WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:03 am

Hey - Waldorf here...

I like quite a lot of what Jean proposes, but I would not leave the rules around kabinett, spatlese, auslese, etc. unchanged. I think it's time for the oeschle levels to have some teeth and really mean something. First of all the levels for kabinett are too low. Let's take them from as low as 70 (it varies regions to region and grape to grape by the way - another silly flaw) for kabinett to the following ranges for all pradikats:

75 - 90 kabinett - no/negligible botrytis allowed
85 - 100 spatlese
95 - 120 auslese
120 - 160 beerenauslese
>160 - TBA

Yes I am showing ranges for the pradikats. There has to be a way to stop the high-grade auslese in a bottle of kabinett phenomenon. I do show someoverlap in the ranges, as various producers have various styles. This would at least put a halt to something I ran across twice in 2006 - Riesling of over 100 oeschle sold as kabinett.

I never thought of imposing upper levels on oeschle until I met with Nik Weis of St. Urbans Hof. He and I had a great conversation about typicity and the fact that it means something. I would not want some panel saying "this wine is atypical - no pradikat," but rather set a framework.

Oh and the levels for QbA are ridiculous - as low as 57 degrees oeschle. That's not worth drinking.
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby JeanF » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:24 am

my dear waldorf,

all in agreement (setting max oechsle is a fasinating idea! let me give it some thoughts) except your proposal of increase of the range of allowed oechsle. essentially you "only" shift everything by one level, you can argue that this is closer to what alsace has been following quite successfully and of course, what's in a name ... but i have difficulties, maybe out of sentimental reasons, with such a shift.

let me give you some examples. a couple of months ago, i had recently a 1976er grünhaus abtsberg auslese nr. 45. it was nicely off-dry, had great auslese character, loads of complexity, the hint of herb, candied lime and orange that screems "ruwer auslese". i asked carl von schubert and got the technical sheer: the wine was the top auslese of the vintage and had 96 oechsle. yes: 96 oechsle.

i had the other night a 1969er bichöflisches preisterseminar trittenheimer spätlese. it was still quite fresh (came out of an outstanding cellar - granted) and was now dry enough to go with a nice fish.

a beerenauslese in the old days was a sappy wine with great balance -something you can enjoy on the terrasse while winding down from a hard day's work. today, it is too often an apricot soup (ok, a very-very-very-very apricot soup, but apricot soup nevertheless) and is a work by itself ...

and only tba was this mystical dessert wine that you bring out on grand occasions: birth, marriage, divorce, ... and you stand up and toast to the memory for the long gone grandpa who had the wise idea to buy it.

somehow i want that world back ... (now i am really sounding like statler! :D )
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby JeanF » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:31 am

david, maybe one other point: i would not require no botrytis in kabinett - unless you want to tell egon müller to stop making his kabinett the way he does of course :D
more seriously, the extensive use of anti-botrytisites is something i am not really in favour. botrytis existed in the old days as well, there was no chemical treatment and the wines from that period still taste very good.
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:35 am

I want that world back too! I would be perfectly happy with kabinett at 70, but no lower. I was really thinking that if we were to bent to reality that 75 makes more sense.

The thing that I really don't like is 57 for QbA. That's just shamefully low.

How about shifting my ranges as follows (no botrytis prohibitions):

70 - 85 kabinett
80 - 95 spatlese
90 - 120 auslese
115 - 160 beerenauslese
>160 - TBA

Then let's adapt Peter Ruhrberg's QbA concept, but require a minimum oeschle of 70 with anything in the old 57-70 range being classified as tafelwein. If we're going to have a classification for dry tasting wines let's at least make sure they can potentially taste good.
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby Bill Hooper » Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:32 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:How about shifting my ranges as follows (no botrytis prohibitions):

70 - 85 kabinett
80 - 95 spatlese
90 - 120 auslese
115 - 160 beerenauslese
>160 - TBA


This is getting very interesting Muppets!

Still the idea that Oechsle trumps all remains. This is outdated. I think it helps to identify why Prädikats were deemed so important in the first place and why they continue to be used today.

