Join us for our "Vintage Pairs" Blind Tasting on Wednesday 3rd June 2020

In this blind tasting session, we select five wines, serve them blind and, as a group, work deductively through the tasting process to uncover the wine. The trick here is we actually serve ten wines – two wines with something in common, served in pairs.

1st Pair: 2013 Weingut Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Trocken Grosses Gewächs Réserve & Weingut Dr. Loosen Prälat Tocken Grosses Gewächs Réserve

Back in August 2016, Linden hosted a masterclass with Erni Loosen and wrote a recap of the class in which he explained the Grosses Gewächs Réserve (“GGRs”) came about. In Linden’s description of the insights from the class, he noted that Erni explained that since the beginning of his time at the estate which began in the mid-1980s they have been making a small amount of dry Riesling. But, Erni explained that they weren’t quite doing it right. Then, one day an older customer who had been a client of his grandfather’s came in with a bottle of dry Riesling from 1949, and the bottle was excellent. Erni learned that what his grandfather had been doing to achieve this was prolonged ageing in fuder (neutral 1,000 litre wooden cask), no racking, and late bottling. Linden went on to explain that, ‘These single vineyard “GG” Rieslings are fermented in fuder, receive no racking until a full 12 months in cask.’ Then, Linden continued to describe that another fuder of the exact same wine is kept for another 24 months, unracked before bottling, and this is called the “GGR”. The designation “GG” = ‘Grosses Gewächs’ and refers to a grand cru wine in a dry style. Then, the designation “GGR” = ‘Grosses Gewächs Réserve’ and refers to a grand cru wine in a dry style that is aged for 24 months on its lees.

2013 Weingut Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Trocken Grosses Gewächs Réserve is from a volcanic rock vineyard and from ancient, ungrafted vines that have an average age of 120 years old. The vines are situated on very steep slopes in an amphitheater shaped vineyard that’s created by the bend in the Mosel river. These vines often produce grapes with millerandage, or ‘shot berry’ fruit – tiny seedless grapes that concentrate the flavour and aroma without necessarily ratcheting up sugar levels. The nose and flavour of this wine is quite distinctive being much more spicy – per the Würzgarten (Ürziger Würzgarten translates to ‘The spice garden of Ürzig’) as well as tropical in character.

By contrast the 2013 Weingut Dr. Loosen Erdener Prälat Tocken Grosses Gewächs Réserve comes from a vineyard made up of red Devonian slate. The name Erdener Prälat translates to ‘The Bishop of Erden’. This wine is also made from ancient, ungrafted vines that are more than 100 years old. The Erdener Prälat vineyard is only 1.62 hectares, and many credit it with being the greatest vineyard in the Mosel. The wines of this vineyard tend to have more flavour intensity, power and concentration due to the warm area and heat retaining slate cliffs where these vines grow. Let’s see if we pick up the spice note in the Ürziger Würzgarten versus the ripe intensity in the Erdener Prälat.

In 2013 the vintage was challenging in Germany, and a small amount of wine was made. However, botrytis thrived, so it’s an excellent vintage for Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines. Some producers actually didn’t make any Kabinett or Spätlese wines.

2nd Pair: 2016 Weingut H.J. Kreuzberg Devonshiefer Spätburgunder ‘R’ Auktion & Deutzerhof Grand Duc Reserve Spätburgunder ’30 Monate Barrique’ Auktion 

Germany is the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir; it’s just that most of their Pinot Noir has always stayed in Germany. However, now more and more we are finding it on the export market, outside of Germany as the quality has improved and more people are seeking out Spätburgunder. The Ahr, located to the north, is one of the most famous regions in Germany for Pinot Noir owing to its slate and basalt soils that create a pleasing texture in the wines. The Ahr is a tiny region, 100km north of the Mosel. It’s only 540ha, compared the 9080 hectares of the Mosel, and rather improbably it is best known not for whites but for reds, particularly Pinot Noir, which is referred to in German as Spätburgunder, literally the late Burgundy grape. The region has a special microclimate which make the growing of high quality Pinot Noir possible and vineyards are situated on southeast to southwest facing steep slopes.

The 2016 Deutzerhof Grand Duc Reserve Spätburgunder ’30 Monate Barrique’ Auktion is named in honour of the eagle owl, the largest of the eagles which is called, ‘Grand Duc’ in France. This eagle lives and breeds in the slate rocks of the Ahr. The wine undergoes open top fermentation and goes into new oak barrels for ageing. Yields are low at 25-30 hl/ha.

One of the other Spätburgunder’s that has impressed Linden over the past few years is Kreuzberg’s, another estate located in the Ahr. They put into the auction each year a barrel selection of their Devonschiefer Spätburgunder ‘R’. Devonschiefer translates to Devonian slate. This slate is also found in the Mosel. Linden finds this Spätburgunder to be made in a less pushed style, much more sympathetic to a naturally lighter frame. Let’s see if we will peg these as Spätburgunders and whether we will agree with Linden’s description of the Devonschiefer.

The 2016 vintage in the Ahr in Germany saw lots of rainfall in early summer and a cool spring, so the growing season started late and downy mildew was a major concern. However, the weather conditions improved by July with warm temperatures helping to ripen the grapes and favourable weather conditions during the harvest time of September and October. In the end, the vintage turned out well with less alcohol than 2015 and more acidity while also producing wines with pleasing ripeness including ripe tannins and concentrated flavours.

3rd Pair: 2001 & 1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d’Alba

Bruno Giacosa is one of the great legends in winemaking. And he learned winemaking from his father and grandfather, not from attending oenology school. He began making wine in 1961 and sadly passed away in January 2018. However, in between that time he made outstanding Barbarescos and Barolos. His daughter, Bruna, is continuing to manage the Bruno Giacosa estate along with Bruno’s enologist and protegé, Dante Scaglione.

The Bruno Giacosa winery is based in Neive in the Langhe hills of Barbaresco. His red label Riserva wines are his most famous, but his standards were so high that even his regular wines represent Barbaresco and Barolo at their absolute best. The Riservas were only made in select vintages where Giacosa deemed the wine worthy of such a distinction. Giacosa was also famous for leading the bottling of single-vineyard crus of Barbaresco and Barolo in the 1960s. For the winemaking, Giacosa spoke of himself as a traditionalist, he did two to three weeks of fermentation in stainless steel tanks and then ageing in 5,000 litre French oak botti (originally he used Slavonian oak) for three to four years.

Bruno Giacosa purchased the Falletto di Serralunga d’Alba vineyard in 1982, and it’s been the source of his greatest Barolos. There are two bottlings made from this vineyard, the ‘Falletto’ which is always a white label and the ‘Rocche del Falletto’ which comes from four south-facing parcels on the vineyard’s upper slope. This later bottling is sometimes made in the Riserva or red label bottling. Prior to the early 1980s, Bruno Giacosa made his wines from purchased fruit from trusted growers.

The vintage of 2001 is an outstanding one for Barolo and certainly one of my favourites. Antonio Galloni describes it as follows: ‘Simply put, for Barolo, 2001 is the most complete of the vintages between 1996 and 2001.’ Vinous, ‘Italy’s 2001 Barolo and 2001 and 2003 Barbaresco vintages’. The growing conditions were ideal for growing Nebbiolo with warm days and cool nights. And the 2001 vintage gave Nebbiolo the slow growth cycle that it requires to achieve both phenolic and alcoholic ripeness.

1998 was also a successful vintage for Barolo. The spring saw a normal growth cycle with flowering happening when expected. Then, June arrived and the conditions during the summer were very warm resulting in one of the hottest summers of the century. Thankfully, September brought cooler temperatures and a return to normal conditions for the ripening of the grapes. Galloni notes that, ‘The 1998s are extremely consistent across the board, and that level of outstanding quality may very well end up being the vintage’s strongest attribute.’ Vinous, ‘Checking in on the 1998 Barolos’.

