It’s funny how things can come full circle. I clearly remember the release of 2005 Bordeaux and all the hype surrounding it. I remember Robert Parker raving about the strength of the vintage and how it would go down in history as one of the greatest that Bordeaux had ever seen.
I also recall the Wine Spectator toning in, with James Suckling confirming what we had all been told, and I clearly remember buying that issue off of a newsstand.
I looked at the wines—I didn’t have the option to taste them—and decided not to pull the trigger. Even with a daughter that was born in 2005 (i.e. a great birth year wine option). In the end, it was fear. Fear that I was buying in to the “Hype Machine” of wine critics, fear that I would never enjoy these wines, and fear that they would not appreciate in value, even though all the pros swore they would.
And so, in the end, I did not buy.
Little did I know that, seven years later, I would have a chance to taste so many of these from a perfectly-stored collection. A collection that was bought en premier and stored perfectly up until the very night that they were uncorked and poured for me. Now I look back and feel a great deal of remorse. It was a lesson learned; but even today, as I taste through them, I’m contemplating—should I buy 2005 Bordeaux?
The fact is that Bordeaux as a “brand” is not what it used to be. The escalating prices of wines upon release have pushed many fans and collectors out of the market. This is not because of the great vintages, but because of the ones that were simply good or very good, that stayed at their elevated price points. However, there is another reason as well, and that is how many supposedly “GREAT” vintages have followed since 2005. It’s hard for the average consumer to buy a wine based on what it may one day become, as most Bordeaux isn’t ready to drink upon release.
However, at this time, I can confidently say that 2005 was a great vintage in Bordeaux. At some Chateau, it was probably the best they have ever produced. Even with the 2009s and 2010s being hyped and pushed upon us day after day, 2005 is where my money will likely be spent.
Why? Because it truly is classic.
It was a drought year, where all villages throughout the commune turned out consistently great wines. Both the left bank and the right, both Merlot-based and Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines are simply stunning. It was a result of tough skins and austere tannin, with a level of fruit ripeness achieved through a late hang. 2005 was also a moment in time when Chateau throughout Bordeaux had learned from many of their past mistakes. The overt oak of ’89 and ’90 didn’t work. The wines of ’82 could not be recreated in the cellar, and ’61 was pie in the sky. It had to be a result of superior attention in the vineyards, Mother Nature, and a deft hand in the cellar. In 2005, they were ready for a change, and a perfect storm of technique, nature and winemaking resulted in some of the greatest wines we may ever see from the region.
What surprised me most about some of these wines is how approachable they are today. However, others need decades before they come around—yet they are still enjoyable on their potential, their textures and depth alone. Frankly, I am truly excited to see where these wines are going, and if you have them in your cellar, count yourself lucky. If you don’t, then what are you waiting for? Compared to today’s release prices, some of these are relative values. Enjoy!