Initially, they were set up as a consumer safe-guard to aid in the identification of high quality wine. Kabinett was the flagship –the wine that showed off what the estate was capable of year in and out and considered to be a very good wine. Only in exceptional circumstances did the higher Prädikats even come into play –Spätlese was quite special. Now, these higher levels (with the exception of BA and TBA) are reached every year (or damn near) with the rise of better site selection, better clonal selection, vineyard management techniques, global warming, etc. The two biggest reasons that Prädikats remain are (these are not going to make me popular!):

Tradition: they are so deeply ingrained in German wine culture for both producers and consumers that it has become unthinkable to live without them.

Money: Producers need to hit certain price-points with their wines and fill different niches for their markets.

Before I get ahead of myself…of course there are stylistic differences in the range of Prädikats, but I argue that the expression of the vineyard and producer is the real factor of quality here –not just that so and so’s $15 Kabinett is a really good value. The beauty of many of the world’s best vineyard sites (and I’ll point to both Alsace and Austria-especially outside of the Wachau- on this one) is that grapes of differing physiological maturity, Oechsle (or KMW or other), and botrytis are used together for a wine that speaks very clearly of its origin. Often these wines are very complete as well, each stage of ripeness bringing a different element and strength to the finished wine (clearly burgundy is also a good place to look for this attitude.)

If you’re really interested in ‘the good old days of yore’ (admittedly long before I was born!) or true ‘German wine tradition’ (not just post WW2 tradition), this is a far more accurate model.

If producers are worried about getting more money for their hard earned wine (And they completely deserve higher prices for these absolute crowning jewels of achievement! -where else on the planet is wine more difficult to cultivate than Germany with so relatively little compensation?), this is a great model. The cost of production would actually go down, the prestige (and hopefully demand through higher overall quality not to mention ease of operation for consumers) would skyrocket, and Germany would solidify its rightful place in world as ‘King of Riesling.’

The only problems to arise would be the loss of cheaper Kabinett (which is actually now Spätlese anyway), which could easily be made up for with the continued production of QbA.
We would also see (probably) an even more enunciated query into the whole dry-sweet labeling debate that is now raging in Alsace -Easily solved by an RS indication on the label (the current EG/EL/GG restrictions for dry or noble-sweet are too restrictive.)

I think this could totally go hand in hand with a much needed Premier Cru/Grand Cru reclassification.

Prost!
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:14 am

Bill,

Whil I can completely understand your position (and agree with some points of it), I think it's actually a very bad idea to take away the pradikat system from German wine. Here's a few reasons:

1. The market for kabinett is real because it is a distinctive style of wine that is low in alcohol and very refreshing while also showing that (rightly) vaunted sense of place. In doing a "parcel selection" (more on those later) you would very likely lose that as riper grapes or grapes with significant botrytis got into the mix. Kabinett is popular because people like it, and from good growers it's a magnificent wine, reflecting both the style of the producer and the site on which the grapes were grown. Yes most of it is now what used to be called spatlese, but that's why I created bracketed oeschle levels. Let's keep the auslese out of the kabinett, thus retaining some resemblance to what great kabinett is all about.

2. Attempting to raise the bar for German wine by changing the system is doomed to failure. No matter what system you have in place there will have to be loopholes (politics rule the world), and the majority of wine will fit through those loopholes. Regions with vaunted wine quality (and why the quality of top German wine is still lumped in there with lower level plonk is beyond me) still have their oceans of mediocre wine. I don't hear anyone calling for California to undertake a massive re-write of their laws to prevent Franzia White Zin. There are numerous passionate importers (e.g. Theise and Weist but others as well) bringing much of the best of what German has to offer into American shops. Sure some other importers bring in Blue Nun and Black Tower, but again White Zin gets shelf space without affecting the reputation of Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

3. Parcel selections are already being done by some growers. Johannes Selbach releases two wines, the 'Rotaly' and 'Schmitt' as parcel selections. Everything gets picked at once. Guess what you get: monster auslese (admittedly beautiful mosnter auslese), precisely the hardest type of German wine to sell. So sure we could go with that model, but we would be dooming German winemakers to financial failure.

