[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Europe Wine Diary 1998

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Germany -
The Saar and the Mosel

Monday, May 11, 1998

An evening at Peter Jordan's

Saar Valley

Wiltingen in the Saar as seen from the top of the Gottesfuss vineyard.

We spent our first night in Germany as guests at the lovely winery home of Peter H. Jordan in Wiltingen, in the Saar, where we were joined by a group of German online wine lovers. Tired from a long travel day (EuroStar train over from London to Brussels, then a hard drive down through Luxembourg to the Saar), I left the note-taking to others. The following notes and observations were posted by Peter Jordan, Jörn Schulz and Peter Ruhrberg, and are reproduced here with their permission.

Peter Jordan:

Peter Jordan

Peter Jordan surveys his Scharzhofberger vineyard at twilight.

Just to tell a little bit where Robin & Mary have been yesterday. We had had an informal meeting at our winery in Wiltingen / Saar. Peter Ruhrberg and Jörn Schulz joined us together with Jens and Thomas. A very warm afternoon / evening with 31 degrees Celsius. After visiting some of the Saar's most famous vineyards: Scharzhofberg, Wiltinger Gottesfuß, Wiltinger Braune Kupp and Braunfels. Evening Diner in the Garden outside - typical Bavarian kitchen: "Schweinsbraten with Knödel" from my hometown Munich - without beer ;) - but with some wines. I am adding shortly the wine list without my comments.
1997er Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Long Goldcap

1997er Wiltinger Gottesfuß Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken "Old vines"
1997er Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese Dry
1995er Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese Semidry
1995er Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spätlese Semidry
1995er Wiltinger Braunfels Riesling Spätlese Dry
1996er Scharzhofberger Riesling Q.b.A. Semidry

Peter Ruhrberg brought a homemade cake (by himself) where we opened:

1995er Scharzhofberger Riesling BA long Goldcap
1995er Wiltinger Braunfels Riesling Icewein long Goldcap
1994er Jordan & Jordan Vin Santo - TBA
with fermented with Sherry yeast in Limousin barriques
and finally a 1976 (Van Volxem) Scharzhofberger Riesling TBA

The late evening have been closed with a (we dared!) German red wine:

1996 Jordan & Jordan Pinot Noir

We have been happy to welcome Robin and his wife here in the Saar area and we wish him many pleasant meetings in the next days.

Joern Schulz

On Monday and Tuesday Robin visited the Mosel and the Saar. Here is what happened:

Jens (a friend of mine) and I arrived at Peter Jordan's winery in Wiltingen at about 5 pm. The winery is an old monatery with a huge garden and a very nice old house. The oldest parts of the house (some parts of the foundation) was build by the Romans 1500 years ago.

When Robin and Mary arrived Peter took us to the vineyards. What an interesting trip. At first we stopped at the Wiltinger Gottesfuß. This is a very steep vineyard with an exposition of 50-60 degrees. The vines are 105 to 110 years old and are uncrafted. So these are original Riesling-vines without American roots. It must be a very hard work to harvest the grapes in this vineyard. We were at about 7pm in this vineyard and it was still very warm. During the day we had about 31 degrees celsius (88 Fahrenheit) and I would guess that it was still that warm up there.

Later we drove to the Scharzhofberg. You have a beautiful look on the Egon Müller Estate and (probably more interesting) you can have a look on the different winemaking-methods Peter Jordan and Egon Müller use. On Egon Müller parts everything is clean. Peter Jordan uses a organic way of winemaking. That's why you have a lot of grass growing between the vines. They start at the Saar (and the Mosel) to switch from the one-pole-cultivation to the more modern and better wire-cultivation. The older method works like that: Every vine is fixed at one pole. You leave one or two branches (the rest is cut down each year) and bend them in a bow down to the pole. If you have two branches it looks like a heart. I hope you can make a picture out of my description. The big advance of this method is, that you can work in a hotizontal way and don't have to walk up and down the hill for one row.

