I know I should be writing Part Two of last week's New Zealand tasting, but I've just come back from a German Riesling tasting (also at the ever-popular Puck Buidling, always afloat in vino) and it's fresh in my mind.
From the NZ and German tasting, I've learned that these exhibitions don't always feature the top vintners. Donnhoff, J.J. Prum, Willi Schaefer, etc., were not there. I guess they're too big and established to need to trot their wines before the press and purchasers. Instead, we got a lot of stuff from the Rheinhessen—not exactly the hottest region in Deutschland.
I did however get to taste one of the most famous wines in Germany—nay, the world—at this event: Dr. H. Thanisch, whose small, select holding in the Mosel valley include the fabled Berncasteler Doctor. The Auslese of this vineyard, 2005, was spectacular, I must say, rich and dripping with fruit. A dream. The presenter, Barbara Rundquist, also slipped some Beerenauslese 2000 from the good Doctor to me under the table.
The Germans, it should be said, come as advertised. The tasting was efficiently run and the pourers were unfailingly polite and upright. A couple of presenters from the uncelebrated Franken—Burgerspital and Max Muller—couldn't have bent over further backward if they tried. Interesting efforts on both sides. Burgerspital has a way with Silvaner. And Mullers know how to make Germanic summer sippers with its MAX line.
The folks at Fitz-Ritter, in Pfalz, gave me the chance to taste a superior Sekt, that fizzy, citrus-y white the British like so much, though I'm not sure it's my cup of tea. Better was the exotic decadent Eiswein riesling 2004 Durkheimer Hochbenn, which has so many fruit strains going on I couldn't identify half of them.
Rappenhof was the Rheinhassen that impressed most, and not just because the blonde woman from the holding family was so pleasant and complimentary of my pronunciation. The dry and off-dry stuff was fair, but the Niersteiner Pettenthal Auslese and Beerenauslese, both 2006, were superior stuff.
Johannishof from Rheingau also showed well with its Auslese and Beerenauslese, from Rudesheimer Berg Rottland. Honey and mineral on the first, petrol and smoke on the last. Wineseller, Ltd., taught me was a clean, fresh, mineral style Dr. Fischer of Saar can do with a Spatlese riesling. And Rudi Wiest Selections allowed me a taste of a 1993 Zilliken Spatlese, giving me a hint of the firm structure of balanced fruit and petrol that awaits me when my 2005s are ready for drinking.
The best wine I drank all day, however, may have come from Balthasar Ress of Rheingau. The table was overseen by Christian Ress, the fourth generation in the winemaking family. Dressed in handsome mossy tones, and polite and accommodating in a dry, slightly haughty way, he saw me through his six wines, finished with the knockout punch of his 2005 riesling Beerenauslese Hattenheim Nussbrunnen. I wrote down just one word: wonderful.
I don't think I was alone. Jamal A. Raayis, the author of Food & Wine's handy annual wine buying guide, was just ahead of me. I'd watched him all afternoon making his way through the tables, dressed down, solemn, unsmiling, a man at work rather than at pleasure, never uttering a word or praise. After the Ress Beerenauselese, he said "Very good," and moved on.