Richard Mark James' wine & travel blog
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Germany: Von Buhl, mega Riesling, Terrassen-Mosel; St. Urbans-Hof, Selbach-Oster, Fritz Haag - Mosel; Darting, Lingenfelder - Pfalz; biodynamic, international Riesling review; Prüm & Künstler.

Latest German wine post here: "Wines of the mo" - Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2006 (Feb 2014). Click on the link.

"2011 vintage Riesling tasting with Nik Weis... plus a couple of top 10-year retro Rieslings thrown in as a timely reminder of what a great vintage 2001 was..." Click on title above. (December 2012)

Reichsrat von Buhl Grand Cru tasting
"Or 'Grosses Gewächs' tasting to be precise, although the German equivalent of 'Grand Cru' does sound more like a term of abuse than a term describing a first-rate vineyard site..." Sensational taste-off of 2009 vs 2010 dry Rieslings, sublime 2010 sweet wines and "a little surprise" vintage from the past... Read on below now! Posted November 2011.

Blue Nun: retro chic & Indian food (Aug 2011). Click on the link.

Darting Estate Riesling (Feb 2011). Click on the link.

Riesling Riesling & Riesling
Or "a couple of racy German tastings combined..." Including star Rieslings from Kloster Eberbach, Schloss Schönborn, Weingut Barth, Weingut George, Markus Molitor, Kruger-Rumpf and Von Buhl... Plus a few comments to try and clarify some of the place name and "quality" terminology you find on German wine labels. Read on below to find out more! Posted September 2010.

Wines of the moment (March 2010) 1995 Fritz Haag Riesling Auslese and HERE. Click on the links.

Terrassen-Mosel
"Slanted-slated (as in stone rather than stoned) tour of mega-steep Winninger Uhlen and Bremmer Calmont: expect plenty of right-angle Rieslings, extreme vineyard walking and vertigo vistas..." "They say the dividing line between madness and genius is often a very narrow tightrope. When you stand at the bottom of this vineyard and look up and up in awe, you're not sure at first which word applies. But tasting the intense pure Rieslings that derive from it soon convinces you of the sheer brilliance at work here..." Featured estates: Fries - Richard Richter - Domgartenhof - Kröber - Heymann-Löwenstein - Knebel - Freiherr Heddesdorff - Vinitorum Quaterni - Reinhold Franzen - Stein - Laurentiushof - Klitzekleine Ring - Melsheimer - Müllen - Vollenweider - Böcking - Staffelter Hof - Moog. Scroll down for the full story below! Published January 2009.


More German wine words towards the bottom of this page: Biodynamic growers "return to terroir" (2006), "International Riesling review" tasting report from 2005, Lingenfelder's "Vineyard Creatures" from 2004 and possibly lots more from the 90s to follow...


The Von Buhl team with Christoph Graf second from right
Reichsrat von Buhl Grand Cru tasting

Or "Grosses Gewächs" tasting to be precise, although the German equivalent of "Grand Cru" does sound more like a term of abuse than a term describing a first-rate vineyard site. I've been a fan of celebrated Von Buhl estate for quite a long time – I actually went there, to their cellar huddled up in old town Deidesheim in the Rheinpfalz region, back in the wispy mists of time in spring 1996, although tried their wines on and off throughout the 90s and early 2000s in particular – so didn't hesitate for a click of an email accepting an invitation to a tutored tasting by winery boss Christoph Graf, who was in London in September (2011) to introduce the launch of their very exciting 2010 vintage Rieslings. It’d been a while too since I last set foot in Harrods wine department, which I remember, going back a bit, as a slightly dark and dingy downstairs place but has since been transformed into a smart radiant basement cellar with wine & snack bar attached. Anyway, their UK importer, World Wine Agencies (WWA) in Bath, had booked a cosy private room discreetly tucked away in a corner of said shop.
Christoph filled us in on the background and thinking behind their Sekt range (traditional method sparkling wines), which Von Buhl started making themselves in 1994 and were lined up as the first flight of wines. The company has now separated Sekt production from their other wines and vineyards, with a new dedicated press house due to be in operation next year and a team of people concentrating entirely on fizz from grape selection to winemaking and ageing. “We want to continue focusing on Riesling and Pinot Noir based wines,” Christoph explained, “for our two Pfalz styles that don’t copy Champagne: crisper, juicier and ‘winier’ with no malo-lactic fermentation (to retain acidity) and no reserve wines, which is more difficult with Riesling anyway.” As you’d expect, the new cellar is fully automated with now standard Champagne-method winemaking equipment such as giro-palettes (giant cages used for bottle-fermentation and lees-ageing that jolt and tilt the bottles upwards), because “these now do the job in three to five days,” as he put it succinctly.
Back to the Reichsrat von Buhl estate itself, which was “already very famous by the 19th Century then was split up into three vineyards,” including what’s now their equally famous neighbour Bassermann-Jordan. Von Buhl comes to 62 hectares (ha = +150 acres) planted with 87% Riesling and 8% Pinot Noir with the rest occupied by Sauvignon blanc, Gewurztraminer and other aromatic varieties. This impressive stretch of vine-land takes in Von Buhl’s holdings in most of the area’s designated Grosses Gewächs sites - see Flight 2 and notes below for a smidgen more detail on these sometimes curiously named plots. Christoph added: “We’ve gradually converted most of it over to organic and introduced some biodynamic methods in the Grosses Gewächs sites.” Comparing Von Buhl to those illustrious neighbours, he went on to say that “we’ve changed the style over the last 15 years to more ‘mineral’ to differentiate ourselves from, say, Bassermann-Jordan or Bürklin-Wolf.”
Moving on to vintage 2010, Christoph described it as “lighter, crisper and more intense than 2009, which was riper, fuller, more exotic even and harvested over a six week period!” 2010 mirrored weather patterns seen elsewhere in Europe, with a long cold winter, warm spring followed by cool wet May (they lost a quarter of the crop as flowering had started), which was a root cause of the low yields finally produced yet from extremely ripe fruit and high in extract thanks to June and July. August was then wet again helping to hold on to high acidity levels set against average ripeness at this stage, yet with plenty of sugar in the grapes. A hot September, although with cooler nights, compounded this contrast leading to picking in October with +13% potential alcohol at Grosses Gewächs level yet 11 grams/litre acidity (very high), even if “this went down quite a lot during fermentation.” They decided to actually stop the fermentation of the dry 2010s to balance out this acidity with a hint of 'sweetness', hence the higher residual sugar levels on these wines than the 2009s (see flight 2).
For the sake of sanity, I've attempted not to go too mad on the analytical techie info front. But, in particular, the loving relationship between residual sugar (RS which is measured in grams/litre or g/l in the finished wine) and acidity level (also in g/l) is significant in fine German wines, especially when comparing two quite different vintages. Putting these figures alongside a wine can actually enhance understanding in terms of taste profile and mouth-feel, hopefully helped along by my comments and notes making it clearer what all this winemaker jargon means...