4. I know I'm not crying out for the good old days (in fact the only person I kno who is would be John Trombley). Things may seem confusing under the 1971 wine law and all the additions (both legal and quasi-legal), but it doesn't take any more study to get it than it does for Burgundy. I know as I have taken the time to learn both areas.

5. Take away the pradikat system and Germany is just another region with Riesling on the label and no indication of what you are getting in the bottle. The way the pradikats have been modified in practice speaks to a growers intent (much like pre-'71 labeling), giving consumers at least some indication of what they are getting. Bracketing the oeschle levels would help bring more clarity to that result.

I have no problem with a real vineyard classification, but let's remove the prejudices put in place by some of the Grosses/Erstes Gewachs rules. Rieslaner and Scheurebe can make great wine. Let the vineyard name be on the label for wines made from those grapes. Let all the vineyard sites be shown on the label, not just the 1er or Grand crus, so that as better growers reveal a site's true potential the public (and eventually the authorities) will know it & consider a change in classification. (If it wasn't for Daniel Vollenweider would anyone care about the Wolfer Goldgrube?)

Again, great discussion.
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:30 am

David,

I hear you, but...

David M. Bueker wrote:1. The market for kabinett is real because it is a distinctive style of wine that is low in alcohol and very refreshing while also showing that (rightly) vaunted sense of place. In doing a "parcel selection" (more on those later) you would very likely lose that as riper grapes or grapes with significant botrytis got into the mix. Kabinett is popular because people like it, and from good growers it's a magnificent wine, reflecting both the style of the producer and the site on which the grapes were grown. Yes most of it is now what used to be called spatlese, but that's why I created bracketed oeschle levels. Let's keep the auslese out of the kabinett, thus retaining some resemblance to what great kabinett is all about.


Not that I’ve been a flag waver for the ‘Classic’ QbA label devised by the DWI (by the way, it would be great if the ‘FowDayPay’ and the DWI could reach a common resolution –maybe a topic for another time.), but perhaps it would work as a reasonable alternative to Kabinett. I am often surprised by the high quality of ‘Estate’ QbA made by my favorite producers and the Oechsle levels are usually very close to Kabinett. Look at ‘Jean Baptiste’ by Gunderloch –itself being Rothenberg Kabinett. No one seems to know or care that it comes form such a great vineyard, and ‘kabinett’ has nothing to do with its success. The lighter style is also pulled off beautifully in Austria using parcel selections; surely Germany could accomplish it as well.

2. Attempting to raise the bar for German wine by changing the system is doomed to failure. No matter what system you have in place there will have to be loopholes (politics rule the world), and the majority of wine will fit through those loopholes. Regions with vaunted wine quality (and why the quality of top German wine is still lumped in there with lower level plonk is beyond me) still have their oceans of mediocre wine. I don't hear anyone calling for California to undertake a massive re-write of their laws to prevent Franzia White Zin. There are numerous passionate importers (e.g. Theise and Weist but others as well) bringing much of the best of what German has to offer into American shops. Sure some other importers bring in Blue Nun and Black Tower, but again White Zin gets shelf space without affecting the reputation of Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.


I don’t think that the bar has to be raised for the lot of German wine producers. It is a necessity for the recognition of great wine that there is also mediocre wine. Let the ‘orchard wineries’ continue to make what they do (what else would Aldi stock?). Like you though, I don’t believe that ‘Qualitätswein’ should apply to them.

3. Parcel selections are already being done by some growers. Johannes Selbach releases two wines, the 'Rotaly' and 'Schmitt' as parcel selections. Everything gets picked at once. Guess what you get: monster auslese (admittedly beautiful mosnter auslese), precisely the hardest type of German wine to sell. So sure we could go with that model, but we would be dooming German winemakers to financial failure.


I have not tasted the ‘Rotaly’ nor the ‘Schmitt’, but it stands to reason that Johannes probably either chose or noticed these plots for their propensity to ripen to outrageous levels. Again, I would point to Alsace or Austria for examples of wines that need not be monsters. I’m generally in favor of lower yields. But there are some producers (in all of these countries) who have taken to Caligulian excess in low yields in the search for ever more intensity and concentration. A happy medium can be achieved and quite often is.

