10 January 2010

2010. A New Year. A Classic Wine of Vintegrity.

2007 Weingut Oekonomierat Rebholz Weisser Burgunder Spaetlese Trocken (Pfalz, Germany, 13.5% abv).  What a start to the new year--this, the first of Body und Soil's 2010 Wines of Vintegrity, and hopefully a worthwhile thought or two about what makes Rebholz so great, so nostalgic.  100% Pinot Blanc.

This is a child's first memory of traipsing through a musty fleuriste and standing at the threshold between the shop's backdoor and the gaping portal of its stuffy greenhouse.  The smell is a wet, grassy rapture, the singular and unabashed nature of the Pfalz on a rainy harvest day, the first step into a soggy sandstone vineyard.  Sauce that up with some freshly sliced kiwi and persimmon...that's your olfactory tapestry.  That's the signature Rebholz complexity.

The palate is equally transcendent.  A salty whack of celery, cox-orange, and a bit of unripe blueberry, if Pinot Blanc even permits my association therewith.  I suspect, however, it's akin to the red-berry notes of some Mittel Mosel Riesling.  The nose begins to throw off more herbal earthiness as air begins to interact with it, revealing a sort of citrus-infused Wuyuan Jasmine tea.  You never notice the 13.5% alcohol content, but this certainly has the palate-staining weight of a great Kremstal Gruener Veltliner.

With varietal integrity like this--not to mention profundity--I can really start to appreciate Champagne's attempts to bottle 100% Pinot Blanc fizz.  An incredible buy at 11 Euro.  I wish I could find a picture of this wine; it would certainly aid in the consumer's recognition factor.  Regardless, should you mention Rebholz in any self-respecting German Vinothek, some self-respecting person should be able to point you in the right direction (or at least hand you  a bottle of Messmer's Im Goldenen Jost Grosses Gewaechs instead).

As an aside, besides the Sekten of Volker Raumland, Hansjoerg Rebholz's takes on Champagne are hands-down the best in Germany.  And are somewhat ironically affordable.

Beaujolais + Triscuits = HEAVEN.

Yes, 1+1 = Perfection. And Chermette Beaujolais + Olive Oil and Cracked Pepper Triscuits = HEAVEN. 2007 Chermette-Vissoux Moulin à Vent "Les Trois Roches" Cru Beaujolais (Beaujolais, France, 13% abv). I can't say for certain what it was that made this combo work, but I suspect the olive oil and pepper had something to do with it (that...the most profound, transcendent observation of 2009).

The pepper in the Triscuit gave the Gamay this spiciness, aligning it almost categorically with the savory delineation of Delas Syrah at its best and brightest. The touch of olive oil seemed to give this substantially more length in the finish, adding a touch of candied nuts that I found demanded one sip after another.

Lest I reduce the stature of this Gamay to 'suitable for snack-time foods only', let me say this was as pure as pure can be. Gorgeous and harmonious black cherry, reglisse, and refined chocolate on the nose, echoing the suave chocolate and supple berry notes on the palate.
This was just superb, a classic and memorable introduction to the heights and depths (and subtleties) of Cru Beaujolais (and one made in an extremely natural way). I couldn't be happier to have one more bottle left.

You know...for that next Triscuit binge.

Ch-Ch-Cherry COLA!!!

Ch-Ch-Cherry Cola...the song. This wine. 2007 Andreas Laible Spaetburgunder Alte Reben (Baden, Germany, 13% abv). Almost flamboyant wild cherry Jolly Rancher on the nose, but over time some darker elements begin to assert themselves, with licorice, warm Magenbrot and candy-roasted almonds rounding things out. There is a sense of poise here, though I wouldn't confuse that with an overwhelming sense of concentration, or perhaps even ripeness, but who knows really? I only mention poise as a prevailing attribute--and a good one, by the way--because of this wine's assertive acidity.

This wine's crackling acidity isn't too far removed from the experience of biting into a just barely ripe plum, the flavors here being uncannily similar. Perhaps black cherry is even more precise, but who cares? It's hard to tell honestly; the acidity makes the distinctive flavor elements so diffuse that I'm left with the impression this is viticulture's take on a highly prized pop-culture consumer staple: Cherry Cola. But with 13% abv. And thus, a lot more fun to drink a lot of...

HIGHLY recommended party wine, and sensational at 12 Euro.

Grand Cru Spätburgunder

If you haven't noticed, I'm a huge Gregor Messmer fan. His wines are always profound, but never EVER in that in-your-face, blockbuster, cookie-cutter way. Never. I can't recommend Weingut Herbert Messmer enough. And their wines can age (if you're into that; not everyone is, nor should they be), but are occasionally expensive, as this one was. Worth it? You'd have to taste it for yourself...