FLIGHT 1: sparkling wines

2009 RVB Spätburgunder Rosé Sekt Brut (100% Pinot Noir with two hours skin contact before pressing, second fermentation and 14 months lees-ageing in bottle. Approx 12% alcohol and 10 grams/litre both residual sugar/acidity) – delicate pink shade, subtle bready notes and rose petal aromas, some sweet vs tangy red fruit flavours underpinned by lees tones, crisp bite and lively mouth-feel vs rounder fruitier side; quite delicate and tasty with elegant length, not very rosé although attractive in that fresher tighter style. £21 WWA
2009 RVB Riesling Sekt Brut (14 months bottle-ageing; approx. 12.5% alc, 8 RS, 9 acid) – aromatic floral citrus Riesling aromas, a hint of SO2? (sulphur dioxide, a preservative although yeast-lees ageing produces natural sulphites too). Touches of almond biscuits, very crisp and steely palate vs developing oily notes, gets leesier and fuller on the finish vs lovely dry bite; lively length and almost 'salty', this has a bit more class too. £18 Avery's
2008 Forster Pechstein Riesling Sekt Brut (26-30 months ageing; approx. 12% alc, 8 RS, 10 acid) – oilier more developed nose with lightly toasty edges, 'chalkier' and 'saltier' mouth-feel than the other two, delicate and very crisp mouthwatering palate vs oily texture and hints of oat biscuit; tight fine finish, pretty dry and steely vs again that touch of sweet/oily fruit. Very good. £25 WWA
2004 RVB Blanc de Noir Sekt Brut (Spätburgunder, 6 years ageing; approx. 12% alc, 11 RS, 7 acid) – SO2? or something like 'dirty' lees in the background, a bit musty almost; yeasty vs crisp palate profile, seems a little stripped of flavour? Not sure if this bottle was a bit funny or I just didn't like it! £29 WWA
Although Von Buhl's Sekt wines are pretty classic, they seem a touch dear in a UK retail context. In Germany, they sell from €12 and upwards, which I'd imagine is their main market by far knowing how much fizz our German friends like to consume (Sekt, Cava, Prosecco etc.) and how low the tax is on wine!

FLIGHT 2: Grosses Gewächs dry Rieslings 2009 vs 2010

Kirchenstück
But first, a few promised words on these "Grand Cru" sites. Reiterpfad ("Rider's path") is the largest at 87 ha (215 acres) of terraces lying to the west of Ruppertsberg, which runs into Deidesheim to the north. The other Grosses Gewächs tasted here all rub up against the west side of the village of Forst, which lies just north of Deidesheim. Ungeheuer ("Monster") ironically measures a slimmer 29 ha (75 acres) at slightly higher altitude (up to 170m above sea level), Pechstein ("Bad luck stone" I think) has 15 southeast-facing hectares (37 acres) rich in black basalt and almost a third of it is owned by Von Buhl, as is Jesuitengarten (7 ha in total = 17 acres). They also have about a quarter of holdings in Kirchenstück ("Church lot"), which is one of the smallest vineyards at 3.7 ha (9 acres) and rated as one of the best in the Pfalz region with its heady mix of basalt, sandstone, limestone and clay soils.

2009 Reiterpfad Riesling (13% alcohol, 6.8 g/l acidity, 3.2 g/l residual sugar) - quite ripe citrus towards exotic oily and peach notes, lees undertones too; quite punchy vs juicy palate, subtle crisp bite reins in its nice richness, has fair extract and weight vs concentrated mouth-feel.
2009 Ungeheuer Riesling (13% alc, 7.2 acid, 3.8 RS) - almost toasty lees aromas, very concentrated and intense, punchy start then tightens up with enticing steely vs rich profile; nicer palate than that awkward nose ending up tangier, fairly dry and quite fine. Good stuff.
2009 Pechstein Riesling (13.5% alc, 7 acid, 3.6 RS) - quite closed up nose, moves on to again a full-on and towards exotic palate, more structured though with 'salty' mineral edges, developing oily tones with fair power, attractive length finishing tighter and less obvious than expected. Very good, needs more time to express itself better.
2009 Kirchenstück Riesling (13.5% alc, 6.8 acid, 3.8 RS) - also a little closed on the nose, leading on to a more intense mineral and citrus palate vs richer apricot flavours, tight fine finish actually tasting drier than above despite having ever so slightly more RS and tiny bit less acidity. Lovely wine, very promising.
2010 Reiterpfad Riesling (13.5% alc, 9 g/l RS vs 11 g/l acidity) - pure mineral celery notes, very intense lime too vs rich and concentrated, lovely extract and flavours with steely bite; very long finish with tangy citrus vs sweeter more exotic touches, spicy as well reminiscent of an Austrian Riesling. Very good again. £31.75 Great Western Wine.
2010 Ungeheuer Riesling (13% alc, 7 RS vs 11.4 acid) - intricate yeasty aromas with citrus edges, not very revealing at the moment; amazing palate, very concentrated vs very crisp and mineral, super intense lime fruit vs rich extract, salty steely finish vs full-on flavour; very "wow" effect but it's balanced too. Great promise. £29 Handford Wines, Hennings.
2010 Pechstein Riesling (12.5% alc, 6.3 RS vs 10.9 acid) - yeasty celery tones vs again that intense lime, kiwi and white peach; turns towards apricot vs steely salty mouth-feel, superb intense long finish with lingering lush vs mineral contrast. Could be pretty sensational. £29 Avery's, Jascots.
2010 Kirchenstück Riesling (13% alc, 7 RS vs 11 acid) - mineral celery hints vs delicious lemon and lime fruit, floral and yeasty notes too; wow, rich lime supported by lees complexity, fuller and rounder vs that refreshing salty tang; very long and intense with tight vs lush profile, needs a few years to come together fully. Brilliant. £66 Handford, Hennings.
Although the 2009s did feed my raunchy Riesling addiction very nicely and certain ones are particularly stylish, the vintage as a whole seems a little bolder and more full-on than 2010, which makes an attractive change perhaps but not so "classic" if that really matters. I couldn't help being swept away by the sensational lively intensity of the 2010s, which are obviously still very young at this stage, and that ripe lime fruit character yet almost salty mineral bite to them.

