Category Archives: Germany

Moselland “Avantgarde” 2011 Dornfelder

Qualitatswein Halbtrocken, Mosel, Germany; 11.5% ABV
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 March; gone now

Usually, I avoid gimmicky bottles, but this one got me.  Plus, it’s a Dornfelder, of which we’ve had only one previous example.  “Halbtrocken,” translated literally, means “half dry,” so I was expecting it to be kind of sweet, and chilled it.  It turns out it’s not that sweet, and I don’t recommend chilling it.  🙂

Rather than a “sweet red,” the wine really is more of a “soft red.”  It has tasty enough flavors of grapey red-purple berry-cherry, perhaps a little plum, not all that complicated, smooth and easy to drink, with a reasonable amount of acid to balance the sweetness.

The next day it’s very much the same, maybe a little more supple.

More on the gimmicky bottle.  The base is pretty much one third of a circle, with the front rounded and the back having two edges that would be radii of the circle, coming to a corner at the center of the circle.  The top is of course completely round with a normal cork, and a sealing wax-type thing just on top of the cork itself.  Unlike many apparently colored bottles that are actually clear glass with a colored plastic wrapping, this appears to be red glass, the color of which you can see at the very top.  This photo was taken before the bottle was opened.

Philipps Eckstein 2011 Riesling Spätlese

Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel, Germany; 8.0% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 18 Dec

PhilippsEckstein_2011_RieslingSpatleseI seemed to think it had been a while since I had had a Spätlese, and I wasn’t sure what to do with one, so I asked Lim13 (who reviewed the 2010 Philipps Eckstein Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett here).  Among his suggestions were having it with a course of cheeses, fruits, and nuts, so I tried it.  I got a piece of Bleu d’Auvergne cheese, roasted almonds, and assorted raisins (golden, red, and brown).  (I prefer blue cheeses that are more aged and musty, not so much those that are fresh-milk-like and tart.)  The combination was delicious, and the wine went nicely with it.  After the sweetness of the raisins, the Spätlese did not taste especially sweet, more like a slightly off-dry Riesling.  It showed fairly simple flavors of yellow apple with some green apple, and some yellow flowers, in an elegant taste.

I tasted it again the next night by itself, and my impressions were surprisingly similar.  I had remembered Spätlesen being sweeter than this one and, while pleasant and tasty, there was little complexity to it.

Vertikal 2011 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese “Special Collection”

Mosel, Germany; 8.5% ABV
$4 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 9 Jan.  Probably also still at Richmond.

2011_Vertikal_Riesling_SpatleseI had shied away from the Vertikal wines that have shown up at the GO.  But after Lim13 has consistently liked them (most recently the 2010 Riesling Auslese, which I have not seen near me in CA), and I needed something to go with an Asian-sauced dinner, I picked up this bottle.  I’ll add this to the list of Vertikal wines that are good for the price.

I’m not the expert in German wines that Lim13 and others here are, so I didn’t really know what they meant when they described a “diesel” quality in German Rieslings.  However, from the first smell of this wine, my reaction was, “Oh, so that’s what they’re talking about!”  On first exposure, I can’t say I’m especially attracted or repelled by this quality, but it is interesting.  While there’s diesel (Or kerosene?  I’m also not an expert in petroleum distillates.) on the palate, too, there’s also nice white and yellow pear, with nicely balancing acid of said pears and some green apple / lemon.  For something I’m touting as having a diesel flavor, the overall impression from the wine is that it is very clean and clear, smooth and even.  It’s not very complex, but it’s still pretty tasty for what you pay.

2010 Vertikal Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany $3.99

Silverdale, WA    8% alc.    (Purchased on 12/20/14)

IMG_1346A couple of things nearly kept me from buying this wine right from the “get go”: the blue glass bottle…especially from Germany (blue glass bottles are usually far more attractive than their contents…and I have a hard time believing that the Germans prefer it to the already customary blue/green glass that they usually use in the Mosel) and the words “Sweet Rich Harvest” on the front label.  When was the last time you saw a phrase like that on a German label?  This wine was specifically created for the American market.  And there was some trepidation expressed here on the blog by some of our readers about this Auslese (perhaps for the low price and for the reasons I mentioned above).  Actually, I likely wouldn’t have bought it if not for the dearth of interesting wines in my local GO’s for the past few weeks.

Ah! but the contents…    Brilliant pale golden.  In the nose it shows enticing honeyed peach and apricot aromas.  In the mouth, it’s somewhat viscous and quite smooth with flavors of more sweet, ripe peach and apricot and a tangy green apple, citrus finish.  The sugar/acid balance is impeccable.  Almost every Friday night is teriyaki night at our house.  This sweet white went extremely well with the sweet and salty chicken teriyaki. A delicious white that’s a steal at this price for a dessert style German Riesling.  Actually, I’d love to try another bottle with apple streudel, an apple dumpling or plain ol’ apple pie!