On To The Tasting Notes:
The Right Bank
Pomerol & Lalande de Pomerol
2005 Clos l’Église, Pomerol – The nose showed red and blueberry fruit, soil and minerals, with intense and lifting aromas. On the palate, smooth dark fruit expanded across the senses with heavy-silky textures displaying seamless balance. Structure set in on the finish and begged the question of just how long this will mature in the cellar with its large scale fruit kept in perfect check. E.G. (95 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Fleur de Boüard, Lalande de Pomerol – The nose was so layered and intense, showing dark berry, eucalyptus, spice, dark wood, tea leaves, almost herbal yet dark, and rich, with an earthiness coming forward though minerals and stone. On the palate, soft dark red berry fruit with silky textures coated the senses. Hints of fine tannin lingered long on the finish, yet this is still so enjoyable now. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pavie, St. Émilion – The nose was dark, mysterious and alluring with sexy red fruit, spice, hints of cedar wood, balsamic tones, sweet berry, and intense currant. It was smooth and fleshy on the palate, soft even, with ripe red fruits and a gorgeous mouth feel. The long finish was laced with palate-staining red fruit red and black plum. The 2005 Pavie has a beautiful drink-me-now personality. E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château L’Arrosée, St. Émilion – The nose showed bright cherry with finessed earthy floral aromas, minerals and hints of spice in a truly pretty yet elegant expression. On the palate, silky textures made themselves known with weight and balsamic mystique as black cherry and dark spice notes greeted the senses in very ripe yet perfectly balanced display. Dark spiced berry, a hint of bitters and savory herbs informed the long, soothing finish. This is wonderfully enjoyable already, yet should continue to evolve for many years in the cellar. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, St. Émilion – The nose showed plum with crushed berry fruit, spice box, and red floral tones, which turned sweeter with air and picked up a contrasting and pleasurable note of undergrowth. On the palate, I found medium-weight textures, with saline minerality driving currents of dark red berry across the senses. The Canon seemed to play a sweet-and-sour act, which provided a very enjoyable experience, as the textures started small and expanded. Long on the finish with saturating red berry tones, minerals and spice. This is so pleasurable now, yet should continue to evolve beautifully. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Gaffelière, St. Émilion – The nose showed the savory side of Bordeaux with dark berry fruit, undergrowth and earth tones, turning more floral with coaxing, along with a mix of fresh-turned soil and minerals. On the palate, smooth, silky textures with notable weight ushered saturating dark fruits across the senses leaving a coating of fine tannin in its wake. This wine is just a baby still with so much potential, expanding with time in the glass. It finished tart and structured, yet there is so much potential here. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Canon, St. Émilion – The nose showed black cherry with undergrowth, salt-cured meats, saw dust, and moist gravel. On the palate, I found silky textures with firm underlying structure, as notes of cherry and licorice soaked the senses. It provide a truly classic feel with its balance of acid and tannin, which coated the senses throughout the finish along with hints of plume, herbs and soil. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château La Confession, St. Émilion – The nose showed crushed berry and herbs with a dark wood tone that draws you in. With time in the glass, it gained sweetness to its red fruits along with floral tones, undergrowth, and a hint of roasted root vegetables. It was finessed on the palate with silky, acid-driven textures and flavors of tart berry, herbs and cedar. Still structured and youthful throughout its medium-long finish with lingering berry and herbal tones, yet there’s no shame in opening one now, as its balance provides a wonderful drinking experience. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Monbousquet, St. Émilion – What a gorgeous, haunting, intense and almost savory nose, showing pretty dark berry, crushed-mulled fruit and spice with sweet herb and dark balsamic tones. On the palate, silky textures gave way to red fruits with hints of pepper and building tannins toward the close. It was long with saturating dark fruit on the finish followed by bitter tones and gruff tannin. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, St. Émilion – The nose showed crushed, overripe berry, dark undergrowth and soil tones, with minerals and dark earth. On the palate, it displayed tart red fruits with moderate tannin still in control. Notes of plum, red berry, dried flowers, and minerals rang true into the finish. In fact, at times this reminded me a little of Nebbiolo. The long finish showed minerals, tart wild berry and dried floral tones. This is quite austere, yet I am truly intrigued to see where it will go over the years to come. E.G. (91 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Fombrauge, St. Émilion – The nose showed pretty, candied red fruits in a perfumed display of dark red berry, sweet herbs, whole butter and spice box. Slightly restrained on the nose yet likely to open soon. Dark berry fruit with silky textures gained weight on the palate with tannin mounting at each sip. Dark fruit turned to red berry and minerals throughout the tannic finish. Does this need time, or will the tannin outlast the fruit? Only time will tell. E.G. (90 points) | Morrell
