WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

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WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:46 pm

Forster Pechstein Riesling Spätlese trocken 33-98 1997 – Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf – Alc. 13%

The German wine labelling system derived from the 1971 law is not perfect but it is probably the most informative in the world. However it is necessarily complex in order to be informative. Because this seems to put off a lot of potential consumers, certain groups of German producers have devised “simpler” labelling systems for the front label whilst conserving the 1971 system on a back label. This can be seen on this bottle; the front label is worded as in the title to this thread (NB - with no mention of grape variety) but the back label gives the informative 1971 wording as shown in bold above. Without the back label or complementary explanations, I would have no idea what I am getting.

Although this system’s laudable intention is to exalt terroir (Forster Pechstein claims, I think, to be the Rheinpfalz equivalent of Grosse Gewächs or grand cru), the result, for me and still more for the completely uninitiated, is an overlay of confusion, particularly as different regions seem to have more than one “simplified” labelling system, e.g. Charta, Erste Gewächs, VDP, etc.

And now to the wine –

C: Light straw yellow
N: Quite restrained fragrant white flowers and minerals
P: The noticeable RS which I recall from earlier bottles seems to have been absorbed leaving a fragrantly crisp, quite robustly bodied and structured palate with more minerality and fresh acidity but less opulence than I was expecting from this warm year and just a hint of drying out towards the finish; a classy Riesling; 16/20+.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:52 pm

What a fine rant Tim. How the average Joe the Plummer is supposed to know which German wine to enjoy is still beyond me!!

Joe read this...>http://www.germanwineestates.com/understanding_german_wine_labels.htm

Have a fun day everyone!!!
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:00 pm

Well first of all, the change in labeling style is not part of the wine law. Certain producers (of which Burklin-Wolf was one of the first/insitgators) decided that they wanted to differentiate their top dry wines. They did it by initially eliminating info from the front label and moving it to the back. With the advent of Grosses/Erstes Gewachs they have gotten rid of a lot of the info altogether, assuming that if the bottle is really heavy & there's almost no info on the labels then the consumer will know it's a "great, dry wine."

As Terry Theise once said, and I agree completely, the Germans treat their wine labeling as "Hey I still have 5 bullets in the gun and one good foot left."

Bob - I would not go so far as you (and is Joe Plummer related to Jake Plummer, former Denver Broncos quarterback?), but it is confusing if you don't know the rules. But California Chardonnay can be confusing if you don't know the rules.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Otto » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:09 pm

Tim York wrote:The German wine labelling system derived from the 1971 law is not perfect but it is probably the most informative in the world. However it is necessarily complex in order to be informative.


A counter-rant: I have argued that for speakers of Germanic languages (and English is one) learning to read the labels is not a big effort at all. I think it is a myth, perpetuated through constant repetition, that the labels are complex. But they aren't: Producer, village, vineyard, ripeness + possibly dry or not. What's so difficult about that? Anyone half-interested in wine knows which is which in French labels, so why be so intellectually lazy as to not spend one minute learning the German ones? That the words are longer and that English has less loanwords from German is no excuse IMO. But I must be wrong because I see all the time that Germal labels are difficult.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:17 pm

Bob - I would not go so far as you (and is Joe Plummer related to Jake Plummer, former Denver Broncos quarterback?), but it is confusing if you don't know the rules. But California Chardonnay can be confusing if you don't know the rules.

LOL David. I mentioned Joe the Plummer over the pond and no-one queried the famous name!!
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:31 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:A counter-rant: I have argued that for speakers of Germanic languages (and English is one) learning to read the labels is not a big effort at all. I think it is a myth, perpetuated through constant repetition, that the labels are complex. But they aren't: Producer, village, vineyard, ripeness + possibly dry or not. What's so difficult about that? Anyone half-interested in wine knows which is which in French labels, so why be so intellectually lazy as to not spend one minute learning the German ones? That the words are longer and that English has less loanwords from German is no excuse IMO. But I must be wrong because I see all the time that Germal labels are difficult.


I agree with most of what you say, Otto. However I do think that there is a certain complexity in the labels for the good reason that they are reflecting some complex variables, e.g. as you say "Producer, village, vineyard, ripeness + possibly dry or not".

Any attempt to gloss over these variables is simply dumbing down in my view.

The main areas in which I think the 1971 labelling imperfect are -

- refusal to provide a hierarchy of sites
- easy confusion between "einsellage" and "grosslage" in the absence of precise knowledge, e.g. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen versus Piesporter Michelsberg
- concentration on must weights as the sole determinant of "prädikat" categories
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:35 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:With the advent of Grosses/Erstes Gewachs they have gotten rid of a lot of the info altogether, assuming that if the bottle is really heavy & there's almost no info on the labels then the consumer will know it's a "great, dry wine."



