A Riesling Warm-Up

In preparation for our upcoming tasting of venerable Mosel Riesling (1971-1976) I thought I better drink some more Riesling to whet the appetite.  Back in June we tasted some young Rieslings by JJ Prum, one of the top producers in the Mosel.  On the same afternoon (and in very stark contrast) we also enjoyed a Riesling from the Wachau valley in Austria made by Rainer Wess and reviewed below.  The second wine in this article returns to Germany and hails from the stable of Schäfer-Fröhlich, a German winemaker working magic in the Nahe.


Modern, minimalist, delicious.

Rainer Wess, Riesling, Achleiten, Wachau, 2008

Price: £22 from The Wine Society (out of stock)

The wines of the Wachau Valley are responsible for my love of Riesling and are characterised by a bone dry presentation with intense acidity and minerality. Achleiten is one of the top vineyards in the Wachau, rising vertiginously on the North bank of the Danube and known in the valley for its intense minerality and ageing potential.  Given this bottle was from 2008 I expected this to be close to maturity.

The wine was aromatic with typical Riesling notes of kerosene dominating the nose. As with many wines from the Wachau the palate was not fruit driven although there was a fading note of tart cooking apples and a delightful note of Japanese sour plum. The acidity was screaming on this with a huge amount of minerality, typical of the vineyard.

I tasted this wine again on the second day after opening where it demonstrated slightly less attack but with greater dominance of metallic and salty notes. Another few days later the final drop was showing a hint of oxidation but I suspect this could last a fair while longer in bottle.

Impression: This reminds me why I fell in love with Wachau. Not forgiving, certainly not for everyone, but if you like to taste the earth your wine grows in this is a great introduction to the Achleiten terroir

Score: 91/100 (DT)

2016-05-07 23.12.53

Precipitants of tartrate crystals on this stunning cork from Rainer Wess.

Schäfer-Fröhlich, Riesling Spätlese, Bockenauer Felseneck, Nahe, 2006

Nose muted, faint sweet aromatics on swirling. Beautiful Riesling fruit on the palate leading into something like sweet peaches or pink lemonade.  This reminds me of a sweet delicious nectar. There is high acidity keeping the wine focused through to a moderate length finish. Whilst this is simple and has not gained all that much complexity with age it has kept a phenomenal purity. Gold yummy syrup. Its balanced zingy and left my mouth watering.  I am not really sure where this bottle came from or how much it cost but I am very glad I found it in the cellar.

Score: 90/100

Take home point: I need to taste more from these guys.




Young Mosel

Riesling is probably the wine – world’s most heralded white grape. Its most distinctive style, borne out of steep, cool vineyards, is produced in the Mosel valley. These wines are often low in alcohol, boasting perfect harmony between acidity minerality and sweetness. Mosel Riesling (especially.the riper wines) are known to be extraordinarily long- lived, taking on funky, herbal aromas over 20, to 50 years.

There has been a trend over the last decade away from ripe Riesling,  with more and more ‘Trocken’-labelled Riesling being produced. Amidst this trend, JJ Prum have remained true to their terroir, producing intense, concentrated wines with residual sugar. Though we have tasted a fair amount of German Riesling, most of this has been mature. So, we decided to try something young, wondering whether these wines would be ‘unapproachable’ in their acidity and concentration, or whether they would provide the heavenly nectar that we were searching for that Friday evening. This tasting was a super-focussed comparison of two wines differing only in ripeness, from the same vintage and the same vineyard: Wehlener Sonnenuhr.


Currently available from The Wine Society at £24 and £29

Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Germany 2012

So delicious. This had a mid yellow colour, and was extremely fizzy to begin with. The bouquet was extremely floral with elderflower and honeysuckle coming through strongly. Pure lemon, grape and cloudy apple juice on the palate. This is not a long wine, and it was highly addictive. I dare anyone to dislike this wine. It is elegant, focussed and delicious. However, it did not bring the tension, acidity and minerality I was expecting. After couple of hours, it revealed some matchstick aromas, but all other components of its flavour profile were fruit and flowers. 89 points.

Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany 2012

This was visibly more viscous in the glass, and lacked the fizz. The flavour profile was similar, albeit with some subtle differences. The wine was certainly sweeter and riper, with less emphasis on the floral aspects, and more on the apricot and honey. 90 points


Conclusions: These wines were a highly delicious treat. We were surprised  that they were so approachable, and we were surprised that they were not overwhelmingly acidic and mineral. we suspect that the sugar is masking the acidity here, and that with age, this will come through more.

Learning point: Next time, buy a case, so that the development of the wine can be witnessed and appreciated over many years. Indeed, talking about the 2013 release, Katharina Prum, the now director at JJ Prum explains that these wines are “enjoyable now, but also to keep forever

German Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Chambertin

Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and low yields result in high prices. This grape is responsible for my both my best and worst wine experiences.  The best Pinot Noir is always perfumed and may combine this with intensity, elegance or even a beguiling ethereal nature.  At its worst the wines become thin and acidic. It is a grape that adapts phenomenally to terroir.  The patchwork appellation system of Burgundy is an attempt to categorise the myriad expressions of this noble grape.

The Grand Crus of Burgundy hold a hallowed place in the world of wine, but that is not to say they are alone as the top expressions of the grape. Indeed given the cost most of us will need to look elsewhere for anything but the most special of occasions.  The German wine from Stepp below would not be a bad place to start and the new world is also beginning to find its feet.

The below wines were tasted at The Sampler during my recent visit.  I have only minimal exposure to both German Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Burgundy so this was quite a treat. Check out the main article for a review of The Sampler.


Stepp Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany, 2014:

No formal notes on this one but this is a producer I have been very impressed with over the past couple of years.  This was my first chance to taste the Pinot Noir and given it costs around £15 this is top flight for the price point .  I found this savoury, tasty and well balanced with a lot more complexity than I would expect at this point. I will be buying again soon. Bravo.

Leflaive & Associe, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011:

I think this was probably too young to really get into.  It had an intensity but seemed somewhat closed.  Strangely this also had a strong note of capsicum running through both nose and palate, overlying rich fruit and good structure.  Medium body and tannin, warming rich and well balanced. At the moment I am unsure where this one is going but it has potential and is an interesting semi savoury, semi sweet expression of Pinot Noir.  Hopefully time will pull all the elements together.

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011:

Aromatic, sensuous, deliciously rich red fruit. In contrast to the wine above this was 100% together. The body was medium and the balance impeccable. Given this is so young I dread to think how good this can become with time. They talk about Bordeaux being cerebral and Burgundy being well, something else. My lack of tasting note says it all – this had us all with smiles from ear to ear: Simply Marvellous.