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Jun 1, 2009 08:38 PM

1996 German Riesling Spätlesen

Recently I've opened two spatleses from the 1996 vintage that have turned out to be all that this vintage promised when they were first released. Blazing acidity has kept them fresh and lively and the opulent fruit has mellowed and deepened. My mentions were buried in dining reports on my regional board, but I thought I'd link to them here. How are others finding this vintage in the fullness of time?

1996 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese

1996 Müller-Catoir. Haardter Bürgergarten Riesling Spätlese

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  1. K&L sold some Bert Simon 1996 spatlese a few years ago that's nice with some time in the air. Probably not in the same league as the Schaefer or Muller-Catoir, but nice. Balanced. No lip searing acid.
    Probably the best riesling I've got is a 1989 Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese that K&L sold for $19. (I've got a couple 2004 Donnhoffs I haven't tried yet) I like the wine so much I bought the 1996 version, but I haven't opened it yet.
    If you like the vintage, I'd suggest giving that wine a try.

    4 Replies
    1. re: SteveTimko

      Steve, which 04 Donnhoff wines do you have? I recently opened the Oberhauser Leistenberg Kabinett. With about one our of air, it was singing.

      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        I've got two 2004 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Spätlese. All the CellarTracker! notes indicate it's still young, so I'm thinking next year before I even try one.

        1. re: SteveTimko

          I believe I recently had the 05 version of that wine. That was definitely still a pup.

        2. re: Brad Ballinger

          Looking forward to a case of the Leistenberg, 2009 is said to be just as good as 2007 and 2008 put together! Haven't tried the 2004, though.

      2. I've not had a '96 in a year or two. But I agree that it is a very good vintage and I'm not at all surprised that 2 of my top 5 favorite German producers' wines are holding up and/or improving!

        1. Been a while since I've had a 1996, but you had wines from two good producers and two good vineyards. About 5 years ago, I had a 1971 S.A. Prum Spatlese at the Wine Cellar at Rio in Las Vegas. They were pouring it by the glass. It was incredibly lively and a testament to the ageability of riesling wines in excellent vintages.

          I have several cases of 2001 vintage wines from the Mosel, Nahe, and Pfalz. It's tough keeping my hands of them, but so far will power is winning out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            Yes! The 1971 was truly a fantastic vintage. I was lucky enough to be studying and living n London around that time which gave me the opportunity to taste my first German Riesling, a 1971 Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Auslese. I was so hooked by it that I started my wine collection with a few bottles of that! Last bottle was consumed in 2001 and it still hasn't gone over the hill!

          2. By the way, I see I've had one other 1996, but this was a kabinett that seared the top layer of skin off my mouth. K&L sells it also. Had it at Louie's California Chinese Cuisine.

            1996 Weingut Eduard Hauth Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (8/23/2008)
            Nice wine and definitely for acidheads, as Günther noted. As a kabinett I wondered how dry it would be since rieslings that are too dry are sour to me but it had just enough residual sugar that it was pleasant to drink. On the nose there was a slight whiff of diesel along with some citrus elements. On the palate, there were lots of white fruits like peach and apple. Decent minerality. The finish was just average, which is what kept it being a special wine instead of just a good wine. Drank with a great Cantonese meal and it was probably the best match for the food because it was only slightly sweet and the acidity cut through the fat in a lot of the dishes. (90 pts.)

            1. A few weeks back, I opened up a 1996 Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Gold Cap to go with a 'Tarte Normande' ( French apple tart with short bread crust, custard cream, diced apples and topped with toasted almonds ). A match made in heaven! The wine was simply mindblowing! And the bouquet!! What a sensational nose! Its even more complex than the classic 2001!

              6 Replies
              1. re: Charles Yu

                "It's even more complex than the classic 2001!" -- So far, perhaps. But the 2001 vintage is years away from being what it will be.

                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  When I talked with Fritz Hasselbach, wine maker/owner of Gunderloch a while back, he actually commented that he actually preferred his 1996 over the 2001!!! Very surprising!

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Yeh, could be. My reference was more about the vintage in general than Gunderloch or any of their wines. I remember visiting Gunderloch in 2003 and loving the 2001s I sampled. Of course, however, there were no 1996s to try.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      The reputation of the 2001 vintage is based largely on the successes in the Mosel and Nahe. For example, many Rheingau producers made better wines in 2002 than 2001. That said, I love the 01s as well and wish I had more. I was in Germany in the spring of 02 and had a chance to taste many of them when they were released.

                      It does make sense that Fritz would prefer his 1996. The challenge he faces in his Rheinhessen terroir is capturing enough acidity to keep his full and opulent wines alive for the long term. With the higher acid levels in 1996, it enhances his style of winemaking.


                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        The 1996 vintage and your question came to mind at a tasting of the 2008 German and Austrian Terry Theise portfolio, the 2008's also being a high acid year. Terry's thesis was that the '96 wines carried a lot of malic acid that was bound to ruin most of the wine as they aged. He estimated that 10% of the wine might be great or interesting as they continued over time. Have you tried many 2008 wines?

                        1. re: wew

                          I have only tried a handful of 2008's so far and hope to taste the Theise portfolio next week. The nerviness of the 08's immediately brought the 96's to mind.