FLIGHT 3: 2010 sweet Rieslings

The build-up to this flight of wines was somewhat heightened by Christoph's statement that “2010 is one of the best in the last 25 years for noble sweet wines,” he enthused, thanks to the “rich residual sugar content vs sky-high acidity...” These 2010s are already bottled “to let them age reductively” (in the virtual absence of oxygen, unlike maturing in cask), which they certainly do need and plenty of it before blossoming into real nectar…

2010 Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese (9% alcohol, 12 acidity, 80+ residual sugar) - described as a “classic” Spätlese year, this wine contains 10% botrytis (noble rot) affected bunches. Opulent exotic raisined aromas with spicy mineral celery tones, lush grapey flavours vs crisp steely bite, slightly odd sweet and sour finish but it works in a grapey vs salty way! Tastes medium-dry almost thanks to that refreshing acidity, although those exotic botrytised edges linger too. Very good indeed. £29 WWA
2010 Reiterpfad Riesling Auslese (10% alc, 14.5 acid, 136 RS) - nearly 100% botrytis but “the berries weren’t dried out like for the Beerenauslese.” Delicious rich exotic grapey apricot and honey nose with spicy floral notes too; lush raisined palate with intense sweet vs tangy profile, has amazing mineral undercut balancing that dried exotic fruit, finishing with rich coating vs orange and lemon cut, very long and very stylish. £19.50 WWA
2010 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese (9.5% alc, 14.5 acid, 130 RS) - more mineral and less exotic in style although still has very lush grapey dried fruit character; huge extract with sultana and honey flavours, very crisp mineral bite vs rich sweet mouth-feel, incredible ‘power’ (not from the alcohol though) vs cut on the finish. Superb wine. £19.50 Avery’s
2010 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Beerenauslese (7.5% alc, 17 acid, 177 RS) - relatively closed nose actually with honeyed undertones, super rich raisined palate with dried apricot vs spicy orange and lime, intense flavour and extract underlined by extraordinary fresh acidity carrying it for kilometres vs all that sweet dried fruit cocktail. Sensational with huge ageing potential. £50.00 WWA

Finale: “a little surprise”

Mystery guest wine: toffee brown / orangey copper tinges, very complex toffee raisin date and marmalade notes, this has endless aromas and flavours… Moves on to oxidising nutty pecan touches, rounded and rich with raisin and light coconut too vs good acidity / orange and citrus peel underneath; there’s some sweetness there but it’s deceptive with those almost savoury characters vs toffee apple and toasted pecans, drying out a little but it has fair weight / alcohol lurking underneath. Wow, I’ve not tasted many wines like this!
Some of us (including me) plumped for a great vintage from the 1970s, but we were way off the mark: this was a 1945 Riesling Beerenauslese from a forgotten vineyard called Vogelsang in Deidesheim! Understated conclusion: I think you can safely say that some of Von Buhl’s wines do indeed age magnificently!

UK stockists of Von Buhl wines include Avery’s, Bottle Apostle (London), Harrods (London), Handford Wines (London), Hennings (Sussex), Great Western Wine (Bath), Jascots (London), Villeneuve Wines (Scotland), Woodwinters (Scotland). You'll find a couple of other vintages (2008, 2007) of two of these wines in the feature below, and possibly a few from the 90s might turn up eventually too if I ever salvage some old material from my old site... More info @ reichsrat-von-buhl.de. Published Nov. 2011. All rights Richard M James. Photos courtesy of the winery.



Riesling Riesling & Riesling: "a couple of racy German tastings combined..."

Two dozen racy German Rieslings tasted in May 2010 at the London Wine Fair or July 2010 in the south of France, of all places, (the latter wines stating €uro prices) at Domaine Treloar in Trouillas, thanks to their German importer Rindchen's who brought a couple of cases with him on the family hols! First off, I thought a few comments might be helpful here to try and clarify some of the place name and "quality" terminology you find on German wine labels.
Taking the first wine from Franken, opposite, as an example: Weingut Hans Wirsching, the easy bit = estate/winery name. Iphöfer = subzone or village area/place name. Kronsberg = vineyard site(s). Kabinett = traditional "quality" category meaning the grapes were at a certain ripeness/sugar level. Hmm, this is where it can get a bit vague, in relation to what the wine actually tastes like, and probably more confusing if you bring the techno criteria for Kabinett into the equation, which vary from one region to the next. Kabinett wines can be dry, off-dry, medium-dry or medium-sweet even! However, quoting the techno data for this wine might help as an example, although I've no intention of turning this feature into a lot of winemaker talk!

Hans Wirsching's wine has 5.4 g/l residual sugar (usually just off-dry) with 7.5 g/l acidity (fairly high), which makes it taste pretty dry in the end although with 12.5% alcohol (higher than traditional medium-style Kabinetts) has a rounder palate than others. A classic Kabinett from, say, the generally cooler Mosel region would probably have a similar or higher acidity level but, at below 10% alc., less of the natural sugar has been fermented out; hence why there's more left i.e. residual sugar in the wine. See what I mean. There's a trend in Germany to make more dry wines anyway and focus less on time-honoured terminology and accepted taste profile. There's quite a good explanatory blurb on this "Predicate" ripeness system on leading Mosel winemaker Markus Molitor's website (pictured below alongside two of his excellent Rieslings: click on "English version" then the link in the left-hand menu), who makes both types.
Then there's Spätlese (late harvest) and Auslese (selected late-harvested bunches) "traditional" styles, which run from medium to very sweet... unless they're "dry" or "trocken"! Which, when made "trocken" combined with, say, Spätlese quality grapes, will give you a clue that the wine will be more full-bodied (higher alcohol) rather than how sweet... Some winemakers just concentrate on highlighting their name, Riesling and the vintage on the label; or put a lengthy vineyard name on the back and say if it's "trocken" or "halbtrocken" (medium dry). You'll now also see terms such as "Erstes" or "Grosses Gewächs," which is the German equivalent of Premier or Grand Cru if you like; certain regions e.g. Rheingau, Nahe, Pfalz have mapped out and drawn up an extra quality classification based on performance of a site over a long time period, in a similar way to Burgundy.




