Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

This tasting was a pleasure to present.  It attracted tasters from Auckland,  Martinborough,  Marlborough and Dunedin,  including both winemakers and wine merchants.  1975 and 1976 in Germany were contrasting years climatically.  Both have been (at times) rated 4-star vintages by the conservative Michael Broadbent,  who allows only three 5-star years in the 40 years from 1961 to 2001.  1975 was firmer,  more acidic and less showy in youth,  and with less botrytis,  and thus was rather over-looked in comparison with the "gloriously ripe" (Broadbent) 1976s,  in which the crop was reduced c. 50% in the Mosel,  and botrytis was frequent.  Remember this was in the days before acute global warming,  and seasons were dire in many years then.

The idea was to start with 1975 and 1976 spatlese versions of the same Mosel wine,  to illustrate the contrasting vintages – which they did well – then sample rieslings from the Saar,  Mosel,  Nahe  and Rheingau valleys.  All wines were Qualitatswein mit Pradikat (QmP - the highest German quality level),  and sweetness levels ranged from Kabinett to Auslese,  noting that in a ripe year such as 1976 many wines are downgraded to the ranking below.  There were no "trophy wines" as such – the tasting was intended as a working tasting for people who like old wines,  or are curious about them.  All the wines were single decanted,  several showing appreciable sediment – and tartaric crystals in some of the 1976s !  

In those days the Germans were more frugal people,  and bottle size was 700 ml,  so we could only accommodate 21 tasters.  Again,  in those days before political correctness,  no mention of alcohol was given on the bottle,  so that detail is not available below.  As now,  it is reasonable to assume that the drier wines were 9 – 11-ish and the sweeter ones down to 7.5% or so.  

For my Library Tastings,  the presentation is based on 12 wines all out at once,  so comparisons can be made.  Note however the pours are small (30 ml),  both to enable more to share sometimes rare bottles,  and to lower the entry price.  Tasters were asked to come prepared to sniff and sip and savour,  rather more than initially drinking.  Such a small volume can very easily be consumed,  without thinking.  On this occasion the wines were not blind,  and were arranged approximately from drier to sweeter.  This worked well,  evident signs of pleasure being heard as tasters reached the latter part of the set.  

As we worked through the wines,  we recalled that none of them benefitted from shipping in temperature-controlled containers,  and that nearly all of them showed hints of oak.  In many cases this would in fact be from holding in old large-wood foudres,  but for others simply the long contact of a water / alcohol / sugar and glycerol solution against cork-oak bark produced the same result.  How wonderful it would be,  we speculated,  to taste latter-day variants of these labels from current vintages,  bottled under screwcap,  shipped in temperature-controlled containers,  in 30 – 35 years time.  The current generation in Australasia has much to look forward to,  especially once the conservative Germans accept screwcap,  as forward-thinking producers such as Ernie Loosen are starting to do.  This supposes the current generation gives thought to cellaring suitable wines.

The main conclusion from the tasting had to be the auslese level of sweetness gives a riesling much more chance of being lively after 35 years.  That is not to say that perfectly balanced kabinetts or near-dry wines cannot mature gracefully for such a time:  both Australian and German rieslings have shown they can.  But such wines are rare in New Zealand,  given the issues noted.


1976  Ayler Kupp Riesling Spatlese QmP
1976  Hermann von Schorlemer Wiltinger Sandberg Riesling Auslese QmP
1976  Licht-Bergweiler Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese QmP
1975  Licht-Bergweiler Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese QmP
1975  Paul Anheuser Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Riesling Spatlese QmP
1976  Prum-Erben Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP
  1975  Rudolf Muller Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese QmP
1976  Schloss Vollrads Riesling Auslese (white capsule) QmP
1975  Staat Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spatlese QmP
1975  Staat Steinberger Riesling Kabinett QmP
1975  Tobias Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese QmP
1975  von Mumm Johannisberger Holle Riesling Spatlese QmP

1976  Prum-Erben Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese QmP   19  ()
Mosel Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  original price $11.10;  a Sichel Selection ]
Gold with a flush of old gold,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet is just what you would imagine or hope a 35-year-old riesling auslese might be,  in an ideal world.  The white flowers are now yellow flowers,  the nectar has deepened to a sweet kind of bush honey,  there are waxy complexity notes from botrytis,  all underlain by golden-queen stonefruit,  and it is still vividly varietal.  Palate fulfils that promise,  luscious fruit,  beautiful acid balance,  still quite sweet,  very long indeed.  As Stephen Bennett commented,  it was well worth the trip down from Auckland for this wine alone.  On the late aftertaste,  one can detect there may be a little drying in a few more years.  Nearing the end of its plateau of excellence,  but still some years in this.  GK 03/12

1976  Hermann von Schorlemer Wiltinger Sandberg Riesling Auslese QmP   18 ½  ()
Mosel Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  original price $9.50 ]
An attractive lively gold,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is of the same calibre as the Prum wine,  all a little fresher,  but not quite the depth,  again honeyed,  a thought of pale sultana cake and grapefruit.  Palate emphasises the grapefruit / citrus edge,  the fruit delightfully fresh,  both honey and sultana cake flavours,  all a little drier than the Prum,  but remarkable still.  This too has a few years left,  in this shape.  GK 03/12

1975  Tobias Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese QmP   18  ()
Mosel Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
Gold,  just a hint of old gold creeping in,  in the middle for depth of colour.  Bouquet is quiet and understated in this wine,  very pure,  still floral in a fading nectary way,  clearly varietal.  Palate is understated too,  the acid of the 1975s clearly noticeable,  some light mandarin notes in palest stonefruit,  all a little shorter than the botrytised 1976s,  but still pretty lovely.  Again,  no immediate hurry here.  GK 03/12

