Just prior to the epic event of my year (the second year MW exams), Willy and I headed to the continent, into Germany to explore and learn more about the wines and producers of the Mosel, Saar and Pfalz. We wore two hats for the trip: One the studious hat, obliging us to take numerous notes and ask lots of questions whilst deeply contemplating each drop of juice which touched our lips. The other, (no less important) was to taste, source and put together a small collection of German wines for our portfolio, a new avenue for Tindal Wine Merchants!
When this trip was but a lightbulb in the sky, I asked Caro Maurer MW (a truly helpful and encouraging person, to be admired for her incredible energy and enthusiasm!) her advice on wineries to visit. After her initial reaction: “Uiuiuuiui, the week before the exam, wow”! She introduced us to a handful, which gave the trip focus and structure to our route, not to mention the chance to try some of the top wines from here.
Moyra from accounts was relieved to hear that Ryanair fly right into the Mosel Valley, Willy and I were relieved that you can book up emergency exits seats in advance, making travelling on the blue and yellow bus a slightly less painful process (especially if you are 6’4″ like my brother!). Arriving into Frankfurt Hahn at 10.30pm we went to pick up our car. *WARNING WARNING* if you upgrade your car to a level above the basic with HERTZ this seems to mean you get a bigger car, yet a smaller engine!! Our ‘oversize’ Fiat 500 had a 1Litre engine! It is however quite incredible how many revs you can get these cars up to as you hammer it along the German autoroutes… on reflection, I think that the massive glass roof is so that the passenger has something to do whilst the car is chugging along at 50mph!
When I sold wines in Suffolk one of the favourite wines I stocked (on my very small list) was a Riesling Wehlener Sonnenuhr from Markus Molitor in the Mosel. This has stuck in my mind for the past five years and led to us pulling up our ‘bottom’ coloured noddy car outside his dominating winery on our first morning. Having tried a few doors, we eventually found the way in to this impressive building with stunning views out over the valley.
We were met by Ariff Jamal the export manager and treated to a basic, but very useful introduction to the German quality system. No longer do I feel the heat rising under my collar when questioned about the complexities of the various levels (I just shuffle from foot to foot and offer what I hope is a reasonable explanation!). We had a fantastic tasting here.
Wines we tried were:
- Haus Klosterberg range – seen as their house range, with a comprehensive sweetness meter in the form of differing colours of the caps.
- Erdener Treppchen Kabinett 2011 (11% abv, 9g/l RS) – Peach and stone fruits on the nose, mellow lemon and pear on the palate with a rounded slightly substantial finish.
- Wehlener Klosterberg Kabinett 2011 (11.5% abv, 9g/L RS) – Smokey flint and kiwi on the nose, zippy acid with slick mineral notes and a more linear prolonged finish.
- Graacher Domprobst, Kabinett 2011 (12.5% abv, 9g/l ) – More citric spritz on the nose, rich lingering mineral on the finish.
- Graacher Domprobst Spatlese 2011 (12.5% abv, 50g/l) – A more opulent fruity nose with intensity on the palate lingering with great pear and apple notes adding to the mineral finish.
- Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2007 (12.5% ) – Rich mineral, developing nose with hints of terpenes. Light elegant yet lingering lime and citrus fruit. Serious complexity. Great length
- Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese 2011 (12.5%, 9g/L white cap) – Relatively subdued hay notes on nose, pear and rich mineral on palate with intriguing peach and apricot on the finish.
- Erdinger Treppchen Auslese 2011 (12%, 15g/L, green cap) – Apple and mineral nose. Richer fuller body, more honeyed warmer notes with lingering peach and red apple on the palate.
- Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese 2011 (7.5%, 60g/L, gold cap)- Honey, apricot, intensely botrytised notes on the nose. Full body with rounded red apples, tinned peach and apricot. Acid still reviving on the finish with some spice adding complexity and lift.
- Bernkastler Lay Auslese 2009 (7.5%, 50g/l) – Kiwi and mineral on the nose. Rich green apple and nervy high toned richness finishes with a distinctive sweet peach tang
- Wehlener Klosterberg Auslese 2005 (7.5%, 70g/L) – Nectar! Spice and developing terpenes on the nose with unique barley sweets and a lifted grapefruit which enlivens the palate offering fantastic definition and lingering complexity.
- Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese 2003 (9%, ~70g/L) – Interesting year (hot) meaning this wine has an unique minty note with a richness and intensity which defies the more delicate styles of other years.
- Zeltinger Himmelreich Auslese 2003 (7.5%, ~90g/L) – Ethereal grapefruit nose with distinctive butterscotch notes on the palate, rich and complex. A ‘mighty’ wine.
- Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2006 BA (7%, 250g/L+) – Delicate honeyed notes on the nose. Acid offers a delicacy despite the sumptuous nature of the this intensely elegant and prolonged wine.
- Wehlener Eiswein 2007 (6.5%, 150g/L) – A pure style, with minerality and richness running deep. Needs time to evolve.
Throughout our tasting Ariff filled us in on the principals at Markus Molitor. So intent are they on keeping the natural yeasts from the vineyards, that they use no sprays for rot, instead flying a helicopter over the vines to suppress and control any humidity issues. The reason that there are so many different lines is due to the huge variability between the red, grey and black slates on the slopes, the aspects and the size of the plots. This we discover is common in Germany… our list may be getting more than one or two extra pages!
Having such an introduction to the Rieslings of this region, Willy and I were fast tracked into the Riesling ‘Appreciation club’. The delicacy and longevity present throughout all these wines really impressed us. We are very much looking forward to ‘spreading the love’ and introducing more of our customers to these intense and fantastic wines. Wines underlined are wines that we are hoping to bring in to Ireland in the Autumn.
Part II will come soon, with information on some seriously funky wines from Rudolf Trossen, high class Zilliken Rieslings and our ‘pfindings’ in the Pfalz!