Friday, March 24, 2017

The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) Presented: 2015 German Vintage Tasting with Phil Bernstein, USA

Picture: The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) Presented: 2015 German Vintage Tasting with Phil Bernstein

The annual “New German Vintage” tasting of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) around February/March/April, led by Phil Bernstein, is always a highlight for the German wine aficionados in the Washington DC area. Phil Bernstein is very entertaining and knowledgeable about German wine. He is in charge of German wines at MacArthur Beverages, one of the best German wine retailers in the country.

Pictures: German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) President Carl Willner and David Wendler, Event Organizer, Opening the Event, with Phil Bernstein

This year again, we had a full house, with 67 people having signed up and paid US35/ US$42 (members/ non-members) for the tasting. Thank you very much Phil for a great event.

Pictures:The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) Presented: 2015 German Vintage Tasting with Phil Bernstein

Invitation

Phil Bernstein, German wine buyer, MacArthur Beverages: I’d like to invite you to attend my yearly new vintage tasting with the German Wine Society. We’ve selected some of the best wines of the vintage and for those of you that haven’t attended; this is always a fun event. We keep it light and have lots of great back and forth banter. The wines are the stars of the show, and if you’re not too familiar with German wine, this will be a great learning opportunity. If you haven’t already heard, 2015 is a fantastic vintage for the great Rieslings of Germany-you do not want to miss this!

Pictures: Phil Bernstein

German Wine Society: Every year we host a tasting to provide members and guests with an early opportunity to try wines from the new vintage. Our host is Phil Bernstein of MacArthur Beverages, one of the leading retailers of German wines in the country.The new vintage is 2015, which John Gilman describes as stupendous, with the potential to be the finest in Germany in 40 years. Jancis Robinson’s website says: Since the turn of the millennium the term 'vintage of the century' has been bandied about in Germany for 2005, 2007, and 2009. But 2015 may well turn out to be the real thing.

Sekt, Grosses Gewächs (GG), Feinherb, Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese

MacArthur's German wine portfolio represents very well the traditional, classic German wine selection in the US market: Heavy on wines from the Mosel region, heavy on Riesling and heavy on wines with residual sweetness. Accordingly, all the wines we tasted were Rieslings, 10 of the 13 wines were from the Mosel region. 4 fruity-sweet Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese flights were at the center of the tasting. Preceeding the Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese flights, Phil poured a Sekt, a Grosses Gewächs (GG) flight and a Weingut Peter Lauer flight in the feinherb/ off-dry range.

As in previous years, Phil Bernstein did not present any red wines. Indeed, the MacArthur portfolio includes only a negligible number of red wines. Yet, about 1/3 of the Germany’s wine output is red wine. Germany has become one of the leading Pinot Noir producers in the world. At a recent Decanter (the British wine journal) tasting of Pinot Noirs around the world excluding Burgundy, a German Pinot Noir from the Ahr region (Weingut Jean Stodden) was selected as the best wine. But the US market is very slow in discovering what Germany now has to offer in terms of premium and ultra-premium red wines. German red wines are difficult to find in the US. Hopefully, this will change.

As in previous years, Phil Bernstein showed only Rieslings. Yet, Riesling accounts for only 1/3 of the German white wine production. 2/3 is accounted for by other grape varieties. Among the non-Riesling grape varieties, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) are increasingly being planted. Why bother with these other grape varieties, many German wine lovers in the US say. But Germany has become the #1 Pinot Blanc producer in the world and the #2 Pinot Gris producer in the world (as well as the #3 Pinot Noir producer in the world).

Like last year, a Grosses Gewächs (GG) flight figured prominently in Phil Bernstein’s tasting. GGs is the new category of ultra-premium wines dry wines of VDP producers, the association of about 200 elite wine producers in Germany.