The Left Bank
2005 Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan – The nose showed dark, intense fruit with savory herbs, spice, savory brown sauce, sweet balsamic tones and spicy floral notes. On the palate, it was supple and smooth with noticeable weight to its dark spiced fruit, plum, espresso, stone and minerals; turning more savory-spice over time. The intensity continued into the finish with dark fruits and balsamic tones lingering long. E.G. (96 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan – The nose showed intense red berry and floral perfumes with cedar, spice, undergrowth, minerals and animal musk. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures which seemed to soothe the senses. Ripe, crushed dark fruit, with inner floral tones, soil, undergrowth, and minerals prevailed even as fine tannin mounted. Although in its early drinking window, the Smith Haut Lafitte is still an infant in terms of evolution and should continue to improve in the cellar for another 10-20 years. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Bahans Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan – This was meaty and dark with crushed wild berry, currant and spice, hints of animal musk, and violet floral tones. On the palate, it showed soft, supple textures with brisk acidity and a display of cherry, plum and saline minerality. The finish was slightly rustic with its chewy tannins and mouthwatering acidity, yet quite enjoyable and a pleasure to drink. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Palmer, Margaux – The nose was bent inward on itself with dark fruits and intense minerals, yet it seemed to pull you in more than blossoming outward from the glass. On the palate, the 2005 Palmer showed intense, dark, saturating fruit and spice with saline minerals driving weighty textures in vibrant currents across the senses. It’s a thrilling wine to taste now on its textural complexities alone. Although it’s nowhere near ready now, you can easily sense the greatness in this glass. Give this another 10-15 years in the cellar. Simply gorgeous! E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux – The nose showed cedar and spice up front, followed by dark red fruits, undergrowth, floral tones and herbs. It was silky-smooth on the palate, with dark red fruit and remarkable finesse leaving an impression of seamless balance. The finish showed dried red berry, mineral-laden soil and undergrowth with fine tannin in a truly classic expression of Bordeaux. Bury this in your cellar and reap the rewards for decades to come. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Kirwan, Margaux – The bouquet seemed to reach up from the glass with dark red fruits, cedar, intense dusty spice notes, and a rich mix of sweet herbs. On the palate, silky textures gave way to dark fruit, dusty spice, stony minerals and hints of cedar with a coating of tannin contrasted by brisk, mouthwatering acidity providing a truly enjoyable experience. Nothing seemed out of place as this finished on dark fruits with hints on tannin. This is perfectly enjoyable now and should continue to evolve for many years to come. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Lascombes, Margaux – The nose showed dark berry, floral tones, earth and minerals with hints of sweet herbs. This was immensely pretty to say the least, as it turned darker and sweeter with air. On the palate, I found soft textures giving way to dark, mature fruit tones with hints of plum and savory herbs. It was immediate yet delectable on the nose and palate, finishing with dark fruits and inner floral tones. E.G. (92 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac – The nose was dark and rich, showing intense red berry, minerals, soil, herbs, cedar and tobacco. Still incredibly youthful on the palate with firm textures moving in dense waves across the senses, giving only a brief glimpse of this wine’s massive dark red fruits, spice, herbal tea tones, minerals and soil. The Ponet Canet’s structure remained in control throughout the finish, yet there’s so much balance and intensity here, hence its potential. E.G. (95 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac – The nose was incredibly pretty with dusty floral tones, cedar, crushed red berries, herbs, and gaining sweet spice with time in the glass. On the palate, it displayed smooth, soft textures and terrific density with ripe dark red berry fruit, which glided effortlessly across the palate, leaving sweet tannin in its wake. Dried berry and mineral tones lingered on the senses throughout its beautifully finessed finish. E.G. (94 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Duhart-Milon, Pauillac – The nose was dark and inviting, showing ripe black fruits, tobacco, herbs, spice and wood tones. On the palate, I found velvety, weighty textures giving way to dark balsamic, inflicted fruit in a smooth and intense performance. The finish was medium-long with dark fruits. E.G. (91 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Cos d’Estournel, St. Estèphe – The nose was stunning with deep dark fruits, espresso and minty herbs, sweet berry, then turning almost savory with dark florals, smoke, soil and saline-minerals—just gorgeous. