20 Feb 2012

Outside the square (Pfalz, Germany - Day Three)

After two and a half weeks of sub-zero temperatures, seven degree temperatures feel positively balmy in comparison. It’s almost to the point that I don’t need to wear my thermals under my clothes every time I go outside. It is nice to get to the point now when I am actually noticing a difference in my understanding of not only riesling, but also German riesling. My palate has picked up enough experience in the past three weeks to be able to detect subtle differences between vineyard sites within the same region, and the subtleties of style between producers and regions. My limited experience with German riesling back home was negligible at best, but at least I was able to determine quality. It is so nice to be able to take that further and understand the nuances, particularly when working with the top grosses lagen wines and sweet wines. My appreciation and respect for these wines has risen sharply, so much so that German white wines are some of the finest and diverse I have ever tasted.

Old barrels in the cellars of von Buhl

The first visit on my final day in the Pfalz was to Reichsrat von Buhl, which in effect was a continuation from the previous days’ visits as von Buhl own parcels within the same vineyards, and are of the same size in production. Reichsrat von Buhl has a very close relationship with Bassermann-Jordan in fact, as back in 1849 when the Jordan estate was divided between Peter Heinrich Jordan’s two daughters and one grand-daughter, the three estates formed were Bassermann-Jordan, Weingut von Winning and Reichsrat von Buhl. The really interesting thing is that in two years von Buhl will join the other two estates under the full ownership of the Neustadt businessman Achim Niederberger mentioned in my previous post. The three estates will remain autonomous from each other, maintaining the philosophies, practices and partners they have held in the past. Since 1989 the winery has been leased from Mr. Niederberger and operated by a consortium of partners under a 25 year contract.

Tanks of varying size
It is not hard to once again compare between the three large estates of Buerklin-Wolf, Bassermann-Jordan and Reischrat von Buhl. In terms of vineyard holdings, von Buhl own 62 hectares in the Mittelhaardt, but like Bassermann-Jordan also purchase contract fruit, mostly white pinot varieties. Much like Bassermann-Jordan they focus on fermentations in stainless steel tank instead of barrels, but unlike them von Buhl look for less texture and viscosity in their wines and more minerality and crispness. They have also converted their vineyards to bio-organic viticulture, but are not certified in biodynamics, preferring to focus on the quality of the fruit and subsequent wines. Unlike the other wineries, von Buhl produces a larger range of sekt (sparkling) wines, including such oddities as single-vineyard riesling and blanc de noirs.

Ungeheuer GG Rieslings
The Pechstein Riesling Sekt I tried, along with the Spatburgunder 2009 were both good wines, but weren’t outstanding examples, just good for the variety and style. I was of course more interested in the riesling wines, beginning with the 2010 and 2009 Pechstein GG wines. The 2010 was floral, ripe and earthy on the nose, and was the most elegant and linear I had tasted from the vineyard and vintage. The 2009 by comparison was looking very quiet at the moment, much softer and less intense but richer and riper on the palate. The Ungeheur Rieslings from the same vintages followed, with the 2009 showing its age nicely with kerosene oily aromas and textures, coupled with vibrant fruit of dried peach and lemon curds. The 2010 was of course very tight, lean and concentrated, expressing more tropicality and minerality. I was surprised that I could detect a difference in the residual sugar between the two vintages, which was only one gram more for the 2010 to balance the acids. To finish the 2010 Rupertsberger Reiterpfad Auslese 2010 had a very smoky mineralic nose, rich stone fruits on the palate and a very concentrated yet clean and pure finish.

Weingut Knipser
After tasting mostly rieslings for three days straight, it was refreshing to visit a winery in the Pfalz that specialises in spatburgunder. Just like it is interesting to see how the different mico-climates and soil types can influence the same variety, it is interesting to see what influence it has on a different variety, particularly if it is red. Weingut Knipser is actually one of the finest producers of the variety in Germany, up there with Fuerst in the Franken and Huber in the Baden. The vineyards Knipser have their spatburgunder in are actually the only Grosses Lagen vineyards in the Pfalz. Many would think that the Pfalz is a white wine region, but it is one of the warmest in Germany and quite capable of ripening red grapes for red wine production. There are also pockets of limestone in the area around Laumersheimer where the winery is located, which can be useful for growing burgundian varieties.

Series of photos of red ferments from around the world
The estate spatburgunder is the Blauer Spatburgunder, and the 2009 had quite intense dark fruit, and is more like a cabernet franc than a pinot noir. The Kalkmergel Spatburgunder 2009 was very aromatic, having a red berry and slight leather component, and was quite dense yet supple on the palate finishing somewhat earthy like the Blauer Spatburgunder of the same vintage. The Kirscharten GG Spatburgunder 2007 was very intense yet subtle, combining forest fruits and black cherry with velvety tannins and persistent length. The 2008 of the same vintage was much tighter in the tannins and brighter on the nose, showing more minerality and freshness. The Burgweg GG Spatburgunder 2008 in comparison had a much softer earthier palate with broader tannins, red fruit freshness and less acid concentration. The winery also makes wines from other red varieties such as syrah and Bordeaux grapes, but the wines are less consistent and better in warm vintages. To finish with I was lucky enough to try the Laumersheimer Kapellenberg Trockenbeerenauslese 2003, which was deemed the best dessert wine in the world by Decanter Magazine. It was a rich bronze colour, had a very subtle quiet nose, and on the palate combined walnuts, cornbread, treacle and dried muscatels.

Knipser Burgweg 2008 GG Spatburgunder
Click here to see more photos from Day Three in the Pfalz.

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