TN: Rieslings, Burgundies and popes

Dr. Fischer 2002 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese 1 04 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Strikingly vivid, with piercing acidity slashing through light-infused sweetness and shattering against a molten aluminum core. Still quite primary, but there’s limitless potential here. (7/06)

All the German pradikats (ripeness levels) have lost their meanings in recent years, with even the most lowly kabinett all too often being an auslese-wannabe. This wine actually tastes like it might be a natural spätlese, albeit on the riper side of things…maybe just edging into auslese territory (it’s impossible to know for sure without a lab analysis, and drinking’s a lot more fun than playing with beakers). Alcohol: 9%. Closure: cork. Importer: Carolina.

[Christoffel]JJ Christoffel Erben 1998 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 04 99 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) – Creamy lime, lemon curd, and a lovely, soft texture with lingering remnants of spice on the finish…which is brightened by crisp apple shavings and nice acidity. Perfectly mature. (7/06)

This is probably a bit old for a kabinett…not that they can’t age this long (especially from a good site and producer); it’s just that when they’re good young, they’re so good that it’s a little silly to hold on to them. But if you do, here’s an example of what can happen: all the best qualities of aged German Riesling, writ small (as a kabinett should be). Plus, there’s even the trademark Würzgarten spice. Alcohol: 7.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Theise/Skurnik. Web:

Boxler 2002 Pinot Gris L50 (Alsace) – Big spiced pear with a metal edge and great acidity. Simple now, but there are hints and teases of a greater complexity to come. (7/06)

Boxler’s elaborate lot coding system is something I understand in its French incarnation. But I’m a little unclear on the American bottlings, which are different. My supposition about this one – L50 – is that it’s an assemblage, not a single-site wine (Boxler makes several wines from lieux dits that are not specified on the label outside the lot number), because the site-specific wines tend to have letters trailing the number. And if you think that this sort of arcanity is anathema to casual wine appreciation, you’re right. Why mimic the worst abuses of the German system? Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Chadderdon.

[Drouhin]Drouhin 1996 Chambolle-Musigny (Burgundy) – Soft and balanced, a little recalcitrant at first opening but quickly blossoming to something really elegant. There’s five-spice powder, raspberry, strawberry blossoms and seeds, and with all the tannin fully resolved and the acid fully integrated there’s nothing to get in the way of this gorgeous and aromatic fruit. (7/06)

Chambolle-Musigny is known for producing wines of elegance, and this wine pretty clearly states its origins. It’s a village wine, which means the grapes can come from anywhere within the village boundaries of Chambolle-Musigny (in reality a village plus a defined number of vineyards around the village), and ten years is a pretty good lifespan for such a wine. Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Dreyfus Ashby. Web:

François Lumpp 1999 Givry Crausot “1er Cru” (Burgundy) – Almost shockingly primary, with strawberry seed, ripe mint juice, and a spicy herbality surrounding a full-fruited, tingly wine that clearly leans towards the black fruit realm. Honestly, in a blind tasting, I’d probably identify this as being from Oregon, or at least the Russian River Valley. It’s a very nice little wine, but I’m not convinced it has much to say about Givry. (7/06)

What little I’ve been able to learn about this producer suggests that the wines are minimally amplified, in both the vineyard and the cellar. How, then, to account for the performance of this bottle…which, if it continues along its current lines, will most likely be exceptionally long-lived for a Givry? Well, the simple answer is that I can’t. Anyone have any suggestions? Alcohol: 13%. Closure: cork. Importer: Vineyard Road.

Coulon “Domaine de la Pinède” 1998 Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe (Rhône) – Spiced bubblegum, rosemary, thyme, and raspberry with meat liqueur and a gorgeous, long finish. The wine is surprising in its youthful, full-bodied presentation of completely tertiary elements; it’s come to full maturity very, very early. (7/06)

Wines have different purposes, and not all wines must be forceful, structured and long-aging to be excellent. Normally, so-called “off-vintages” fit this bill…things to drink while one waits for better bottles to come to a drinkable state…but with the escalating price of ageable wines (especially from Europe, given the dollar’s dismal performance) and a world of worthwhile alternatives, this isn’t always an appetizing option. But then there are wines like this one, which comes from a theoretically fine year, but was just never meant for old bones. To have this much aged complexity in such a young wine (eight years is not a long time for Châteauneuf) is as welcome as it is rare. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Corcia.

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