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with velvet weight as intense dark red fruits saturated the senses, along with spice, bitter cocoa, sweet herbs, and minerals. The finish was dark, almost haunting, with a coating of tannin enveloped in rich fruit. The 2005 Cos d’Estournel is still incredibly youthful, yet worth peeking in on and sure to be amazing for a decade or two to come. E.G. (97 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe – The nose was stunning, showing dark red fruits, fresh tobacco, brown sugar, exotic spice, and herbaceous tones. On the palate, I found silky textures, which quickly gave way to dried black cherry with gripping tannin, hints of earth and herbs, followed by a wave of perfectly balanced acidity. Still youthful tannin clenched the palate throughout the finish, showing incredible potential for the long haul. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Phélan Ségur, St. Estèphe – The nose was deep and dark with dried cherry, blueberry skins, notes of olive and gravel dust. On the palate, it showed silky textures with firming tannin, turning its dark red fruits to dried florals and mineral tones. The finish was quite youthful and closed in upon itself, but ultimately, this is still quite enjoyable today. E.G. (91 points)
2005 Château Branaire-Ducru, St. Julien – What a pretty nose, showing a mix of red berry, darker fruits, cherry, minerals, spice and cedar. On the palate, it displayed juicy textures with high-toned brambly fruit and minerals, while gaining flesh and soothing richness with time in the glass. Fine tannin coated the senses through the close yet took nothing away from the experience. This was an excellent performance and a pleasure to drink, with years of cellar potential. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien – The nose was intense, showing bright cherry, with spice, baked confectionary notes, sweet crème, savory burnt butter and tobacco. On the palate, I found a display of silky, smooth textures with hints of tannic grip, more wood than varietal, yet beautifully balanced with ripe saturating dark red fruits and spice. Fine tannin resonated on the powerful finish contrasted through lasting fruit and hints of tobacco. E.G. (93 points) | Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
The northern Rhone has received a lot of love on these pages, but today I want to swing down to the south and talk about one of the most exciting wines I’ve tasted in a long time. Surprise, surprise—It’s not Chateauneuf du Pape (which deserves it’s own space all together). Instead, today I want to talk about the little-known appellation of Rasteau and its rising star, Jérôme Bressy, who’s making wines to rival all that the Southern Rhone has to offer.
It was only in 2010 that the Rasteau appellation, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Chateauneuf du Pape, was officially given AOC status. Much like the surrounding villages of the region, most of the wines were largely unknown, bottled as Cotes du Rhone or sucked up by large cooperatives. As the popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape spread over the last 20 years, both consumers and growers began to wonder why a higher standard of wine could not be produced throughout the entire region. Hence the names Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Lirac are now seen on retail shelves, as more farmers turn winemakers and bottlers.
This brings us back to Jérôme Bressy and Gourt de Mautens.
Jérôme Bressy grew up in a family of grape growers, who would sell their entire production to the local cooperative. However, in 1989 his father decided to switch to organic farming. This decision gave Jérôme the perfect raw materials he needed to realize his dream. In 1996, at the age of 23, Jérôme became the first winemaker of the family and began bottling their entire production; Gourt de Mautens was born. At first, the wines were made in an old converted hanger on the family’s property. Now, almost two decades later, Jérôme Bressy is considered the premier producer within the appellation.
The vines, at ages between 40 – 100-years-old, sit on steep terraced slopes and on hillside vineyards, with soils made up of chalky, clay marls, which aids in both water retention and adding the mineral thrust found throughout the entire lineup at Gourt de Mautens. Here, everything is done by hand, and Jérôme took his father’s vision a step further by switching to full biodynamic farming since 2008. In many ways, the vintage itself dictates the finished wine, and that’s exactly how Jérôme prefers it. After crush, the juice is fermented by native yeasts and then moved to neutral cask or concrete vat for 24-36 months.