Rheingau

Weingut Fritz Allendorf 2009 Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Kabinett (11.5%) - quite delicate style, tight and zesty palate getting more intense and mineral on the finish. Still very young. 87
Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach 2008 Rauenthal Baiken Riesling Erstes Gewächs (11.5%) - honeyed and oily vs "chalky", a tad sweeter vs crisp zesty and mineral mouth-feel, zingy citrus vs oily Riesling development; that extra bit of sugar (10 g/l residual) works well here vs its intense and racy style. 90+
Schloss Schönborn 2008 Erbach Marcobrunn Riesling Erstes Gewächs (13.5%) - honeyed and floral, quite exotic actually with a hint of sweetness vs searing bite of acidity and great length; relatively weighty mouth-feel too vs oily mineral Riesling side and good extract. 90
Wein- und Sektgut Barth 2008 Hattenheim Hassel Riesling Erstes Gewächs (12%) - honeyed and oily with lightly exotic fruit vs spicy "chalky" palate, rounded with a touch of sweetness vs lovely bite and length. 90+
Weingut George 2009 Rudesheimer Bischofsberg Riesling (13.5%) - classic Riesling nose vs surprisingly full-bodied on the palate; "chalky" acidity vs attractive slightly exotic flavours, although still very Riesling finish. €8.95 87+
Weingut George 2009 Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling - complex herbal / "stoney" nose vs ripe citrus tones; lively zesty mouth-feel vs concentrated peachy & honeyed fruit, spicy and steely too; classy wine with zesty/"chalky" vs relatively rich profile with fine length. €12.95 90+
Weingut Paul Laquai 2008 Lorcher Kapellenberg Riesling (12.5%) - nice minerally Riesling aromas, elegant nose; turning honeyed with a touch of roundness vs zesty "chalky" mouth-feel, subtle acidity and concentration with zippy "stoney" finish; closes up with tight acid structure, lightly perfumed and classy. €9.80 88+

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Weingut M & N Lorenz 2009 Pölicher Held Riesling - floral peachy and citrusy on the nose; juicy textured palate with good intensity of fruit vs subtle acidity, softer style with attractive mix of mineral texture vs richer "sweeter" finish; drinking quite nicely now actually. €6.95 87
Weingut Markus Molitor 2007 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett - quite mineral nose with celery and smoky flint tones, more developed / oilier too; lively and intense with nice citrus fruit vs oily touches, long balanced finish showing fresh acidity vs just a hint of sweetness (although according to their website, this is a trocken style?) and concentrated; pretty classic. €10.95 90
Weingut Markus Molitor 2003 Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Auslese (7.5%) - waxy "petrol" notes, complex mix of dried fruits and linseed oil; enticing "sweet vs sour" palate, rich and exotic vs steely and tight still; has lots of flavour and aged character, then fresher finish and not so sweet in the end. €15.90 92+
Weingut Rebenhof 2009 Urziger Würzgarten Riesling - riper "sweeter" nose, still very Riesling though; shows fair depth with celery vs sweet citrus, lightly "chalky" texture with underlying acidity; nice balance again, a tad sweeter than some of the others but quite intense too. €10 87
Weingut Fuchs 2007 Unner Spitz Riesling - nice elegant oily Riesling development with flowery notes too; lightly peachy palate vs maturing "petrol" characters, leaner and lighter than some with fresh acidity vs developed fruit. €7.80 87

Pfalz

Reichsrat von Buhl 2007 Forster Pechstein Riesling Sekt (traditional method sparkling) - subtle and elegant "chalky" mineral nose with lightly yeasty biscuit edges and citrus fruit too; zesty quite dry fizz with mineral/acid bite, nice length with refreshing acidity and off-dry finish. Expensive though at €16.95. 85-87
Reichsrat von Buhl 2008 Pechstein Riesling Grosses Gewächs - delicious nose, oily and maturing with apricot and spice notes; quite concentrated and full vs steely backdrop, very long and intense vs oily textured vs crisp and classy; needs time. €29.80 90-92
Weingut Axel Neiss 2009 Kindenheimer Grafenstuck Riesling - ripe yet lively nose, again has appealing mineral vs peachy honeyed profile; quite full vs crisp and steely mouth-feel, nice nutty almond flavours too; well balanced although closes up, quite long and "stoney" on the finish. €9.80 87


Franken


Weingut Hans Wirsching 2009 Iphöfer Kronsberg Riesling Kabinett (12.5%) - limey "chalky" and lively with enticing lees edges, pretty crisp and dry with nice zingy mineral finish. 87+
Weingut Johannes Deppisch 2008 Erlenbacher Krähenschnabel Riesling Kabinett (11.5%) - more honeyed and oily in profile vs again nice crisp bite and zesty finish, steely and elegant too. 87+

Nahe

Weingut Kruger-Rumpf 2009 Pittersberg Riesling (12.5%) - more citrusy to start then quite "chalky" textured, pretty intense and dry with steely acidity and elegant finish. 89
Weingut Kruger-Rumpf 2009 Quarzit Riesling - again pretty classic Riesling nose with perfumed honeyed vs mineral profile; nice juicy palate with crisp acidity vs a tad of roundness/sugar, clean and youthful finish. €7.95 87
Weingut Kruger-Rumpf 2008 Kapellenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs - fine aromatic mineral / celery nose; tight and steely, quite closed up and unrevealing with firm acidity and mineral Riesling-ness; fine and promising even if hard work at the moment! €23.40 90+
Weingut Udo Weber 2009 Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling (8.5%) - floral grapey and peachy, sweeter style with attractive Riesling character; quite lush vs underlining acidity giving nice cut. €12.80 87+

Rheinhessen

Weingut Winzerfamilie Flick 2009 Gau-Odernheimer Riesling (12.5%) - intense zesty lees-y notes and gummy mineral style, incisive vs textured with crisp off-dry finish. Very nice. 87+
Weingut Antony 2008 Bechtheimer Geyersberg "Handschrift" Riesling Spätlese (12%) - Handschrift meaning "signature" I think. More delicate than some of the others with "stoney" profile underpinned by lees notes; very steely, dry-ish and mineral finish. 87
Weingut Peth-Wetz 2009 Hungerbiene Riesling - different style again, zesty peachy wine with appealing rounded vs juicy palate and subtle acidity; a touch of sugar and easier going style with attractive fuller profile. €7.95 85+

All rights text © Richard M James September 2010. Photos courtesy of the German Wine Institute.




Terrassen-Mosel: Winninger Uhlen & Bremmer Calmont
"Extreme vineyard walking, right-angle Rieslings & Mosel-side eating..."

