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2005 German Riesling - Worth the Megabucks?!

First, the 2005 Bordeaux was touted as the best vintage since 1961 with many winemakers claiming their wines to be the 'best ever'. Now this hype has been extended to the 2005 Gernan Riesling. Recently, I came across a bottle of Egon Muller's Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese, listed at a staggering 'first release' price of $275! Is this price really justifiable? I have a small collection of Gunderloch's 1990, 2001 and 2003 Nachaheim Rothenberg Auslese. They were all great Riesling from a stellar wine producer and all are from equally fantastic vintage. However, I pay less than $50 per bottle for them when they were first released!.$275! Thats almost the price of a D'Yquem!!

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  1. egon muller is the exception and not the norm and they are generally higher priced than most other german riesling.

    most other 2005 german riesling sell for comparable prices to other regular and off vintages.

    1. Donnhoff, Muller-Catoir, Willi Schaefer -- which are my perennial buys, are not so unusually priced...

      1 Reply
      1. re: whiner

        i agree with whiner.... donnhoff and muller-catoir are some of my favorites as well. von kesselstat, knyphausen, kerpen, darting are also high quality without that kind of pricing. even prum auslese doesn't get that kind of loot. 05 was great and limited but thats a lot.

      2. I haven't seen the Egon Muller for under $200US anywhere. Usually around $250US (so $275 Cdn appears to be market price). But IMO he's the finest producer in Germany, so not surprising that prices have moved up (to the point where I can't afford them any more either).
        Hope you picked up the Gunderloch 2005 (now all gone) which was $47 Cdn when released. But you will find significant differences between the Hessen style of Gunderloch and the Saar style of Egon Muller. They're both riesling, but worlds apart in structure and minerality.
        Donnhoff has NEVER (to my knowledge) been available in Ontario - and that pretty much shows what a Government monopoly does to the market. The most exciting current producer in Germany doesn't exist for the LCBO (even the SAQ gets some - and they're not noted for their german selection).
        Typically we only get the low-end Muller-Catoir too. And I don't recall any Willi Schaefer.
        Perhaps the best bet to try the style are the wines of Dr Loosen - closer to Egon Muller than Gunderloch. They're more reasonably priced and do appear here regularly (although not currently - his 'entry level' 2005 riesling was a steal at $14Cdn). Then you can decide whether it's worth trying the Egon Muller. Also look for JJ Prum - although these are more expensive than Loosen. Personally, I avoid the Von Kesselstat versions. IMO they've plummeted in quality over the past few years.
        We should expect more 2005's to come through the system - they take months in the LCBO system - and by the way, the Goldkapsel version is still around in a few stores for $439Cdn!!!!!!
        And, for what it's worth, my favourite wine EVER was the 1971 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Auslese.

        4 Replies
        1. re: estufarian

          Hello estufarian! I'm surprised to hear that, like myself, you too appreciate fine Riesling! One of my favourite wine ever was also a 1971 Riesling - a Schloss Johannisberger Auslese. However, my all time favourite was the 1996 Nachaheim Rothenberg Goldcap Auslese of Gunderloch. As for MSR, I love JJ Prum's Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Just bought a few bottles of the 2003 Auslese. At Can$45, I think its worth every penny! Thanks again for you input!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Just a caution. IMO the 2003's won't last as long as some other years (e.g. I expect the 1990's to outlive them).
            And, back to 1971 - my favourite vintage ever (although the only 59 I've tasted was astounding).

          2. re: estufarian

            And, I'll bet that 71 EM Scharzhofberger Aus is still alive today. I've had Saar spaets from lesser producers of the vintage that are still not at peak yet.

            A few years ago one of EM's biggest export markets was Japan, where scarcity and prestige can prop up favored brands and keep prices high on a global basis. Might still be a force today.

            And to share a story told to me by a former managing director of Napa Valley's Opus One . . he had talked to Egon Muller about trading some wine, telling him he'd ship him a case of Opus for whatever EM thought was a fair trade. He added that he was interested in higher pradikats vs. a greater quantity of lesser wines. When the box arrived from Germany, it was quite small, raising the recipient's eyebrow. I don't recall the exact wines rec'd from EM, but it was something on the order of 4 half-bottles of TBA. When he eventually tasted the EM wines, he was satisfied that he had gotten the better deal.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              And I recall seeing the Opus in the Egon Muller cellar! Proudly displayed as well!

          3. This price is absurd.

            Does anyone think that this bottle is 10x better than many great Auslese's priced in the $25 - 30 range ?

            Perhaps 10% better, which would value it at 33.00

            Perhaps 50% better which is a huge stretch, which would value it at 45.00 nowhere near $275.