The result is a wine of balanced intensity made primarily from old vine Grenache yet complemented by a mix of other indigenous Rhone varieties, which is something Jérôme takes very seriously. Both the 2010 and 2011 are labled IGP Vaucluse because of the percentage of Vaccarese, Counoise, Carignan, Cinsault and Terret Noir within the blend. At this time, the Rasteau appellation laws only permit these varieties up to 15%, yet to maintain the integrity of his vineyards and the wine they produce, Jérôme opted for the lesser classification—at least until the appellation rules catch up in 2019 (which is in the works).
This is a dark beauty of a wine that could only come from the southern Rhone, showing layer after layer of dark fruits, earth, herbs and spice. It takes hold of your palate with noticeable grip and then delivers masses of dark, saturating fruit in return, yet never losses its balance and poise.
If you are a fan of Chateauneuf du Pape or the southern Rhone in general, then these are wines that you must seek out. I can assure you that they will find a place in my cellar as well.
On to the wines:
2009 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Rasteau – This dark beauty of a wine opened up in the glass to reveal rich blackberry, accentuated by notes of moist earth, animal musk, herbs, dark florals and hints of spiced cookie. It was medium-bodied on the palate, showing ripe black fruits with dark, dark herbal tones and mineral-stone. Saturating–literally, saturating black fruits carried into the long finish with lingering spice and floral tones. (94 points) Morrell
2010 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Vaucluse Rouge – The nose showed focused dark fruits with pretty floral tones and black pepper in a slightly restrained display. Massive textures bullied the palate, kept in check by vibrant waves of acidity. Blackberry and herbs danced across the senses in this refined and elegant effort. Black fruit, spice and fine tannin seemed to coat the entire palate throughout the finish, like a bomb exploding in upon itself. This is in need of cellaring and may deserve a higher score down the road. (93 points)
2011 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Vaucluse Rouge – The nose showed an intense, layered bouquet of ripe black fruit, olives, mineral-laden stone, pepper, licorice and a hint of barnyard. It was saturating, with dark fruits on the palate, showing tremendous energy and concentration, which seemed to touch upon all the senses. Notes of tarry tannin provided grip, while ripe, crushed blackberry and minerals notes lingered long into the finish. This was remarkable concentrated yet fresh and focused. (94 points)
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, GG, Fienherb and Trocken–what does it all mean? In my opinion, German Riesling can be one of the most confusing categories in the world of wine. At a recent tasting, I asked a producer, “What’s the difference between the designation of ‘R’ versus ‘RR’?,” and their answer was, “The ‘RR’ is like an extra reserve.” In other words, a reserve, uh, reserve? Exactly.
The confusion may also happen to have something to do with the Tolkienesque script on many of the bottles. Or, maybe it’s that the average wine and liquor store doesn’t provide a quality selection, or one that even comes close to representing what the region is capable of. In the end, it’s probably a mix of all of these things.
However, one thing I’m sure of is that Riesling is worth overcoming all of these challenges.
First and foremost, you may be surprised to learn that the preferred style of Riesling in Germany these days is bone-dry. Many of the sweet and incredibly ripe Rieslings you see on store shelves are being produced for our benefit, but that’s not to say that the styles of Spatlese and Auslese aren’t worth your attention. The first thing to understand is that these designations are about the level of ripeness the fruit is picked at. This is an entire controversy in itself, as riper fruit doesn’t necessarily mean better wine. However, you can have a Trocken Spatlese or Auslese—a dry Riesling made from late harvest fruit.
The good news is that the old idea of riper fruit equaling better quality is becoming a thing of the past. Now we are seeing attention being paid to the importance of place, soil, and climate—terroir.
I know it’s confusing, but bear with me as we talk about the individual styles.