4th Pair: 1996 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou & Château Montrose

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou is considered to be one of Bordeaux’s Super Seconds. It’s located in the south-eastern part of the commune of St. Julien on Bordeaux’s Left Bank and the vineyard is distinctive because of the large stones that make up the soil. The word ‘Beaucaillou’ translates to beautiful stones. This estate is owned by the Borie family and is made up of 50 hectares of vineyards planted with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. For ageing the wine sees 75-90% new oak and is aged for 18 to 20 months. The 1996 is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot.

Etienne Théodore Dumoulin planted the vineyards of Montrose in 1815. Another significant owner of Château Montrose, Mathieu Dollfus, took over in 1866 and during his time he helped save the vineyard from phylloxera by building a windmill to flood the land; it remains standing at Montrose as a symbol for the estate. Currently, Montrose is owned by Martin and Olivier Bouygues and is managed by Hervé Berland who took over in 2012.

Today, this Bordeaux estate in St. Estèphe comprises 95 hectares and is made up of gravel and sand over a subsoil of clay. The vineyards run for over a kilometre along the Gironde river, and this location close to the water helps to protect the vines from intense climate changes providing a tempering component to conditions like heat and frost. The vineyard is planted with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. After fermentation, the wine is aged in French oak barrels, 60% of which are new, for approximately 18 months.

The 1996 vintage in the Médoc was the best vintage since 1990. These wines are classic Bordeaux with purity of fruit, cassis and dark fruit aromas with a hint of herbal notes of thyme and rosemary. The fruit is still fresh and vibrant with dried fruit notes and developed aromas just starting to show with medium tannins that have started to integrate and lead through to a medium plus bodied wine with a long finish.

5th Pair: 2016 & 1993 Maximin Grünhaus Herrenberg Eiswein

The estate of Maximin Grünhaus has found evidence indicating a winemaking presence as far back as Roman Times. Maximin von Schubert is the sixth generation leading the estate. The primary grape grown at the estate is Riesling which makes up 91% of the vines; they also have 2.5 hectares of vines planted to Pinot Blanc which was harvested for the first time in 2008, and 1.5 hectares of Pinot Noir which was brought back to the estate in 2007. The wines are fermented using wild yeast in traditional oak fuders and stainless steel tanks.

The Herrenberg vineyard comprises 19 hectares and is located beside the Abtsberg vineyard. Thus, the soils and orientation of these two vineyards are similar. However, the climate in this vineyard is cooler and the topography flatter than Abtsberg. Red Devonian slate is mostly what makes up the Herrenberg vineyard. The wines tend to be more giving and open in their youth than the wines of the Abtsberg vineyard while still possessing longevity.

Herrenberg is a monopole just like Maximin Grünhaus’ other vineyards, Abtsberg and Bruderberg. They are the only estate that owns and works these vineyards. With the making of Eiswein, the grapes are picked and pressed frozen, so it’s a very labour intensive wine to make and many grapes are required to produce a bottle of this wine.

Since the 2012 vintage, Maximin Grünhaus didn’t make Eiswein again until 2016 as the vintages in between were not suited for the production of Eiswein. The 2016 vintage in Germany saw lots of rainfall in early summer, especially in the Nahe and Mosel, so disease was a major concern. Also, there was late frost and hail. However, the weather conditions improved by July. In the end, the vintage turned out well with less alcohol than 2015 and more acidity.

The 1993 vintage in Germany was very good in the Mosel. It saw an extremely warm spring so flowering happened in late June which is three weeks earlier than usual. Rain came during harvest time in September and October presenting challenges. So producers had to be thoughtful about sorting and selection of the grapes when harvesting to ensure they picked healthy grapes.