Perhaps no producer in the world has seen a rise in popularity and prices at the rate we are witnessing with Klaus Peter Keller's Rheinhessen Grosses Gewächs wines. The quality has been superb for many years now, but small production met with rapidly growing interest is a bit of a nightmare scenario as a retailer.Today, I'm happy to offer a small parcel of some of Keller's top wines, the 2016 Hubacker GG, RR Goldkapsel, and Frauenberg Spätburgunder GG.RR Goldkapsel is the cult classic wine of the estate, sourced from a 0.33 ha parcel of red soil located in the limetsone-dominant Kirchspiel vineyard. Because Keller ferments this naturally there is always a touch of residual sugar left, which really balances the darker mineral expression of this parcel.Hubacker is one of the most powerful and deeply concentrated dry Rieslings in the Keller lineup. Sourced from a vineyard of loess, loam, and marl, with large blocks of limestone scattered throughout.Frauenberg is an excellent choice for blinding your Francophile friends. The Burgundian kinship was deepened when Keller worked alongside Eric Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin & Hubert Lignier in Morey-Saint-Denis. That's good company."If I had to choose one wine to show how great dry German Riesling can be I would choose a Keller riesling. Those wines are the German Montrachets"
- Jancis Robinson
The quote has turned many heads toward the Rheinhessen since it was first published in 2008. Robinson's expertise crosses over an infinite array of regions and producers. When declarations at this level are made, people pay close attention.
Magical is a word that adequately sums up the Koehler-Ruprecht estate in Germany's Pfalz region. But, when we are talking about the super rare reserve bottlings, "R" and "RR", we've entered another dimension of dry Riesling.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2007 Koehler-Ruprecht Saumagen Riesling Auslese Trocken "R" and "RR". This is the only listing for either wine in the entire U.S.
The "R" and "RR" come from a special selection of the smallest, golden berries harvested in the Saumagen vineyard. The "RR" is differentiated partially by its extra aging in barrel as compared to the "R". 2007 saw near perfect balance for Pfalz whites, and much like in Burgundy, there's a freshness to this vintage that continues to appeal to classic-leaning palates.
The wines of Koehler-Ruprecht bear little resemblance to those of neighboring producers, nor to those next door in France's Alsace. Though Riesling is the focus here, a super-natural element exists within all of their wines that make them stand out among their contemporaries. These are some of the very most fascinating wines on earth, and it's the extreme hands-off approach here that's largely responsible for that singular quality.
The winemaking has remained about the same since the early 18th century when the domaine was established. Ferments occur completely naturally. Aging takes place in larger old German oak barrels. The vineyards are worked without herbicides, pesticides, or irrigation. The sweet spot of the holdings comes from Kallstadter's famed Saumagen vineyard, which translates to "pig's stomach" due to its shape. The Pfalz is home to an amalgamation of soils. But, here in Saumagen, it's limestone that takes center stage and bears the most responsibility for this site's crystalline nature, and peerless transformative abilities in bottle.
Koehler-Ruprecht produces Rieslings dry, off-dry, and sweet, but it's their trocken (dry) bottlings that really hit the mark for me. With age these begin to convert into absolutely mystical wines. Their calling card is a cotton candy note that slowly develops. The protective influence of the Vosges mountains to the west gives the Pfalz the lowest amount of rainfall in Germany. This abundance of sunlight gives ample texture and full-throttle ripeness. Finding wines from the Pfalz that avoid getting a little chunky can be challenging. Koehler-Ruprecht's dry versions always carry a flashy mineral streak that brilliantly juxtaposes with the golden apple, sweet corn, ginger, and quintessential cotton candy note.
I was thrilled to receive this quad of Saumagen bottlings. Each vintage offers a perfect illustration into how all these elements balance together, unfolding slowly over time. The wines are pure, textured, with a laser-cut focus to them - Riesling at its most enchanting.
The different designations like Kabinett and Auslese refer to the ripeness level at picking. Auslese, picked later, will show more weight, and power. While Kabinett will show more delicate and agile. Each wine is fermented completely dry.
The wines of Germany's Saar region are best defined by expressions from its greatest heroes, Egon Müller and Hanno Zilliken. For over 2,000 years Riesling from steep slopes above the Saar tributary has been known for delicacy, finesse, and sharp clarity. These two renowned ambassadors over the last century have relied on ample residual sugar for their snap-shop of vineyard and vintage. The young Florian Lauer has a very different perspective on the Saar, and he's not been shy about it.
Today, I'm happy to offer one of my favorite wines released in 2018, and as I see it, the single greatest value in German Riesling, The 2016 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp "Senior" for $30 per bottle, and down to $27.95 on orders of 3 bottles or more!
Lauer's departure from the Müller and Zilliken mold can be found in two areas that stand out the most at first glance. His wines focus on a dry-tasting style, and the Saar's conventional "lightness of being" is traded for an unapologetic, deep textural symphony. One with a saturating grip that calls to mind Metallica more so than Mozart. THIS is Florian Lauer's Saar today. And it is awesome.
