Anne Krebiehl MW’s belief that wine connects and transcends was strengthened this year by a number of experiences including drinking ‘her vintage’ at Felton Road under the Southern stars while Nigel Greening cooked her goat; getting slowly sloshed on the Danube drinking 2001 Domäne Wachau and many more key events in this classic vintage of a year.
One of Anne’s favourite bottles of 2018 is a Brut Nature Sekt from the Mosel – an unusual cuvée of half Riesling, half Pinot Noir that has spent five years on its lees.
Regular readers here will have noticed that I have tasted some gorgeous bottles this year, not least where Champagne is concerned, so I think it’s far fairer to make a top ten list of bottles actually sipped, enjoyed, consumed to the very last dregs; here at home with friends or on one of my many tours this year…sadly I have no surprises for you at all. Acid, transparency, finesse and freshness still get top marks – and sometimes the situation and the company did as much to make it stellar as the wine itself. If this list is German-heavy I apologise: so much of my time and travel and work was there in 2018.
Weingut Knipser, Riesling, Himmelsrech, Pfalz, 2002– Mature, dry Riesling. Straight, elegant, fresh and oh so deep. A reminder that these bottles just need time. Yum.
It was at a boozy birthday party on the banks of the Mosel late in August that this beauty knocked me sideways: Domaine du Bel Air, Grand-Mont, Bourgueil, 2004.
Quite unexpectedly one summer evening, on Hamburg’s Grosse Freiheit in the lovely wine bar “Weinladen” this ‘basic’ Spätburgunder, in fact the estate’s entry level Pinot Noir, was just in splendid form. Goes to show that it’s good to give even entry-level wines some time, yes, they can mature; and that you don’t always have to splurge to have the best: Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Spätburgunder trocken, Pfalz, 2013.
Weingut des Grafen Neipperg, Lemberger, Schwaigerner Ruthe GG, Württemberg, 2010– I have had the pleasure of tasting and drinking this wine several times throughout its live and right now it is simply à point: its initial pepperiness from the cooler 2010 vintage just shimmers in the background while lovely red fruit shines. Gorgeous.
Another unexpected pleasure: In Westchester County, NY, of all places, this was waiting for me chilled and fresh and without a wrinkle: Peter Lauer, Saar Riesling brut Sekt, 1991. It was the perfect refreshment on one of those Edward-Hopper-style rainy summer nights.
At home in Leytonstone, on one of those gloriously warm summer evenings we had, a chilled bottle of Domaine Boeckel, Pinot Noir K, Alsace 2016 provided cool comfort and ample, cherryish fruit. Yes, chilled reds rock.
Another indelible summer memory is being on a smallish wooden boat on the Danube, getting sloshed very slowly, by wine and swaying boat in equal measure, while gliding past Wachau vineyards and drinking Domäne Wachau, Riesling Smaragd Achleiten, Wachau, 2001.
Perhaps it was down to the handfuls of ripe, sweet wild strawberries that I ate in this vineyard, perhaps it is just my weakness for acid and raciness, but of the case I bought of Melsheimer Cuvée Prestige brut nature Sekt, Mosel, 2011– an unusual cuvée of half Riesling, half Pinot Noir that spent five years on lees – only one bottle is left. Wonder how long that will last…
During dinner with winemakers in May this year, one bottle blew my mind: some of you may know the thoughtful, exacting but quiet winemaker Fritz Grebe from Rheinhessen, known for his gorgeous dry Rieslings. He had wanted to bring something unusual and so he brought a 1992 Spätburgunder, one of the first he made, much in the way he had learned to make it in Burgundy where he trained as a youngster. It was 100% whole-bunch from then very young vines in Rheinhessen. It had to be declassified as “Tafelwein Rhein” as it simply did not fit into the minds of the Weinprüfung.
At first the wine was a bit dusty but then it blossomed in the glass. What a touching wine, a 26-year-old German Spätburgunder – still structured and fresh – made by an ambitious young winemaker who had a dream of quality. Because Groebe was ahead of his time and his peers, the wine would not sell and the vines have since been grubbed up – where we now have vineyards classified as Grosse Lagen for Pinot Noir! I raise my glass to Fritz Groebe and boundary-pushing winemakers across the globe!
Very early in the year, in January, I was back in New Zealand and my beloved Central Otago for the first time since harvesting there at Felton Road in 2009. Sitting outside in Blair Walter’s garden, Nigel Greening had made a dinner delicious dinner of home-raised goat for the old crew: including my favourite viticulturist in all the world, the peerless Gareth King. Of course there was a bottle of “my 2009” vintage: The Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir, Central Otago, 2009. I was so, so happy to be at the other end of the world, drinking amongst my dear friends under southern stars. It only strengthens my belief that wine connects and transcends. Here’s to a delicious and hopeful 2019!