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Dry White Wines for Keeping

The vast majority of the world’s wines are made to be drunk within a couple of years of bottling and this is particularly the case for whites. Without the preservative effect of the tannins found in red wines, the fruitiness and virility of white wines fades all too quickly, yet as with most things there are a raft of honourable exceptions.

Burgundy from the great villages of Puligny, Chassagne and Mersault as well as the hill of Corton, are capable of producing wines that can last a generation. In the last month I have had bottles from these areas (one is listed below) that were more than a decade old and full of vibrancy. But what else is there? I wrote earlier in January about Von Buhl in Pfalz and there is no doubt that the best of these dense, steely and profound Rieslings will continue to develop and shine over the coming twenty years. With the imminent arrival (in Taiwan) of the wines of Von Winning, also of Pfalz, Riesling’s significant age-ability will again be highlighted.

For those who like the idea of aged Sauvignon Blanc, the best examples are to be found in Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux. These wines usually feature some Semillon and are matured in oak making them less overt but more complex than is usual and the finest go on to give years of custard scented pleasure. Outside of Germany and France it is less common to find white wines that are built for the long haul. Spain has the tradition of aged white Riojas but this oxidative style that smells of hay and mushrooms rather than fruit and flowers is dying. Only Tondonia still produces this grossly underappreciated and magnificent anachronism. (Below I have reviewed Murrietta’s new(ish) white that replaced their wonderful traditional Rioja).

Lastly, in future years it may be that South Africa starts to produce age-worthy Chenin Blancs (think Alheit, Sadie, Mullineux) that can match the longevity of Savennieres in the Loire. This variety has the requisite acid and extract to age beautifully and when allied to the will of the new generation of South-African winemakers, this should be a new source of fine dry white wines for keeping.

Hospices de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Cuvee Francois de Salins, 2004
Grape:
Chardonnay
Wine-making: Oak fermented and matured
Note: Not cheap but this is still as fresh a daisy with excellent concentration and drive. Rich and ripe with oodles of fruit and saliva inducing acidity, this should last another ten years.
Price: 6,250NT
Score:
17.5/20
Available from: Winebay 02 2733 3303

Marques de Murrietta, Capellania (single vineyard), 2009, 13.5%
Grape: Viura
Wine-making: Matured for 20 months in in new French oak.
Note: As disappointed as I am at the departure of the old, more overtly oxidative style, it is hard not to be impressed by this much more modern wine. Fantastic mouth-feel that is both creamy and rich coupled with baked apple and citrus fruit aromas, this promises improvement over the medium term. Whether it will have the longevity of its predecessor will become clear in the years to come. Price: Not currently available in Taiwan but approx. $30USD globally
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: N/A

Von Winning, Forster Ungeheur Grosses Gewachs, 2013, 12%
Grape:
Riesling
Wine-making: Fermented in old wood.
Note: More forgiving than the Von Buhl Rieslings of a similar quality with a slightly softer and less dense/firm character. Perfumed with sweet apple a subtle minerality and good persistence. This will continue to reveal itself more fully over the next decade.
Price: Approx 2,500NT
Score: 17/20
Available from: Soon to be available in Taiwan from Vinoza

 

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Germany: The Profound and the Pure

Being the birthplace of Riesling, Germany has the enviable ability to produce some of the world’s most arresting wines. There are, of course, other grapes grown here and there are excellent examples of Silvaner, Weissburgunder aka Pinot Blanc, Spatburgunder aka Pinot Noir and Lemberger aka Blaufrankisch, but it is Riesling that rules.

A recent tasting of four dry wines from Von Buhl in the Pfalz (a northerly extension of the Alsace region in France), demonstrated the mixture of acidity, density and fruit purity that imbues these wines with such profundity. This honourable and ancient estate has a new winemaker at the helm (from the 2013 vintage); Mathieu Kauffmann. His previous position as chief winemaker at Bollinger, suggests he already knows how to make a decent bottle of plonk and it would be surprising if Von Buhl did not benefit significantly from his efforts.

On tasting Mr Kauffmann’s first vintage it was satisfying to see that the intricate but rather confusing labels have also been given a positive make-over. This coincides with the most recent attempt by the VDP (Verband Deutscher Qualitats und Pradikatsweinguter), a self selected group of some of Germany’s best producers, to make labelling terms that relate to quality more clearly understandable. The VDP’s system resembles Burgundy’s hierarchy that starts with generic (Bourgogne) wines before moving through village, 1er Cru and Grand Cru. The VDP use the terms Gutswein (literally good wine but that effectively represent the region like Bourgone does in Burgundy), Ortswein which are wines produced from a village’s better vineyards and Erste Lage and Grosse Lage that translates as 1er and Grand Cru respectively.

The reluctance of many to spend significant sums on quality white wines beyond the best of Burgundy is short-sighted. The finest Rieslings from Germany have the vitality and the structure to evolve and provide pleasure over the long-term and are therefore worthy of a place in your wine fridge, cellar or store.

Von Buhl, Pfalz, Riesling, VDP.Gutswein, 2013, 12.5%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: This really sets the tone for the wines that follow. Apple like with pointed acidity and some phenolic grip that provides all of these wines with sculpted muscle. The most approachable and a wine that can be enjoyed now.
Price: See local market
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Herrgottsacker, Deidesheimer, Riesling, VDP.Ortswein, 2013, 13%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: A little more fruit and a touch more density, there’s not a lot in it but I think its worth trading up from the gutswein to this.
Price: See local market
Score: 16/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Forster Musenhang, VDP.Erste Lage, 2013, 12.5%, Organic
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: This is still very tight and austere, almost unfriendly but has the structure required to suggest that this will evolve nicely over the next 3-5 years.
Price: See local market
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

Forster Jesuitengarten, VDP.Grosse Lage, 2013, 13.5%, Organic (As this is a dry Grosse Lage wine it has the additional term GG or Grosses Gewachs on the label)
Grape: Riesling
Wine-making: No new oak influence
Note: By far the most complex and aromatic with a smokiness and an alluring mix of grapefruit and spiced apple. Again very dense and tightly wound but this should uncoil itself over the next ten years. Not cheap but very good wines rarely are.
Price: See local market
Score: 17.5/20
Available from: Schmidt Vinothek in Taiwan but not this vintage currently

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