With the wire-cultivation you have to do that. There you have poles starting from the bottom of the vineyard upwards. There are poles every 5-10 meters. Between the poles there are wires in a height of 80 cenimetres, 1,20 m and 1,50 ( I just guess that. The numbers are probably wrong. You cut down all branches up to one or two again and then bend the branch around the middle wire and fix it at the lowest one. With this method you have a better leaf-grape-ratio. That means that more water and minerals (more "food") comes to the grapes. The dis-advantage is that you have to harvest every row from bottom to the top of the vineyard, so that you climb up and down a lot more than with the one-pole-cultivation.

After the vineyard tour we met Peter Ruhrberg and Thomas (a friend of him) at Jordan's winery. Shortly after we met we had dinner with some wines. Peter and his wife Brabara made "Schweinebraten mit Knödeln" which was really delicious!!

Now I move on to the wines and hope that Robin and Peter will add their (controversial) comments.

The wines are in the order of tasting:

1997 Ockfener Bockstein Auslese LGK (long gold capsule) apricots, a hint of green apples and slate, full-bodied, sweet, very concentrated, peaches, apricots, high acidity, long and a bit acidic aftertaste

1997 Wiltinger Gottesfuss Spätlese off-dry "Old Vines" peaches, pineapple, cassis, slate, very good structure, immense density, fruity, good acidity, long and pleasnat aftertaste

1997 Scharzhofberger Auslese trocken strong slate, pineapple, cassis, peaches, spritz, full-bodied, apples, peaches, good acidity, nice lengthy aftertaste

1995 Scharzhofberger Spätlese offdry petrol, slate, peaches and some sour fruit I couldn't get, slate ond petrol again in the mouth, nice body and structure, good aftertaste

1995 Ockfener Bockstein Spätlese off-dry slate and fresh, apples, cassis, no peaches, very high acidity, great structure, unripe green plums ( I ate these once when they were offered to me from a Turkish woman at work; they are very sour but somehow nice tasting), acidic, long aftertaste

1995 Wiltinger Braunfels Spätlese dry hints of peaches, minerlas, earthy notes, sour fruit, good body, very dry, a little bit earthy good fruit, nice aftertaste (the 2 Spätlese before had a little bit longer finish)

1995 Scharzhofberger BA (downgraded TBA) you could smell acidity, slate, cassis, some Alkohol, peaches, apricots, candied sugar, very full-bodied, high alcohol (14%), great structure, great complexity, fir-honey, very long aftertaste

1995 Wiltinger Braunfels Eiswein rhubarb, some chemical notes, great depth and complexity, acidic, some earthy-mineral notes, everlasting aftertaste

Vin Santo This wine is made from a BA and Sherry yeast and was fermented for more than 3 years with different temperatures) I can't get it, actually. Oxidized color, amber, cloudy. The smell reminded me of a 31-year old Springbank Malt. It had a pleasant taste not alcoholic, but the nose was like this Malt!

1995 Scharzhofberger Auslese trocken Petrol, cassis, good acidity, good friut and structure, lengthy aftertaste

1976 Scharzhofberger BA some slate and freshness, aged nose, good structure, sweetness, woody notes, very long aftertaste

1996 Blauer Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) unfiltered deep, a little cloudy dark brick-red, herbal nose reminds me a bit of "Rote Grütze" (whatever that's in English), harsh tannins, smoky, good structure, good aftertaste. The wine just lacked a bit of fruit for me.

1997 Scharzhofberger Auslese (sweet) slate, peaches, cassis, good structure, sweet, nice fruit, peaches, apples, cassis, long aftertaste

Thank you Peter Jordan for sharing these wines and your hospitality! This is the first time I tasted dry Saar wines. I have to admit that they are really very, very good (at least). My favorite is probably the Gottesfuß off-dry Spätlese because of its density. A tremendous wine.

Tuesday, May 12, 1998

A day in the Mosel

Joern Schulz

The next morning we all (with the exception of Peter Jordan and his wife) drove to the Mosel. We started with Theo Haart in Piesport. When you come from the Autobahn (motorway, Interstate) you come down to Piesport driving through the Goldtröpfchen. This is simply a georgeous view. A huge, steep amphitheater all covered with wine. Then you see the river and Piesport, Neumagen-Dhron in the distance and the sun burns and burns and so you move on to drink some wine.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham at Theo Haart.
The Haart winery is in Piesport near the river and besides Theo Haart we met Tom Grahem and his wife Marion there.

On to the wines:

1997 Spätlese trocken (Dhron Hofberger, but not written on the label) full fruity aromas, slate, peaches, pineapple, some spritz, good acidity (lower than in the Saar wines), nice structure, good aftertaste

1997 Spätlese off-dry (Wintricher Ohligsberg) cassis, slate, peaches, candies (pech-candies that you get in Germany during carneval), fresh sourly apples, good acidity, good aftertaste (a bit of structure was missing IMHO

1997 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett slate, cassis, abit smoky-sour (couldn't get the fruit; maybe pink grapefruit? but I don't know exactly), good structure, slight sweetness, pefect Kabinett structure and body, medium-long aftertaste

1997 Wintricher Ohligsberg Spätlese slate, cassis, peaches, full nose, good sweetness, good structure, powerful fruit, long, mineral Aftertaste

1997 Piesporter Domherr Spätlese mineral, apples, again smoky-sour fruit, spritz, full-bodied, good strusture, good fruit, quite acidic, good, mineral aftertaste

1997 Goldtröpfchen Spätlese nervous, sate, smoky, cassis, green apples, spritz, sweetness, good density, very good fruit, minerals, long aftertaste

1997 Goldtröpfchen Auslese (BA-quality) cassis, slate, peaches, fir-honey, apricots, botrytis, oily, full structure, sweetness, acidity, fruity, very long aftertaste

1995 Goldtröpfchen BA golden color, botrytis, apricots, honey, raisins, strawberries (that was catched by Marion, Tom Graham's wife), full-bodied, sweet, oily, concentrated, dense, very long aftertaste ( Jens got Walnuts cooked in plums in the nose. What a nice description but I can't smell walnuts cooked in plums)

Theo Haart

Theo Haart (right) and Peter Ruhrberg.

1994 Goldtröpfchen Spätlese slate, cassis, apples, some pertol, dense, good acidity, slightly sweet, fruity, very long aftertaste (surprisingly fresh wine

1990 Goldtröpfchen Auslese slate, petrol, cassis, some spritz, full-bodied, sweet, good structure, high acidity, very long mineral aftertaste (also very fresh)

1971 Goldtröpfchen Auslese What a wine! a slight hint of Firne, petrol, cassis, botytis, acidity, density, honey, fruity, very, very long aftertaste. Unfortunately not to buy (well, another question would be whether I could afford it! )

We moved on to a restaurant in Ürzig called Moselschild (or something like that) with a terrific wine-list. Without note-taking we had a

1981 JJ Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett
1975 Berres Erdener Treppchen Auslese
1975 Eymael Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese

Erni Loosen
Jörn Schulz (left) and Peter Ruhrberg take notes at Erni Loosen's tasting room.

Then we had a tasting with Erni Loosen. We are delighted that he was to be guest-speaker in a Compuserve Conference on Sunday.

1997 Riesling dry (Estate wine) nice acidity, slate, apples, good structure, nice finish

1997 Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett off-dry slate, apples, some peaches, reduced fruit in the mouth, good acidity, good density, good finish

1997 Wehlener Sonneuhr Kabinett (That's my note, Jens says it was a Spätlese) slate, peaches, spritz, good sweetness, high density, very long finish, quite acidic

1997 Erdener Treppchen Spätlese more slate, peaches, cassis, some yeast, good body, structure, sweetness, nice acidity, long aftertaste

1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese apples, spices, minerals, juicy fruit, very good density, high acidity, long finish

1997 Erdener Treppchen Auslese peaches, more power than Spätlese, slate, minerals, full-bodied, juicy, fruity, acidic, long finish

1997 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese full nose, slate, peaches, fruity, sweet, acidic, very nice body, long finish

1997 Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese botrytis, earthy, spicy, a hint of honey, full-bodoed, fruity, spritz, sweet, juicy, very long finish

1997 Erdener Prälat Auslese nice minerals, cassis, peaches, high acidity, great density, fruity, very long finish

This was our Mosel-trip. I hope Robin will have a great time in Austria and Spain!

