Haag and Selbach

Oliver Haag (left) and Bert Selbach opening wines at the Louisville tasting.

The German-wine importer Rudi Wiest came through Louisville yesterday, with wine makers Oliver Haag (Weingut Fritz Haag) and Bert Selbach (Weingut Dr. F. Weins-Prüm) in tow, bearing many bottles of 1998 German wines.

Wiest, an affable and knowledgeable gentleman who's made it his 16-year mission to get Americans interested in German wines, presided over a tasting and presented a very informal "seminar" to about two dozen local folks, mostly people in the wholesale, retail and restaurant wine business.

Wiest, whose import company is Cellars International Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif., recalled starting out in the import business with the 1983 vintage, an excellent vintage in which the wines were good and the dollar was strong. He built a list of clients and then, wham! The 1984 vintage was poor and the dollar was weak; he found himself trying to sell Ausleses for the same price he had been getting for excellent but lesser wines the year before.

Rudi Wiest
To move his wines, he began working the restaurant trade, pointing out that the off-dry German wines (a style he prefers to call "fruity") go better than people realize with food, especially Asian dishes and hot-and-spicy fare. He also began working with German estates to feature wines at the "Qualitätswein" level, wines that may be blended from more than one vineyard and thus that can be imported with simpler labels that some consumers may find less confusing because they eliminate the long vineyard and village names. Along the way, he has devised good educational materials aimed at demystifying German wine by displaying the various quality levels and types across a matrix. You'll find some of these charts on display on his company's informative Website at

The following wines were featured, accompanied with Pacific Rim fare including swordfish, squid, sushi roll and green-chile won tons from the hosts of the tasting venue, Louisville's Bristol Bar & Grille. The tasting was sponsored by Brown-Kaiser, the Kentucky distributor that handles Wiest's line.

Weingut Robert Weil, Kiedrich, Rheingau

1998 Rheingau Riesling - Very pale gold, with good pine and mineral aromas; citrus and steel on the palate. Opens up nicely with a squid salad, but a little light for grilled swordfish; a simple seaweed roll with soy sauce overwhelms it.

1998 Rheingau Riesling Halbtrocken - Clear watery pale. Faint citrus aroma, good mixed-citrus flavors with an acidic tang.

1998 Rheingau Riesling Trocken - Clear, watery pale; many tiny bubbles line the glass. Yeasty and slate aromas, tart and juicy tangerine flavor, long and tart. Best of the three in this flight with the swordfish, an appetizing match.

Weingut Dr. F. Weins-Prüm, Bernkastel-Wehlen, Mosel

1998 Mosel Riesling Halbtrocken - Pale straw color, with faint, yeasty aromas; tart acidity cloaks light sweetness. Doesn't work well with the food.

1998 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Pale straw color, with shy scents of pine and slate. Gentle apple fruit sweetness with good acidic balance, tightening up in a tart green-apple finish.

1998 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese - Very pale gold. Slight, pleasant tangerine aromas; excellent citric flavor, sweet and crisp. Particularly good with the squid.

1998 Graacher Domprobst Spätlese - Pale straw color, with slight aromas and simple, sweet-tart apple flavors; long and clean finish.

1998 Graacher Domprobst Auslese - Pale straw color. Light musky melon aroma, sweet, simple, crisply acidic.

Weingut Schloss Lieser, Lieser, Mosel

1998 Mosel Riesling Trocken - Very pale straw color. Cooking apples and musky canteloupe aromas; crisp, very slight sweetness behind crisp acidity.

1998 Mosel Riesling Kabinett - Watery pale. Faint scent of rising bread dough. Tart acidity dominates light fresh-fruit sweetness.

1998 Mosel Riesling Spätlese - Pale straw color, with good muskmelon and apple aromas. Sweet-tart flavor with a pleasant whiff of apricots.

Weingut Fritz Haag, Brauneberg, Mosel

1998 Mosel Riesling Halbtrocken - Very pale straw color, with faint herbaceous "tobacco leaf" aromas. Tart, almost sour.

1998 Mosel Riesling Kabinett - Pale straw color, with light apple aromas; off-dry, tart, a bit prickly on the tongue.

1998 Braunerberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Kabinett - Pale gold, tiny bubbles on the glass. Light apple scent; crisp and tart, slightly sweet, with a good steely structure.

1998 Braunerberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Spätlese - Very pale gold. Good mango aromas, peaches and pine, segues into tart citric tangerine flavors on the palate. The one wine in this flight of three Braunebergers that works nicely with the Bristol's spicy green-chile won tons.

1998 Braunerberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Auslese - Very pale gold in color, with yeasty bread dough and light citrus aromas. Sweeter than the other two Braunerbergers, with a softer acidic structure.

Weingut Pfeffingen, Ungstein, Pfalz

1998 Pfalz Riesling Trocken - Pale straw color, aromas of musky cooking apples. Crisp, fresh apple flavor, sweet and tart.

1998 Pfeffingen "Pfeffo" Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken - Very pale gold, with little scent; honey and fresh hay on the palate, sweet-sour and crisp.

1998 Ungsteiner Herrenbert Riesling Spätlese - Pale straw color, with light floral aromas and a sweet, soft and rather short flavor.

1998 Ungsteiner Honigsackel Gewürztraminer Spätlese - Very pale gold. Light litchees in the aroma; sweet and soft on first tasting, with crisp acidity becoming more evident along with a slight bitter quality in the finish.

1998 Ungsteiner Herrenberg Scheurebe Beerenauslese - Clear straw color. Tropical fruit aromas, figs and dates, very nice. Very sweet flavor, tropical fruit follows the nose, dried fruit and caramel. Very pleasant, fat and rich and easy drinking.

1998 Ungsteiner Herrenberg Scheurebe Eiswein - Clear gold, with delicious aromas of honey, apricot and orange peel. Honey and spice on the palate, toothache sweet. A bit short on acid and structure, but makes delicious sipping.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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