Juliusspital, Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg, Silvaner Spätlese, 1985
Well before reaching twenty-five years of age most wines turn to vinegar. Not many wines are really worth keeping for more than a couple of years. Some last five to ten years, but only a tiny minority will make it beyond. With the exception of a few first class wines, sweet Riesling among them, not many wines are drinkable, far less enjoyable at the age of twenty-five. And yet here we are looking at a Silvaner, an often underestimated variety, of this age - does it still deliver?
Right from the start, the Franconian Silvaner impressed us with an intense, very clear golden colour that still had hints of green (which is often said to be a sign of a younger wine). It certainly looked beautiful and also as if it could comfortably age a few years more.
After taking off the rather robust, unusually short purple cap and carefully cleaning up the mould that was all over the cork we smelled - potato peel. But not just Joe Average potato peel. In fact, it was the smell of a potato wrapped in tin foil and forgotten in a barbecue fire for too long. This potato smell was embedded in earthy, smoky aromas, all finely coated in caramel and sprinkled with herbs. The Silvaner was actually very pleasant to smell and it even had some elements of freshness to it. A very unusual but also really enticing bouquet.
And now the taste. If you have tasted old Riesling you will now probably expect me to mention petrol notes, but that was not the case. Instead we got the, somewhat burned, potato peel again and also yet more smoky flavours. The Silvaner still had noticeable fruit, for instance ripe pear, and intense herbal notes. The latter were almost like herb candy, but not as intense to be on the side of cough syrup. The wine was creamy but also surprisingly fresh (considering the age) with well balanced acidity. It felt almost dry on the tongue (in a juicy way though), but there were signs that it had been more on the off-dry site when it was bottled. The finish was really pleasant and creamy.
Still very drinkable, the Juliusspital wine felt more alive than many many much younger wines we had tasted. It was very smooth, sophisticated and still had its juicy moments, despite the unusual potato-earthiness. Clearly, this is an unusual and most delicious wine. It shows that Silvaner can age very well indeed and can also produce outstanding wines if handled well. Oh, and it comes with a story...