New world countries, who have based their reputations on consistency of flavour, year in, year out, are now abandoning their tried and tested method of mass wine production and are thinking about the dirt they are planting vines in. How the winds, the aspect to the sun and so forth will translate into what is poured into the glass. And if the Aussies can accept terroir, there must be something in it!
Germany, like Burgundy, is all about Terroir. They only plant one grape worth mentioning* - Riesling - and I had never really looked into how their soils effected the wines before. To try and learn more, I tried three wines blind, all 2009 vintage, all Kabinetts and all made by Dr. Loosen.
The first wine I tried had a lemon meets clay aroma. Some pungent elements to the nose that are quite nice, but mute the slight aggressive sweet, citrussy aroma. The palate follows this through, quite soft, peach flavours and honey in texture but with a tiny bit of spritz. It has a good linear palate, very a-to-b-to-c but not particularly classy and a touch crude! i thought it was the Bernkasteler Lay, knowing that the mainly slate soils give punchier, richer textured wines.
Wine number two had pepper coming off the nose, and a little lime skin that made me think of more oriental spices. There was some petrolly elements emerging. The palate was more citrus and less sweet peach - a lime dominant palate, some spice does emerge and then there is a very lovely, bright, livelyness of citrus fruit and tart, green apple. The spicier elements drew me to Urziger Wurzgarten - The spice garden of Urzig - with its volcanic iron rich spoils.
The final wine was gentle and elegant with some sprightly tart aromas. It was just a pretty wine. A sweet palate, unctuous with peach flavours, a little burnt lime skin and some tart apples on the finish. A lovely, graceful wine and I thought, due to its refined nature, it would be the Wehlener Sonnenuhr from the blue slate soils in this steep vineyard.
So, how did I do? My assumptions for the final wine were right, the elegance that was immediately apparent making the option of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr the only way to go. However, what surprised me was that I got the other two wines wrong. The first wine was the Urziger Wurzgarten, a wine that was supposed to show some signs of spice, but it didn't, and it did have the tropical fruit notes that the Bernkasteler Lay should have. I was blind tasting these with a colleague of mine and he agreed with me. The second wine, which turned out to be the Bernkasteler Lay, was more citrussy and had some spice which pushed me to the Urziger Wurzgarten. I may need to try some more German rieslings to train my palate more - it is a hard life I lead.
The one thing that was undeniable here was that soil has a massive effect on the vines and therefore, on the wine in your glass. It would be blatantly apparent to the most novice wine taster so if you want to learn about terroir, and see it very clearly, don't go to Burgundy, the wines there are too expensive. Buying three bottles of Kabinett from Dr Loosen will set you back forty five pounds in total - the price of one decent bottle of Burgundy.
Six Questions with... Ernst Loosen
Six Questions with... Ernst Loosen
*Please don't email me mentioning Germany's other 'quality' grapes - you know as well as I do that Riesling is the big one and really all that matters. We rarely mention Aligote or Sauvignon Blanc in Burgundy, so why bother mentioning Pinot Noir or Muller Thurgau when it comes to Germany?!