David, are they in conformity with the law if they drop all mention of the usual 1971 information?
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Keith M » Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:02 pm

Tim York wrote:Although this system’s laudable intention is to exalt terroir (Forster Pechstein claims, I think, to be the Rheinpfalz equivalent of Grosse Gewächs or grand cru), the result, for me and still more for the completely uninitiated, is an overlay of confusion

Tim,

I don't understand your rant.

If all the information is available to the consumer, what difference does it make it if it is on the front label or the back label? Obviously, this is a marketing decision (create a brand . . . PECHSTEIN . . . that consumers will cherish in their memory banks), but the completely uninitiated probably aren't going to get anything out of the information excluded from the front label with the exception of the varietal. And for folks like you or me, we can turn the label around to get all the info we'd want, right? What's rantable here?

Tim York wrote:The main areas in which I think the 1971 labelling imperfect are -
- refusal to provide a hierarchy of sites
- easy confusion between "einsellage" and "grosslage" in the absence of precise knowledge, e.g. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen versus Piesporter Michelsberg
- concentration on must weights as the sole determinant of "prädikat" categories

Be careful what you wish for . . . the near impossibility of distinguishing between an einzellage and a grosslage on the label was the outcome of politics, no? where politically influential bottlers made sure their plonk wouldn't be economically disadvantaged by a labeling law? And you trust such a process to provide a hierarchy of sites? Thank goodness they refused. Even the VDP's classification system appears anything but error-free. I would say the politics are such the consumer is better not relying on 'official' sources to tell them the quality of what they're buying.

I'd be interested to hear what you'd like added as requirements for the prädikat categories.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Nov 06, 2008 8:19 pm

Tim York wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:With the advent of Grosses/Erstes Gewachs they have gotten rid of a lot of the info altogether, assuming that if the bottle is really heavy & there's almost no info on the labels then the consumer will know it's a "great, dry wine."



David, are they in conformity with the law if they drop all mention of the usual 1971 information?


Well they are not required to declare their wines to be QmP, so most of the Grosses Gewachs do not indicate spatlese trocken, it's partly assumed that a GG is of high quality (and from a "classified" vineyard by the way). I just examined three GG bottlings in my cellar (all Nahe by the way, Donnhoff, Kruger-Rumpf and Diel), and each just says "Qualitatswein Trocken" on the back label. The front lists the vineyard and producer name (and two of the three have a little GG).
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Fri Nov 07, 2008 7:08 am

Keith M wrote:
I don't understand your rant.



If the confusion created by inventing new private labelling systems, when an excellent official system exists, is not rantable, I don't know what is.

The Pechstein example is not the worst because the option remains of turning the bottle to get the information. However, as for a producer of Dönnhoff's calibre opting out of the clarity of the QmP system for his Grosses Gewächs bottlings,.........!! :evil: :evil:

By the 2001 vintage, Bürklin-Wolf has "progressed". I have bottles front-labelled just GAISBÖHL 2001. The back label now says no more than 2001 Ruppertsberger Gaisböhl Riesling trocken Qualitätswein. There is no Spätlese, no visible mention of Grosses Gewächs, etc. What have I got? :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:


Keith M wrote: And you trust such a process to provide a hierarchy of sites?


The fact that the German political process in 1971 was incapable of agreeing on a hierarchy of sites and indeed went further in allowing confusion of "einzellage" and "grosslage" just underlines the imperfection of that law. The need for a classification is demonstrated by all the private initiatives like Charta, Grosses Gewächs, etc. (David, have you ever posted a road map through these?) If Burgundians can agree on a classification, which I would regard as a model for German circumstances, why can't Germans? To be sure the Burgundian classification is not perfect (viz. parts of Clos de Vougeot and Echézeaux), but it is a lot better than the German situation on vineyard sites.


Keith M wrote:I'd be interested to hear what you'd like added as requirements for the prädikat categories.


Let me quote what the authors of the Gault & Millau guide (1999 edition) say about an unintended effect of the 1971 law -

"Grape varieties were developed that brought constant yields of ripe grapes in marginal sites which could be marketed as Spätlese and Auslese..........The new laws did not take into account the role of site, variety or total physiological ripeness in guaranteeing quality. As the Prädikat measures only the sugar content of the grape at harvest, the new laws have unwittingly tarnished the image of the terms."

Ideally I would like to see the criteria for granting the Prädikat being widened, but the present must weight system would be improved by -

- maximum as well as minimum standards for each category
- limiting the system to "noble" grape varieties, maybe Riesling only
- strict spot checks by a tasting committee
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Fri Nov 07, 2008 7:29 am

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:What a fine rant Tim. How the average Joe the Plummer is supposed to know which German wine to enjoy is still beyond me!!

