Ned's Article: The Pfalz - Tasting Notes From the Region's Top Producers on the Run
August 26th, 2011
I am in the Pfalz, the warmest region of Germany where palms and lavender grow readily on the side of the road. The Germans refer to this region as the “Tuscany of Germany,” which makes me laugh given the juxtaposition between Germanic and Italian cultures. Nevertheless, the warm climate means that there is a propensity for ripeness here that facilitates bold, dry wines in a contemporary vein, albeit with much more energy than most Rieslings, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer from neighboring Alsace, a region that is a mere 20 kilometers or so away, and yet, a region that I am increasingly falling out of love with.
I am writing on the run. However there is something about the raw spontaneity of tasting notes that captures the moment and essence of a producer’s wines, than those that have been rethought, edited and spun in a diplomatic fashion.
There may be some grammatical errors here, but follow my train of thought over the next few days as I deliver tranches of tasting notes from top producers, with my fingers zinging and the keyboard still hot, from the Pfalz: a region of contemporary, dry and powerful Rieslings like no other!
Overview of Pfalz 2010 Vintage
Lost up to 60% of quantity through Pfalz due to inclement weather: late flowering in June due to a very cold spring and ensuing coulure/poor fruit set. Rain, humidity, rot, saved by late September warmth and early October blaze of heat-selection key.
An estate that is on the up and UP! BW holds wine back longer than others, kept on lees in traditional ovals in a cool (rather than cold) cellar, to encourage long development. Ambient yeasts are encouraged, although local strains propagated from holdings are kept bubbling away as a pied de cuve just in case they need a kick-in.
Located in Forst where industrial mining of basalt, up until the ’60’s, has seen man impinge on the terroir in the most benevolent sense, by littering the basalt thorough the vineyard sites. This being said, it boasts extensive holdings throughout other towns in southern Pfalz also.
Richer style suits high acid years such as 2008 and 2010. Less suited to fatter riper years, including 2009.
Wine is divided into entry-level tier “Premier Cru” single vineyard sites and “Grand Cru” single vineyard sites, using French nomenclature despite being VDP. This has caused some problems. However, frankly, I find this easier to understand than the convoluted classifications of other VDP estates where traditional Pradikat tiers (Kabinett, Spatlese, etc.) intermingle with the contemporary site-specific expressions of Grosses Gewachs or Erstes Gewachs. My only issue perhaps, is why use French nomenclature when one is in Germany? I suppose it is the benchmark for quality classifications. It is also easy to understand, easy to remember. So be it.
2010 Estate Riesling: Pick of “estate” entry-level Rieslings thus far due to late release and plenty of time spent on lees, giving the wine an ample generosity and tangy peachy aroma that belie its entry-level status. Far from the anorexic, hard wines that protective handling and rapid expedition to bottle bring. Juicy, expansive and long. 86 points.
2010 Wachenheimer Riesling: Smoky reductive notes: stony and minerally. Jitterbugs through the mouth into a modest, yet mellifluous, finish with notes of flint and orange plum, mirabelle. Lacks vitality of entry-level. 84 points.
2010 Ruppertsberger Hohenberg PC: Heavier soil-sandstone with water retaining clay, from Rupertsberg/Deidesheim border. Almost exotic yellow fruit: apricot, nectarine, ginger spice. Rich and mouth-filling. A lair! Pleasing, rather than scintillating wine. 89 points.
2010 Wachenheimer Rechbachel PC: Sandstone. Clenched and currently a bit mute, although more architected/sculptuesque wine than the Hohenberg. Hard to evaluate. 86 points.
2010 Wachenheimer Gerumpel PC: Taut and transparent, yet rather than sculptuesque, a racy and linear wine of ballerina-like poise. Real energy here on the tongue and down the throat. Long and dancing. 91 points.
2010 Wachenheimer Bohlig PC: More of the smoky, flinty match-struck notes here, yet coiled around a rich mid-palate that is both fruity and tight, without a hint of austerity or looseness. Neither facile, nor intellectual; just a very fine drink indeed, and after the Hohenberg, the most exotic of the bunch. 92 points.
2010 Gaisbohl GC: Rupertsberg sandstone, with heavy clay topsoils. Full-throttle wine of intense yellow fruit aromas, however the attack and finish reside in the mouth, rather than shifting gears and flowing onward down the throat and into the next glass. Intense, yes, but a bit simple and bulbous. 87 points.
2010 Hohenmorgen GC: Deidesheim-based vineyard, yet on the border of Forst and thus, some basalt here together with the prevailing sandstone of the region. Cooler, highly stimulating fresh expression, with tightly coiled juicy acidity that really attacks the saliva glands and makes one hanker for the next pour. Long, focused and exact; akin to drinking the eye of a needle. 93 points.
2010 Pechstein GC: Basalt vineyard in Forst. Peachy, smoky mirabelle flavors reverberate on a broad, layered and expansive frame. Great weight here, yet not at all a caricature of sheer power, but an evolving current of stony and exotic notes, tempered to a judiciously phenolic and minerally texture. A point! 95 points.
2010 Kirchenstuck GC: Less basalt here, thus a looser wine – more open. Still the telltale mirabelle notes and smokiness of the house’s style, contained in a carapace of lacy, juicy minerality. 91 points.
Overview of 2009
The nature of material in 2009 did not, in my opinion, suit the patient and more laissez-faire Burklin-Wolf style. Why? The grapes appear to largely have been harvested too ripe, lees handling is long and thus, the wines are often mealy with time on lees in a cool (but not cold) cellar encouraging rogue malolactic bacterial activity which, while intriguing, is not necessarily the purest expression of Riesling that one seeks at this level.
2009 Gaisbohl GC: While very ripe, reflecting the vintage, the wine almost has a bruised apple note, suggestive of hints of oxidation. Again, round and mouth-filling, yet aside from force and attempts at persuasion, little other reason for loving. 86 points.
2009 Hohenmorgen GC: Mealy, akin to raw oats. Berries and cream – almost as if has gone through a wee tad of MLF (and it has, I am told). An odd maverick but it stands alone. While it won’t last very long, it is eccentric and has something to say for itself. 84 points.
2009 Pechstein GC: Slight caramel/bruised apple hint here too, which is what I found last year in Wiesbaden at the VDP tasting. Still, a tour de force that marries phenolics and a satin minerality to rich fruit. Very long. 90 points.
2009 Kirchenstuck: None of the oxidative hints or rogue MLF notes of the other wines, but rather, a mouth-filling wine of force, with sustaining energy from acidity and mineral tang. 91 points.
Ned Goodwin MW is a Master of Wine, sommelier and wine buyer who lives in Tokyo. He is bilingual in Japanese and English. Follow Ned on Twitter at @rednedwine.Comments