WINES

Winningen

Weingut Fries: Reiner & Anke www.weingut-fries.de
Over lunch at Hotel Moselblick on the outskirts of Winningen itself (very nice restaurant by the way - food, decor and setting), 1 December 2008:
2006 Apollo-Terrassen Riesling trocken (13%) - lightly peachy and honeyed aromas; nice purity and style with grapey v mineral notes, fresh acidity v rounded mouth-feel with off-dry finish. Attractive balance between dry-ish, quite rich, mineral bite and weight; good with the pike-perch starter and delicious with the pork dish. 88+
And later at a walk-around tasting in the local Vinothek:
2007 Apollo-Terrassen Riesling trocken - has some of those exotic aromas and flavours followed by a steelier zestier palate; lovely intense citrus fruit and mineral core v riper oily finish. €8.20 89+
2007 Winninger Uhlen (WU) Riesling trocken von alten Reben (old vines) August-Horch-Edition 2008 - more 'pungent' and gummy on the nose, again concentrated and tasty with lime intensity, oily v zippy texture; closes up on its long fine finish. €12.50 90+
2007 Apollo-Terrassen Riesling feinherb - pretty similar in character to the dry 07 above but with a touch of sweetness (which is what feinherb is in fact). €8.20 87+
2007 WU Riesling Spätlese - a slight waft of SO2 on the nose, but moves on to an attractive mix of weight and sweetness, exotic fruit and oily texture v zesty mineral bite; only 9.5% alcohol yet has tantalising balance and zingy gummy v medium-dry/sweet finish. 90-92


Weingut Richard Richter: Thomas & Claus-Martin www.weingut-richter.net (see below)
2007 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken - perfumed and lightly exotic honeyed grapey aromas; zesty citrus & mineral mouth-feel v oily and a bit of weight, then crisp length. 87-89
2001 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken - quite developed oily/petrol nose with dried apricot notes, maturing creamy fruit v zesty cut, beginning to oxidise a little adding caramel flavours onto that mineral bite. 87-89
1996 WU Riesling Spätlese - mature almost burnt (SO2?) aromas lead on to a very intense palate with raisins and mature sweet fruit, cut by incredibly fresh acidity (9 grams/litre {g/l} = high) creating a lively finish. Wow. 90+
2005 WU Riesling Beerenauslese - voluptuous developing nose, very raisiny and concentrated sweetness v again that fine acid structure and panache; honey and fig v orange peel flavours to finish. 92-94


Weingut Domgartenhof: Günter Kröber www.domgartenhof.de
2007 WU Riesling Spätlese feinherb - lively yeast-lees notes add to its intense honey v mineral palate, crisp and zesty v off-dry/medium finish. Nice style. €9 87-89
2007 WU Hochgewächs Riesling Spätlese - similar in style although richer and more intense; actually tastes fresher / more mineral even, so it doesn't seem any sweeter. 89+
2006 WU Riesling Spätlese feinherb - delicious ripe v flowery style; big, lush and less elegant but still very nice. €9.50 88+?
2005 WU Riesling Spätlese feinherb - more 'classic' (whatever that means) nose with maturing mineral / oily Riesling notes; quite rich and concentrated with lovely cut and length. Yum. 90-92


Weingut Kröber: Rüdiger & Ute www.weingut-kroeber.de
2007 Uhlen S WU Riesling Kabinett trocken (12%) - slightly more exotic apricot and raisin notes; moving on to a gummy mineral palate with attractive fresh length, elegant and intense. €6.80 87-89
2007 Uhlen T WU Riesling Kabinett trocken (12.5%) - leesier v riper / richer, appealingly concentrated & vibrant berry & herb notes v oily texture; fresh cut and a tad more weight to finish. €7.70 89
2007 Uhlen Nr. 1 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken (13%) - fuller and seems zippier (although acidity is about the same as above two), more intense with snappy mineral mouth-feel and oily texture v yeast-lees intensity. €12.50 90
2005 Uhlen Nr. 1 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken (13%) - more developed and raisiny, pretty concentrated and petrolly v perfumed and exotic; attractive leesy intensity with crisp mineral palate v weightier finish. 90-92
2005 WU Riesling Beerenauslese (160 g/l residual sugar {RS}, 7.8 g/l acidity {TA}, 8.5%) - complex honey, raisin and linseed oil aromas; super concentration and lush sweetness, lovely fresh mineral bite v teeth-coating sugar. Wow. €30 half-bottle. 92-94


Weingut Heymann-Löwenstein: Reinhard & Cornelia www.heymann-loewenstein.com
2007 Uhlen B (Blaufüsser Lay) Riesling - leesy gummy nose moves on to quite tight mouth-feel with zesty citrus and mineral characters/flavours; fine length, a bit awkward and closed up at the moment. 88-90
2007 Uhlen L (Laubach) Riesling - different in style, 'chalkier' and more intense palate, very fresh and mineral finish. Again needs a few months to come out of itself. 89-91
2006 Uhlen R (Roth Lay) Riesling (12.5%) - richer (the vintage was) showing more honey and apricot fruit; lovely zingy palate underpinned by elegant acidity, mouth-watering finish too. 90-92
2007 Uhlen Auslese 'R' - delicious voluptuous apricot nose, concentration and richness; zingy mineral acidity gives nice cut, sweet and very long with superb balance. 92-94


Weingut Knebel: Reinhard & Beate www.weingut-knebel.de
2007 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken - yeast lees notes with exotic perfumed edges; oily texture v bitter twist and very crisp bite, good although lacks finesse perhaps. €14.50 87+
2007 Auslese - glamorous gourmet nose: honey, dried apricot and mango; fresh acidity adds to its mineral profile and quite fine finish. €23 half-bottle. 89+
2005 Auslese - much more developed, rich and voluptuous; intricate v sweet flavours finishing with fresh balance and style. 92
2007 Beerenauslese - wow, very rich with intense apricot and honey; raisiny oily texture v 'chalky' acidity and citrus peel flavours brushing down your cheeks, although in the end is there enough acid to keep the structure tight? €105 half-bottle. 92+?

Freiherr von Heddesdorff: Andreas von Canal www.vonheddesdorff.de
2007 WU Riesling trocken (12.5%) - pungent yeast-lees notes on the nose; concentrated, oily and honeyed v fine, delicate and zingy; elusive long finish, very nice. Great value too @ €6. 88+
2007 WU Riesling Kabinett trocken (12%) - gummier and 'fuller' showing similar intensity of honey v herbal fruit, delicious zip and style. Ditto for value €6.50. 90
2007 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken (13%) - leesier and a touch more complex, very lively and fresh v subtle vibrant almost curranty Riesling fruit. Wow. Impressive for €9.30. 90-92
2006 WU Riesling Spätlese trocken (15%) - big and blowsy (that alcohol figure is right!) with lots of raisined fruit, weighty mouth-feel v pretty high acidity. A little unbalanced but certainly unusual. 87
2007 WU Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken (11.5%) - yeast-lees touches add nice texture, similar profile to the dry Kab above with a less zippy finish (even though acidity is about the same). €6.50 85+
2007 WU Riesling Kabinett fruchtsüss (9.5%) - vibrant curranty and leesy, raisin v citrus fruit; again very zesty with fresh acidity making it taste on the drier side of sweet. €6.50 87+
2005 WU Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese (377 RS, 11.7 TA, 6% alc) - deep golden and viscous, incredible compressed raisins and exotic dark honey on the nose; very rich and very sweet caramelised grape juice flavours, yet it's so lively at the same time with maturing oily complexity on its tight acid framework. Has years of life in it. €60 half-bottle. 95-97
The von Canal family also rents out three holiday flats, available by the night as well. Details on their website.




