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Jun 12

The Perfect White Wine

Thursday was a day celebrating German and Austrian wines in Cincinnati. Several winemakers who are part of the Terry Theise catalog were on a whirlwind tour through the States, and stopped to spend the afternoon and evening in Cincinnati.

Thanks to the kind folks at Taste Magazine Cincinnati, Kevin & I were able to attend the catalog tasting at Pho Paris in the afternoon. This event was chock full of winemakers and wines. There were so many wines we couldn’t taste everything, and we weren’t able to write everything down. You can find our limited notes and rating at the end of this post, after the jump. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and educational afternoon.

I noted several things, but the biggest is that I love German wines. In fact, I prefer the German wines to the Austrian wines, although the Austrian selection is excellent. There is a neat flavor in many of the German wines – Kevin called it minerals. To me, it tasted similar to spring water rushing over rocks – a fresh stoniness. I don’t believe we had a bad wine all day, and those we didn’t like were simply not to our taste. The Germans made a point to explain the soil type and the elevation/steepness of the location for each grape. This provided the best guide to terroir I have come across in a tasting.

I also noticed very few women. I was there, as well as a few others, and one female winemaker. There were maybe 5-7 of us in a room filled with men. I thought I was just being sensitive, but Kevin even mentioned it over dinner that night. Ladies, it’s a guys industry but we’re making headway. One of my favorite winemakers was Caroline Diel (Schlossberg Diel). Her wines were excellent. I was also impressed by the youth in the room. Not just the buyers and the sommeliers wandering around – the winemakers themselves were often younger than I would have expected.

It was fascinating to talk to the winemakers and I was particularly taken by Johannes Leitz. He is young and personable. He had a great aerial photograph of his winery and as I tried each wine, he explained where that particular grape was grown and how the soil and elevation affected the taste. With his visual aids, I really came to grasp the entire idea of terroir. Each riesling tasted quite different, with the influences of that particular soil, elevation, and climate. Terroir didn’t seem like a fleeting, grand concept, but simply a fact of German winemaking.

That evening, we had already made plans to attend the German Winemaker Blowout/Master Class with Leitz, Strub, and Darting at The Party Source. This was an opportunity to get to know even more about each of these talented winemakers and their wines. I covered a lot of their histories in my German winemaker primer.

Each winemaker made it clear the global warming is indeed having an impact. The weather in their region is perfect now, but harvests are coming earlier and earlier, and they don’t know where the industry may be in 10 or 20 years. There is also a push towards Stelvin screwcap enclosures for the majority of the whites. The winemakers have had bad experiences with cork and find screwcaps to be the perfect solution.

I’m now a complete convert to German wines. Our wine collection will probably start skewing towards Spanish reds and German whites if I’m not careful. After the jump you can read our slightly scattered notes (it was a long day) on both tastings.

Our thanks both to Taste Magazine and Party Source.

You’ll notice three words attached to the German wines we tried – Kabinett, Auslese, and Spätlese. The highest quality wine category in Germany is QmP, and it is divided into 6 subcategories. Kabinett wines must contain minimum amounts of natural sugar (around 17-21% sugar by weight), depending on the region and the variety. These are the lowest minimums for QmP wines, and these wines are therefore usually the driest and least expensive.

Spätlese is German for “late picking.” It refers to grapes that are selectively picked at least 7 days after the main harvest. Because such fruit is riper than the grapes from the main harvest, it contains more sugar and produces wines that are rich and sweet. The natural sugar must attain around 19-23% sugar by weight.

Auslese is German for “selection,” used to describe specially selected grapes that are hand-picked and pressed separately from other grapes. The natural sugar content of the grapes must reach around 20-25% sugar by weight. Auslese grapes are sometimes subject to botrytis to make them sweeter.

The Party Source Tasting: Master Class with Strub, Darting, Leitz
All of these wines received a Happy1 rating.

Walter Strub – Rheinhessen
2005 Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett – red slate dirt and limestone, small residual sugar, good acidity, minerality, soft finish
2005 Niersteiner Bruckchen Riesling Kabinett – sweeter, good acid structure, more complex and rich in body, made in pure limestone soil, has a bubbly characteristic from the sloped location, peaches, apples,berry characteristics, well-balanced

Helmut Darting – Pfalz
2005 Durkheimer Nonnengarten Riesling Kabinett – sandy stone soil, green apple & peaches, more acidity in the 2006 vintage than the 2005
2004 Durkheimer Nonnengarten Gewurztraminer Kabinett – sandy soil, difficult to grow, sometimes will only get 20% fo the harvest, spicy and sweet, full-bodied, golden in color, a white I could drink in the winter

Leitz – Rheingau
2005 Rudesheimer Dragonstone Riesling Qba – named after an ancient dragon-claw shaped stone, no sweetness, tastes like it has a clarity if that makes sense, hand harvested, gravelly soil, minerals, steepest region other than Mosel
2006 Rudesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett – Named for the slate of an abby, light and enjoyable, harvest was crazy because of the changing climate, an Auslese sold as a Kabinett
2005 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese – Named for a donated Magdalene cross in a village that had been racked by the plague in the 17th century. Made from loamy, garden-type soil, minerality, acidity, almost fizzy, one of Shel’s favorites.


Therry Theise Estate Selections Fall 2007 German/Austrian Tasting
Imported by Michael Skurnik
Distributed via Vanguard in our area.

All of these wines received a Happy1 rating unless otherwise noted. There were also many more wines available than we were able to notate or even taste.

L. Hiedler – Kamptal
2006 Gruner Veltliner Thal – Well balanced and rounded
2006 Gruner Veltliner “November” – Spicier
2006 Riesling Urgestein – Dry, balanced, slight acidity
2006 Riesling Hieligenstein – More spice, slight forward fruit

Nikolaihoff – Wachau
2006 Gruner Veltliner Im Weingebirge Federspiel – Dry Sortofhappy1
2004 Gruner Veltliner Schlossberg “Jungfernlese” – Almosthappy1

Familie Nigl – Kremstal
2006 Gruner Veltliner Seftenberger Piri – Fuller mouthfeel than previous Gruners
2006 Gruner Veltliner “Privat”  – too dry Sortofhappy1
2006 Riesling “Private” – spicy notes of cinnamon Almosthappy1
2006 Riesling Kremser Kremsleiten – bitter finish, dry Sortofhappy1

Schlossgut Diel – Nahe
2006 Diel de Diel – dry, not acidic
2006 Rosé de Diel – pinot-based, a great rose
2006 Eierfels Riesling – south-facing slate soil, sweet and mineraly
2006 Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling Spätlese – Very nice. Gravel soil, tropical fruits and minerals.

Spreitzer – Rheingau
2006 Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Erstes Gewachs – 1st press, minerals
2006 Oestricher Doosberg Riesling Kabinett – cross wise planting
2006 Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese – hints of dessert wine, botrytis
2006 Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese “303” – Lots of residual sugar, very sweet

H.u.M Hofer – Weinviertel
2006 Hofer Gruner Veltliner Freiberg DAC  – Biodynamic, enjoyable

Setzer – Weinviertel
2006 Gruner Veltliner “Vesper”  – Creamy, soft mouth feel,
2006 Setzer Gruner Veltliner “Die Lage” – dry finish. Grew on me. Almosthappy1
2006 Gruner Veltliner “8000” – Sortofhappy1

Kerpen – Mosel Saar and Ruwer
2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Artist Label – sweet, crisp, scent and taste of raisin
2006 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese – less sugar. Well grounded and structured.

Leitz – Rheingau
2006 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling – crisp, enjoyable, easy to drink
2006 Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese – made from loamy garden soil, one of Shel’s favorites
2006 Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese – excellent, made from the steep part of the hill

Strub – Rheinhessen
2006 Riesling “Soil to Soul” – first attempt at the simplified label, crisp and fun
2005 Niersteiner Orbel Riesling Kabinett – steeper slope, more complex riesling
2005 Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Spätlese – enjoyable, good fruit

Salomon – Kamptal Kremstal
2006 Gruner Veltliner Wieden – sweer, dry, full bodied Almosthappy1
2006 Gruner Veltliner Von Stein Reserve – citrus characteristics, little bit of spice and sweetness

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