Reihold Haart is a family owned German winery from the Mosel region, specialising in sweet Riesling. Go directly to their website
Below are the wines we tasted from this source.
As some of you may be aware, there has recently been a bit of noise about dry German Riesling. A well respected importer and Riesling fan referred to the dry German wines as "a highly invasive species", much to the dislike of some. I am not planning to enter that debate directly, at least not right now. However, I had a little craving for an invasive species the other night...
...so here it is, a short review of a dry German Riesling, and from the region that wine lovers across the world associate most with sweet: the Mosel.
There is nothing unusual with me drinking Mosel Riesling from the village of Piesport. Quite the opposite in fact - it would not be far off to call this my favourite tipple. This time it was unusual though as I tasted the Kabinett from the Goldtröpfchen vineyard blind, against a much cheaper Mosel wine produced for the export market.
Why would I do that? It is a long-ish story, but if you care you can read it in my open letter to Waitrose. For the moment let's just say I needed to demonstrate what a good wine from the Mosel village of Piesport tastes like.
Can a glass of wine stop the work in its tracks? Okay, the millennium bug did non destroy the world in intercontinentally ballistic style in 2000, the great cosmic whatever that the Mayan calender predicted for 2012 appears to be off-schedule so far. The world's foundations had just started to look a lot less shakeable. But now this: A sparkler? From Haart? I should explain, maybe, that the very fine Haart family winery is my Co-Rambler Torsten's favourite Mosel winery, and has been featured here more times than any other. With their vibrant Kabinetts. With their supremely balanced Spätlesen. With their lip-smacking Auslesen. But never with a sparkler. Because there hasn't been one in our living memory.
But there it was, not to be denied or explained away. There it stood, a classy bottle, and a bit too heavy to be just a figment of some Rambler's unhinged imagination (but then, who would imagine such a thing, a Haart sparkler?).
Following Julian's recent debacle with a Württemberg Riesling I felt our shocked and terrified readership is in need of comfort and reassurance. Will the Wine Rambler now drink Liebfraumilch only? Has German Riesling failed? Will Modern Talking re-unite? The world may indeed be doomed, I won't dare speculate what Dieter Bohlen might do, but I can assure you that German Riesling has not gone bad.
And to give us some comfort after the shocking events of last episode, here is a classic: Riesling Auslese from the Mosel.
While sifting through the candidates for this year's Wine Rambler shortlist, we noticed hat we were less generous with top ratings in 2011 than previously, withholding our highest praise, "monumental", completely. Whether that means we are becoming more exacting in our critical standards or whether the truly stellar wines somehow passed us by and we had to make do with the enormously good we can't quite say. A bit of both, most probably.
As you may not want to take our word for it in every case (and indeed you shouldn't!), we have provided direct links to the wineries' websites for the adventurous among you to follow up, get into contact and inquire about distribution and availability. Almost all German wineries do their own shipping and are quite good at it. In case of deliveries to the UK, however, newly estranged from the European mainland, this will probably have to be arranged via the United Nations. Just joking. Needless to say, The Wine Rambler is entirely his own man, as it were, and not commercially associated with any wineries or merchants, although wines like the following sometimes can make us wish we were.
One of the pleasures of living in London is the vibrant wine trade and more wine-related activities going on than a Wine Rambler can participate in. I try to cover what happens in German wine though, and so earlier this month I set out to a Mosel-Saar-Ruwer tasting in the Great Hall at One Great George Street in Westminster. I had visited this fantastic location previously, for instance for the recent English Wine Producers tasting.
On 4th July it was not English but German wine in my glass, and from Germany's most famous wine region - a chance to try some of the off-dry and sweet Riesling from the 2010 vintage. And to be presented with an apple, the most unusual tasting gift so far.
Even Wine Ramblers do have a birthday. Just recently, it was the birthday of THE Wine Rambler and also of my co-Rambler Julian. My birthday is already a few months past, but there is still something to report on: When I met our Munich branch as part of my birthday celebrations, I found myself presented with a special gift.
Co-Rambler Julian likes to hunt for aged wines on eBay (great if you are in Germany, imppossile in the UK because of legal restrictions), and for my birthday he managed to find a bottle of a suitably aged Riesling from a Mosel winery that has my personal seal of approval.
Piesport is a lovely village in the German Mosel Valley. Because of the peculiarities of the German wine law, the name can show up on the labels of very cheap wines from somewhere in the area (Piesporter Michelsberg), or it can be on first class Riesling from some of the Mosel's best vineyards. After having recently indulged myself in the delights of the supermarket wine version, it is now time to revisit the outstanding Goldtröpfchen vineyard version.
"Goldtröpfchen" means little drop of gold, and the Rieslings made by Theo Haart and family in Piesport can indeed be described as such. Today's Haart Riesling even comes with a gold capsule ("Goldkapsel"), indicating that the Haarts were particularly pleased with the quality of what went into this bottle.
Over the past few years I have reviewed quite a few Haart Rieslings, and for this reason I had considered scaling down for a while (with the writing, not the drinking of course) in order not to bore you. It's good I did not make it into a New Year's resolution though, as the latest Haart I opened was so stunning I honestly cannot remember having had a young Mosel late harvest Riesling of this quality.
A good Riesling wine of Auslese quality will usually need a few years before it really shows its potential and some of the outstanding ones may need a decade or more to get there, depending on whether you like them fruitier or a little more sophisticated. The other day, the time for Theo Haart's 2001 Auslese had come, and as it was my last bottle we will never know whether it would have been even more delightful had I waited five years more.
