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Weingut Merkle, Ochsenbacher Liebenberg, Gewürztraminer mit Riesling "Weinhähnchen", 2010

Posted by Julian 20 May 2012

It's a sad thing indeed when a wine lover is failed by a wine, but can a wine also be failed by its tasters sometimes? We had such a case on our hands at a recent Wine Rambler full committee meeting: You judge for yourselves whether we are being too hard on ourselves. While the dry wines that go with dinners at Wine Rambler Munich HQ are usually settled on beforehand, the dessert offering is, for some reason, usually selected spontaneously during the course of the evening after lively, alcohol-fuelled debate. This has led to some very fortunate choices, inspired by the moment, but sometimes, some prior planning would have been preferable.

When the name Merkle came up on the most recent of these occasions, I thought of the 2009 Riesling-Gewürztraminer cuvée I had tasted at the winery last year. I remembered Gewürztraminer lushness, coupled with the Merkles' typical herbal spiciness, and I remembered above all sweetness. Just the thing, and a change from the more usual Mosel Spätlese or Auslese. I should have realised that the 2010 I had in my cellar was as different from the previous vintage as can be:

The fairly dark, rich colour seemed to bear out my memories initially, but both nose and palate quickly said otherwise: This off-dry and fresh white was in no way comparable to the 09 version, which was plush opulence. The famed floral Gewürztraminer notes were somewhat subdued here, not in-your-face or soapy, with the Riesling bringing surprising acidic freshness to the wine. There was a green, slightly phenolic note as well that seemed to keep it on edge. Consequently, it proved too acidic and too dry for what we wanted from it (which was to send us into straight into the zone of sweetness-induced, semi-comatose contentment), and thus underwhelming, but it was the dessert context that was wrong, not so much the wine.

This more restrained and disciplined white certainly deserves some respect for what it is, and makes an interesting case for the importance of vintage. It is also entirely plausible that we have opened it much too soon. The Riesling-Gewürztraminer-coupling has some tradition in Germany (especially in the Pfalz), and it's nice to see it resurrected here. I could see this original and characterful cuvée going great with young goat cheeses, for example. May I also favourably mention the label design featuring the Weinhähnchen, a local species of cricket, looming in genetically supercharged fashing, godzilla style, over the peaceful village of Ochsenbach.

Goat cheese is also what I

Goat cheese is also what I remember, although at this moment I am not 100% sure if it was because you mentioned it back then or because that is what the wine originally triggered in my brain. Either way, I can see that combination working well. I also think this was an interesting wine, not mind-blowing perhaps, but certainly different in a pleasing way. Whether it has the potential to be truly exciting I am not sure, but if it does the key almost certainly is in the right food pairing (says the man who loves all sorts of wine nut finds Gewürztraminer less tempting than others)...