Trocken (Dry to The Bone)
If sweet wine isn’t your thing, then you owe it to yourself to find a Trocken (Dry) Riesling. Trocken is a bone-dry style of Riesling that’s crisp and fresh with precise and focused fruit and minerals. They can be achingly enjoyable, as the acid seems to almost sear your gums but then coaxes your taste buds to water, releasing an intense wave of fruit. The experience is one like you may have never before witnessed in your wine-drinking life. For me, finding a wine that produces this effect is truly thrilling. In the case of a Spatlese Trocken, you will have more depth and more texture, yet the wine will still be dry. This is a style that I truly adore.
2012 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Trocken – The bouquet on the Emrich-Schönleber was drop-dead gorgeous, starting with intense wet slate and minerals, then opening up to reveal peach, apricot, smoke and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was rich yet focused with pulsing acidity giving way to green apple, minerals and lime. So youthful and tightly coiled yet wanting to burst from its seams with a tense, structured finish. This wine was stone, fruit, and earth personified. (94 points) Morrell
Feinherb (A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down)
Feinherb is a relatively new term in German wine, which could be compared to the designation, “Halbtrocken” (half-dry). However, what Feinherb is all about is finding a perfect balance. The fruit is intense with all the minerals and acid that I love in Riesling. Yet, there’s also a small dose of balancing sweetness, which give these wines a truly jubilant feel. They are not sweet, they are not dry—they are perfectly balanced. In many cases, the intensity in the glass is simply incredible, and you can feel the weight of the riper fruit on your palate, but it stays within the lines and never bubbles over. Instead, it’s a wine that’s teetering on the edge, and it’s on that edge where I find the most enjoyment.
2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben – A beautiful and truly seductive Riesling, the 2012 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr “Ur” Alte Reben exploded from the glass with aromas of ripe pear, yellow flowers, roasted walnut, saline minerals, and hints of brie. On the palate, it was silky yet fresh with sweet and sour tropical fruit, lemon pith, slate and a hint if green olive. Lemon zest lingered long on the finish, as the mouth watered, slowly melting away the oily textures and revealing a lingering note of pineapple. (94 points) Producer’s Website
Kabinett (Hitting the sweet spot)
A Kabinett can be one of the most enjoyable glasses of Riesling you will ever have. The Kabinett style is racy with vibrant acidity and a hint of residual sugar. Typically, these are low in alcohol and incredibly refreshing, making them some of the best wines for a hot summer afternoon.
2012 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett – The nose showed gorgeous richness balanced by fresh floral tones with notes of baked apple, mulling spice and lemon curd, giving way to sweet floral tones and hints of savory herbs. It flooded the palate with juicy acidity, sweet lemon-tinged peach, green apple and hints of spice. The finish showed lemon pith with a balancing note of sweet peach and herbal tones which lingered for over a minute. Very nice! (92 points) Producer’s Website
Spatlese (Late to harvest)
Spatlese comes from late harvest fruit, usually about one week after the general harvest. These can have noticeable sweetness, but are in no way a dessert wine. As mentioned above, a Spatlese can be fermented to dryness, and the haunting depths they reach will drive a Riesling lover mad. What’s more; in good vintages, they can age amazingly well. These may not have the refreshing quality of a Kabinett but make up for it with their balance and vibrancy. I’ve often heard that Riesling is a red wine for white wine lovers; this saying makes perfect sense when you taste an aged Spatlese.
2012 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Spätlese – This was truly beguiling on the nose in the best possible way, as savory and mineral tones led the charge, followed by intense notes of lemon peel, smoke and crushed stone. It was vibrant on the palate yet wrapped up tight in its youth with textures that seemed to come in dense waves of fruit and acid. Lemony citrus saturated the senses with clinging minerality as the palate-coating finish lingered on. This is in need of time to soften and unfold, yet it should bloom with time in the cellar. (92 points) Karthauserhof at Morrell
Auslese (The pick of the liter)
The Auslese style is made from extremely ripe fruit and is hand-selected in the vineyard. These can be fermented to dryness, but you’ll more often find them in a sweeter style. Some may even show notes of Botrytis, which should be no surprise considering how much time the fruit hangs on the vine. The fact that the majority of these are sweet shouldn’t detract from your decision to try one. In the end, they are big, intense wines of incredible balance that teeter on the edge of complexity and ripe fruit. I can think of nothing better to pair with spicy Asian cuisine or Indian food, and just like Spatlese, the best can age for decades.
