good ol' boys

Whenever the invitations to those '47 Petrus and '86 Lafite tastings go out, somehow our names seem to get passed over. Shame, but that doesn't stop us from embarking on the adventure that is aged wine from time to time.

J. B. Becker, Eltviller Sonnenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 1988

Contrary to the impression given by my recent confessional posting, I do not generally source my aged Rieslings by going through the neighbours' garbage. Here's one I bought absolutely regularly from a Munich wine shop. J. B. Becker is Rheingau winery known for the uncompromising traditionalism of its winemaking and the longevity of its Rieslings.

So while we are on the topic, I thought another little review may be in order:

Trash or treasure? A random tasting of aged wines

This rather pointless little posting is for fans of aged wines. I don't mean wines cellar-matured to an ideal drinking point, but those left to grow old beyond any responsible borderline moment. It is for those of you who might hunt for old wines on eBay or via specialised merchants, but would never stoop so low as to actually drink what other people throw out in disgust. You don't have to, because this is where your self-sacrificing correspondent comes in. Let me stress, though, that I was not, I was emphatically not rummaging through my next door neighbours' garbage in the hope of finding discarded, but still filled wine bottles. It was rather that someone had left the four of them standing outside of the bin, maybe having been tipped off that there is a pervert living nearby who might have a use for that kind of stuff. He could indeed. Here, then, is a little report about four random wines whose history is open to anyone's imagination and who have absolutely nothing to lose in terms of taste.

Lucashof, Forster Pechstein, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2000

Sometimes before going to bed I browse the websites of wine merchants and dream what I could order if only I had a proper wine cellar store wine long term (or, depending on the wine, a larger purchasing budget). During one of those sessions I came across a wine that seemed like the ideal solution to both problems: at over ten years of age it would not need more cellaring and at €9 it would not put a strain on my budget - considering the age it was a bargain.

I had heard of the Lucashof winery before, so I was curious to find out what one of their aged dry Rieslings (and from a well-know vineyard) would taste like.

Michel Schneider, Liebfraumilch Q.b.A., 1984

Liebfraumilch does not need much introduction, seeing as it is probably the wine most foreigners, certainly the British, associate with Germany. What hundred years ago was one of the best white wines in the world has since become cheap supermarket plonk. Hardly a reason to look out for those wines then, I hear you say - and yet I got extremely excited when a little while ago I got my hands on a bottle. Why? Because it was over 25 years old.

At this age, most wines are undrinkable, and even quite a few age-worthy white wines don't look exactly fresh anymore. Surely, the Liebfraumilch must have turned into vinegar. Or did it?

Knipser, Himmelsrech, Riesling Spätlese trocken, 2001

Usually, if you want to drink aged wine it involves a cellar, a good idea which wines are worth putting away and some kind of idea when you should open them. And then perhaps a decade of doing nothing. Or it may involve spending a lot of money buying an aged wine from a merchant. Sometimes you are lucky though and come across a wine that both looks the right age and is reasonably priced. Today's find is one of them, a ten year old Riesling from a good vineyard site, made by an excellent producer, and sold for less than 15 Euro.

Reinhold Haart, Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, Riesling Auslese 1999

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.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Ürziger Würzgarten, Riesling Spätlese, 1993

The Mosel, Germany's best known wine region, hosts many styles of Riesling winemaking: There are the modernists, there are the traditionalists, there are the ultra-traditionalist. And then, there is Jos. Christoffel Jun. The winery's website nicely underscores their brand of conservatism, in that there isn't one. If you want to get your hands on any of the older vintages (back into the 80s, rumour has it) they still have on offer, get your ass down to the Mosel. Or else get lucky on eBay, like your undeservedly fortunate correspondent. For about 12 €, shipment included, I got this Spätlese from the year Frank Zappa died.

Kirchmayr, Riesling, 'Solist', 1992

Last autumn I drank my first Kirchmayr wine. It was a 16 year old Grüner Veltliner, and I was very impressed. Beautiful bottle design, marvellous bouquet and a wine that was focussed, sharp and sophisticated - yet not aged, not even old. It was pure joy. Kirchmayr have a whole range of wines - "Solist" - specifically made to age well and only to be released to market after years of maturing. So I had to get a bottle of Riesling to find out if it would be as good as the Grüner.

When I reviewed the Grüner, I took an excessive amount of photos of the bottle (same beautiful design for both varietals), so please take a look at that post, also for some background on the winery. But now to the Riesling.

Mayacamas, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1992

There are wines you fancy, wines you want badly and wines you have to buy. The Mayacamas ticked all these boxes, but particularly the third. An eighteen year old wine from a top Californian producer famous for their age-worthy, lighter Cabernets, and the price reduced to half - I had to get it. Mayacamas Vineyards go back to 1899 and rose to prominence when their Cabernet was included in the famous 1976 Paris blind tasting battle France vs. California.

The red cabbage and the chestnuts went on to accompany a piece of venison. The wine went into the Ramblers

In 2006, the blind tasting was repeated and the Mayacamas came third out of ten red wines, beating the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. So, when I saw my Mayacamas at Battersea wine shop Philglass & Swiggot I did not hesitate for second and decided to take it to Munich for a blind tasting at a Wine Rambler full committee meeting.

Torsten Sunday, 13/03/2011
Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Médoc, 1994

Find the full and unabridged story of this wine, two Wine Ramblers, some chestnuts and a piece of venison in a blind tasting at a Wine Rambler full committee meeting.

Julian Sunday, 13/03/2011