TheWineRambler "A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for" - Kingsley Amis



Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2007

Posted by Torsten 16 Dec 2011

Quoting Shakespeare is fine. In fact, it is recommended to do it at least occasionally when you write in English. For some reason though the Germans are less likely these days to quote their national poet. Unless you write editorial for a conservative newspaper there seems to be something stuffy to it - although I'd recommend reading some of Goethe's obscene love poems if you believe the old man is stuffy. Anyway, today is the day I am going to quote Goethe in a wine review. However, in order not to turn you away before you have at least glanced at a great wine I shall do it at the end of this piece.

So before we get to the national icon, let's take a look at one of the national wine icons, the Rieslings made by the Emrich-Schönleber family.

The Riesling specialists have their vineyards in some of the top locations of the Nahe valley. Monzingen, where the Emrich-Schönleber winery is based, has over 800 years of winemaking tradition, with the vineyards Halenberg und Frühlingsplätzchen ("little place of spring") being seen as the best. Today's late harvest Riesling comes from the Halenberg and I had been looking forward to opening it for a while.

Just from putting my nose over the glass it seemed I got the wine at the right time. I was greeted by a lovely bouquet that smelled of beautiful harmony. Deep, but not overpowering, it brought together aromas of leather polish, lovely beeswax, sweet and juicy ripe stone fruit, lots of cool herbs and a hint of caramel. The beeswax touch almost made me want to chew the wine.

Luckily, there was indeed something chewy in the wine, lovely crunchy mineral in a very long finish - a finish not only of taste but also of texture. The acidity was elegant, the wine lively and well balanced. Lots of fruit and a touch of vegetable bitterness came together just fine, and the stone fruit finish seemed more real than most supermarket fruit I have tasted in a long time. Coating my mouth with peach delight, this Riesling is an example for a wine that achieves excellence without sacrificing drinkability. Very moorish.

And this is where good old Wolfgang comes into play. In 1815, Goethe wrote: "Nun rühmte die Gesellschaft von der Nahe einen in der Gegend wachsenden Wein, den Monzinger genannt. Er soll sich leicht und angenehm wegtrinken, aber doch, ehe man sich's versieht, zu Kopfe steigen." In my less elegant translation this comes to:

Our companions from the Nahe praised a wine grown in that region, called the Monzinger. It is supposed to drink easily and pleasantly, however, it goes to your head before you can say knife.

While the gentlemen from the Nahe are right regarding the moorishness of the Halenberg wine, with just 9.5% ABV you'd have to praise it quite a lot before it really goes to your head.