2004 Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Auslese trocken RR – Truly captivating. The nose just seemed to pull me in and kept me coming back to find a striking bouquet of ripe peach and lime with notes of smoky flint, minerals, sweet floral tones and a hint of white cherry. It entered the palate broad and soft, yet quickly came to life, expressing notes of orange-tinged pear, lemon, saline minerals and crushed shells. The finish was long with a saturating note of sweet lemon, as the mouth began to water, begging for another sip. A stunning wine. (95 points) Producer’s Website
Grosses Gewachs and Erstes Gewachs (The Grands Crus of Germany)
Grosses Gewachs translates to “Great Growth,” and it is the catchphrase of German wine today. These are dry wines made with the best fruit from the best sites at optimal ripeness–and the prices reflect that. Just like any other region, not all “GG” are created equal. The best are works of art, yet some can’t hold a candle to a good Trocken Auslese. That said, this is the future of German wine. These are intense wines of crystalline purity, mineral thrust and teaming acidity. Will they age well? That’s an excellent question, and one we won’t have an absolute answer to for some time, yet that is the hope. Many GGs are almost too much to handle in their youth. I guess we’ll find out. (“Erstes Gewachs” is used in the Rheingau in place of “GG”)
2012 Schäfer-Fröhlich Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs – An impressively fresh, yet rich bouquet of spicy floral notes, grapefruit, kiwi and an intense wave of minerals reached up from the glass. On the palate, it seemed poised to attack yet held back in its youthful state, showing rich and supple textures with flavors of young peach, kiwi and minerals. However, you can sense the tension in this wine. On the finish, notes of grapefruit and exotic spice lingered long. (94 points) Morrell
Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (The Sweetest Perfect)
I’ve grouped these together, as they are the least likely for you to come across in your travels. These are the dessert wines of German Riesling. Beerenauslese is produced from overly ripe grapes which are usually affected by Botrytis. They are big, sweet, intense and expensive. That said, you might never experience a more decedent, yet balanced dessert wine. As for Trockenbeerenauslese—well, this is German Riesling made from raisins. Just imagine that.
2013 Keller Beerenauslese Cuvee Pius Rheinhessen at Morrell
If you made it this far, then you are true fans of German Riesling, and you are armed with enough knowledge to easily shop for your next wine. The producers above are all worth checking out, as are the different styles of Riesling.
However, you tend to know it when the time for Amarone arises; in fact, you crave it. When I think of Amarone, I think of a mix of sweet and savory, often seductive aromas, met by textures on the palate, which lull you into a submissive state as dark, luxurious fruits, spices and even confectionary elements are balanced by a bitterness that is the calling card of a great Amarone. Acidity is also a key component. I think of experiences with Quintarelli, known as ‘The Master of the Veneto,” and how fresh and vibrant they were, even with their lush, nearly dessert-like aromas and flavors. However, don’t think sweet when you think of Amarone, as the word Amarone itself translates to “the Great Bitter.”
This can also lead to another issue, as many people struggle with pairing Amarone with food. However, it’s really not as hard as it seems. The first thing to understand is that there are two distinct styles of Amarone–the rich and confectionary versus the rich and savory—and knowing the producer and the style will lead to repeated success at the dinner table. While the confectionary (don’t mistake this for sweet) style often confuses cooks and does better at the end of a meal by itself, or with a pungent cheese or dried fruits, the savory style can be compared more to a powerful Cabernet but with more bitterness, spice and unbelievably weighty textures. Steak is an obvious choice, yet all forms of red meat stews, roasts and braises pair well, as does anything charred on the grill or with a powerful sauce.