2005 Herbert Messmer Schlossgarten Spaetburgunder Grosses Gewaechs (Pfalz, Germany, 14% abv). 100% Pinot Noir. Ripe plum, black cherry, nutmeg and spicy cinnamon on the nose, made all the more intense by mentholated notes of graphite and licorice as this begins to air out. The palate is sheer finesse, though the whack of cool-climate acidity keeps this from being categorically 'elegant'. There is a slight hint of tannin, but at the moment it's consumed by a broad mouth-coating array of vibrant, rich, palate-staining cran- and blackberry-cherry fruit, framed by piquant notes of slaty minerality and resiny but integrated oak.

A delightful wine, full of grace, but equally full of hubris. A tasteful wine, both in terms of civility and sensorially, but at 25 Euro I dare say there may be (read: 'are') better examples of Pinot Noir in this vintage at a more agreeable price point. I hope that last statement is read for its honesty, not for some relative assessment of quality. All things considered, even with one bottle left, I'd never be ashamed to share this at the breaking of bread with some distinguished guests.

Dirk...Is there anything you can't do with Portuguese grapes?

Just a question. I'll leave it at that. 2006 Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva (Douro, Portugal, 13.5% abv). At first, a blast of salted cantaloupe, a bale of wet hay on a bed of dry leaves, and a very distinguished note of minerality I often get from Terrassen Mosel Riesling, particularly the fatties of Heymann-Loewenstein. There's also a floral aspect to this, perhaps both the elegant nuances of rose water--it's definitely something in the red flower genus--and a hint of the pungent dankness evident in rapeseed or lotus (yes, both smell completely different, but both have a distinguished funk to them--not bad, per se, just pronounced). So it is with the nose here: Aristocratic, complex, perfumed, funky.

Palate-presence is massive, but impeccably balanced, as much about width as it is about length. Smoky vanilla and white peach. Though, it must be said, the finish still retains its youthful abundance of heat; however, I get the feeling this wine is in the later stages of swallowing it all in its abundance of flavor layers, glycerin, acidity and mineral structure.

Without delving too deep into the multitude of flavors here--most too young to discern outright--imagine this as the perfect synthesis of an outsized vintage of Nigl's Gruener Veltliner Privat and something from Chapoutier's white Ferraton stable. I'd give this exceptional wine some time, or give it something rich and buttery at the table.

Waffles anybody?

A Burgundy in Rhone's Backyard

Andre Brunel's 2006 Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition (14% abv) was certainly one of the most pure, honest and utterly quaffable CdP's I tasted in '09 (perhaps EVER!).

Garnet color with flashes of ripe raspberry red. The nose is inundated with complexity: Scorched earth, some burnt leaf notes (perhaps those two are one in the same--a certain smoky, mulled earth scent, but nevertheless baked in that southern France way), reglisse, what has to be sumptuously rich raspberry ganache, but perhaps is, in fact, white chocolate, not black; and the red fruits not so much red, but rather distinctly marzipan. There is a subtle barnyard funkiness here, but it's swirl-based (if that makes any sense at all). The more vigorous you swirl, the more pronounced the funk, which nevertheless fades expeditiously.

On the palate, there is an exemplary amount of inner mouth perfume; it both coats the palate and is effervescent simultaneously. This wine is what I presume 1er Cru Pinot Noir to be in the hands of a true master. Silky but distinct tannin gives context to this most graceful palate of black raspberry, cherry and blueberry fruit. For as graceful and pure as this wine is, air seems to turn it into an even more massive, chocolaty wine.

At about two hours open, the nose evolves into dried flowers, violet perhaps, camphor, graphite, and just a hint of vanilla (though I suspect not oak-related). The tannin is not engulfed by fruit, but rather absorbed by it. From the outset it seemed this wine would be about grace, and nothing else. Perhaps that is the signature of this place, the terroir of Les Cailloux, or just the fingerprint of an honest man, Andre Brunel. No matter; this is Burgundy in Rhone's backyard, and I'll be on that BuS any and every day.

And the price was unbeatable. 17 Euro.

"Tempranillo" with an Afterword from Nestle and L'Oreal

2006 Aalto, Vinedos y Bodegas (Ribera del Duero, Spain, 14.5% abv). From memory (as in, the day after). Towering, and admittedly alcoholic perfume, but not unpleasant or overt and overpowering. Gobs of mulberry and blackberry preserves, mesquite, new leather, maybe a shadowy hint of currant and some melted milk chocolate. This is, at least perfume-wise, indicative of fashionable Ribera double D and Tempra: A great grape with lots of cosmetics. A Barbie doll wine.

