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Step up, Riesling!

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While the Melsheimer winery, which is located in the village of Reil, has been owned by the family of the same name for 200 years, their vineyards have been cultivated for far longer than that. Documentation for one goes back to the 12th century. The current wine-maker Thorsten Melsheimer began the switch to organic and biodynamic farming in 1995. The estate makes a broad range of Rieslings and little else. Annual production is around 60,000 bottles, about 40% of which is exported, with Denmark being a primary market.

Mosel 2015, Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Kellerchen, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines averaging 30 years of age and rooted in the slate and quartz of the Mullay-Hofberg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated on the skins for 30 days. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured one year in neutral 500-litre Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Wafting nose of white flowers, yellow apple, quartz/chalk and background lemon/lime. Fine, clean and engaging in the mouth. The bright – not sharp – acidity gives the ripe fruit a sweet-and-sour quality. Dusty minerals add another layer of flavour and texture. Finishes long and dry. A lovely wine that was slightly overshadowed by its flightmate though that may no longer be the case in five years, when both wines should reach the plateau of maturity. (Buy again? Yes.)

Mosel 2015, Vade Retro, Melsheimer ($48.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The estate’s flagship wine. Its name derives from a medieval Catholic phrase used in exorcisms, Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”), perhaps a wry nod to the wine’s lack of fire and brimstone, er, added sulphur. 100% Riesling from biodynamically farmed vines in some of the Mosel’s steepest vineyards. Manually harvested. Spontaneously fermented on the skins in large oak barrels and no pumping. No filtering or added sulphur. 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.
Smoky, minerally, fruity nose with hints of nuts and lees. Rich yet fleet in the mouth. It’s dry (reportedly about 1 g/l of residual sugar) and full of minerals though it’s the fruit (mostly stone, some apple, a little citrus) that holds your attention. The acidity is pervasive but very well integrated. Layered, deep, long and pure. A baby but a beautiful one. Entirely consistent with a bottle – one of the stars in a stellar evening of wine and food – enjoyed a few weeks earlier at Candide. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 9 of 9

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Written by carswell

December 6, 2017 at 14:14

Busch babies

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Based in Pünderich on the banks of the Mosel River, Clemens Busch took over his family winery in 1984. Starting with the original two hectares, he has expanded the estate’s holdings to 25 hectares, mostly in the 1980s by buying vertiginously steep, hard-to-work vineyards from neighbours who abandoned them to plant faddish Pinot Noir on the much flatter plains above the slopes. Sixteen of the hectares are in the Pünderich Marienburg vineyard, south-facing and considered one of the top Mosel sites. Though a 1971 law consolidated all the hillside’s parcels under the Marienburg name, Busch vinifies them on a parcel by parcel basis and bottles his top cuvées under the original names.

The farming is organic (since 1986) and biodynamic (since 2004). The wine-making is non-interventionist, with no fining and nothing added except a small squirt of sulphur dioxide at bottling for most cuvées. Most of the wines are dry, though small quantities of sweet and botrytized wines are also made.

The estate’s website features some impressive, full-screen photographs of the vineyards and winery.

Mosel 2015, Riesling, (alter)native, Clemens Busch ($32.00, private import, 12 bottles/case)
This is an unfiltered, low-sulphur bottling. Nearly the entire production goes to Quebec, though a little also makes its way to New York and Japan. 100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from the Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation lasted until the end of December. Matured 15 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added at bottling. Residual sugar: under 4 g/l. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Hazy to the eye. The nose elicits descriptors like “pear cider,” “blanche-ish,” bread dough and lemon apples. Mouth-filling, bone dry and clean, with a slightly chewy texture and acidity that’s more puckery than crisp. Apple and mineral flavours last through the long finish. Fuzzier than – not as precise or delineated as – its flightmate and not a traditional Mosel Riesling by any means, but on its own terms it absolutely works. (Buy again? Yes.)

