So my monthly blind tasting group met this week to sample 2007 German Rieslings, Kabinetts to be specific.
2007, while not being overly hyped, is a wine with some pedigree behind it. The bud break was amazingly early but the harvest was right about on time, giving the grapes unheard of hang times. In most vintages, producers in Germany are happy to get 100 days of hang time. In 2007 most producers saw 120-150 days!
Hang time is not, of course, the end all in any vintage. 2007 saw a cool, yet not cold summer, with enough rain when it was needed and a fine, sunny September and October that allowed the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. This is a vintage with very pure, balanced fruit. It’s also a vintage of extremes in that the crop of Kabinett and Spatlese wines made up the vast majority of the harvest, real Kabs and Spats at that.
At the opposite end of the spectrum botrytised wines were a small part of the harvest but the combination of fairly dry conditions and perfectly ripe fruit should make these among the most compelling BA and TBA wines in recent history. Auslesen were the odd man out this year with very few being made.
For my palate, I prefer the lacy transparency and pure, terroir driven character one finds in the best Kabinetts. I am also a bit sugar averse in non-desert wine, hell even in dessert wines for that mater, and am a bit of an acid freak so give me Kabinett, lighter Spats and Eiswien and I’ll be happy!
Understandably I was happy to hear that we would be tasting these 2007 Kabinetts and was really looking forward to gleaning what little I could from this small sample of admittedly fine producers. While extrapolating regional vintage character from such a small sample really is imprecise to say the least I will go ahead and do it anyway. The point is not to issue the definitive vintage assessment but rather to create hypotheses to be further refined with additional exposure to the wines of the vintage.
I look forward to hearing the impressions of others but to get the ball rolling I will start with this!
Our tasting featured wines from most of the significant German wine regions. So how exactly does such a perfect growing season express itself in each region?
Let’s begin in the warmest region, the Pfaltz. While we had only 1 wine here it struck me as over-ripe and flabby. Given that that is frequently my impression of these wines that is not surprising. On the other hand the aromatics in Darting’s Dürkheimer Hochbenn Riesling Kabinett were pretty amazing, and so unusual that I would never have thought it to be Riesling. It struck me much more as something Scheurebe like with its aromatics and low acidity. It was my #8 wine and the groups #7 so there was no great love for this. I really enjoy Darting’s wines but may wait for a cooler vintage before dipping my toes back into the Pfaltz.
Moving further north we entered into the Nahe with 2 examples, both of which finishes in my top 4 and in fact tied as the group’s favorite wines!
Helmut Dönnhoff may be my favorite German producer, he certainly is the best represented in my cellar. His Kreuznacher Kahlenberg Kabinett, the first vintage for this wine, is a perfect example of why. Intensely aromatic, layered yet lithe, with rich fruit and sappy acidity this was my #2 wine of the tasting and the only wine I was able to identify blind.
The other wine from the Nahe, Schäfer-Fröhlich’s Riesling Kabinett was my #4 wine. This also had a great nose but was perhaps richer and just a little less well defined in the mouth when compared to the Dönnhoff. Yet it had such a wonderful Kabinett presence in the mouth that I found myself drawn back to it’s crisp, refreshing finish.
Moving only slightly north into the Rheingau we came to Leitz’ Rüdesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett. After Dönnhoff Leitz is the second most represented producer in my cellar, based on the incredible values his wines offer. This was a bit tight, actually the tightest wine of the tasting, but offered such fine balance and length that I just felt the innate quality here. It was another wine that really hit my Kabinett button and was among the least sweet wines of the tasting, though the range, once the Darting was removed, was fairly narrow. My #3 wine of the tastings yet the groups #6.
Most of the historically famous German wines have come from the hallowed vineyards of the Mosel. We had 3 Middle-Mosel wines to represent this vinous heartland. Now this was a tough little group. Two of the wines had significant sulfur issues and all will benefit from some time in the cellar. They did not show as well as many would expect, lacking the notes that would make one think Mosel while tasting them. That is an issue for me.
One thing I have seen is that wines that come from “great” weather vintages often are hailed as great on release but frequently lack the transparency that allow the complexity of terroir to emerge. These samples did show the potential to get themselves sorted out but the issue I have for the long run is whether these will turn out to be great Mosels or only great Rieslings. The difference is subtle, and yet significant, and worthy of further discussion on it’s own.
The first of these middle Mosels was the Schloss Lieser Riesling Kabinett, a blend of vineyard sites. Marred by quite bit of sulfur this was a chunky, somewhat clumsy wine at this point that lacked the acid to support it’s considerable sugar. It was my #6 wine and the groups #5 with most people thinking this was the JJ Prum but that was most likely based on this being the most heavily sulfured wine of the tasting.
The next wine was indeed the Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett. It showed some obvious sulfur as well and while it showed a lot of potential it was not performing at it’s best this evening garnering my 7Th place vote and falling in dead last among the group. It has a succulence and layered liquid minerality that should allow this to emerge with some time in the cellar as the deepest and most complete wine of the tasting but, as is the case with Prüm’s wines, is offering only disjointed glimpses of greatness at this youthful stage of it’s evolution.