Winninger Uhlen from www.heymann-loewenstein.com
Bremm


VQ (Vinitorum Quaterni): Heinz Berg www.vinitorum-quaterni.de / www.calmontwein.de
2007 Bremmer Calmont (BC) Riesling (c.10 RS, 12.5%) - very nice, pure mineral Riesling style with gummy yeast-lees, zesty citrus and oily notes/textures; well-balanced with quite fresh acidity and off-dry finish. Made from young vines (planted in 2004), so one to watch as it's already attractive and stylish, with greater depth from vine age should become quite fine. 87+


Weingut Reinhold Franzen: Ulrich & Iris www.weingut-franzen.de
2007 Riesling von Quarzit-Schiefer QbA (11.5%) - soft honey and citrus style with lightly 'chalky' texture, lacks a bit of zip finishing a tad bland although a nice sipper with the soup; surprisingly developed too / volatile? €6.50 80+
2007 BC Riesling trocken (12.5%) - showing quite nutty and honeyed development, moving on to slightly 'real cider' in style; juicy v quite oily v some mineral zest, again loses it a little and lacks depth. €9.50 83-85
2007 BC Riesling trocken Goldkapsel Grosses Gewächs - similar profile although richer, more honeyed v more mineral and oily; elegant concentration and zest with nice weight and depth v 'chalky' texture and length. €16 87+
2007 Calidus Mons (BC) Riesling - has that characteristic cider/volatile nose with pretty full-on honey notes; bigger and sweeter v 'chalky' mouth-feel, quite rich yet with attractive zesty cheek pinch, oily & lush texture/flavour balanced by subtle cut. €27.50 88-90
2006 BC Riesling Auslese (120 RS, 10.5%, +8 TA) - seductive honey dried apricot and spicy 'rot' notes on the nose, very sweet and exotic; weighty, very rich and a touch cloying, impressive but lacks zip and signature although it might come together better? Typical 2006 I guess. €45 half-bottle 87-89


Weingut Stein: Dr. Ulrich, Peter & Danah www.stein-weine.de
2006 BC Riesling Spätlese trocken (12%) - nice ripe citrus with honey and oil tones, aromatic and quite rich; fairly serious cut and zip adding 'chalky' mineral texture and off-dry finish v attractive lingering fruit. €9.50 87-89
2007 BC Riesling Spätlese trocken (12%) - zestier style with more mineral nose, slightly exotic too v lively and crisp mouth-feel; nice concentration, purity and focused length, elegant well-balanced with steely v oily aftertaste. 88-90
2002 Spätlese (11.5%) - wow, toasty petrol aromas and wilder style (natural yeast fermentation only until its stopped); rich and oily v crisp backbone, attractive weighty texture within its zippy framework and fine finish. 88-90
2002 Auslese (11%) - exotic honey and mushroom notes, voluptuous sweetness and vibrant noble rot character; turning into mature Riesling 'minerality' on the palate with 'chalky' texture v rich mouth-coating juiciness held together by fine acid structure; actually retains it old Riesling extract and style, not just exotic late harvest / botrytis taking over (apparently there wasn't too much of the latter in 02), and classy length carrying the wine nicely. Good value really at €14 for 50cl. 92-94


Weingut Laurentiushof: Thomas Franzen-Martiny www.weingut-laurentiushof.de
2007 BC Riesling Spätlese feinherb (12%) - subtle oily honey and ripe grapefruit nose; showing pretty 'mineral' development already on the palate v elegant cheeky acidity v soft-ish texture, slightly sweet finish although overall it's an attractive style; perhaps I'd prefer it a bit drier. €8.50 87
2007 BC Riesling Smaragd (12%) - selected berries with about 20% noble rot. Similar profile but with greater intensity and depth initially, tastes a tad zestier (although lower acidity than above) then sweeter finish showing a bit less focus; in the end more up-front in appeal, just not sure about the finish or something? Maybe just not showing very well at the moment.
Sekt (sparkling Riesling) - we tried some of this up in the vineyards earlier: quite toasty and rich with good yeast-lees depth and texture, somewhat off-dry style but very nice.
The Franzen-Martiny family owns a guesthouse as well: see website for B&B rates.


WORDS


Winninger Uhlen

They say the dividing line between madness and genius is often a very narrow tightrope. When you stand at the bottom of this vineyard and look up and up in awe, you're not sure at first which word applies. But tasting the intense pure Rieslings that derive from it soon convinces you of the sheer (ho ho) brilliance at work here. With a healthy dose of impassioned lunacy, of course. To throw a few facts and figures at you: although vines are 'only' planted from 75 to 210 metres (250-650 feet) altitude - in European terms that's quite but not very high (above sea or river level perhaps) - the gradient of Winninger Uhlen (WU) is between 30° and 50°. So get those spiked running shoes out.
On average, each grower or estate has about two hectares (ha, approx 5 acres) of vineyard holdings in WU, which in total comes to 15 ha (37 acres). Some are part-time growers and a few only sell grapes and don't make wine, so "there aren't many 'large' wineries," Thomas Richter said understatedly. "Because it's so steep and labour intensive." His family must be the biggest with a massive seven ha! After lunch, we took, erm, a stroll up part of the vineyard, where the terraces at the very top are ridiculously extreme (we didn't climb that far up on this occasion). You really can see and feel why and how we're talking about a completely different kind of growing environment here. We're talking full-on, you-can-smell-it-as-you-tread terroir.

The soils in WU shift from slate to slate & chalk then a little redder, softer and siltier as you go down the slope, but not much as it's still very stoney. "After I bring my customers up here, they stop complaining about the prices!" Thomas quipped. Indeed. Towards the top, the soil's only three metres deep in places, before you hit hard rock forcing the vine roots to poke out vulnerably here and there, running down to 10 m lower down. The way the vines are trained, called the traditional Mosel 'heart' I'm told, is a bit like a vertical gobelet or slender bush tied to a tall stake. Thomas added they've been using pheromones ('sexual confusion' tactics) for 18 years to try and control insect pests, but "we do still have to spray, by helicopter," with a touch of regret in his voice. By the way, "there's only Riesling planted here," he also reminded us. Did I mention that already?!
A tad more geology, geography and climate info is perhaps required to set the scene fully (fascinating stuff, honest). The severe slopes along this part of the Mosel were cut and shaped over time by the river itself; where it's very winding is where the rock is hardest. Going back millions of years, it was of course an ocean here; and they do still find fossils buried in the vineyards. WU runs behind the towns of Winningen and Kobern on the lower Mosel, not far from Koblenz where the latter river merges with the Rhine. The mean annual temperature is 10.5°C, which might not sound much but is pretty warm for Germany. "It can sometimes be 40 degrees in the summer up on the terraces, like in 2003," Thomas confirmed. "And snow doesn't stay here for long either, even if it's very cold on the ground below."