Ordered at Marconi a couple of nights after the tasting, a glass of the Mosel 2015, Riesling Trocken, LS, Clemens Busch (ca. $32.00, private import, 6 bottles/case) – the LS (or <s on at least some labels) stands for “low sulphur” and the wine contains only about a third of the already low amount of sulphur dioxide used in the regular bottlings – was in many ways similar to the (alter)native but clearer and a little more focused if also slightly more conventional. It elicited an “Oh, wow” from my Riesling-loving dining companions, whose first Busch wine it was.

Mosel 2015, Riesling, Marienburg GG, Clemens Busch ($61.34, private import, 3 bottles/case)
100% organically and biodynamically farmed Riesling from 25- to 60-year-old vines rooted in the grey slate section of the original Marienburg vineyard. Manually harvested in late October and early November. Macerated 12 to 24 hours on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Matured 12 months on the lees with no stirring in large (1,000-litre), old (50 years) wooden barrels. The barrels are not topped-up for the first month to encourage a little oxidative complexity. Unfiltered and unfined. A tiny amount of sulphur was added on bottling. Residual sugar: under 6 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
Classic Mosel nose of green apple, lime, slate and a touch of petrol. In the mouth, it’s astoundingly pure, focused, complex and balanced. Bone dry but with compensating fruit and layered minerals that, in combination with the lithe acidity, give the wine a strong though not rigid backbone. Very long. Doesn’t stop evolving in the glass, pointing to a long ageing potential (five to 20 years per Ward’s Alex Boily). A complete and beautiful wine. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

The GG stands for Großes Gewächs (“great growth”), an unofficial designation for top-level dry wines from selected sites that is increasingly used in the Mosel by the members of the Bernkasteler Ring and elsewhere (except the Rheingau) by the members of the VDP growers’ association. Busch makes four GG cuvées: the Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay and Marienburg Falkenlay.

MWG April 6th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

April 24, 2017 at 14:15

Ward & associés tasting (7/9)

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Badischer Landwein 2013, Tschuppen, Weingut Ziereisen ($65.78/1500 ml, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Blauer Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) from estate-owned, organically farmed 15- to 25-year-old vines rooted in limestone soil. Manually harvested. Spontaneous fermentation and maceration lasted six to eight weeks and were followed by gentle pressing. The must was transferred to used 225-litre German wood barrels (30% new) for 22 months’ maturation on the lees with occasional racking. Unfiltered and unfined. The first screwcapped magnum I’ve encountered. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

tschuppen-2013

Complex nose: cherry, “purple Popsicle,” “Swiss chard and arugula,” slate, dried rose, a dash of kirsch, distant lime and even celery salt. A dry, medium-bodied red with a silky surface, sleek acidity, fruit-cloaked tannins, underlying minerals and a long, lightly astringent finish. Neither Burgundian nor New Worldish but, in its weight, structure and blend of red berry and earth flavours, definitely Pinot Noir. Impressive QPR. Another hit of the tasting – the group ordered two cases on the spot. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 7 of 9

Written by carswell

February 21, 2017 at 12:28

Ward & associés tasting (6/9)

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Franken 2015, Kleine Wanderlust, 2Naturkinder ($28.32, private import, 6 bottles/case)
80% Regent and 20% Dornfelder from estate-owned, organically farmed vines around 15 and 30 years old respectively. The former was fermented on the skins for two weeks; the latter was crushed by foot and given semi-carbonic maceration for a week. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured on the lees in old oak. No added anything, including sulphur dioxide. Unfiltered and unfined. Bottled in April 2016. 3,000 bottles made. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

kleine-wanderlust

Effusive nose: floral, slate, pink peppercorn, “raspberry-cherry hybrid.” Some rose shows up in the mouth along with a bit of grip on the finish. The fruit is dark and black curranty, the acidity energetic but well integrated. A touch of velours in no way interferes with the wine’s impressive fluidity. Certifiably chuggable. And check out that alcohol level! (Buy again? Yup.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 9

Ward & associés tasting (2/9)

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Located near Bockenheim in the Palatinate, the 20-something Brand brothers took over the estate from their father in 2004. Farming practices, rigorously sustainable since 1994, were certified organic in 2015. The wine-making is non-interventionist.