4. I know I'm not crying out for the good old days (in fact the only person I kno who is would be John Trombley). Things may seem confusing under the 1971 wine law and all the additions (both legal and quasi-legal), but it doesn't take any more study to get it than it does for Burgundy. I know as I have taken the time to learn both areas.


I agree. It isn’t necessarily difficult to learn Germany or Burgundy if you’re motivated to do so and I think that I derive so much more pleasure from drinking their wines because I’ve taken the time to read about them, travel to them, and spend untold sums of money on their wine. It is an incredibly rewarding journey and one that I hope I never finish. But these suggestions are not for you or I. The people that have the most to gain or lose are German wine producers themselves. Christ, the resolution of any of these topics in any way will only really serve to take more money out of our pockets! If German wine really starts coasting, It will cease to be such an undervalued treasure (perhaps we should stop here!)

5. Take away the pradikat system and Germany is just another region with Riesling on the label and no indication of what you are getting in the bottle. The way the pradikats have been modified in practice speaks to a growers intent (much like pre-'71 labeling), giving consumers at least some indication of what they are getting. Bracketing the oeschle levels would help bring more clarity to that result.


The system is only a means of explanation (and a faulty one at that.) The bottom line remains; Germany is unique in that it possesses the conditions to produce the finest Riesling on Earth and all the labeling in the world doesn’t change that. The wine speaks for itself –that’s a big enough hook to hang your hut on!

We'll work this out yet!

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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:28 am

Bill,

The Gunderloch Jean Baptiste is labeled and sold as kabinett. It is also frequently blended between Nackenheimer Rothenberg and Niersteiner Pettenthal (both red slope vineyards, but two distinctly different sites IMO). Also please bear in mind that Gunderloch has a specific aim of presenting a medium-dry house style wine here, so it's actually an exception to just about everything else being done in Germany. It really doesn't make your point.

Overall oeschle levels for estate wines (the Gunderloch Kabinett or others) have risen just as much as for other types, it's just that as estate Riesling they start at the lowest end of the scale. Donnhoff's Estate Rielsing QbA is normally well into Spatlese these days, sometimes pushing Auslese, yet he sets a balance in the wine (through dialing in the RS and also through blending of two different sites) that keeps it resembling QbA or Kabinett year after year (though if I were to line up the 1996-2006 of this wine (and I could until very recently) you would see a progression of richer and richer wines. The same goes for the Jean Baptiste, with the mid-late '90s versions of the wine being less forward and rich than the versions from 2001 onward.

Austrian federspiels (to use the Wachau term for the lightest wines) are fermented dry and normally have 11% minimumor so of alcohol (I am deliberately using the low side in this example). Guess what - that converts to about 85 degrees oeschle, well into spatlese. If we're talking 12% alcohol in a dry wine you are up to Auslese levels. Also the acidities are lower thus making the dry wines of Austria taste less shrill that some kabinett trockens of Germany.

The facts just do not confirm your assertions.

As for Johannes Selbach deliberately setting out to make a monster wine, that is manifestly not the case. Schmitt and Rotlay are purely an attempt in block picking (as opposed to the selective harvests normally practiced in Germany) to see what happens. Your comments on low yields add nothing to that particular part of the discussion, especially since Mother Nature has done her best in recent years to shorten the crop through no deliberate attempts of the growers. There are few if any growers in Germany trying for the low yield extremes. It doesn't give them what they want in the wines.
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby Jeff_Dudley » Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:32 pm

My first post in quite a while.... Your topic brings back memory of the earliest riesling to catch my interest - a wonderful series of 1988/1989/1990 Kesselstat Piesporter Goldtropchen Spatlese (pardon the spelling please). I've followed this house ever since (and others too) and will have to find this release just to confirm how it seems increasingly impossible to find spatlese built like the style of twenty years ago. But this 05 spatlese sounds delicious to me and we call them "spat-BA" around here ! :wink:
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Apr 11, 2008 1:34 pm

Jeff_Dudley wrote: we call them "spat-BA" around here ! :wink:


Ain't that the truth. :D
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby Bill Hooper » Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:02 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Bill,

The Gunderloch Jean Baptiste is labeled and sold as kabinett. It is also frequently blended between Nackenheimer Rothenberg and Niersteiner Pettenthal (both red slope vineyards, but two distinctly different sites IMO). Also please bear in mind that Gunderloch has a specific aim of presenting a medium-dry house style wine here, so it's actually an exception to just about everything else being done in Germany. It really doesn't make your point.

