In June 2008, London was invaded by Germans. Twice. And I was in the thick of it. It all started with an announcement by the guys from The Winery, one of my favourite London wine shops:
Ryanair allowing, two growers from the Mosel will be joining us for the evening, each top of their stylistic trees, masters of their dangerously steep slopes, each with global reputations. Clemens Busch, the dry Riesling guru from Punderich and Theo Haart, the fruity Riesling specialist from Piesport.
So on 10th June I ventured out to Maida Vale. As it happened, we had just visited both Haart and Busch earlier this summer, so it was good to see Theo and Clemens again. We had a jolly tasting in the sun – it was an unusual tasting though as I had tried all the white wines before (and have, in fact, some of them sitting in my wardrobe), but then I would happily drink Busch and Haart wines pretty much every day. I had a longer chat with both winemakers who were happily tasting all the reds and slagging of the rosés for having too much alcohol. Turns out that Clemens Busch can talk for quite a while about matching his beloved Riesling with all sorts of food.
Haart and Busch then urged me to come to the German embassy for the big VdP tasting on the next day. And so I did, after work, for a sneaky 90 minutes drink extravaganza. Very posh building, very posh receptionist and overall a feeling of privilege.
Again, Haart and Busch welcomed me friendly (Theo Haart: "Jetzt aber ran, da haben Sie nicht mehr viel Zeit.") and encouraged me to drink faster. I also meet David, who owns the Winery shop, which was quite nice. At the same time as me arrived a friendly English wine journalist who managed to drink her way through all 140 wines on offer - 28 wineries with about five wines each...
By the time I started tasting, it was already five hours into the event and everyone was noticeably exhausted. So was I (I had been in Bedford to convince lecturers in performance and dance to use content management systems for online community building - don't ask), but as a tireless Wine Rambler I do still want to share a few impressions.
Weingut Dr. Crusius (Traisen, Nahe) had nice Weißburgunder and Rieslings that are concentrated and have nuttily, bitter notes - very nicely combined with sweetness in the fruitier wines.
Dönnhoff was represented by a very British good old chap; the wines were, no surprise here, elegant; Oberhäuser Brücke 2007 Auslese was marvellous as all other vintages of that wine I had tried before.
Busch's Pündericher Marienburg was a nice contrast to the sweeter wines.
Fritz Haag had a very nice Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2007, very round and light, excellent finish.
Willi Haag also had a nice wine from the same vineyard, but not as good.
Lieser had their usual sweet-spicy mix for the sweeter wines and nice bitter-sweet grapefruit notes in the feinherb range. Nice vintage.
"Dr." Loosen was there in person. He has this slightly would-be intellectual I-go-to-jazz-events haircut/glasses/jacket and speaks posh English in a very smooth business kind of way. His Kabinetts were citrusy, fresh and mineraly with good acidity.
Dr. Weins-Prüm had a strange name and nice wine: nuttily Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett feinherb that would be great with food; Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett with a very zingy finish; Graacher Domprobst Spätlese with a nice herb-fruit mix, aromatic; Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese was "spicy sweetness" and seemed at this stage better than the Auslese.
Schloss Saarstein's Riesling feinherb I classified as "fruchtige, runde Sache mit Kräutern" (but it could also have meant something else, I cannot really read the last few bits of my notes because of sloppy handwriting and too much sweet Auslese on my fingers).
I spent some time at Dr. Wagner: The 2007 Saarburger Rausch (!) Kabinett trocken was really quite dry, nicely zingy acidity. Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett was fine and very clear. Saarburger Rausch Spätlese was elegant with a nice fruity finish. My favourite was the Ockfener Bockstein 2003 Auslese: a nicely integrated hint of petrol with sweet herbal notes.
Also present was Roman Niewodniczanski from Van Volxem. He is quite a presence, a giant who looks exactly like on the PR photos I had seen before (including the I-am-serious-yet-young-and-dynamic jacket). He was incredibly professional and serious. To emphasize that he brought a silver Apple MacBook Pro to show a slide show with impressive vineyard shots, and he was very eloquent and engaged in discussing his wines.
I was especially impressed by his old vines (Riesling Alte Reben, 2007). All vines are "wurzelecht" (non-grafted), some older than 130 years. Interestingly, he is still planting wurzelechte vines. This is not quite legal, as he himself said, but "wir tun's trotzdem." And he is right - really nice wine, very balanced and concentrated.
I cannot report any wine that I disliked. I did not really take notes of the less interesting ones though, and my sampling was a bit random, but the VDP guys did really bring the big guns over.