Joe read this...>http://www.germanwineestates.com/understanding_german_wine_labels.htm

Have a fun day everyone!!!


Thanks for that link, Bob. I think that it contains most of the information that Tim, as well as Joe, needs to see how Grosses/Erstes Gewächs, etc. squeezes into the system. I will print and study it.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 07, 2008 9:19 am

Tim,

A couple of clarifications and comments:

1. The official system is not "excellent." You point out some of its flaws, and I have done the same on mmany occasions here as well. In fact Jean Fisch and I once had a lovely back and forth thread regarding the German wine law and how to fix it. I will try to dig it up.

2. Donnhoff did not "opt out" of hte prodikat system for his Grosses Gewachs. That's the way the bottlings are labeled. That's why the most recent Burklin-Wolf wines only say trocken Qualitätswein. Heck, I have a 2007 Josef Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Goldkap that only says trocken qualitätswein. It's the convention for the bottlings. While I certainly agree that this does not provide clarity, it does eliminate some superfluous words from the label as dry Riesling is dry Riesling in the GG system.

3. I do not have a map/list of the GG/EG/EL vineyard sites on hand. I do know from experience that it's a curious list, but that it also takes into account some great sites that have suffered an undeserved loss of reputation (perhaps due to an unattentive producer), but that have the capacity for great wine. Donnhoff has three sites that he uses for GG, the Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg, Norheimer Dellchen and Niederhauser Hermannshohle. I have no doubt that the Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube also qualifies, but I have not seen a GG from there (maybe Schaefer-Frohlich makes one). Rheinhold Haart in the Mosel has two "Erste Lage" (the Mosel equivalent system that actually is very different (and makes a bit more sense), Piesporter Goldtropfchen and Wintricher Ohligsberg.

4. Limiting the pradikat system to Riesling only would eliminate a number of top class German wines. First of all the Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder wines would be stripped of pradikat. I don't get to buy many of them, but I like some of them quite a lot. While many of the crossings are not deserving of praise, a few make what are certainly noble wines. Scheurebe can reach near the highest level, and makes lovely dry and sweet wines when farmed properly and allowed to fully ripen. Rieslaner is another fine crossing, though its charms are more limited to the sweeter wines in the Pfalz (where it is quite common). There are some other instances of delicious wine made from crossings (Wittmann has done amazing things with Albalonga and Huxelrebe). Also Franken has a wealth of outstanding bottlings from Rieslaner, Scheurebe and even Baachus (which I will not endorse elsewhere).

5. Your comment on minima and maxima for the different pradikats is a good one in theory. I have had this conversation with several growers, the most receptive being Nik Weis at St. Urbans-Hof in the Mosel. He strives to retain the "character" of each pradikat regardless of what the sugar readings are, and has been quite successful in doing so, even in the globally warmed new millenium. But when you get tasting panels involved and say that a kabinett cannot have mroe than 87.492375 oeschle you are on a slippery slope. Tasting panel making determinations of what is typical are dangerous and usually promote mediocrity.

I could go on and on and on and on. Please help me do so, as I love this kind of back and forth. :D
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:34 pm

David,

Let me make the following comments point by point -

1. OK; "excellent" overstates it but the system's concept is very good; the flaws are in its execution. It is a whole lot better than the system in Alsace on the dryness/sweetness issue but does not begin to define grands crus, which is the source of all these private initiatives which confuse me.

2. I am beginning to see dimly how GG/EG/EL fits in but I sympathize with those less enthusiastic about Riesling who give up. My extra quarrel with Bürklin-Wolf is that he does not even use these words on the label; a visit to his website shows that he uses there the abbreviations GC and PC which must signify "Grand Cru" and "Premier Cru"; why the introduction of French?

3. I would love to see who is claiming what as GG/EG/EL. It is not as if there is no historical guidance. The Prussian state drew up excellent maps of the Mosel valley for tax purposes in the 1860s, I think, which highlight clearly the still generally acknowledged best sites. I believe that there are similar maps from the early 1900s for the Nahe valley and maybe for other areas. It beats me why the 1971 legislators would not use such a well defined precedent. It also beats me why Egon Müller apparently opposes the recognition of top sites; because his own name suffices to pull in high prices?

4. OK for some other "noble" varieties as well as Riesling in Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Baden, etc. but not in MSR and Rheingau and ?Nahe? (I see that Dönnhoff has Grauer and Weisser Burgunder!).