What is a GG? In a nutshell, the VDP is moving to a classification system that resembles very much the classification system in the Bourgogne. The classification of the VDP puts the terroir principle at the center of its classification approach. With the latest modifications of 2012, the absolutely finest vineyards are called Grosse Lage and dry wines from these super top vineyards are called Grosses Gewächs. Grosses Gewächs wines are the finest dry wines from Germany’s finest vineyards.

To qualify for the Grosses Gewächs label, a number of criteria need to be respected. (i) The fruit has to come from a Grosse Lage vineyard. (ii) At harvest, the grapes need to be at least at Spätlese level in terms of the sugar content. (iii) Only certain – typical - grape varieties are allowed, including Riesling and Spätburgunder. (iv) Further restrictions apply: there are yield restrictions; only hand picking of grapes is permitted and harvest must be late in the autumn.

Pictures: The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) Presented: 2015 German Vintage Tasting with Phil Bernstein

Stephen Bitterolf contra Phil Bernstein, New York contra Washington DC, and the New Face of German Wine

A few weeks ago, at Stephen Bitterolf's Rieslingfeier Vintage 2015 Grand Tasting in New York, the 37 wines poured were quite different from the wines Phil Bernstein poured: The large majority were dry wines (26 wines), including 9 GGs. Only 11 wines were fruity-sweet Kabinett and Spätlese wines. 5 of the 13 winemakers present poured only dry wines. See: The Annual "Slaughterhouse" Riesling Feast in New York: Rieslingfeier 2017, USA

World class Mosel producer Constantin Richter says: "NYC is not DC. As Germany is a predominantly dry country with a few emerging sweet spots, the US remains a predominantly sweet country with a few emerging dry spots (mainly the New York, Chicago and San Francisco areas)".

A few months ago, at the Annual Meeting of the American Wine Society, Annette Schiller led a tasting seminar that she called "The New Germany: Red, Dry and Sparkling" (See: The New Germany: Red, Sparkling and Dry - Tasting at the American Wine Society 2016 National Conference in Los Angeles, USA, led by Annette Schiller). At this tasting, she poured 8 German wines: 3 red wines, a Sekt, and 4 white wines, all dry and only one a Riesling.

ombiasy WineTours

Most of the winemakers presented by Phil Bernstein I know personally and have visited their wineries on an ombiasy Germany wine tour. Annette Schiller offers 3 wine tours to Germany: Germany-North, Germany-East and Germany-South. All winemakers presented by Phil Bernstein are based in regions where they are covered by the Germany-North tour. This year's Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours is scheduled for June 19 to June 25. See: Announcement: ombiasy Spring 2017 Wine Tours to Germany

Tasting

Most of the wines were available at the tasting for a special price, which I put in parentheses.

The 2015 Vintage in Germany

Therry Theise: How is 2015? It is the perfect vintage for its moment. The quick-and-dirty headline is, 2015 is very good, and it contains many great wines. 2015 presents as a strong, even robust vintage, muscular and ripped. It’s easy to see into, easy to grok, but while the wines are sturdy they are rarely brutish. As a rule they aren’t lacy or filigree, though they are often seriously complex.

Ernst Loosen:  The 2015 Growing Season at the Mosel: Budbreak was about two weeks later than in 2014, so the flowering was also later, coming in early- to mid-June. The summer was very dry and hot, statistically one of the warmest summers of the last 100 years. Due to this extraordinary weather, all of the vineyards were finished with an ideal flowering by the end of June. We started a pre-harvest at the end of September, where we selected out any early botrytis, and the main harvest started on the first of October. The weather had remained very dry until then, but at the end of September we were hit with some heavy rains. This was a bit frightening, but fortunately the rain stopped at the beginning of October and the weather turned colder, giving us perfect harvest conditions.

