Anne Krebiehl MW finished the decade in style – releasing her first book, the excellent Wines of Germany, and travelling to all parts of the globe to judge Riesling competitions, visit wineries, discover little gems and have a quasi-supernatural experience on the Sonoma Coast. Here she reviews her year in wine, a year in which she uncovered some true, upcoming ‘artists’ in Germany as well as being treated to a Bollinger from 1918 and a Beaune from 1947.
“It does not happen that often that a dish and a wine are a match made in heaven, and I am not amongst those people who slavishly food-match their wines, but on a lovely June evening I made a cold cucumber soup for friends. I served Ostertag 2016 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes with it – a revelation,” Anne writes.
In January on a snowy day in the Ahr valley, I rocked up at one of the Ahr Valley’s newest Pinot ventures… Julia Bertram at Schatzi Wines is a new star, making the most sinuous, snappy and expressive Spätburgunder – I loved her single vineyard wines and one stood out: the Marienthaler Trotzenberg
In February on a cold Friday night, I was astonished by a still Blanc de Noirs of Pinot Noir 2010 in magnum: it was the first time ever I tasted a still, mature BdN and the closest thing I had ever tasted to it would have been mature Chablis – which is strange since this was made from Pinot Noir and had grown on Buntsandstein in Bürgstadt/Franken. The artist who made it was Benedikt Baltes at Weingut Stadt Klingenberg – and that very wine kicked off a great exploration of what Pinot can be about.
On that same trip, just as the sun was setting, Philipp Luckert of Zehnthof Luckert in Sulzfeld am Main/Franken took me to a residential street outside the old town ramparts. He opened a garden gate, walked behind the house and showed me a tiny vineyard: Creutz– this parcel of vines, planted in the 1870s, had already been cut off, ready for the roots to be grubbed up when the Luckerts heard of this. They persuaded the owner to let them re-cultivate, so they nursed new stems into life, growing from the old, well-established roots. Once the stems were strong enough, they were put into a wire frame and for a while now they have borne fruit: Silvaner Creutz. One of the most complete wines of the year, balm-like, lithe, but of an unearthly balance. Incredibly touching.
In March there was a wine that brought tears to my eyes: Champagne Bollinger 1918. A poignant moment to taste history like that – still fresh, still vivid and made when there was so much pain, loss and death so nearby.
April and May were a total time crunch, so let’s jump to summer. In June, when my co-harvester from the 2009 vintage in Germany came visiting to reminisce, I was so happy to show off with English fizz, a perfect bottle of Wiston Estate Cuvee Brut 2009, England– creamy, evolved perfection. In Austria in June I got a lovely taster of freshly disgorged Ebner-Ebenauer Blanc de Blancs from the Weinviertel. It does not happen that often that a dish and a wine are a match made in heaven, and I am not amongst those people who slavishly food-match their wines, but on a lovely June evening I made a cold cucumber soup for friends. I served Ostertag 2016 Sylvaner Vielles Vignes with it – a revelation. Wine and soup shimmered with their subtle nuance. But we had been primed for subtlety: the apero that evening was Champagne Chartogne-Taillet’s Sainte Anne NV.
Summer meant refreshment by way of fizz and I enjoyed more of my Franconian discovery: long-aged, low-dosaged Sekts from BurkhardtSchür. Sekt from one of Germany’s newest and most promising, petite Sekt houses. The super-slender and bone-dry frame of Dirler-Cade Crémant d’Alsace 2014 Brut Nature also provided its fair share of freshness.
July was a crazy month, but two extra days on the Pacific Coast in northern California took on an almost supernatural quality: what with accumulated tiredness, disrupted sleep and jetlag, the magic of this vast, cold ocean, and its eternal, powerful churn had a mind-altering effect on me.