1976  Schloss Vollrads Riesling Auslese (white capsule) QmP   17 ½ +  ()
Rheingau Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  www.schlossvollrads.de ]
Clearly old gold,  the second deepest hue.  This wine sets a different tone from the fresh fruits of the top three,  so thoughts are more yellow-fleshed peaches and dried peaches too,  all melding into a fruitcake amalgam of aromas,  which is attractive,  but hard to isolate the components.  Palate continues the analogy,  still quite sweet,  even fruitcake with a little golden syrup in the mix,  the acid balance softer reflecting both the Rheingau and the warmer year.  Yet as it lingers in mouth,  the fruit is surprisingly good,  and the freshness sufficient.  The wine could be criticised,  but it would be pretty scrumptious with fruitcake,  or creme caramel.  Needs finishing.  GK 03/12

1976  Ayler Kupp Riesling Spatlese QmP   17 ½ +  ()
Saar Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork,  original price $6.50;  a Sichel Selection ]
Gold,  a flush of old gold,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet is a delight on this wine,  yellow peaches and honey,  still seemingly fresh and quite belying the colour,  dramatically fragrant and varietal.  Palate though is immediately shorter than the top wines,  reflecting its spatlese ranking,  but there is a waxy note bespeaking botrytis on the honeyed palate.  It lingers well,  drying a little reasonably enough.  It is more elegant than the Schloss Vollrads,  but less rich and sustained.  Intriguing.  Not much longer to go here,  either.  GK 03/12

1975  Rudolf Muller Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese QmP   17 ½  ()
Mosel Valley,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
Slightly brassy deep lemon,  clearly the palest of the wines.  Bouquet shows riesling terpenes quite evident,  a slightly hoppy note (+ve),  on suggestions of citrus / limezest aroma,  moving with age to a thought of candied lemon peel.  Palate again has the acid of 1975,  a certain austerity,  but purity too,  which could be called mineral.  The level of fruit and the freshness of the wine is amazing,  there is absolutely no hurry here at all.  GK 03/12

1975  Paul Anheuser Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Riesling Spatlese QmP   17 +  ()
Nahe Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork;  www.anheuser.de ]
Gold,  just a hint of old gold,  in the middle for depth of hue.  This wine was put into the tasting with the thought that as a Nahe,  it might be the most faded.  Not at all.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant,  very honeyed in a pale biscuitty kind of fruit.  Palate is fresher than the biscuit thought suggests,  orange peel and stonefruits fading a little (the thought of dried peaches),  but again,  there are many light cakes this would be a delight with,  mid-afternoon.  A pleasing result,  but certainly nearing the end of its run.  GK 03/12

1976  Licht-Bergweiler Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese QmP   17  ()
Mosel Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
Lightest gold,  one of the lightest colours.  This was the 1976 of the initial pair setting up the tasting,  and it fulfilled that role admirably.  It shows slightly deeper and riper riesling fruit than the 1975,  with some botrytis waxyness.  It is not exactly citrus or compellingly varietal,  just attractively mature light fruit,  slightly aromatic.  Palate is surprisingly sweet for the spatlese grade (as happens in bountiful years),  the flavours would match well with a madeira cake with subtlest ginger in it,  and the wine finishes well.  There isn't the varietal excitement of the top wines,  but it is thoroughly pleasant.  Fully mature.  GK 03/12

1975  Licht-Bergweiler Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese QmP   16 ½  ()
Mosel Valley,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
The second to lightest wine,  slightly brassy deepening lemon.  Bouquet is in one sense a little more varietal than its 1976 partner,  a hint of kerosene in mature riesling aromas.  On palate,  there is still fair fruit,  but it is all slightly woody,  a little short,  and the finish is drying a little.  This wine is at full stretch,  and much better with a biscuit.  GK 03/12

1975  von Mumm Johannisberger Holle Riesling Spatlese QmP   16  ()
Rheingau Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork,  a goldenepreis wine in its day,  original price $11.55;  www.mumm.de ]
Colour is old gold,  even a hint of copper maybe,  the deepest wine in the set.  Bouquet surprises,  the first thought being fruitcake and appealing,  rather than oxidation.  There is still fruit,  but more dried peaches than fresh.  In mouth the fruitcake is clearly a brown raisin-based one,  not a pale sultana one,  the wine is fully mature to fading,  but there is still fruit sweetness.  A pedant would dismiss this wine,  but a hedonist can still find much to enjoy in itself,  or better with the right food.  The drying fruit / sugar saves it.  Finish up.  GK 03/12

1975  Staat Steinberger Riesling Kabinett QmP   15  ()
Rheingau Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
Old gold,  one of the deeper.  Bouquet opens up a little varnishy,  with fading raisiny fruit.  In mouth the hint of sweetness saves it somewhat,  so the balance of flavours is dried fruits and nuts,  walnuts perhaps – a touch of bitterness,  probably OK with appropriate food if one had nothing fresher.  State Domains in that era tended to be old-fashioned,  and this wine reflects that.  GK 03/12

1975  Staat Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Spatlese QmP   14  ()
Saar Valley,  Germany:   – %;  $ –    [ cork ]
Light gold,  towards the lighter end.  This wine passed muster at decanting,  but by the time of the tasting there was a suggestion of dank wood,  not exactly TCA,  but a sub-optimal relationship with its cork.  Fruit is still surprisingly good,  acid balance is good as befits both the year and the Saar district,  and as the colour suggests,  a better bottle would have considerably more to say than the Staat Steinberger.  The score is not indicative of the generality of bottles,  therefore.  GK 03/12