The 2012 German Riesling tasting by Howard Ripley shows that I could well be out of a job. Virtually all the wines I tasted were of an extremely enjoyable standard and it is clearly another great vintage in Germany. Indeed, with the improvements in viticulture in Germany, notably more and more estates controlling their yields, I think Germany could only have a bad vintage if it moved to Wales. So these wines are all good, they will always be good in the future, so it is back to being an unemployed lunatic for me!
I do see a glimmer of hope for us scribes on the subject of German Riesling. We can still provide a general overview of each vintage as it comes along and point out the real stunners you want to rush greedily to obtain. Phew! Employed again! I had better get to it:
2012 German Riesling is of impressive quality. If you buy from a merchant who only stocks good stuff, like Howard Ripley, then your chances of getting a dud are extremely small. The vintage is very ripe, much like 2009 German Riesling, but with no almost no botrytis. Even the Kabinetts are often luxuriously dissolute with richness and the (sadly very few) Auslesen that were made are gloriously charged with complex late-harvest characters.
This talk of ripeness may make you worry about the acidity, but fear not! The cold middle of the absolutely awful 2012 summer (which we English types moaned about endlessly last year) charged the grapes with a fierce acidity that was retained as the grapes got impressively ripe in the late summer. Better still, as there is no botrytis to obscure things, the wines almost all show a great mineral tang that gives them a really pleasing sense of place. They may be big, but by god are they balanced and lively.
I say above that is is sad that there are few Auslesen made in the 2012 German Riesling vintage; this is because those are the things you want to buy. They are decadent entities of glorious delight, charged with candied late harvest fruit characters and fizzing with exciting acidity. These are as rich as the 2009s but almost uniformly have better balance. The 2012 Auslesen The Editor and I tried at the Howard Ripley tasting were some of the most unashamedly enjoyable wines we’ve ever drank. They will blow your mind!
The 2012 German Riesling Kabinetts and Spätlesen are so ripe I would wager that back in the dark days of less good viticulture (the early 90s and before) wines like them would have lived one or two ripeness levels higher. There is no point getting wound up about analytical perfection, as far as the sugar levels go, as they do provide lighter, less extreme and more obviously refreshing experiences than the amazing Auslesen. They are certainly a lot of fun to drink! Only some wines will deliver the olfactory orgasms of the Auslesen, but you won’t be missing much in the way of intensity. But then, you cannot have sex five times a day every day (as I tried, but failed to sustain, with a particularly androphagous girlfriend when at Oxford) and is very important to have delights that drain only so much of your vital fluids.
2012 German Trockens have benefited greatly from the ripeness of this vintage. It is also true that they have benefited from the more sophisticated, balanced manner in which winemakers view this style – they are no longer fiercely dry but usually have a bit of residual sugar, making them more harmonious. Being made from riper fruit than in the past, a choice of the producers and certainly helped in 2012, makes these wines better than in the horrific period in which all sensible non-Germans learned to loathe them. There are some wonderful and very affordable 2012 German Trockens, so this would be an ideal vintage in which to confidently dip your toe into wines of this style.
When we were going around the Howard Ripley tasting most people quite obviously enjoyed the wines as much as we did. I do not blame them. A few voices suggested the ripe, late harvest characters made these wines show a little awkwardly, making them require time to blossom. We tried a lot of the wines twice, with palates always set to analytical, and discussed all in terms of the other comments we heard. Our conclusion is that this will be a vintage that will certainly age, in most cases for quite a long time, but we think that those who like young Riesling will find it at its most charming from 2012. I can live with my charms being on the Rubenesque side, which 2012 German Riesling seems to be, but it is very rare one of these embonpoint lovelies will not thrill you with the percipience of their intercourse.
Such is the greatness of this voluptuary vintage that you will only feel you have not done well is if you have one of the better wines contemporaneously – most will stand on their own as deliciously fine wines. In order so your purchases are never overshadowed by a rival oenophile’s purchases I will tell you two from each category that outperform their brilliant cousins. I will have to briefly mention a few that are nearly as good, but I shall try to limit myself – there are so many good wines I could wax lyrical on, that this article would be too long for anyone to fight through. Here go the exceptionally effulgent 2012 German Rieslings (all prices are for six bottles in bond):
2012 German Riesling Trocken
Peter Lauer is a new producer to me but I am instantly bought by his skill with the Saar Riesling Faß 16 (£42). It is very light and elegant, with a fine Saar character. Pretty dry, heading toward fierce in terms of acidity, but balanced enough to be enjoyable drinking. If you want a light, refreshing wine for summer drinking you can hardly do better at this price.
