Van Volxem, Saar Riesling, 2011

Van Volxem, Saar Riesling, 2011

Every hype brings with it the danger of disappointment. I mostly suffer from this with regards to movies (which is why I am staying away from reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" until I have had a chance to see it), but the same can happen with wine. When it comes to the Saar Riesling from the Van Volxem estate hype was never needed to convince me to buy a few bottles every year as it has been consistently good, and also good value.

Even so I could not help notice the bold headlines that my wine merchant threw at me with this wine - headlines of high praise from respected wine critics for a Riesling that does not even follow the "single vineyard" paradigm. Because of the quality of the previous vintages I was confident it would be good, but would the hype spoil my enjoyment when I would not be quite blown away?

Having built up this tension I am now going to torture you a little longer (no idea if the new Batman film has torture, but I bet I will build up some good suspense). The Saar river, a tributary to the Mosel, has long been overshadowed by its might neighbour. Among the people working hard to change this is Roman Niewodniczanski who bought the Van Volxem estate in 1999. The Saar Riesling features the river in the name, as a badge of honour, and grapes come from several Van Volxem vineyards on the steep slopes of the Saar. It is meant as an introduction to Saar quality, although the price has now crossed the €10 barrier.

At first I was indeed a little disappointed. Not because what I was smelling and tasting was not good, but I was not exactly hit by a revelation either - the hype had got me, so to speak. There was nothing wrong with the Riesling, in fact it was quite enjoyable, but it felt a little closed, did not speak freely. As it was nevertheless clear there was a wine of substance hiding in the bottle I used the method that would be a little too suspenseful for a movie and waited a couple of hours. In fact I drank the wine over four days and watched it evolve.

And with every hour the Saar Riesling became a little more talkative. It spoke of lovely fruit - well defined apricot, yellow fruit and some tropical aromas -, of flowers and herbs from a wild garden, of citrus and of crunchy, almost salty mineral. And then there are the details that give it a little more character, the herb aromas with a fresh menthol and dried sage touch as well as tobacco leaves, and the more juicy moments of strawberry sugar that are being swallowed by lively acidity and salty mineral in the finish.

The Saar Riesling is perhaps not cheap any more, but it is worth the money and considering the price range perhaps also worthy of a little hype. Now the Dark Knight better be as good (ideally without the recommendation to decant it for a couple of hours before enjoyment) too!


Submitted by Julian Friday, 20/07/2012

Since we have now had three 2011s in a row between us, are we ready to do what wine bloggers do, pass judgement on the vintage on a worryingly thin data basis?

Submitted by torsten Friday, 20/07/2012

In reply to by Julian

Excellent idea. Although to be fair I had five 2011 Rieslings last week at the St. Urbans-Hof 2001 vs 2011 vintage tasting... Anyway, what shall we say? A fabulous vintage, a vintage of the century, even better than the 2010, and a must buy! -- that is one standard way of praise used by certain people I could name. The other, pretending to be more serious, would be that even 2011 had its problems and tells the good winemakers (the ones we drink/recommend of course) apart from the bad (read: not using slow wine making techniques). Or we could say...

To make a more serious comment: I like what I have tasted so far. Wines are already drinking well, good acidity but not as prominent as 2010 - and there is also more of it around this year!