Peter Ruhrberg

Joern, thank you for taking those excellent notes and posting them. you must have typed for hours...

I have no time to comment in detail (still travelling and just sitting in an Internet cafe with little time to spare). It is a pity you and Jens had to leave after the Loosen visit. We went on to Tom Graham's place and drank some more bottles, partly provided by Birger Sparr. I hope he can provide some notes. We even went on to visit another producer, Rüdiger in Neumagen, who had joined us at the Loosen visit. It was an educational experience, putting things into a better perspective. It showed again that there is no subsitute for great vineyards, and Rüdiger is more aware of this than anybody. I hope he can achieve the goals he has set out to pursue.

Of the wines Birger brought, the Egon Mueller Spaetlese was the most impressive. Tom described it as eye opening. Appearently they are not all equally great, and I am sorry not to have the AP number, but Birger can give anyone the details who wants to know. it was not the auctioned version. My Koehler-Ruprecht Saumagen Riesling Spaetlese trocken I found a bit disappointing. closed and hard, it may need another 5 years to reveal its class, but I have a slight doubt that it is as good as Stefan thought it was. I have one more bottle, so let's meet in 2003 and find out. I have the feeling though that we will have a few more offlines in between, some of which at the restaurant Moselschild for sure, where those 64s await our assault...

Some general comments on 97. Peter Jordan's wines show how good the vintage was in the Saar. The wines have great ripeness, but retain the steely structure underneath that makes Saar wines so special, and that I find so appealing. "acidic" to me suggegsts a lack of extract and balance, though you may not intend it in that way, so I would not use that term. I noticed from the reactions to the wines of Jordan, Haart and Loosen that my taste seems to be for steelier and sleeker wines to some extent than others tastes are. I really like the non dry Bockstein Spätlese for example, more than the (non dry) 95 Scharzhofberger Spätlese. The 97s from Haart I found very well made, but due to the 97 vintage caracteristic lacking in the focus and structure that his wines normally have. others may prefer their style over 96, but I feel otherwise. My favorite 97 of Theo Haart was the Domherr spaetlese (and then there was the great 95 BA, and the wonderful 71 Auslese of course ;). I was impressed that Ernst Loosen had several exapmles of 97s on offer that had the sort of structure I seek in MSR rieslings. Esp the Erdener Treppchen Spaetlese, and also the Wuerzgarten version. The Sonnenuhr Kabinett I found too soft centered, and stylistically to far away from Kabinett than I would like. it is of course of big spaetlese, declassified to Kabinett, and if Ernst Loosen feels it is not up to his standards for Spaetlese I wonder wherther he does the right thing to sell it as Kabinett. this is not a criticism of the quality, but of the style of the wine. I want a Kabinett to be light (not in the sense of dilute of course) and refreshingly zippy, and not this soft and rich. The Praelat Auslese is superb ...

I may add that the 97s I tasted in the Wachau 2 days later had excellent structure and focus, which makes me wonder if their weather pattern was so different from the German one, or what other factors are at play here. The other aspect one has to mention here is that the whole Wachau only has twice as much vineyard planted with Riesling as the single great vineyard of the Piesporter Goldtroepfchen. We need many more Theo Haarts to produce a comparable number of great Rieslings from so little land...

Thanks to everyone involved in this wonderful day, Joern, Jens, the Jordans, the Grahams, Birger, Stefan, Rüdiger, and Joachim. And to whoever provided the weather...

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