2010 A. Diehl Dornfelder trocken

Gutsabfüllung (what does this mean?), Deutscher Qualitätswein, from Pfalz, Germany, 1 liter bottle with screw cap, 13% ABV
This was an excess buyer’s sample purchased for $3 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 25 May.  I had been saving the 1L bottle for a special occasion, but finally gave up and opened it.

2010_ADiehl_Dornfelder_PfalzI didn’t recall having tasted Dornfelder before, but I could not resist trying a 1L bottle of an unknown German red wine with a nice label at a very low price.  I liked it a lot, but others are less fond of this style of wine.

The first pour revealed a bit of the sort of sulfurous funkiness I’ve come to associate with screw-capped reds, but this blew off as the wine started to come around after about 50 minutes in a decanter.  It then sweetened to develop a red candied fruit character.  The wine was fully aired after about 90 minutes, when the candied character largely gave way to very tangy red and purple plum, black raspberries, some other red / purple fruit I couldn’t identify, a darker herbal component, and a little lively spice on the finish.

This is not an especially substantial wine, but it’s quite different from anything I usually drink, and I found its novel aspects entertaining and tasty.  It went well with ground pork and red chard, gently seasoned with nutmeg, allspice, and caraway, over rice.

I never saw this show up as regular stock in a store near me, but Bin5 said he saw a Dornfelder in the Seattle area that was most likely this one.  Did anyone try it?

2011 Alfred Graf Spatlese, Rheinhessen, Germany $6.99

Silverdale, WA    10% alc.    (Purchased on 6/18/13)

IMG_1064I could find no information online about this label or this particular wine.   And there’s little label information provided (as Bargainwhine noted in his recent review of the Graf Kabinett).  As discussed in comments following BW’s post, I suspect this wine could be a blend of Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Sylvaner etc.

Slightly higher in alcohol than most sweeter style German whites from the Rhine that I’ve had recently.  Clear pale golden; when first poured at cellar temperature (not refrigerated), nose is very closed and gives little suggestion as to what’s in store.  Took about 90 minutes to really start showing ripe peach, green apple and lemon/lime acidity.  Flavors are right in line with the nose with perhaps a bit of orange peel too.  It’s quite viscous, smooth and richly textured.  While this wine is pretty sweet, it’s immediately cut with excellent green apple acidity.

The only down side to this wine?  It lacks intensity.  The flavors are there, but not as pronounced as I prefer in my German Rieslings and blends.  Seems a bit washed out in the finish.  I’ve found better value German wines at GO over the last year, so I won’t be buying more of this one.  Plus…I just prefer to have the label indicate a little more about what’s in my hands.  Because there’s really nothing wrong with the wine, I’m giving it a “Thumbs Up”.  But for me, it’s really more “Drinkable”.

2011 Alfred Graf Kabinett

Prädikatswein from the Rheinhessen, Germany;  Imported by AW Direct
presumably Riesling but bottle doesn’t say; 9% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 18 June

2011_Graf_KabinettThe label of this wine seemed to be trying to convey authenticity but lacked details of producer, vineyard, or grape, so I was intrigued but wary.  It turned out to be a good value in this style of wine.

It showed lively, modest complexity with flavors of yellow and green apples, yellow pear, and a little ripe lemon.  The wine is lightly sweet but balanced with nice acid and a little minerality.  The screw cap helped keep this wine very fresh and tasty, but the bottle in the fridge developed some golden raisin oxidation over a few days, so I expect it’s not one to wait to drink.

Lim13 reviewed the Graf Spätlese, which was a dollar more, and I look forward to his comments on this wine.  🙂

Two Rosés: Züm 2010 Pinot Noir Rosé & Colombelle 2010 Rosé ($4)

Both purchased 6/9/2013 at the Oakland, CA store for $4

Züm 2010 Pinot Noir RoséZüm PN: 12% abv, screw-top hock, pretty pale pink. Simple, blousy strawberry-cherry nose, very light, just barely identifiable as a pinot. Dryish-tart with light, simple flavors, soundly made if slightly green toned. Firmly in the drinkable zone.

Colombelle 2010 L’OriginalColombelle: 60% Tannat, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot; 13% abv. I liked their white better (label pic is from the white; the rosé is lighter). This one somewhat resembles their decent red blend, but lighter and crisper. Dry and  fleshy palate, delicate crushed raspberry-strawberry nose; subtle and no rough edges. Pleasant quaffer, on the high side of drinkable, but just not quite a full Thumbs Up for me.