Van Volxem’s Saar Riesling (£54) is another wine I felt Saar-y to drink. A bit more weight and sweetness than the Lauer, but still very refined and dry enough to be an easy match with food. At this price I am quite impressed with its complexity.
There are two wines I would feel ashamed not to mention. Schafer-Fröhlich’s Nahe Riesling Trocken (£48) is a wonderful expression of Nahe character with perfect restraint. Julian Haart (another new producer I will follow as avidly as his possession of a miniscule 1.5 hectares allows) makes a Trocken called Wintricher (£96) which is confidently scaled with noticeable sweetness. It is quite, quite brilliant and an utter joy to swill down as much of as your money allows, but that is the problem – it is not quite the screaming bargain that the other Trockens are.
2012 German RIESLING Kabinett
Schloss Lieser’s Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett (£51) is a brilliantly poised and refined Kabinett from this vintage that tends toward rich and ripe. It’s quite loaded with sugar but thanks to having so much acidity, some meddlesome ratbag is bound to try and ban it (as we are incapable of doing exactly what they have decided is the right thing to drink without being legally coerced into doing so – fucking public health scumbags, I fucking hate them all. Now where was I…), the balance is spot on. You can drink this as often as you feel appropriate (which the great price encourages) and you will feel enlivened, refreshed and charged with good feeling toward all men (excepting meddlesome public health ratbags).
I have never had a Kabinett from Piesport better than Julian Haart’s Piesporter Schubertslay (£60). The slopes in Piesport make ripe grapes in most vintages so I was hugely gratified that the luxuriant peachy fruit this had on the nose was matched by a wicked streak of almost wince-inducing brilliance. Julian Haart effortlessly displays his superiority to his uncle Reinhold with this and the Trocken I mention above. It is so titting marvellous I highly recommend you seek this out and do it in double quick time!
He makes bugger all and as soon as people notice quite how engorged with sensuousness and dissipation this wine is it is bound to disappear faster than good humour when a Scotsman walks into a party. What a price for such quality! If anyone seeks to curry favour with Team Elitistreview for less than the cost of paying our gas bill, then the gift of Piesporter Schubertslay would have us writing bodily function jokes for you for a period of time. Of course, sending us pickled onions is another option.
There are three 2012 German Riesling Kabinetts which nearly should be covered in opaque cellophane on the top shelf. I shall list them in order of decreasing price and also decreasing epicurism: Graacher Himmelreich from Willi Schaefer (£60), Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg from von Schubert (£57) and Brauneberger from Fritz Haag (£54).
2012 German RIESLING SpÄtlese
Peter Lauer’s Ayler Kupp Spätlese Faß 7 (£72) is quite possibly the most coruscatingly brilliant wine we tried in a tasting of brilliant wines. We went back and tried this after some fabulously intense Auslesen and its effulgent qualities still burned brightly on our palates and in our minds. One of those qualities is undoubtedly an absolute oenology shop-load of acidity – it burned alright. But that fine, powerful acidity is matched by poised, ripe lime and lemon fruit and a wonderful set of slate characters. And even though there is so much acidity you could wonder if this is a Kabinett, the sugar levels are easily enough to make it an Auslese. This is a stupendous wine of real quality and class; Sebastian Thomas of Howard Ripley must be as jolly as a butcher to have Peter Lauer wines in his portfolio.
If anyone is ever sniffy about Robert Weil’s Kiedrich Gräfenberg Spätlese (£174) you can slap their cheek and call them a berk[ref]Do you know the origin of this extremely mild insult I used to happily use at primary school? I did not know it back then, and I probably would not have understood if I did. It was originally Cockney rhyming slang: Berkshire Hunt[/ref] as they are clearly incapable of even telling their arse from a hole in the ground. I do not exaggerate when I say this was one of the most profound wine experiences of my life. Maybe I could qualify that a little by saying I have had quite a few profound wine experiences in my life, but I do not want to underplay the brilliance of this wine. It had Rheingau character of great sophistication, amazing concentration of flavour, impressive focus and a whole bed full of teddy bears could not pleasure me as much as this did. Bum-holing-amazing!