            Another way of looking at it... a serious wine drinker consumes plus or minus a full bottle with a meal. While I love wine I'm usually not going to pay much more for the wine than for the food. What meal out there would I have that costs $275 in order to pair this wine with ? And again, would this wine do ten times as much for the meal as an excellent auslese priced at 30 bucks ?

            Another approach... do a quick value comparison with another quality wine. Lets take the 2003 Quinta do Noval Vintage Port at $85 or the the Croft at $80. Who would prefer one bottle of EM Auslese over 3 plus bottles of Quinta do Noval ?? To go way out on the spectrum, compare this 2005 Auslese to a 1994 Fonseca Vintage Port at $250.00 from a stupendously rich vintage.... I could buy a 13 year old brilliant Fonseca and still have $25 bucks left compared to this Auslese... The value is crazily skewed.

            Further, on the matter of comparison shopping, why not compare this to other producers' wines coming out of the Scharzhofberger district, many of which are in the teens and twenties in price, perhaps without the cachet of the Egon Muller name, but with essentially the same vintage area and year.

            Lastly, this wine is still incredibly young for a rich Auslese. When we pay 275 for it today we're really saying it's worth 350 bucks plus when I'll first drink it in 5 years or more... who believes that ?

            So, to answer the question "is it worth it" ... by no reasonable standard of value would I say yes.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Chicago Mike

              Obviously not worth it to you!
              But the equivalent situation occurs throughout the wine world. Why pay 10 times more for a 'cult' Napa Cab?
              Or 10-20 times more for a Coche-Dury meursault (vs other meursaults); or 100 times more for Chateau Lafite (vs Anseillan just across the road).
              Or $5000 for a pair of shoes!
              Value is in the eye of the Beholder. It's a matter of taste.

              1. re: estufarian

                Well, Estufarian, "value" implies scarcity... it's a law of economics... otherwise I can say "my taste tells me I love this wine so it's worth it"... but there's more to it than that... I have to sacrifice something otherwise there's no concept of "value" at play....

                If You acquire a $275 bottle of '05 Auslese, then you necessarily have to give something up for that....

                Are we to conclude from your post that you feel $275 is a reasonable sacrifice for a bottle of this wine ?

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  I preface this by saying I know nothing about this particular producer, and next to nothing about German riesling in general, other than I've liked it the times I've had it.

                  -This price is absurd.
                  Does anyone think that this bottle is 10x better than many great Auslese's priced in the $25 - 30 range ?

                  I don't think this question drives at the answer you're looking for. Just because something is 10x the price of something else does not make it 10x better. Was Picasso 10x the painter Matisse was? Judging by auction prices, the answer would be yes, under this guideline. The price of a Picasso painting may be absurd to you, but certainly not the buyer.

                  -"value" implies scarcity... it's a law of economics...
                  Value has never implied scarcity according to any law of economics. Scarcity may determine value on the market, but the causation does not hold the other way around. Value as you're using it is intrinsically personal and has nothing to do with scarcity. Value is based on consumer preferences; scarcity is based on supplier preferences.

                  -otherwise I can say "my taste tells me I love this wine so it's worth it"... but there's more to it than that... I have to sacrifice something otherwise there's no concept of "value" at play....

                  Actually yeah, if your taste buds tell you you love this wine, it is worth it to you. The sacrifice you're referring to is personal opportunity cost and, again, has nothing to do with scarcity. It literally applies to every decision you make.

                  I'm not trying to be obtuse. I just wanted to point out that using the "1bottle of EM Riesling auslese = 10 bottles of every other Riesling auslese" is not a particularly useful way to approach the problem of whether this particular Riesling is worth the megabucks when it comes to dealing unique goods and products such as wine. Attaching %'s of quality to wine to determine what the its value should be is an eternally fruitless exercise, since those %'s apply only to your personal tastes.

                  Is the 2003 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie, La Turque rated 99 points by WS worth $800? Or would you prefer to buy a half-case of the 1996 Veuve Grande Dame rated at 93? I don't know, because I haven't had either. But 6x93 > 99? Therefore, I should definitely go for tthe Grande Dame? Yikes, that would be a pretty awful way on which to base my wine purchases, no?

                  1. re: mengathon

                    >>Is the 2003 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie, La Turque rated 99 points by WS worth $800? Or would you prefer to buy a half-case of the 1996 Veuve Grande Dame rated at 93? I don't know, because I haven't had either.>>

                    FWIW, the '96 La Grande Dame rocks :-)

                    1. re: whiner

                      haha, whiner i had a feeling you'd say that. Just had the '96 Duval-Leroy. Incredible value at just over $40. It tasted like it should have been twice that amount (I know, stupid phrase, but so applicable here). It has convinced me that the entire year is awesome and that shelling out more than $100/bottle is okay since I'll be happy for the duration of the next 5-10 years.

