Weingut Merkle, Ochsenbacher Liebenberg, Lemberger Spätlese trocken, Barrique, 2008
When last encountered on this blog, the plucky little Württemberg winery of Georg and Anja Merkle was in the immediate aftermath of a damaging freak frost. I reported on the brave face that Georg and Anja Merkle put on what was a serious (and completely undeserved) setback, as well as on their philosophy of quality winemaking (you'll find the full story here). It seemed to me then, as I tasted my way through their portfolio, and I tried to put this very politely in the article, that their red wines especially might be pushing too hard. Too hard for power, too hard for concentration, that, impressive as they are, they may sometimes have left lightness and charm behind in order to run with the big boys.
As it so happens, I found the biggest boy of those I took home with me last year still sitting in my cellar, silently flexing his muscles. So is it time for another look, and maybe a reassessment?
The dark and dense colour that pours out of the bottle is a first hint that this one, too, means business. A very spicy and powerful, but also undeniably characterful nose of dark cherries, plums, beef broth, lovage and juniper. Concentrated on the palate, with bone-dry, dark-toned fruit, soft acidity and a somewhat malty mouthfeel, well integrated oak and a touch of eucalyptus mixed in with ground juniper berries.
As expected, not a charmer with a light touch, then, but a wine with something to prove. That being said, all this time in the gym has paid off: No reason why the the A-Team Lembergers of Württemberg, and even the Premier League Blaufränkischs of Austria, should not let this kid with attitude onto the field.