Pfalz 2015, Riesling trocken, Vom Berg, Weingut Brand ($23.53, private import, 12 bottles/case)
The estate’s entry-level line. 100% Riesling from estate-owned organically farmed vines. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

brand-riesling-vom-berg-2015

Initially sulphurous nose (not uncommon with screwcapped Rieslings) gives way to slate, lemon-lime and green apple overtoned with honeysuckle. Dry and fruity with nipping acidity, tons of crushed minerals and the faintest hint of caramel. Long, savoury and alive. Like Germany meets Alsace in a glass. Great QPR. Deservedly one of the hits of the tasting. (Buy again? Multiples.)

Pfalz 2015, Weissburgunder trocken, Weingut Brand ($26.37, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Inspired by a similar drawing on the cornerstone of a local church, the front label’s raised hand indicates this is part of the Schwurhand (oath-taking) line of wines made using grapes from the estate’s top vineyards 100% Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. Gently pressed and briefly macerated. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. No added anything. Unfiltered and unfined. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.

brand-weissburgunder-2015

Intriguing nose of chalk, gooseberry/quince, green tea and coriander seed. Equally intriguing in the mouth with a texture that has people grapsing for descriptors like “soft oily velour.” Lactic, bitter and faintly fruity (“like bad plum”) threads intertwine with dusty minerals and soft acidity. A distant mustardy note chimes on the long finish. Complex, savoury and satisfying. If you think Pinot Blanc makes only facile wines, think again. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 2, 2017, tasting: flight 2 of 9

Loosen up

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Mosel 2015, Riesling, Dr. L, Loosen Bros. ($16.45, 1068525)
The estate’s entry-level Riesling is a négociant wine made from grapes grown to spec and bought under long-term contracts. Vinified in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation is stopped by chilling before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 45 g/l. 8.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Select Vins.
Textbook nose: lime, white grapefruit, green apple, quartz and slate. A first sip reveals a spritzy tingle. Electric acidity shreds the sugar: while this is technically off-dry, it comes across as tartish, reinforcing the impression that the fruit is citrus, though peach is there too if you look for it. Chalkly, quartzy veins thread their way throughout, which is not to say there’s the kind of mineral (or any other) depth found in the estate’s single-vineyard bottlings. The puckery finish doesn’t last long, giving you the perfect excuse to take another sip. So pound-backable and – at 8.5% – you don’t pay a price for doing so. Lemon-limeade for adults. Should be on the wine list of every southeast Asian restaurant in the city and yet, amazingly, it almost never is. (Buy again? Yes, yes, yes.)

Written by carswell

December 4, 2016 at 10:52

Mönch on this!

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Mosel 2015, Ürzig Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mönchhof ($25.90, 11034804)
100% Riesling from ungrafted, dry-farmed vines between 60 and 100 years old in the original part of the Würzgarten vineyard (red slate) in the municipality of Ürzig. Manually harvested. Fermentation with selected yeasts in stainless steel and neutral German oak vats lasts four weeks. Matured four to six months in stainless steel tanks and neutral German oak barrels. Filtered before bottling. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: > 60 g/l. 8.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Valmonti.
Green apple, lime/grapefruit, mown meadow, slate, lemon yogurt, hints of yellow stone fruit. Sweet on the attack, then the acidity kicks in. Chockablock with pure, ripe fruit. Endowed with a mineral backbone. Shows fair depth and some spice at the back of the palate. Finish is subdued but quite long. Well balanced despite the hot vintage. Ageable at least a decade, maybe two, during which time it will deepen, gain complexity and lose sweetness. For now, while almost too sweet to drink as an aperitif, it comes into its own alongside food, in my case a fairly faithful replica of Nigel Slater’s apples, potatoes and bacon recipe finished with crème fraîche, mustard and tarragon, a dish I’ll be making – and pairing with German Riesling – again. (Buy again? Yes.)

Written by carswell

October 5, 2016 at 12:50