The Rheingau preview in London once again gave the chance to evaluate the latest vintage – 2012 – and, by way of advertisement or just sheer joie de vivre (for which there must be a German equivalent), the celebration of old vintages, still in the prime of life.
In the Rheingau, 2012 was light in terms of alcohol and average in volume. The volumes of the entry-level and mid-range wines were up on typical years but the top wines were produced in smaller volumes. There was little botrytis (which means that the traditional sweet wines will be in very short supply) but – as is the way with any business – you can make a virtue out of that in that there are some top quality dry wines. These are the currently fashionable ones which now have the ‘Grosses Gewächs’ category, roughly Grand Cru.
If the mark of a great region is variation between locations with excellent quality, then the Rheingau passes with flying colours. There is in reality little difference between the way that the wines are made but a marked difference in the fruit v. minerality continuum. From the 2012 vintage I particularly enjoyed both Hochheim Königin Victoriaberg, Riesling, Joachim Flick for its floral, peach and mint notes and the very different slatey Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling, Weingut Robert Weil.
And the sheer, ‘we are here to celebrate what we can do’ wines?
Hochheim Domdechaney, Riesling, Beerenauslese, Domdeschant Werner’sches Weingut 1983 – a thirty-year old, from a tricky year, mid orange in colour, a waft of fresh and cooked citrus on the nose, intense orange and apple notes on the palate, fresh, zippy acidity balanced by moderate sweetness. A wine that makes you just wonder and smile!
Rauenthaler Baiken Riesling Beerenauslese, Hessische Staatsweingüter, Kloster Eberbach, 1953 – it may be a lot of syllables but it is always something special to taste a wine that predates you … if only just! Mid amber in colour, honeyed, dried orange rind and nuts, acidity less evident but still mouth-filling and alive. Remarkable.
And they don’t have to be very old to be outstanding:
Schloss Johanisberger Riesling Goldlack, Trockenbeerenauslese aus dem Holzfass No. 173, Weingut Schloss Johannisberg, 2011 – brilliant mid gold and youthful in appearance, pure honey nose, powerful palate but still dances, very long. this wine is only made the very best years and is barrel fermented (in a sixth use barrel) to take off the upfront flavours with a view to long development. Remarkable – and apparently made just over a 1000 euros a bottle at auction.
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