Starter: Weiser-Künstler Sekt 2014

2014 Weingut Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Zeppwingert Riesling Sekt brut

Pictures: Starter: 2014 Weingut Weiser-Künstler Enkircher Zeppwingert Riesling Sekt brut

Cari Bernhard (Chambers Street Wines): Riesling from the Zeppwingert vineyard, old vines on steep slopes of weathered blue and gray slate. Made in the Méthode Champenoise with very low dosage. This Sekt is balanced and bright with notes of brioche and lime blossom, apricot, peaches, with a crisp acidity and lingering finish of lemon oil and yellow flowers.

Pictures: Konstantin Weiser and Alexandra Künstler, Weingut Weiser-Künstler, at the Gränd Tasting in New York in 2016. See: A German Riesling Feast in New York City: Rieslingfeier 2016, USA

Flight 1: Is this the new cool kid (Grosses Gewächs)?: Clemens Busch Marienburg Fahrlay vs Leitz Schlossberg Ehrenfelser 

Picture: Flight 1

2015 Weingut Clemens Busch Marienburg Fahrlay Riesling GG 

Fine + Rare (UK): Jancis Robinson has described this year in Germany as the glorious 2015 vintage, which makes the Clemens Busch wines particularly intriguing as she has highlighted him as a VDP over-achiever in 2015. Her colleague and German wine expert Michael Schmidt concurs, calling Clemens Busch a vintner extraordinaire. These Clemens Busch 2015 Großes Gewächse (GG - “great growth” or “Grand Cru”), organically grown on the slopes of Pündericher Marienberg in the Lower Mosel, have clearly impressed Michael Schmidt, who awarded Fahrlay and Falkenlay 19 points each, putting them right up there with the likes of Keller and Dönnhoff. At a tasting of 2015 Großes Gewächse in Berlin this year, German wine expert and Wine Berserkers contributor Martin Zwick singled out Clemens Busch Fahrlay GG 2015, describing it as best ever and scoring it between 95-98 points. At the end of the tasting he concluded: “Bottom-line, simply mind-blowing vintage and some of the best-ever produced GGs at the estates.”

Pictures: At Weingut Clemens Busch with Rita and Clemens Busch. See:Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Clemens Busch – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Pictures: Annette and Christian Schiller at the Rieslingfeier 2017 in New York City with Clemens Busch, Weingut Clemens Busch, Mosel. See: The Annual "Slaughterhouse" Riesling Feast in New York: Rieslingfeier 2017, USA

2015 Weingut Leitz Berg Schlossberg Ehrenfelser Riesling GG (US$55)

schatzi-wines: The Ehrenfels are the iconic castle ruins that sit atop the Rüdesheimer Berg's western edge. The 40+ year-old vines produce small berries with high concentration. The Ehrenfels Grosses Gewächs combines power and elegance; it isn’t as tropical as the Hinterhaus, nor as floral as the Katerloch and is right behind Rottland in terms of masculinity.

Pictures: With Johannes Leitz at Weingut Leitz. See: Vineyard Tour, Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Leitz in Rüdesheim, with Johannes Leitz – Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours

Picture: Christian Schiller, Annette Schiller, Johannes Leitz and his Wife at Kloster Eberbach, Germany

Flight 2. Is this one of the best vineyards (Ayler Kupp) in one of the greatest wine regions (Saar) in the world?: Peter Lauer Unterstenberg vs Peter Lauer Stirn 

Picture: Flight 2

2015 Weingut Peter Lauer Unterstenberg Riesling Riesling Fass 12 (US$35)
2015 Weingut Peter Lauer Stirn Riesling Fass 15 (US$42)

Vom Boden: Florian’s general style is exactly the opposite of his famous Saar neighbors Egon Müller and Hanno Zilliken. At Lauer, the focus is on dry-tasting Rieslings as opposed to the residual sugar wines of the latter two. Employing natural-yeast fermentations, Lauer’s wines find their own balance. They tend to be more textural, deeper and more masculine. They have a preternatural sense of balance, an energy that is singular. Yet the hallmarks of the Saar are there: purity, precision, rigor, mineral.