Cool mineral, herbs and peach - whenever I hear these words I have to think of the bouquet of the Rieslings Theo Haart produces from grapes grown in the famous Goldtröpfchen vineyard at the Mosel. This wine is no exception, it just adds tropical fruit and a hint of citrus to the mix, plus aromas of rubber balls and a faint hint of vegetable, identified as broccoli by my friend Bethan. For a wine of Auslese quality it is still relatively young, so maybe give it some decanter love to allow it to develop properly.
For over 700 years the Haart family has been making wine in the Mosel valley village of Piesport. While I have no idea what wine they may have grown in the middle ages, these days it is exclusively Riesling - and most of it is sweet or off-dry. A small percentage of the wines are dry though, and this Great Growth (GG) is the top dry wine from the famous Goldtröpfchen (=little drop of gold) vineyard.
The colour is a clear, strawish yellow, more on the gold-dark side perhaps. The nose features cool mineral, herbs (more on the sage-mint side) and a hint of petrol (that almost disappeared on the second day).
New York City is hipster territory - or at least that is the message it is trying very hard to project during my current visit. Interestingly, most things German do seem to be considered hip, especially German beer culture. The Lower East Side for instance welcomed me with German brass music, schnitzel and beer served by busty wenches dressed in pseudo Bavarian outfits. German Riesling, it turns out, is also very popular among the cool wine kids here, so it was quite fitting I brought one over to share with my host: a late harvest Riesling made by one of my favourite producers at the Mosel, Theo Haart. Usually, I would have opted for a Haart Riesling from one of the famous vineyards such as Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, but a few years ago I came across this late harvest from several vineyards around Piesport, which to me seemed almost more interesting than some of the wines from the top sites. Did it hold up as well as Haart's premier wines though, I wondered, or were we in for a disappointment?
The 'Haart' in the Riesling with the funny name 'Haart to Heart' is not a spelling mistake. In fact, it comes from the Haart winery, who make some of our favourite sweet Mosel Riesling. It also seems they like a good pun, at least if it comes to labelling their basic Riesling. The 'Heart to Haart' is the only Haart wine that comes with a screw cap and without the 'eagle logo' of the VdP, the elite club of German wine makers, that is proudly displayed on all other Haart bottles. This is because in some years at least part of the grapes for the Haart to Heart are sourced from other growers, but this does not appear to have been the case for a while now. So, as far as the Haart winery is concerned it does not get more basic than this. How basic is basic?
When you put your nose into a glass of wine and it smells a little bit like a car dealership, but in a good way, you can be fairly certain that you have a Riesling in front of you. This Haart Riesling from the Mosel is not one of the petrol noses, so please don't think of a garage wit lots of oil and grease, but its bouquet has a little of the more refined version of that smell, just think of a BMW car dealership salesroom. Or rather walking through one while eating a peach.
Recently, I found myself drinking with friends who were discussing which type of vegetable they would like to be. When I asked them how they would rate me, Charlotte suggested I could be a squash. Unfortunately I never really found out why she classified me in this way, partly because she went on to say she would quite like to be a courgette. Today's wine, luckily, is not like a vegetable. Instead it is very easy to describe in terms of fruit: take the most deliciously juicy peach you can imagine, add passion fruit, and caramelise it with lots of sugar and some gold, sprinkle finely with herbs and serve in a stony cup with a dash of menthol, spice and lemon juice. As you can see this description really does not work in relation to vegetables, but I can tell you that if this wine were a human being it would have to be the young Liv Tyler - just in blond.
The Haart winery is a Wine Rambler regular, constantly winning our praise for their elegant and sophisticated sweet Riesling. However, they are also producing a small quantity of dry Riesling, of which we so far shockingly have only reviewed one. This is to change today.
A simple way of describing the bouquet of the Haart Riesling would be to say that it features stone fruit, lemon, mineral, yeast and a hint of vegetable and tobacco. A much better way of describing it would be to ask you to imagine finding an old tobacco chest in a cool, somewhat damp, loamy cave. The bottom layer of the chest would be covered with ground stone and earth, generously sprinkled with lemon juice and pieces of stone fruit - and all of that covered with a wet, mineral heavy ball of cotton wool soaked in yeast.
On a glorious, sunny day (or, in this case, quite a few hours after the sun went down after such a day), not much beats a glorious, sunny Riesling, in particular if it is so very quaffable and yet elegant as this one. Yes, I am again drinking one of the fruity Rieslings made by Theo Haart, this time a lighter wine in 'Kabinett' style.
If you ask me to name a winemaker who has really impressed me with consistently, year for year letting the quality (let's avoid the word terroir here, shall we) of an outstanding vineyard shine, well, then I would probably name Theo Haart. Sure, there are others, but I have now tasted his late harvest Rieslings from the famous Piesporter Goldtröpfchen for the vintages 1999 and 2001-2008 (the 05 though is still sitting here, waiting for its day), and not only are they all first class wines, they are also very distinct and consistent in style. The '08 is no exception and, boring as it may sound when I write about Haart late harvest Riesling, just a lovely wine.
It has been a while, way too long, actually, since I reported on a wine made by the lovely people from the Haart winery. The winery is based in the village of Piesport, a name that is infamous in the UK for cheap wine, but famous among wine lovers for the Goldtröpfchen (little drop of gold) vineyard, one of the best at the Mosel. The Haart family has been making wine since the 14th century and the sweet Rieslings of Theo Haart, who runs the family estate with his wife and son, have an excellent reputation. For me they are also the embodiment of what I love about the Mosel style of winemaking.