008 1:14am ET
Dear BruceI am a big fan of german rieslings and have bought both my children some long-lasting botles from their birth years. My question may be somewhat off the topic, but could you share your views on food pairnigs with different sorts of rieslings? I personally drink lighter versions up to the sp¿esen either before or with dinner, in particular with asian or other types of exotic food. The BA's and TBA's either go with desert or all by themselves after dinner. What pairings do you prefer? And what in particular do you eat with Auslesen? Thanks, Merlin
John Osgood
New York, NY —  May 15, 2008 3:39pm ET
Bruce - great work on the site as always. I had the 2006 Dr. L last night with some Chinese take-out and it was off the charts good in the context of $8 a bottle. Any thoughts on the 2007 yet?
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  May 19, 2008 7:14pm ET
Merlin, You have mentioned some of the food pairings I like with kabinett or spatlese, especially Asian and some Indian dishes. The low alcohol and lively acidity works well with the heat and any sweetness in the cuisines. I also like light seafoods with a hint of sweetness, like crab, trout and Arctic char. With the sweeter dessert styles, try fresh fruit tarts, fresh berries and light desserts with hazelnut or passion fruit. I have also found that dishes with yuzu (a citrus fruit from Japan) work well with drier Rieslings.With Auslese, I like richer seafood dishes, like lobster or scallops. With age I find a good auslese can match game birds and even boar or venison, particularly when mushrooms are present in the preparation.
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  May 20, 2008 11:27am ET
John - I hope all is well out at Crystal Springs. I did not taste the Loosen 2007s at the Mainzer Weinborse so I can't comment on the new vintage of DR. L. I agree with you that the 2006 is a delicious bottle of Riesling.
John Osgood
New York, NY —  May 22, 2008 4:08pm ET
Thanks for the response. Have you ever been to Wondee Siam on 9th? Great place to BYOB of Riesling and enjoy authentic Thai cooking.

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