Part of the estate’s tradition is to use “fass,” or barrel, numbers as part of the identifier of each wine in addition to the vineyard name. Thus you have a wine such as “Unterstenberg – Fass 12.”

Taste Unterstenberg next to Stirn. The difference in distance is only 300 feet, yet the wines are night and day.

Pictures: Florian Lauer, Weingut Peter Lauer, and Christian Schiller in Mainz. See: Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2016 Awards: The Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

Pictures: Florian Lauer, Weingut Peter Lauer, at the 2016 Rieslingfeier in New York. See: A German Riesling Feast in New York City: Rieslingfeier 2016, USA

Flight 3:Is this the sweetness sweet spot (Kabinetts)?: Loewen Herrenberg vs AJ Adam Hofberg

Pictures: Flight 3

2015 Weingut Carl Loewen Longuicher Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett (US$22)

Ungrafted, planted 1903—terribly young, I know—and it sits upslope from the Maximiner Herrenberg, whence the 1896 bottlings arise. It reminds me of a Merkelbach wine only richer, or like Christoffel but not so glossy, not so formed. Ginger and quince, an endless call-and-response among Spring flowers, wild herbs, licorice and key lime. I know you won’t mind my pointing out that if you were offered a wine from a great vineyard from ungrafted 113-year old vines, and that wine came from France, Italy or Spain, you would pay a fuckload more money for it. You don’t mind if I say that, do you? — Terry Theise

2015 Weingut AJ Adam Dhron Hofberg Riesling Kabinett (US$28)

The vintage I’m sloppin’ down at home these days is the lovely “cool” 2008, and this smells just like it. That is, classic Mosel, and this really soars up to super glamorous fruit, warmer than the ’08 but cooler than ’11 or ’12. Mid-palate gets wintergreeny with smoky slate; it’s taut yet ripe and generous. It’s also an item of deep belief for Andreas, who loves this idiom of Mosel wine and wants to do his part to preserve it. To that end he has offered a new price, which I think will make you smile. — Terry Theise

Flight 4: Graacher Himmelreich Smackdown: Willi Schaefer Kabinett vs JJ Prüm Kabinett

Pictures: Flight 4

2015 Weingut Willi Schäfer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett (US$30)

In ’15 the Himmelreich is less pliant and waxy than usual, more like Domprobst, though I was properly admonished to “Taste the Domprobst before you say that…” This is one spicy little dickens! Lots of qui, lots of energy from its acidity, which also absorbs the RS and creates a high-strung tangy wine, glass-clear and really good. — Terry Theise

2015 Weingut JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett (US$28)

Justerini and Brooks (UK): Manfred Prüm runs one of the Mosel’s, if not the whole of Germany’s, most revered and respected Estates. It is also amongst the most enigmatic as no-one has yet made it down to his mysterious cellars. Manfred is certainly one of the world’s more eccentric wine producers and a tasting in his drawing room with him is always enjoyable and entertaining. In the Sonnenuhr of Wehlen he owns a portion of one of the Mittel Mosel’s top vineyards. Its steep south-facing dark slate slopes tend to result in deeply flavoured, mineral yet rich and smoky wines. In addition, he manipulates some plots in the next door Himmelreich of Graacher which produces engaging wines with fresh acidities that are slightly softer and earlier maturing. These are unashamedly classic, exciting and long-lived wines produced predominantly in stainless tanks to avoid the addition of too much sulphur, though a small proportion of wooden casks are retained, however, depending on the vintage. They are bottled later than most Mosel and often take a few years in bottle before showing the true character, but patience will be rewarded!

Pictures: Tasting at the Legendary Weingut J.J. Prüm with Amei Prüm – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

Picture: Christian Schiller with Katharina Pruem at Wegmans in Virginia. See: JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

Picture: Annette Schiller with Manfred Pruem, Weingut JJ Pruem, at Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich.

