On April 27th, I was able to join the service team for the 13th annual Ball des Weines, the German wine industry’s ball in Wiesbaden, and spend the night pouring selected rare wines for the guests. See the following for a little summary of three special wines I filled their glasses with.
Before the Ball, I had never had a wine dating back further than the mid-60s. Getting the chance to pour and taste a wine made during WW2 is special, especially for a German.
Let’s start with the color and the first surprise. Deep, golden, honey-like hue? No! Not at all. Beautiful yellow tinted with green. Pretty pretty. Nose next. Not much to say about that but, with the wine having been locked up in a bottle for almost 70 years, this seems fairly evident. Classic notes of aged Riesling such as honey and mixed nuts, also a hint of wet wooden beams. No petrol at all (so obviously aged Riesling doesn’t always have to smell like a garage!). Aeration helped but soon did more harm than good. Palate. Hm, hard to describe. This wine was dry. Drier than dry, the style back then. lean citrus and apple fruit, very hard to distinguish anything in particular. Conclusion. The only really amazing thing about this wine was the fact that it had aged so perfectly well and showed absolutely flawless. Nothing more, nothing less. Considering it was auctioned off at 650 € or 860 USD a bottle earlier this year, quite an expensive flawlessness to buy…
1953 Riesling Auslese, Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg, Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach, Rheingau
If I hadn’t poured the sip myself I could have easily mistaken it for Sherry or Whisk(e)y, by looks that is. A wonderfully deep amber/caramel color gracefully sticking to the glass and creating the most beautiful legs gives a good idea of what’ s to come. A sniff, a second one, BOOM! Almost unreal notes of orange zest, tobacco, honey, hazelnuts and potpourri emerge from a dusty wooden cigar box. A swirl of liquid amber, then the sip. Vineyard peach macerated with vanilla, citrus and fleur-de-sel-caramel. Toasted nuts to top it off. The acidity provides the backbone to support the sugar and it does a great job at it! Amazing!
1953 is known as one of the best ever vintages for noble-rot influenced dessert wines in Germany. A hot summer guaranteed fully ripened fruit with healthy Botrytis. The few bottles floating around the interweb sell for around 180 € or 240 USD a pop.
Eiswein is often referred to as the highest art in winemaking. It certainly is very special and can’t be made every year but honestly, I don’t quite get the hype about it. No doubt, this wine was great but I didn’t get behind it.
As the name Weißherbst promised the wine was rosé colored, more of a very light raspberry hue. It’s the German designation for a Rosé produced from a single varietal, in this case Pinot Noir. The high sugar content results in a very viscous product clinging to your glass with all its might. A tiny sip is often enough to end a night of tasting simply because all the wines after it seem completely dry and way too acidic. The colour translated perfectly well to the nose, bright red berry fruits such as raspberry and wild strawberries went on a walk with ever so subtle pie cherries. The palate followed without shining too brightly. Not surprisingly the wine seemed like it didn’t contain any alcohol at all making it taste a little like grape juice during harvest. The high sugar content does make it very hard for yeasts to grow and do their thing due to its high osmotic pressure but following the German wine laws a product must contain at least 5 %vol. alcohol to be able to called and marketed as wine.
With good Eiswein becoming harder to make every year, winemakers and vintners are amongst the number one witnesses to climate change, you should take the chance to taste one if you can. This particular Eiswein sells for around 160 € or 210 USD online.