I've given up trying to count the number of times a Lauer wine has been poured for a drinker not particular fond or familiar with Riesling only to have them change their tune immediately. Florian's wines have a way of flipping preconceived notions upside down in a flash. They are radical, yet engage us all with their purity, detail, and site specificity.
Increasingly warmer temperatures in the Saar now allow for this dry-tasting style to excel - it's one that would've been teeth-chattering just a couple decades ago. The magic of Lauer, and his home village of Ayl. comes from old, un-grafted vines worked entirely by hand. Within an exceptional range of wines all worth our attention, it's his Ayler Kupp Fass 6 "Senior" that stands as the proverbial whisper within the world of collectible German Riesling.
Kupp is the greatest vineyard of Ayl, and here 70-yr-old un-grafted vines are tapped for a wine whose name comes from a special portion of the vineyard that Florian's grandfather was enamored with. This western-most parcel would regularly end up in the Fass 6, a specific fuder that the patriarch would write "Senior" on to mark it strictly for personal consumption. Thankfully, today Florian is more into sharing.
$30 per bottle puts Senior on my short list of the great values in the entire world of wine. Truth be told, I promise to cellar this wine each vintage, and each year I fail miserably in this pledge. Last year at our annual champagne and fried chicken party in San Diego it was a magnum of Lauer's Senior that emptied before any 750ml bottle -the truest testament to a wine's greatness.
2016 is a vintage truly defined by its perfect, exquisite balance. Everything is in its right place. There's no shortcoming on ripeness. There's no element of acidity that stands out. Each component melds perfectly with its partners. If you're fond of Riesling or maybe been hesitant due to levels of sweetness, this is the perfect bottle to display the noble variety's prowess in the best hands from the best site.
The Rheingau's unconventional and delicious wines of J.B. Becker are known well for his very late winery releases. Vintages offered below are 1990, 1996, and 2008. But, his 2015 collection of dry and dry-ish (halbtrocken) wines are equally as intriguing.
Since 1971, Hajo Becker has been farming 11 hectares in the Rheingau. Certified organic since 2005, though Becker worked organically for decades. Native yeasts ferments and aging in massive 2,400-liter barrels. "Singular" is often the descriptor used for these mainly dry wines, and I cannot think of a better application of the word. These taste unlike any Riesling, or any wine you're likely to ever have. They are charming, supremely vibrant, and endlesssly thought-provoking.
The case is made by many that Loire Valley Chenin Blanc is the benchmark for diversity within the world of wine. And I'm not one to argue with that sentiment. Bone-dry, sparkling, off-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. The entire range is covered here in the central Loire. However, this perspective has become a bit of a double-edged sword for Chenin. If everything can be done well, is anything actually exceptional? I won't make the case, as some do, that top sparkling examples rival great champagne. But, I will gladly tell you that the zenith of bone-dry Chenin Blanc is deadly serious.
Clos Rougeard's Brézé is the most famous name in this club, with current releases starting at $200 per bottle. But, beyond that there's one name that embodies the detail and clarity that top dry Chenin is capable of. Jacky Blot's domaine, La Taille Aux Loups works primarily with vineyards in Montlouis, but in Vouvray there's one parcel of old vines that produce his most coveted wine. Precision is the first word that comes to mind when I taste his monopole, Clos de la Bretonniere. At $41 per bottle, this is the greatest bone-dry Chenin Blanc that still lies under-the-radar.
Blot takes his cue's from Burgundy gods, Coche-Dury and Roulot. After a slow barrel fermentation (20% new wood here) he moves his wine into steel for several months prior to bottling. Much like the disciplined Chenin found in Saumur, here battonage is avoided and malolactic fermentation is blocked - a necessity in accentuating the laser-focus and sleek frame that draws comparisons to Burgundy.
Blot is no nonsense when it comes to farming, with organic and hands-on viticulture serving as the root of success for all his wines. However, Clos de la Bretonniere stands out in his lineup. While his Montlouis wines can show density and breadth, this rare Vouvray parcel of 62-yr-old vines on pure limestone is a different beast. There's a mesmerizing level of detail and shimmering range of flavors that seemingly dance on the palate. It's a drinking sensation that you do not want to end.
Vouvray is most associated with off-dry and sweet styles of wine. Since 1993 Jacky has focused on bone-dry wines, a choice that was not received warmly for the first two vintages in the Loire. But, after some time, people began to see what he was after. Today, the Clos de la Bretonniere is one of the greatest examples of dry Chenin Blanc in the world. But, like the Loire in 1993, people are still just catching on. 2017 has proven so far to be a thrilling vintage for the whites of the Loire, but even in this context the dry wines from the vintage have a unmistakable featherweight presence on the palate that's pure magic.
It's not often you can tell drinkers of Coche and Roulot to pick up a bottle of dry Chenin and expect to be be floored. At $41 per bottle, today is definitely that day.