Nearly reaching these levels of dripping sensuality I can recommend the hard core pleasure Hermann Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese (£162), von Schubert’s Maximin Grünhäuser Abstberg Spätlese (£71) and Lieser Niederberg Helden Spätlese from Schloss Lieser (£63).
2012 German RIESLING Auslese
As I cannot afford any of these wines it doesn’t matter if I aim high on pricing here. There is little more I can say than that if you buy the Maximin Grünhäuser Herrenberg Auslese #25 from von Schubert (£159) or the Graacher Himmelreich Auslese #09 from Willi Schaefer (£210) I guarantee there is less chance of a rabidly socialist Guardian commenter supporting the ideals they claim by moving to Cuba or North Korea than there is of you buying better wine this year. They are, by any meaningful definition of the word, unbeatable in terms of sheer quality. I was awe-struck by them both and could not say if one is better than the other, but this is the effect a taste of Willi had on Team Elitistreview:
Nearly reaching that penetrating zenith was every other Auslese in the tasting, but here are two that will not break the bank: Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr #6 from Fritz Haag (£102) and Lieser Niederberg Helden from Schloss Lieser (£96). Don’t worry if you are broke but want Auslese – you will feel you have done tits-well if you buy these.
I feel I did tits-well to taste all these wines. So will you, if you buy some! Whether you DOA[ref]DOA: Drink On Arrival[/ref] or keep these wines you’ll be having more fun than the kind of stuff politicians get in the newspaper for doing. They are great!
Buggering fish-flaps! The Editor tried to claim 6 bottles of the Julian Haart Piesporter Schubertslay Kabinett and it had all gone! How evanescent the wonders we seek are…
David, I’ve just re-read all of the 09-12 reviews and it strikes me that you’ve not mentioned Vollenweider in any of them. I quite agree about Julian Haart and Lauer; I also happen to think that the Vollenweider are pretty stylish as well: is this just one that didn’t grab you, or did you give them a miss?
That’s true, it hadn’t occurred to me. I admit I don’t try all wines in every vintage, but I recall liking theirs these past few years. So why no mention? I think it’s basically because there are a set of people that I have followed, generally for a very long time (my first visits to German vineyards were in 1993), whose stylistic choices are sympathetic to my tastes and, quite understandably, I tend to focus more intensely on them when I taste. Yes, I pay attention to new producers but they have to be particularly fine to break into my mindset of people I know to be consistently good over a long period. Many, many do, but given the maximum I want to taste at an event and my desire not to write articles that go on forever (something I’m not very good at) some will sadly fall through the cracks. I’m only one loony tasting all this stuff and it takes it out of me to do that and write it all up, you know?
But you are right, I have utterly failed with Vollenweider so will seek some out, especially at future big tastings, and if I feel they are worthy of my readers time and money I will write of them in future. Thank you for pointing out this omission – everybody don’t start doing this, please, as there are bound to be countless examples.
You’re up a bit late, aren’t you?
David, thanks. I’m visiting a small university town in the mid-west so it is not as late as it appears (on the other hand, you’re up very early …), and I’ve left my tasting notes back in the UK. What I do very much appreciate is that you take the time to write up the HR riesling tastings every year with verve and enthusiasm and, in general, we’ve been noticing the same wines like Lauer and Haart, as well as Schaefer. This year was the first that I liked the trockens, and there was much in the kabinett/spatlese section that was very good. Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned Vollenweider as his wines are good value …: I bought the Kabinett and Spatlese GK in 09 and11. I’ll be buying 12s and am sad I won’t be able to get the Haart Schubertslay kabinett; that really was very fine. Cheers, M
I’m sure you would agree, Mark, the vintages since 09 have provided a lot of fun drinking. I’m flattered you think my reports convey the enthusiasm that can be generated at these events – thanks!
Slight issues with cash flow have prevented large orders in recent years but with the 2012s The Editor’s new employment has allowed the acquisition of enough summer drinking to last a season or two. We have ordered: Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett, Lauer Faß7 Spatlese, Lieser Helden Spatlese and von Schubert Auslese #25. That, I fancy, well do us nicely without blowing all the cheese money.
I’m pleased you were not have a similar sorry sort of late night/early morning experience as I had last night. I was quite discomposed for large part of the night. Sleep well!