Bremmer Calmont

If you thought Winninger Uhlen was steep, wait till you get a load of the Calmont (BC)! It rises up awesomely on the north side (therefore facing south) between Bremm (nice picture on bremm.info) and Ediger-Eller, a little further up the Mosel (south of Cochem heading towards Trier). There's actually a marked hiking path running across the vineyard and around the bend in the river, so you can experience its intense terrain at first hand (see www.calmont-region.de). Oh, and wear hefty boots as it's sometimes quite hairy with ladders and ropes to deal with (I felt ready to join the special forces afterwards); let alone a big mamma wild boar and her half-a-dozen 'little' ones, who suddenly appeared from the bushes and charged straight up the hill at us (I gallantly scarpered and hid behind the two women journalists in our group).
Our escort up the Riesling wall was Heinz Berg (pictured above, second left), who along with three other investor-friends virtually doubled the surface area of BC in 2004. They (with quite a few other hands on deck of course) painstakingly replanted almost eight hectares on the most outrageously sheer slopes imaginable - up to 68 degrees in places (the steepest in Europe I'm told) and somewhere between 95 - 280 metres altitude. Not surprisingly, it was a hell of a task planting & trellising thousands of baby Riesling vines, pruning down the remaining old ones and building a rollercoaster of a monorail, which weaves through and down the vineyard to transport grapes to the bottom at vintage time (and a person if necessary). Nowadays, BC comes to 14 hectares (35 acres) - originally it was about 25 ha at its height - thanks to the efforts of an increasing band of right-angle Riesling fanatics (about 50 growers own plots up here); following a period of neglect as one plot after another was reluctantly abandoned.
Our perpendicular winter hike was remunerated with a tasting of BC wines and a thick, warming and tasty spud & smoked ham soup at Weingut Reinhold Franzen, although we did have a refreshing slurp of Heinz Berg's airy Riesling up in the vineyard beforehand. I've included a few brief comments and tit-bits of info on each grower as they presented their wines - refer to my tasting notes opposite. Ulrich Franzen owns about three ha in Calmont and buys grapes from another one to two ha. The second wine tasted is from a new vineyard planted between 2003-2005; in contrast, their Goldkapsel 'Grosses Gewächs' (Grand Cru) comes from 50 to 60 year-old vines. These two 'dry' wines vary from about seven to nine grams / litre residual sugar: "it's not fixed, just depends on acidity (quite fresh in 2007) etc." Ulrich commented. His Calidus Mons (hot mountain in Latin, where BC probably derived its name from) is built from "very selected berries from our oldest parcels."
Dr. Ulrich Stein told us: "we just buy grapes from a few people in Calmont and own vineyards further downstream near Alf/Mosel. I'd like to buy some here..." but it sounds like there's a lot of local politics involved making it difficult for him (allegedly)! Overall, I rather liked their (his brother Peter works with him) wines and found them good value considering the quality and depth of character in the glass. Thomas Franzen-Martiny at Laurentiushof has 4.5 ha of vineyards around Bremm, with many old ungrafted vines, and appears to be one of the few who farms organically round these parts (not intended as judgmental regarding the others, by the way, see www.ecovin.org for more).


Ediger - Hotel zum Loewen
We stayed here (www.mosel-hotel-loewen.de) the night before our Calmont hike and tasting (opposite) and had an excellent dinner in the Saffenreuther family's restaurant (they own a small winery too), where various local Rieslings were paired with each course. So, a few scribbled tasting notes and comments on the food might stimulate your appetite... when I get round to it (the venison steak was particularly delicious)...


Traben-Trarbach
In the evening of 2nd December, we headed further upstream to Traben-Trarbach in the central Mosel, where we had dinner with Ulrike Böcking, who runs the region's Slow Food association as well as being a winegrower and cookery book author, along with two handfuls of young local growers. They all brought a bottle or two to have with the meal - all mostly very good Rieslings actually, although it would have been nice to have tried some reds by this stage: allegedly Pinot Noir is doing well round these parts! Anyway, an enjoyable informal occasion so I've listed the wines below (I can't 100% vouch for the spellings and I might have mixed up some of the vineyard and grower names...) with a few brief comments, without the annoying '100 point' scores this time.

2006 Bergrettung Riesling Auslese, der Klitzekleine Ring (7.5%) - the latter is a group of youngsters who've got together to restore a few abandoned terraced vineyards: hence the former isn't a site but a kinda brand, 'save the mountain' rather than mountain rescue that is. Very rounded and rich mouthful with apricot and marzipan flavours v 'chalky' cheek freshness, nice balance and elegance, better than many other 06s we tried on the trip.
2007 Riesling trocken Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Melsheimer (11.5%) - nice clean crisp steely style, oily citrus flavours/texture, delicate and tasty.
2007 Bergrettung Riesling Kabinett feinherb (10.5%) - quite fine acidity stops it becoming too sweet, subtle oily v floral Riesling style, good with the creamy parsnip soup.
2007 Kröver Letterlay Riesling Spätlese trocken 'H + 11', Müllen (12%) - aged for 11 months in old tuns (H = Holz, wood). Steely v peachy, oily mineral then crisp tight mouth-feel; fair weight, class and length.
2007 Riesling Spätlese trocken Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Melsheimer (12%) - richer and more honeyed & textured, finishing with refreshing, lively bite.
2007 Riesling trocken 'Schimbock', Vollenweider (13%) - steely and very dry (3.5 RS) yet still very Riesling; floral, oily and gummy with a bit of weight too then crisp length. Very nice.
2007 Riesling Spätlese trocken Trarbacher Burgberg, Weingut Böcking (12%) - slick v steely, concentrated and pure with precision finish, lovely presence and elegance.
2007 Riesling Spätlese Kröv Steffensberg, Staffelter Hof (8.5%) - bit of a S02 kick on the nose, which lifts off giving honeyed v gooseberry notes; sweet but not very thanks to its 'chalky' texture and balance.
2007 Bergrettung Riesling Auslese, der Klitzekleine Ring (8%) - quite closed and relatively tight, becomes more voluptuous on the palate v fresh acid balance; a bit awkward at the mo, needs time (1-2 years just for starters although will live for much longer than that).
2007 Trabener Gaispfad Riesling Auslese, WG Moog (9%) - creamier with more apricot and spicy botrytis, moving on to steely mineral, fresh acid framework; nice balance and style. This one and above both good with apple cake and cinnamon cream in different ways.
2007 Trarbacher Hühnerberg Riesling Auslese, Müllen - very young and gummy, tight acid structure v creamy apricot and botrytis coming through after a bit; sweet v crisp finish, again very promising.
2007 Riesling Beerenauslese Wolfer Goldgrube, Vollenweider (6% + 380 RS!) - very exotic and super-raisiny, lush texture and mouth-coating concentration and richness; not huge acidity but certainly enough to claw back that incredible sweetness. Teeth-coating experience.
Richard M James Jan 2009.