A Riesling Reckoning, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I posted Part 1 of this short series of Riesling reviews.  This will be the last German Riesling post for the wines I purchased back on June 3rd.  As I mentioned then, both of these wines are produced by Rudi & Herta Veit of Piesport on the Mosel.  Both are Piesporter Goldtropfchens…the first a Kabinett at 9% alc. and the second a Spatlese at 8% alc..  Both are from the 2008 vintage.  The labels are identical except for Kabinett/Spatlese and alcohol content.  The Kabinett runs around $16 regular retail and the Spatlese about $18.  Both were selling at the Silverdale, WA GO for $5.99.

IMG_1051The Kabinett is brilliant pale green/golden and has a wonderfully aromatic nose of green apple, honey and peach/apricot.  It comes off as relatively sweet on the front of the tongue, but as with all fine German Rieslings, it switches to lemony tartness at mid-palate and finishes sweet/tart as it washes over the back of the tongue.  Flavors of Granny Smith apple and semi-ripe peaches.  Just the slightest tinge of petrol/diesel quality.  A very lovely white wine that’s impeccably balanced between fruity sugar and tart acidity.

The Spatlese is again brilliant and just slightly more golden than it’s sister Kabinett.  Nose is considerably more closed in and I really couldn’t detect the lemony quality that was apparent in the Kabinett.  There’s more of a sweet apricot and late harvest quality to this one.  Slightly sweeter (as it usually should be), there’s also more viscosity here and the sweetness lingers longer from beginning to end.  The peach flavors show more ripeness, but the acidity is again tart and lemony and balances out the sugars perfectly.  Quite delicious.  Both Rieslings get a big thumbs up!  If you’re new to German wines or never quite understood the differences in classification or just need a refresher, read thisIMG_1052

I tasted both of these wines at cool cellar temperature, but would recommend chilling them for about an hour.  Delicate wines like these won’t release all their fruity floral character if overchilled.  They’re both great quaffers with cheeses, fruit and nuts, but would likely do well with spicy Asian fare too.  Here’s a link to a review of the Spatlese that includes an interesting food match as well.  It might work with a slightly sweet pumpkin or butternut squash ravioli with sage/butter sauce too.

A Riesling Reckoning, Part 1

As I reported a couple of days ago, I recently purchased four Geman Rieslings at the Silverdale, WA GO.  Two were from Veit…both 2008 Piesporter Goldtropfchens…one a Kabinett and the other a Spatlese.  I’ll compare them in a future review.  And it’s a little odd, but I reviewed (and enjoyed) the 2009 Veit PG Kabinett  (at $6.99) back in November of 2011.  Here we are a year and a half later and the 2008 is hitting my local shelves for the first time!

IMG_1055In today’s post, I’m first reviewing  the 2007 Cardinal Cusanus Stiftswein Lieserer Niederberg-Helden Riesling Hochgewachs Halbtrocken (half dry) Qualitatswein from the Mosel.  That’s a real mouthful before you even uncork the bottle!  It’s 12% alc. and like all of the Rieslings mentioned here was purchased on 6/3/13 for $5.99.  The wine is a brilliant deep golden color with very fragrant fruit salad aromas of peach, nectarine, green apple and citrus with a little honey in the background.  In the mouth it’s not as viscous as it looks, is more on the dry side (though still slightly sweet) than most German Rieslings I’ve had lately and has a slightly bitter underside.  The sugar/acid seems a bit out of balance to me.  The flavors show more peach and apple with a bit of bitter almond (peach pit) and those flavors seem a bit more pronounced the next day (left at room temperature).  The typical diesel qualities show up more in the finish than anywhere else in this wine.  Tasted blind, I might guess this wine to be an Alsatian Riesling rather than German.  For me, the wonderful bouquet here got me all excited, but what followed was a disappointment.  The Cardinal earns a “Drinkable” rating from me.

IMG_1049The second wine is a 2010 Philipps Eckstein Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel that is a more customary 8% alc. and was also purchased on 6/3/13 for $5.99.  This wine is  brilliant pale straw with a somewhat closed nose that eventually releases aromas of tart Granny Smith apple and lemon/lime zest.  In the mouth it comes across as fairly sweet on the front of the tongue, but is almost immediately balanced by zingy, tart acidity and decent mouth-coating extract.  There’s a slight tingle on the front of the tongue too.  Flavors show stone fruit and green apple with a lemony tart finish.  Very refreshing, clean, tasty and uncomplicated.  Perfect for quaffing chilled on a warm summer day with mild soft cheeses, toasted almonds and a baguette.  On the sweet side, but hardly cloying and showing more of the fruit of it’s youth (as compared to the ’07 above).  Eckstein gets a “Thumbs Up”.  Looks like one of our reader/commenters wineoracle had similar impressions about this wine.