Here I am, back to drinking German red wine from Rhineland-Palatinate. The St. Laurent grape is a fairly old one, possibly of French origin, that is now often associated with good old Austria, but also increasingly popular in Germany (after it had almost been forgotten there). It is probably related to Pinot Noir and often described as the little, less sophisticated, but also more powerful brother to this variety. So it is no wonder that the Knipser brothers, German red wine and barrique specialists, matured this wine in barrique barrels - for 18th months, in fact. The Knipser St. Laurent is no doubt a wine of quality. Perversely, it appears to be exactly this quality that left me with a big question mark regarding this wine. Perhaps you can help me clarify the matter?
The first aspect of the St. Laurent that is really likeable (leaving aside the very elegant bottle) is the colour: an intense, dark violet with red-brown edges. The nose is 'substantial' too, with berries, black currant and cherries. However, the fruit is presented in a somewhat reserved fashion that also has dry, leathery components. The wine also showed off the barrique exposure with aromas of vanilla and wood. In the mouth the St. Laurent felt cool and smooth, with noticeable but not overly strong fruit. The fruit is in there, for sure, but again presented in a more reserved fashion. The finish is medium-long with a very creamy vanilla wood ending.
As it was not quite the wine I was after for that particular night, but also because I thought it might need a little more time to fully open up, I decided not to drink all of it but to keep it for a little longer. Two days later I shared the rest with two wine loving friends - and we were surprised how very smooth it was, despite still showing some muscle. One of my friends captured her first reaction on Twitter as follows: 'sausage, vanilla and butter in this german red that @winerambler has just poured'. The 'sausage' part is explained easily as we had very tasty French sausages on the table. 'Vanilla and butter' did come from the wine though, a wine that had integrated the barrique so well that, to quote my other visitor, it was so very 'polished, with fug of vanilla mid palate'.
No doubt, the St. Laurent was made by people who knew how to use barrique to create a sensationally smooth vanilla and oak experience, all very well integrated and polished. And this is my criticism of what otherwise is a marvellous wine: it is just too polished. A week after opening the bottle for the first time, it still smells very very pleasant - the empty bottle is next to me while I write this up - but I also remember very well that the wine tasted almost too smooth, too polished.
Did you ever have a similar experience, a wine that is so expertly made that it just went a step too far, with one or two edges too many polished off?