Stopping over for two nights in a remote ocean motel after a busy conference, I had finished reading my book proofs, had met two further important deadlines, writing as a jetlag insomniac in the small hours of the morning, had taken a long coastal drive, stunned by vista after vista, spooked by the darkness of the forest, exhilarated by the briskness of the ocean, mesmerised by the orange-pink profusions of passiflora jamesonii. Every sensation seemed heightened, every notion more intense. Back on my rustic wooden balcony, looking west, listening to the crash of the waves, I opened a bottle of Nyetimber Rosé for that cold Pacific sunset, I was more drunk on that salty ocean air, mixed with the coniferous perfume of the redwoods and the lift of distant eucalypt than on the wine itself. But I rarely felt so alive, so blessed, so exhausted, so happy.
August presented another effervescent highlight – even if it is a total tongue twister: Gut Hermannsberg Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube brut nature Sekt 2013 is a milestone in contemporary Rieslingsekt and points to the future of this category. With its strident freshness and sharp precision it is for adults only.
Then the days became shorter and on what felt like the last Sunday of summer, with the nip of autumn already in the air, the arrival of an almost-stranger who left as a friend prompted the opening of a harmonious, evolving trio of wines that goes to show that all sorts of wines benefit from time spent in a cool cellar: a Barth Riesling Sekt extra brut NV with its zippy, fruitiness signalled welcome, Champagne AR Lenoble’s Intense was a picture of creamy, dreamy deliciousness; Dautel 2010 Kalkschupen Spätburgunder GG from Württemberg was opening up beautifully. All three wines were savoured slowly on that magical September night.
Later that month a retrospective tasting of 2009 Spätburgunders with Pinot-friends at my house threw up delicious surprises: Aldinger Untertürkheimer Gips Marienglas GG 2009; Rudolf Fürst Schlossberg GG 2009, Ziereisen Rhini 2009 and Bernhard Huber “R” 2009 all were total highlights.
In October, after judging the Canberra International Rieslign Challenge, having reds over dinner was a boon. I was struck by a bottle of 1998 Lawson’s Shiraz from Padthaway– what a smoky, aromatic, evocative wine. Wow. I was knocked sideways by a Pinot Blanc – not something that has ever happened before. It was Schauer Weissburgunder Ried Höchtemmel 2017 from a Styrian vineyard reaching up to 575m. It was as creamy as it was fresh and slender. A magnificent wine.
As November rolled on, I got to taste and drink Peay Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir 2015 from the Sonoma Coast, allowing me to reminisce about that gorgeous, wooded and dramatic coastline once again. What a lovely, translucent and pure wine that captures the briskness and savouriness of that part of the world for me. It was only fitting to open an English sparkling Wine for a Californian visitor who grows and makes her own Pinot Noir, both still and sparkling. Wiston Estate Rosé 2011 was in a perfectly voluptuous place. Being served Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus 1947 over dinner at Bouchard Père et Fils was moving. From a hot vintage it was still full-bodied and had ample warmth on that cold November night. The month closed with darling friends serving me two great wines in one evening: Dermot Sugrue The Trouble with Dreams Cuvée Zéro Dosage– a hymn to English Chardonnay – and Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru 2002 one of my all-time Burgundian faves. Wow.
December started with a trip to the Wachau and I encountered an unusual but delicious wine, made from a tiny, old field blend parcel: Domäne Wachau Gemischter Satz Uralt Reben Smaragd 2018. It was floral and bright but mellow with subtle oak. A dream. Over three evenings I enjoyed an immense array of Rieslings, young and mature and the highlights were Alzinger, FX Pichler, Knoll and Hirtzberger– all consumed with abandon and the winemakers themselves.
All of this was reconstructed by looking at all the pics I took throughout this crazy, hectic, super-busy but also amazing year. There were many, many more wines that were special and memorable, but the above ones were wines I not only got to taste but to drink. I am blessed to exist within this world of flavour and expression and look back not only on a year of great wine but a whole decade. Here’s to the next decade, the roaring 2020s!!!