Biodynamic growers worldwide: "return to terroir" - featuring Herrnsheim, Sander, Eymann (May 2006: click on the title).

German wines on the up: news item (April 06).

International Riesling review
All wines tasted at the London Wine Trade Fair 18/5/05.

Grosset Wines - South Australia
2004 Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley (13%) - perfumed floral style v ripe citrus backdrop, very crisp yeast-lees and green fruit bite, teeth-chattering mineral intensity v zesty extract; seriously dry, tight and closed length. A little uncompromising at the moment but give it time... £15.99 (UK retail price) 90+
Weingut Wittmann - Germany
2004 Westhofener Riesling trocken "S", Rheinhessen (13%) - ripe and exotic edges v restrained floral aromas, oilier palate with concentrated lime fruit, crisp and mineral v weighty and rich, very long. £12.50 90+
Domaines Schlumberger - France
2000 Riesling Grand Cru Saering, Alsace (13%) - lovely perfumed oil/mineral nose with ripe raisin development, elegant 'chalky' palate on acid/alcohol framework, pretty dry and fresh-ish finish; seems a bit short or lacking or unrevealing? £14.50 87
Spy Valley - New Zealand
2004 Riesling, Marlborough - nice pure citrus v tropical oily style, a touch of crisp mineral in the mouth, attractive texture and subtle finish; seems to lack intensity despite high acidity, better if totally dry? £8.50 85-87
Chateau Michelle & Ernie Loosen - Washington State
2004 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley (12.5%) - subtle floral v ripe grapefruit nose, delicious Germanic style showing zesty intensity v a touch of residual sugar, chalky lime texture and body v elegant length. £15.99 90+
Bassermann-Jordan - Germany
2003 Kalkofen Deidesheimer Riesling, Rheingau - forward aromatic exotic fruit leads to a chalky palate with lovely extract, dry bite and very long fine finish. 90+
Robert Weil - Germany
2001 Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau - delicious maturing honey and mineral nose, rounded sweetness v subtle crisp acidity, fine length. 90+
Leitz - Germany
2003 Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese - zesty mineral and yellow flowers (and a bit of sulphur), sweet exotic body weight v fresh acidity, gets tighter and more mineral on the finish. 90


Lingenfelder Vineyard Creatures October 2004

I've pasted the original news item I cobbled together on these wines below: "Lingenfelder tours Oddbins stores in birdy Smart car." Rainer Lingenfelder, like other switched-on German growers, has 'simplified his offer' (to use the marketing speak) and injected a bit of fun into this new range. Attractive packaging with groovy matching screwcaps, grape variety and eco-leaning message come first, rather than complicated vineyard names and (so-called) quality levels. However, priced at £5.99-£6.99, most of the wines represent good value and, according to Lingenfelder, are made from selected grapes of Kabinett to Auslese quality in traditional terminology. I assume he's also releasing them in the US.
"Building on the success of his original Bird Label Riesling, Rainer Lingenfelder has released a whole 'vineyard creatures' series of funky German wines: Fish-label Mosel Riesling, Hare-label Gewürztraminer, Bee-label Morio Muskat, Owl-label Pinot Grigio, Fox-label Dornfelder red and the Bird-label Riesling, all priced between £5.99-£6.99. To promote the wines, Lingenfelder aims to visit 240 Oddbins branches in the UK within the next nine months. "Competition is fierce for shelf space in the stores and, even once one has secured listings, there's no guarantee the bottle will be picked up," he commented. "While this is true for all wines, it's particularly true for German wine. Short of funds to create a pull for consumers, I'm targeting the interface between consumer and shelf: the shop staff." Good thinking Rainer; pity others aren't as enthusiastic and game-on as you. Check out his website for more info: Lingenfelder.com, and on German wines in general: Winesofgermany.co.uk.

2003 Bee Label Morio Muskat, Pfalz (9%) - Fresh delicate honeysuckle and grape aromas, appealing fruit on an elegant palate, towards the sweeter side but shows gentle acidity to balance on the finish. Keep it well chilled. 82+
2002 Bird Label Riesling, Pfalz - Classic flinty mineral Riesling characters with hints of oily development and vegetal limey notes, riper rounder mouth-feel set against tighter acid structure and intensity leaving an almost dry finish. Try with scallops and/or asparagus. 87+
2003 Fish Label Mosel Riesling (9.5%) - Flowers and honey notes with zesty yet ripe citrus underneath, nice elegant fruit with mineral backbone, a touch of fresh acidity balances out the medium style well; a little sulphury to start but that goes quite quickly. Good with curried vegetable couscous. 87
2002 Fox Label Dornfelder, Pfalz (12%) - Attractive Pinot Noir-esque style showing perfumed cherry, damson and blueberry fruit; quite soft easy palate with fresh acidity and a touch of tannin on the finish. Good with pork sausages. 85+
2003 Hare Label Gewürztraminer, Pfalz (14%) - Perfumed rose water, lychee and pineapple nose roll onto a quite weighty palate offering spicy aromatic juicy fruit, just a touch of sweetness with underlying fresh acidity. Try with curried carrot & sausage couscous. 87+
2003 Owl Label Pinot Grigio, Pfalz (13%) - Big juicy personality showing plenty of aromatic honeyed fruit, quite weighty mouthful with off dry finish; not exactly elegant but offers condensed PG character and quaffable style. Good pizza white. 85+
And previously on winewriting.com:
1998 Bird Label Riesling, Pfalz - New wave drier Riesling... but not so dry with just a little sweetness, plenty of zingy floral and peachy fruit too. My July 1999 Home magazine wine of the month. £4.99 Oddbins. 84-86

Waitrose Christmas wines 2004 featuring a couple of 92-94 point Riesling Spätlese wines by J.J. Prüm and Franz Künstler...