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Blog: Anne Krebiehl tastes St Urbanshof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen

Published:  10 October, 2011

Anne Krebiehl tastes St Urbanshof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Vertical 1996-2010

Even in a tasting mecca like London one rarely gets the chance to taste a vertical of an exceptional and historic single vineyard, in fact, one of Germany's best, oldest and steepest, the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen on the Mosel. This 'grand cru' site of weathered blue slate made the village of Piesport famous - fame shamelessly exploited for the travesty that is the Grosslage Piesporter Michelsberg. But rather than dwelling on the iniquities of German wine law, I shall concentrate on the lovely wines presented on Wednesday by Walter Speller and the owner of St Urbanshof, Nik Weis at the Bistro du Vin in Soho last week.

Speller and Weis organised the tasting in London to "reacquaint" people with the unique and once hugely successful style of Mosel wines: the perfect intersection of full-fruited sweetness and laser-like acidity against a background of mineral and aromatic complexity - and all at gracefully slender ABVs of 8% or 9%.

The scene, in the Bistro's comfortable Salon, was suitably set with a refreshing, screw-capped Riesling 'Urban, 2010, a wine made from Weis' own and bought-in grapes. Described as 'contemporary', the wine's crackling 2010 acidity (9g/l TA) means that the 25g/l of residual sugar just acted as a flavour enhancer for the riot of juicy fruit. Lovely, fresh and zippy, it is the ultimate party wine at just 9%. According to Weis, it's the "quintessential Mosel style". Then slightly more serious fun began:

1996 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 48 TA 10.1 ABV 8%
Soft gold colour, not showing much age. On the nose intense nose of camomile and sweet, ripe peach, interlaced with lanolin. Even at 10g/l TA this has meltingly soft mouth-feel and delicious, exciting tension. The sweetness is just palpable but the sherbet edge of acidity is always in the foreground. A slender Spätlese, graceful, lovely length.

1997 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett RS 46 TA 9.9 ABV 8%
Weis explained that 1997 is considered in he same league as the spectacular '71 and '76 vintages. The colour shows almost no sign of age. There is an initial whiff of just a little kerosene and a mossy savouriness. The integrated acidity again provides a melting, rounded texture and a not in the least obtrusive sweetness. Very concentrated the wine appears like a Bolshoi ballerina: a lithe, graceful body but firmly toned in every muscle. The mineral, spicy background plays with the ripe, almost glowing mandarin fruit, mouth-filling and lingering at 8%.

1998 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 52 TA 9 ABV 8%
Soft golden colour. This is a charmer: initially floral, almost elusive notes turn into honey and candied peel, a taste that intensifies on the palate. Lovely citrus freshness allows the sweetness here to be more up-front, but this would just call for some different food - scallops with sweet chilli, perhaps? Again the melting, integrated seamless mouthfeel.

1999 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 56 TA 7.8 ABV 9%
This wine was not in the mood for charm today, it somehow seemed less switched-on, less electric. The main feature was honeyed fruit.

2001 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese RS 73 TA 8.7 ABV 9%
Slight gold colour opens up into aromatic camomile and mandarin, then just a suspicion of kerosene. In the mouth the wine is dominated by intense freshness, lovely candied orange peel and a caramel edge with bright, lemony acidity. A sherbety (see, Riesling makes you invent words) mouthfeel, great fresh intensity, great length. An intensely aromatic wine.

2002 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese RS 79 TA 8.4 ABV 7%
Weis reports that 2002 was a good, ripe year that permitted higher yields, thus, some of the wines are less concentrated for me, it came across as very classic. The typical Riesling ripe peach nose with some stony background and an equally crackling but creamy acidity with the customary precision. The minerality mingled with hints of camomile, hayflowers and fennel. A true classic that slips down far too easily.

2003 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 64 TA 6.38 ABV 9%
The vines experienced some water stress in this uncharacteristically hot year, delivered a high sugar content and less acidity - this however was compensated for by the high dry extract. Here we had an initial whiff of sulphur, but on the palate the wine came across as light, sweet and mineral with the sweet spices, soft texture and burnt sugar of crème brulée. It's a slightly different animal than the rest but delish.

2004 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett RS 44 TA 8.9 ABV 8%
Underneath another whiff of sulphur there are ethereal notes of hay, bay leaf and mandarin and again that Kabinett ballerina touch of precise but infinitely graceful lightness. Lovely and taut, the pungent acidity is like a tight-rope. Could not help but swallow...

2005 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 98 TA 6.9 ABV 9%
A great year, according to Weis: "had it been possible to orchestrate the weather from an instrument panel, it could not have been done more perfectly."
For the first time a more golden colour immediately charms with the seductive perfume of honeysuckle with a zesty citrus edge. Carries its sweetness with tremendous elegance, hints of candied Angelica hide underneath, there's also brown sugar, melting mouth-feel and great precision, lovely lasting, lingering flavours.

2006 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese RS 117 TA 6.8 ABV 8.5%
This vintage had a rainy September with warm nights: berries were susceptible to botrytis, and many of them were affected (though not included in the Auslese). Extremely ripe fruit meant juices were more exposed to oxygen than usual, hence more notes of dried fruit.
For once, we have the textbook peach, apricot and honey of younger Riesling. There are also hints of blossom, quince and sultana. Glowingly ripe fruit.

2007 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese RS 79 TA 7 ABV 8.5%
"A grandiose year," so Weis, "comparable to 2005."
This pale golden wine is the watershed in this flight: after being immersed in the layered flavours of the older wines, this 2007 wine is clearly young. Just a few notes of green apple, otherwise the wine is in the nowhere-land beyond youthful, primary notes and the more complex expressions of development. This needs to come out of its shell but promises to be luscious.

2008 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Spätlese RS 67 TA 8.9 ABV 8%
This was a cooler year with hardly any botrytis, grapes remained healthy for a very long time.
Again rather youthful notes of ripe white currant and yellow pear which intensify on the palate. The sweetness is carried lightly, with a spring in the step, but not quite as electric as some others, aromatics not as expressive at this point.

2009 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Auslese RS 94 TA 7.8 ABV 8%
Primary aromas still dominate with the opulence (so typical for this vintage) of ripe, juicy melon with lots of candied orange peel and precise acidity. Having tasted the previous expressions of the site, this is definitely far too young, especially when compared to the melting complexity of the older vintages.

2010 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Beerenauslese RS 296 TA 16 ABV 6%
Speller introduced this as 'the beast', with good reason: The nose is the most intriguing with confected notes of apple juice, vine peach and wild strawberry - incongruous but beguiling. On the palate this supercharged wine is totally compelling with bright, amazing fruit, whipped into shape by the cutting, piercing and electric acidity of the exciting 2010 vintage. How can a wine be so sweet and so clean? Stock up and hold on, these long-lived wines will survive many of us!

Anne Krebiehl for Harpers Online - Mosel Riesling - St Urbanshof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Vertical 1996-2010