5. The danger of tasting panels is that they are liable to be hostile to originality and, if they are made up of local vignerons, are also prey to the vices of complicity with lax standards and jealousy of high standards, especially where originality gives an pretext. That said, it should be possible to compose panels which minimize these risks by inclusion of people from the trade outside the region, wine critics and maybe enlightened consumers like guess who. The French say that they will do this in their appellation reforms; it remains to be seen how it works.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 07, 2008 1:46 pm

The majority of the GG/EG/EL sties are those that were historically recognized prior to 1971. The problem is that some of them were grossly expanded in 1971 beyond the bounds of reason, so there are good and not so good parts of the Piesporter Goldtropfchen (to use one egregious example). The 1971 wine law had way too many commercial interests and ended up being a bad compromise in order to ensure industrial quality producers were given "Quality wine" status. The baby went out with the bath water at that point.

As for why Burklin-Wolf would go to GC/PC I have no idea, but they were one of the key players in the initial hijacking of the system, so I would not put anything past them.

Egon Muller is the big dog. He gets to do whatever he wants. I happen to agree with him. Unless it's done correctly it should not be done at all. He has a problem with the Scharzhofberger being given EL status with the Ockfener Bockstein (a significantly inferior site compared to the Scharzhofberger though good in its own right) getting the same status.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Keith M » Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:27 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:In fact Jean Fisch and I once had a lovely back and forth thread regarding the German wine law and how to fix it. I will try to dig it up.

WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:31 pm

Thanks. I had it pulled up earlier & lost everything in a computer glitch.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Keith M » Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:39 pm

Tim,

I understand (and share) your frustration for when they remove useful information from the label altogether, I just don't find a move of information from the front label to the back label very rantable.
Tim York wrote:
Keith M wrote: And you trust such a process to provide a hierarchy of sites?

The fact that the German political process in 1971 was incapable of agreeing on a hierarchy of sites and indeed went further in allowing confusion of "einzellage" and "grosslage" just underlines the imperfection of that law.

I think you have this reversed. The imperfection of the 1971 law underlines the incapacity of the German political process.
If Burgundians can agree on a classification, which I would regard as a model for German circumstances, why can't Germans?

The relative capacity of the state and the corresponding political process linking private economic actors and state actors is an important difference between the French and German cases. Give a German political body the authority to set up a Burgundian classification in Germany and I highly doubt that you will end up with anything with the features that wine lovers so admire about the Burgundian classification system.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Sat Nov 08, 2008 7:51 am

Keith M wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:In fact Jean Fisch and I once had a lovely back and forth thread regarding the German wine law and how to fix it. I will try to dig it up.

WTN:Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spatlese 05 & 1971 Wine Laws


Thanks for that link, Keith. I now recall that excellent discussion and fascinating interview with Egon Müller.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:01 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Egon Muller is the big dog. He gets to do whatever he wants. I happen to agree with him. Unless it's done correctly it should not be done at all. He has a problem with the Scharzhofberger being given EL status with the Ockfener Bockstein (a significantly inferior site compared to the Scharzhofberger though good in its own right) getting the same status.


I sympathize with Müller's wish to avoid debasing the EL status. Of course, it is particularly easy for him to take this view when he is sitting on some of the best plots in the world at Scharzhofberger.

Was Ockfener Bockstein classed as a top category site in the 19th century Prussian maps? If yes, I think that Müller's opposition is a bit dog in the manger. It would be a bit like saying that Bonnes Mares should not be a grand cru because it rarely attains quite the heights of Romanée-Conti or La Tâche.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Nov 08, 2008 8:59 am

Tim,

I don't know if the Bockstein was top class in the 19th century, and I largely do not care because some top growers (e.g. Zilliken, St. Urbans-Hof) farm that land and get good but (IMO) never great results. It's not EL class.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Tim York » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:33 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Tim,

I largely do not care


You should care if there were a 1868 top ranking because it would indicate potential.

However, in the absence of precise information, it is futile to argue about this. I note that the lesser authorities, Johnson and Robinson, colour Bockstein in their map as "Fisrt-class vineyard" and Scharzhofberg as "Great first-class vineyard". I have a high regard for Zilliken so, if he is not getting great results, that also says something.
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Re: WTN: 1997 PECHSTEIN Forst Dr.Bürklin-Wolf with rant

Postby Lars Carlberg » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:38 am

Ockfener Bockstein is without question one of the best sites in the Saar Valley and not just according to one 19th-century map. Almost all the old literature speaks highly of this site, as do most growers in the region.

Moreover, it's difficult to judge a site's potential from a couple of producers' wines. For example, Zilliken focuses almost entirely on Saarburger Rausch. From their 11 hectares, 10 ha are in Rausch. Even so, I've found their Bockstein Kabinett can show real elegance. They, however, want Rausch to be their top site. Another producer of note with important holdings in Bockstein is von Othegraven.
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