Flight 5: Nahe Smackdown: Kruger-Rumpf Dautenpflaenzer Spätlese vs Hexamer Rheingrafenberg Späetlese

Pictures: Flight 5

2015 Weingut Kruger Rumpf Munsterer Dautenpflanzer Riesling Spatlese, Kruger-Rumpf (US$25)

Shows the loam and lemony face of this spicy exotic vineyard; picked ginger, earthy clove and duck skin; freesia and mint— what a glorious Grand Cru this is. Earthy yet tastes like it was visited by extraterrestrials, who threw down seeds for a phosphorescent moss. — Terry Theise

Pictures: Visiting Weingut Kruger-Rumpf in Münster-Sarmsheim, with Georg Rumpf. See: Lunch and Wine Tasting with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Picture: Wine-pairing Dinner at Weingut Kruger-Rumpf's Wine Tavern Altes Rathaus in Bingen, with Stefan Rumpf – Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours

2015 Weingut Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Spätlese Späetlese (US$29)

Again less a sip than a bite of wine. From the cadaster parcel Eisendell, it’s an emblem of 2015, big juicy body surrounds a cement block of structure; we have sweetness but it expresses as a brulée of terroir, black cherry and an improbably dry and long finish. — Terry Theise

Pictures: Wine Tasting at Weingut Hexamer in Monzingen, Nahe – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Flight 6: Giving more Love for Auslese: Max Ferdinand Richter Cask 101 Brauneberger Juffer** vs Markus Molitor Uerziger Würzgarten***

Pictures: Flight 6

2015 Weingut Max Ferdinand Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenurh Riesling Auslese** Cask 101

Mosel Fine Wines: As the set of highlights here below will show, 2015 proves a hugely successful vintage in all stylistic directions. As Egon Müller mentioned when we visited his Estate in June, “the clean grapes and good harvest conditions gave every winemaker the material and time necessary for producing the wines he or she wanted.” Three Estates, Geltz-Zilliken, von Kesselstatt and Max Ferd. Richter managed the rare performance to produce some vintage highlights in ALL stylistic directions in 2015.

2015 Weingut Markus Molitor Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese*** (US$79)

Markus Molitor: The "Ürziger" site is traditionally considered to be a specialty among the Middle Mosel vineyards due to its red iron-rich soil mixed with fine slate. This gives the grapes grown here a totally distinctive character, with spice and opulent fruit as well as a crisp, hearty acid backbone, which produces a tremendously full-bodied wine when combined with emphatic residual sugar, particularly in our Spätlese and Auslese wines.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Markus Molitor – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

Pictures: Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015 Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

Previous Years' “New German Vintage” Tastings of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter)

For previous years, see:

Phil Bernstein of MacArthur Beverages Presents the new Vintage (2014) to the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter), USA/ Germany

German Riesling - What the American Market Wants: Vintage 2013 Tasting with German Wine Expert Phil Bernstein, MacArthur Beverages, Washington DC

The Annual “New German Vintage” Tasting of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) led by Phil Bernstein - 2012 Vintage, Germany/USA

German Wine: Tasting with Phil Bernstein of MacArthur Beverages the 2011 Vintage in Washington DC, USA

The 2010 Vintage Tasting of the German Wine Society (Aaron Nix-Gomez)

Phil Bernstein’s Third Annual German Riesling Tasting with the German Wine Society, Washington DC Chapter - Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

Thanks

Thanks Phil for an outstanding presentation. See you in a year from now!

Pictures: The German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) Presented: 2015 German Vintage Tasting with Phil Bernstein

schiller-wine: Related Postings

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Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential German Riesling and the Northernmost Pinot Noir

Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

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JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

Lunch and Wine Tasting with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Wine-pairing Dinner at Weingut Kruger-Rumpf's Wine Tavern Altes Rathaus in Bingen, with Stefan Rumpf – Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours

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Tasting at Weingut Markus Molitor – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016

Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015 Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany