I’ve had some seriously good Rieslings in recent days; the two best ones in this flight were screamingly brilliant. Indeed, I’d go as far as saying that, Trimbach-style aside, Alsace Riesling does not get any better than these two. Shame about the knackered Z-H, but that is the risk you take when keeping these wines. The 2001 Z-H Rangen Riesling we popped recently was fine, but a 1998 popped a couple of weeks before was totally oxidised; do we have worries about the longevity of Z-H Rangen Riesling? Anyway, the notes!
Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvée Sainte Catherine l’Inedit 2000, Domaine Weinbach
This has a livid, exciting but dense nose of fresh tropical fruit; passion fruit and mango. It is certainly big and buxom, but with all the intense minerality this displays it seems far from overblown. That creamy minerality really speaks of its origins, and its scale speaks of the ripeness of the grapes used in this cuvee. This is a passionate, sex-tastic nose that really begs you to have a taste. So I will. What a palate! Certainly big and powerful, with a noticeable amount of residual sugar, but it does not lack balance. The acidity is really impressive for a wine of this scale, giving it proper harmony. Its complex mineral character also shows strongly on the palate, and by my auntie’s nipples is it pleasing. Even though this does have residual sugar there is a savoury character to this which I always like in white wines. And I am yet to mention the commanding fruit which dominates the palate, which I should do because it smacks a big smile across my chuffed visage. This is certainly up for drinking (with screaming pleasure) and I feel it is even better than the 2002 we had at The Ledbury on Monday night. Thrills, spills and orgiastic love from this wine; drink it and grin like an irritatingly smug person.
Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2000, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
This also has a very large-scale, opulent nose, but the fruit is more like apricots and peaches rather than the tropical offering from the Inedit. The vineyard character, which my chum Jeremy accurately describes and being hot and roasted rather than mineral, is certainly present. There is a pretty serious alcohol burn to the nose, but with all of that fruit you don’t mind so much. The palate is a huge mouthful of sweet fruit, alcohol and just about enough acidity. There is quite a lot of residual sugar and given its merely passable acid levels this doesn’t seem as thrillingly harmonious as the Inedit. It is very tasty, though, and does deliver on the pleasure front especially if you like Rieslings to possess heroic levels of alcohol and intense, opulent fruit. Yeah this is properly good, but not as good as the Inedit.
Riesling Grand Cru Rangen Clos Saint Urban 2000, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht
A rather worrying shade of orange. A sniff: Yes, it is oxidised, past it and generally shagged out. There are hints on the pretty knackered palate that this was once a big, alcohol-and-fruit-driven wine with a lot of residual sugar, but it really is exhausted in the ‘nice drink’-sense.
Right, are you ready? Ok, let’s go!
Riesling Grand Cru Sommerberg Vendanges Tardives 2000, Domaine Albert Boxler
In contrast to the proceeding wines this nose of this seems a sculpted entity of pure finesse and beauty. There is some scale to it, and candied fruit hints, but its totally focussed minerality gives this an exquisite character which is mind-bendingly thrilling and exhilarating. To sniff this is not only to be taken on a roller-coaster ride of riveting intellectual excitement but also to be stunned by its visceral, sex-charged love-power. The palate is even more lewdly delicious. For sure, it is quite large in scale with a good blend of candied and fresh fruit, but its balance and focus boggle the mind. It has a really precise minerality, the totally clear-cut expression of which one expects from a Boxler Sommerberg; just so electrifying, man. The quite scary levels of acidity which slash their way across your palate keep even this clearly ripe, late-harvest palate in total harmony and bursting with pulsing, throbbing life. It not only screams balance, class and refinement, but also shouts how much it loves you and wants to make you happy. Easily one of the very best, most thrilling, rabidly exhilarating Vendanges Tardives Rieslings I’ve had.
Our final wine of the evening was a red to go with the partner’s excellent ragu bolognaise.
Cornas ‘Domaine Saint Pierre’ 1996, Paul Jaboulet Aine
A good, mature nose of soft red fruit and a pleasing earthy complexity. It is quite a polished and generally cleaned-up nose for Cornas. It certainly smells like it is in very good condition and generally up for drinking. And the taste? Ah, how disappointing, it suffers from ‘1996-syndrome’, which is to say the acidity levels are too high to be ultimately balanced. There is plenty of fruit, which is soft and charming, a good, rigorous but refined tannic structure, but that acid really bothers me. Not a bad wine, by any means, but the harmony is ultimately lacking.