Overall oeschle levels for estate wines (the Gunderloch Kabinett or others) have risen just as much as for other types, it's just that as estate Riesling they start at the lowest end of the scale. Donnhoff's Estate Rielsing QbA is normally well into Spatlese these days, sometimes pushing Auslese, yet he sets a balance in the wine (through dialing in the RS and also through blending of two different sites) that keeps it resembling QbA or Kabinett year after year (though if I were to line up the 1996-2006 of this wine (and I could until very recently) you would see a progression of richer and richer wines. The same goes for the Jean Baptiste, with the mid-late '90s versions of the wine being less forward and rich than the versions from 2001 onward.


Sorry, I might have been getting off topic here. I used the Jean Baptiste reference as an example of a wine that has been wildly successful and marketable with little mention of the Prädikat (I know it’s on the back label).

Austrian federspiels (to use the Wachau term for the lightest wines) are fermented dry and normally have 11% minimumor so of alcohol (I am deliberately using the low side in this example). Guess what - that converts to about 85 degrees oeschle, well into spatlese. If we're talking 12% alcohol in a dry wine you are up to Auslese levels. Also the acidities are lower thus making the dry wines of Austria taste less shrill that some kabinett trockens of Germany.


I deliberately didn’t bring up the Wachau classification because it looks to accomplish (using admittedly different criteria) much of what the German Prädikat system does –to push emphasis unto ripeness. Somehow though, and maybe it’s just my imagination, the Austrians seem to downplay the ripeness issue more than the Germans.

However, Steinfeder is actually the lightest classification of Wachau wines (up to 11% alc.) these would certainly fall in the range of Kabinett.

As for Johannes Selbach deliberately setting out to make a monster wine, that is manifestly not the case. Schmitt and Rotlay are purely an attempt in block picking (as opposed to the selective harvests normally practiced in Germany) to see what happens. Your comments on low yields add nothing to that particular part of the discussion, especially since Mother Nature has done her best in recent years to shorten the crop through no deliberate attempts of the growers. There are few if any growers in Germany trying for the low yield extremes. It doesn't give them what they want in the wines.


I didn’t mean to imply that he was deliberately trying to make a monster, only that the particular site is probably a good site for achieving higher oechsle. I’ve since read about it from the Terry catalogue. He has a great take on it and I’m intrigued to try some.

Like I said before, this has been an entirely fascinating discussion.

Thanks David, for engaging me in it. I see your point about the potential loss of the Kabinett style being a terrible thing (with the Merkelbach post.) I just don’t know if assigning a maximum Oechsle will remedy this, or if indeed it can be solved by any legislation. I think we’re probably more likely to see more Spätlesen instead of more correctly labeled Kabinett.

I would like to see some more ‘block selection’ wine being made, but perhaps it is rather too weird or too eclectic for the majority of producers, and certainly wouldn’t find the support to warrant a law change-just wishful thinking on my part. There are enough fanatics among German winemakers that we might see more yet.
You’re right on with your earlier comment about politics running the show (That’s how we got 1971 wine laws to being with!)

Discussions like this are the reason I post here and I wish there were many more.

Prost!
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Re: WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:15 pm

Bill,

I intentionally did not bring up steinfeder, as it would have been like rubbing it in. Steinfeder is so popular in Austria that it never gets out. People want a lighter, refreshing wine. The problem with doing it in Germany is acidity. Steinfeder works with 6 grams per lier of acid. It would taste like crap with 9 or more.

Now as global warming continues to creep up on Germany we may see more low acid wines that give the ability to make a wine like Austrian Steinfeder, but I don't think we're there yet.
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