                    2. re: mengathon

                      Sooo.... after that treatise on economics (which I appreciate, having 2 degrees and a career in finance).... can we conclude that you think 275 bucks is a reasonable price for a bottle of 2005 Auslese ??

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        I'm not sure what, if anything, in my previous post suggested that I thought $275 is a reasonable or an unreasonable price for this auslese. I've never spent that much for a bottle of wine, nor do I plan to in the near future, mostly because of personal budget concerns. But I'm not philosophically opposed to spending that much money for a bottle of wine, if that's what you're asking.

                        Also not sure how your degrees and career are relevant to the discussion. My 'treatise' was merely pointing out that you were confusing value with scarcity and opportunity costs.

                    3. re: Chicago Mike

                      From my original post up the thread
                      "I haven't seen the Egon Muller for under $200US anywhere. Usually around $250US (so $275 Cdn appears to be market price). But IMO he's the finest producer in Germany, so not surprising that prices have moved up (to the point where I can't afford them any more either)."

                      So, NO - I wouldn't buy it either. But then, I do have over 100 bottles of German in my cellar to choose from. My last german wine purchase was the Egon Muller "Riesling" (no vineyard mentioned) at under $20 Cdn.
                      And I totally ignore other peoples ratings (not quite true as I've found 1 writer whose tastes are similar to mine) - which is great for me as my definition of 'value' is therefore different from that of the wider market (which tends to follow Superbob), allowing me some economic "opportunities".
                      And I have paid over $275 on a few occasions for a bottle (not many) - but in (almost) all situations it was intended for a 'multiple' tasting where attendees each brought an 'equivalent' bottle to taste. Assuming 10 attendees (usual number) I'm really paying $300 (say) to try 10 different wines each of which costs (not exactly the same as value) around the same amount.
                      Am I prepared to pay $30 to try 2.5oz of a $300 wine - absolutely! The marginal utility to me of that $30 is a fair price to pay to try that $300 bottle.

                      Is that $30 better spent on a small portion of a $300 wine or on a complete bottle of a $30 wine? Not such an easy decision now, is it?

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        "I have to sacrifice something otherwise there's no concept of "value" at play...."

                        Exactly. But that is an entirely subject determination. The only way to bring in any objectiity is to compare it to current pricing for its perceived by the marketplace. And as you should know this specifically and distinctly applies where luxury goods are concerned and pricing has little if anything to do with actual cost to produce. It's like asking whether a diamond is more "valuable" than a good glass imitation. Depends on who you ask, though most everyone will agree that if you want a diamond, $X to $Y is pretty much the price you can expect to pay in the current market, whatever it is... which excluding social concerns that come into play for necessities, is what determines whether a price is "reasonable."

                        In this case, the question should be whether an EM Auslese from a "Great" year (with a capital G) is as worthwhile or enjoyable as a Ch d'Yquem and personally, I think I'd have to say yes as a geneal rule though I haven't tasted either from a recent vintage.... And Ch d'Yquem may well be produced in larger quantity, however great it is, they do manage to pump out a lot of the stuff. And it's popularity has not kept up with red Bordeaux or even the German wines which like Port, "investor" types started buying when they were still comparative bargains. Until not very long ago, $85 for a Quinto do Noval upon release, even from a year of universal declarations, wouldn't have commanded more than a third that price at most, and probably a bit less...

                        1. re: MikeG

                          Until not very long ago, $85 for a Quinto do Noval upon release, even from a year of universal declarations, wouldn't have commanded more than a third that price at most, and probably a bit less...
                          **********

                          What recent vintages could I have bought a bottle of QdN for $28 ?

                          1. re: Chicago Mike

                            Prices almost doubled in 1994. I was used to paying under $50 for vintage ports (even the 91 and 92) and in 1994 they went to $90-$110.
                            Unfortunately Noval in the 70's and 80's was punching way below its reputation, so even at $28 wasn't necessarily a good buy - and the previous generally declared vintage was 85 (split vintages between then and 94) - and I certainly paid under $40 fro my 85's. OK - not a third, but certainly half.

                  2. I can't say about that particular vintner, but I can say that the 2005 German Rieslings I have tried have been spectacular and would buy some (perhaps not a $275 bottle. I'd save that for a nice old bottle of vintage port).. if I could actually find them locally (they seem to have "strangely" been all bought up).