One thing about Ribera del D though is that despite the weight, the depth, the richness of the flavors, a lot of these wines retain ample acidity. It gives these wines not only vigor, a racy exuberance that seems to electrify some of these monochromatic Cadbury flavors, but a bit of savoriness that adds a meaty, spicy characteristic--and thus a little complexity--to the otherwise buried tannin.

I would say that for the quality here, the abundance of rich and fun flavors and relative integration of very ripe fruit with very good oak (there seems to be no disconnect between the two as of yet), I believe Ribera del Duero, even with its L'Oreal and Nestle tendencies, is honest wine, worth another thousand looks...and sips.

Forget Alsace...

Let the recounting of 2009 begin. 2007 Herbert Messmer "Im Goldenen Jost" Weisser Burgunder Grosses Gewaechs (Pfalz, Germany, 13.5% abv). A heavenly nectar, built for the table, destined for the heart. There is something in the nose that says emphatically FARM. Heaping wet hay, watermelon right when you cut into it at the farmer's market picnic table, pitted peach, and an almost bonfire smokiness--well, maybe not that intense, but there is the distinct scent of a burning candle just blown out. Sulfur?

Or terroir?

On top of all that, there's more--TONS more--going on here. And when you taste it, you know you just bit into greatness. Massive concentration, but delineated across every square inch of palate real estate. No lie, this is the most perfect Bloody Mary, but tastes like one with 1/8 tomato (spicy mix) and 7/8 lemonade. V8 action, and spicy like Gruener V. Wild, stunning, and I want more. Forget Alsace; this is the real Pinot Blanc.

Ripe Does Not Always = Good. Big Does Not Always = Great.

That's my little dose of vintegrity for 2010. It's been too long since last I wrote here, and that bothers me. The close of 2009 was a catastrophe of errands, appointments, plans and work. Many a wine were consumed, nary a thought composed. Thankfully, a multitude of tasting 'thoughts' had accrued prior to my being smitten with end-of-year syndrome. The time to transfer them into something worth reading and blogging was elusive, not exactly non-existent. That's what really bothers me, and it's what I'm going to fix in 2010. I believe one of Jamie Goode's Rules of Wine Blogging is that entries should be more frequent than profoundly captivating. Though if they could be both, certainly you'd have readership for life, no?

I couldn't think of a better way to start the cataloging of 2009's final BuS-nOtes with what I described above as "my little dose of vintegrity for 2010". For those who've read my first two Body und Soil posts, you'll know where I stand when it comes to wine and vinous integrity, and the following is a wine that left me downright vexed. 2007 Clemens Busch Riesling Spaetlese. Copper, wintergreen, flint, some elusive spice note, and scotch. Yes, scotch. This wine just has me torn. While it doesn't taste flawed, I dare say it doesn't taste quite like Riesling either. Mrs. (Hot) Body und Soil said, "Oh yeah, that's definitely Riesling," when she first sniffed it after my quizzical looks. But I'm convinced I'd peg this as extremely good Alto Adige--or regardless, Italian--Pinot Grigio. The wine was an emphatically Italian paradigm, nasally speaking.

Flavor-wise, this thankfully does not taste like scotch, and even more thankfully, tastes more like Riesling than the nose alludes. Right off the bat there are echoes of the dominating minerality, an almost overwhelming salinity that smacks of high-quality German mineral water gone flat. There is definitely some lime intensity in this, but darned if it doesn't start to morph into something positively Pfalz-ish, tasting more like the blazing basalt notes of Odinstal or Forst's Pechstein. My 'A-ha' moment: Aloe! An aloe note seems to permeate this wine when slightly more chilled. Warmer, this subsides more towards, well, alcohol. Scotch or vodka. Take your pick.

Day 2, this was just a strange beast. No real elegance here, just a rock of a wine, dripping with ore and saline, bitter and dogged like a stale Triscuit. An oddity--to me at least--of the Mosel. The sweeter wines of this estate, as well as their Feinherb creations (with just a bit too much sugar, but a blast to drink nevertheless), are substantially more refined and transparent than this monster. I'd put this stranger in a line-up of Mittelhaardt Rieslings and watch in wonder as a group tried to call the ringer. Quirky body, lots of soil, but not in harmony, and NOT Mosel. One more bottle left, so we'll see if this was merely anomalous.

To a Happy New Year, and even Happier, Harmonious Body und Soil Experiences!
Jeff and Mandy