Our final Middle Mosel wine was the Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett, which as my #5 wine and the group’s #4 was the highest-ranking Mosel wine of the tasting. This also will benefit from some time in the cellar and while it’s a very solid wine it lacked the depth and poise that would make this truly special in my book.
Our final wine came from the Saar, home to Germany’s most nervous, steely Rieslings. The Saar is a tough place to grow Riesling. It is not unusual to have only a handful of good or better vintages each decade. Obviously that sounds like the perfect place to benefit from an extended growing season and near perfect weather. If the Von Hövel Oberemmeler Hütte Riesling Kabinett is any indication that is spot on! Not only was this my #1 wine but it was the group’s #3, coming in directly behind the two wines from the Nahe that were tied for first!
That is an impressive result, on the heels of the two wines from arguably Germany’s most flamboyant region comes this black sheep from a region frequently faulted for under-ripeness! I loved this wine! It lacks the explosiveness and complexity of the Nahe wines but was so focused and crisp with exceptional Kabinettiness! Racy and lacy, this is a wine to drink by the pool next summer.
So my top lesson learned from this modest tasting? Try more Saar wines from 2007! If you appreciate their leaner style and are looking for transparent, pure elegance this may very well be the spot for you in 2007. On the opposite end of the spectrum the Nahe seems to have done well in 2007. While completely different in character from the Saar, the richness and flamboyance the wines exhibited was compelling and certainly warrants further investigation.
I hope you all get out there and try at least one 2007 German Riesling. They are delicious, affordable, and just so much fun to drink. Take a note and post it on Snooth. Helping you to find better wines!
2007 German Kabinetts tasted blind.
- Reply by WineForNewbies2, Nov 27, 2009.
Interesting--I will have to keep my eyes open for '07 Saars. I wouldn't have thought to do so in most years (my tastes favor Mosel), but this endorsement will help me broaden my wine horizons. Thanks!
- Reply by GhostLemur, Nov 29, 2009.
Thanks for the write-up GDP. Curious how long do you think the Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett will take to show it's full potential?
- Reply by dmcker, Nov 29, 2009.
Rieslings in general age better than many other white varietals. Especially well-made German versions (there are plenty of North American rieslings that don't seem to age half as well as those from Germany and Austria and the Alsace--probably because they weren't made anywhere near as well to start with; I assume the same can be said about those from New Zealand and Oz; BTW I'm not talking about *all* producers in these regions). Trocken Beerenausleses and Beerenausleses and Ausleses stay together and mature better over a longer span, but Spatleses and Kabinetts also can age well. Plain old QbAs (not the Qualitatswein mit Pradikat we're talking about here) don't last as long, since they usually come from lesser grapes and receive lesser attention by the winemaker.
Vintage also plays a role, of course. But if you're talking about anything less than 15 years old you shouldn't worry too much and are likely to find the wines more than interesting, and if you're just laying recent releases down now, you'll find it educational to drink a bottle every year or two over that same period into the future. For example, you'll be able to see how and when the 'petrol' flavor that may people comment on for rieslings come into and then leave the picture. Beyond a dozen to 15 years will depend on the vintage, I would think. If it's a particularly bad vintage, even less than that, perhaps.
This is all assuming ideal storage conditions...
- Reply by cigarman168, Nov 30, 2009.
Spatless will more late harvest than Kabinett, So Spatless wines will got more sweet taste (more suger content) than Kabinett, Right?
Recently, I taste some from Weingut Heymann-Lowenstein in the Mosel, most impressed by the Von Blauem Schiefer Dry, Blue Slate
- Reply by dmcker, Nov 30, 2009.
Yes, usually true about Spatlese, cigarman, and generally the progression in sweetness goes from kabinetts to spatleses to ausleses to beerenausles to trockenbeerenausleses. But some producers put out dry spateleses, and some kabinetts have markedly perceptible sweetness, so you do still need to know the producer and his lineup to be sure of how sweet or dry the wine is in each category. I've also had some ausleses that are drier than some spatleses, and others that are at least as sweet as some beernausleses, so my remarks stand for that class, too.
- Reply by dmcker, Nov 30, 2009.
Sorry, but meant also to say, Ghostlemur, that if you ever run across a Kabinett from a good German maker from the 1990 vintage, you're eyes will be opened wide.
GregDP/Philip/Mark et al.: can we please have functionality that allows us to edit our comments after we post them, at least before someone else responds to the thread?!!
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 1, 2009.
Hey Ghostlemur, I'm just finding my 2001 Kabinetts to be in their sweetspot, so to speak, so give the 07's another 5 to 8 years, depending on your palate.
Dm, I will forward the request, again!
- Reply by amour, Mar 24, 2010.
2007 DELHEIM EDELSPATZ Noble Late Harvest Single Vineyard RHINE Riesling...a great Dessert Wine....the freshest and cleanest nose on earth.
(The botrytis concentration was tremendously high and the result was rewarding.) Sheer elegance.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 24, 2010.
Speaking of Kabinett - off soon to enjoy spicy Chinese food with some 2001 Kabinett!
- Reply by amour, Mar 24, 2010.
What a great idea!
I love Chinese food but scarcely have wine with it...THANKS...
I used to go to MOTT STREET A LOT!
I love the food of the HUNAN region
and would admit that the FRENCH cannot touch the CHINESE when it
comes to DUCK!!