The producer is without a doubt the most important part to finding a great Amarone because it’s a wine which is made less in the vineyard and more by the hand of man. This is not to say that the raw materials don’t matter; they absolutely do. However, it’s through the process of Recieto or Appassimento where the harvested grapes are left to dry for months before being pressed, raising sugar (hence alcohol) levels, which lends these wines their haunting layers of depth, texture, complexity and the ability to age. Without it, you would have a Valpolicella, which is a fantastic wine of vibrancy and early drinking appeal, but nothing like Amarone.
Unfortunately, this same process allows some winemakers to produce an Amarone made from inferior grapes, while using appassimento as makeup on an otherwise uninspiring wine. In the end, the proof is in the bottle, but the sad part is that there’s a large ocean of substandard Amarone out there, and I believe this has a lot to do with its lack of popularity.
In the end, Amarone is worth the hunt, and the time it takes to understand it. It’s a truly unique wine which will thrill the Italophile as well as the lover of powerful wines from around the world, and although it’s not for every meal, when the time is right there is nothing quite like it on earth. A “good” Amarone is a moving experience; a “great” Amarone may just change the way you think about wine.
The following were all showstoppers from recent tastings:
Allegrini is the perfect example of the rich and savory side of Amarone. Not only are they amazing upon release, they also age effortlessly. The pairing possibilities are nearly endless here.
2009 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – The nose was, all at once, sweet, savory and earthy, showing dried cherry, dusty spice dark chocolate, floral undergrowth and hints of green stems. On the palate, it was dense with velvety textures, as bitter cherry and dark, dark chocolate notes saturated the senses, yet remained balanced throughout. The finish was dark with a hint of heat, bitter chocolate and rosy floral perfumes. (92 points)
2000 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – This displayed an impenetrable dark burgundy color in the glass with remarkable intensity on the nose, as it swung from savory to sweet and back again. Intensely ripe black cherry and sweet spice were contrasted by grilled herbs, leather, cooked plum and crushed tomato. I found weighty, velvety textures complemented by brisk acidity on the palate, along with rich savory cherry sauce, baker’s chocolate, spice and sweet herbs. It finished elegant and still slightly firm, leading me to believe this will continue to age well for a decade or more. (93 points)
Marion and Quinatarelli manage to walk the line between the sweet and savory side of Amarone, and the results are elegant; ethereal wines which resonate on the palate with exotic fruit and spice. These are often enjoyed best on their own, simply so you can give them your full attention, which they deserve. It’s also important to note that Quinaterlli is aged for no less than seven years and sometimes even longer before release.
2010 Marion Amarone della Valpolicella – The bouquet seemed to leap from the glass with beautiful floral tones, sweet spice, ripe cherry, dusty soil, and a hint of charred meat. On the palate, it was rich, showing impeccable balance with flavors of ripe black cherry, sweet spice, tobacco and licorice, yet juicy and vibrant throughout. The finish was long with spiced dark fruits and a contrasting bitter note. This is a tremendous wine. (95 points) Morrell
1998 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – It is always a treat to taste Quinartelli Amarone. The nose showed dusty dried flowers and powdered cocoa, eucalyptus and preserved cherries with a slightly smoky hint to it, spice box and molasses. It was finessed, yet intense on the palate with a smooth consistency and weight, as notes of candied cherry, rum raisin and cardamom coated the senses. The finish lingered for over a minute with notes of cherry, fig and spice. (96 points)
The Tommasi is a perfect example of the rich and confectionary style, perfect with a ripe blue cheese.
2010 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – The nose was confectionary, showing plum, black cherry, medicinal herbs and bitter molasses. On the palate, it was soft with velvety textures as sweet dark fruit covered the palate with dark chocolate and holiday spice. The finish showed medicinal cherry, which lingered long with a touch of liquor. (92 Points)
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
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