People, it is said, become more interesting with age. In the same way as our faces start telling a little about the lives we have lived we too have more stories to tell, gain some wisdom - at least that's the theory - and become more distinct characters. The same is true for ageworthy wine, but with a pleasant difference: while people can become a little difficult over time, stuck in their ways and perhaps too edgy, a good wine becomes more harmonious and balanced. At some point the wine will decline rapidly and become an old grump, but that is a question of timing and also not what today's wine story is about.
Today I am revisiting Martin Müllen's exciting Mosel wines and in particular an aged specimen I recently got my hands on.
Following last week's review of a kick-ass aged Mosel Riesling it seems only fair to follow up with an exploration of a much younger Mosel wine's ass-kicking abilities. Today's hero may just be a baby in comparison but it comes with a good family history and a coup de grâce delivered by one of the grand masters of ass-kicking, Dr Indiana Jones.
Most importantly it comes with an airship (not included in the price sadly): "the wine most often drunk during the flights of the 'Graf Zeppelin' (airship)", as the label proudly claims in German.
Here's a fun fact of German wine geography: From the one region that most people would intuitively associate, as a landscape, with German Riesling, you will most likely never have tried one. The Mittelrhein region, the slopes of the Rhine valley from just south of Bonn, past Koblenz, to the mouth of the river Nahe in Bingen, is an iconic landscape of germanophile romanticism. It is strange to hear, then, that quality winemaking is actually having a hard time there, with potentially superb vineyards unworked and given over to scrubland, terraces in some disrepair, and only a handful of creditable producers holding on. Among those, some say foremost among them, the Weingart family. I have long wanted to place an order there, but only last summer got around to do it for the 2010 vintage.
In the shipment, this off-dry Kabinett. The utter classicism of the category within German Wine is nicely underscored here, I think, by the sylishly subdued label, and the old-school brown bottle. But this alone will not get the Wine Rambler to approve, so let's get to the more significant qualities:
"But it is a little sweet", was the warning when I expressed an interest in buying this Riesling - as if that had ever stopped a Wine Rambler! Quite the opposite, I was very exciting to find an off-dry Australian Riesling as I had never before tasted one. It also seemed to me it would be a great change to taste it blind against an off-dry German Riesling.
This made even more sense as the label told me that "This early picked Riesling is loosely based on the German "Kabinett" style." Well, bring it on Australia.
If there was a branch of wine journalism that reviewed wines on the merits of their labels alone, then, for my money at least, the delightfully old-fashioned classics from this great Ruwer estate would be hard to beat. Now, the good news is not just that the Wine Rambler, for one, will not give up on sampling the contents of wine bottles as well.
More to the point, the good news is that the stylishness of this particular wine now before us does ample justice to the lovingly crafted quality of the packaging:
A nicely aged Riesling can be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, for those not blessed with a proper cellar storing wine for a decade or two is a risky venture. This makes buying aged wine directly from the winery very interesting, especially when the wine comes at a reasonable price. Of course, there is also the risk that they are trying to dump rubbish they couldn't sell on you, but for €12.90 and coming from a good winery I thought I could take my chances with this half-dry late harvest Riesling from the Moselle: