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Tasting Reviews




German Riesling 1971 – A Tasting of a Near-Mythical Vintage Wines


30-Nov-2017
The 1971 German wine vintage has become stuff of legends. It is arguably one of the greatest years for German Riesling in these modern times. All wine writers and commentators who have experienced the wines have lavished praise on the year. It was an outstanding growing season with an extraordinarily fine summer and autumn lending wonderful ripeness, and the development of botrytis very refined.

I have tasted several 1971 German Rieslings (and older) before this tasting, the wines generally in their prime. Much of my learning of German wines occurred with the 1975 and 1976 wines, the former more clean, pure-fruited and elegant, and the latter richer, riper and with more incidence of noble rot. The 1971s certainly had a finesse and concentration to them, which made them closer to 1975 for me.

Geoff Kelly - Wine Cellarer Extraordinaire

When wine cellarer-extraordinaire Geoff Kelly offered an in-depth tasting of 1971 German wines, including two trockenbeerenauslesen, at Regional Wines, I had to attend it. My only reservation was that at over 45 years old, the wines would be past their best, and definitely in their decline. Even so, I surmised the wines should still be alive, and offer real interest, as well as providing a session of nostalgia for me. Geoff carefully cellars his wines, so the chance of a good showing of the wines was certainly on the cards.

The Tasting
Geoff assembled a dozen wines to taste, as is the usual format for his ‘Library Tastings’. There were back-up wines to be used in the situation that some of the chosen wines were not worthy of tasting (due to cork-taint or excess oxidation, or other faults). For this tasting, two wines were substituted by back-ups. Geoff also included a 1971 Sauternes as a counterpoint, to show the other main sweet wine style. The tasting had a 2001 wine as a pre-taster, this vintage deemed a great one. Geoff orders the wine in a sequence that appears logical to him in demonstrating aspects of the line-up. The wines were served ‘single blind’. Geoff asks tasters to pick their top and second wine as well as noting the least preferred wine, as an indication of overall popularity or quality. For this tasting, he also asked if tasters could identify if the wine was a Mosel or Rheingau bottling. My notes for the wines follow, in the order of presentation. Prices are listed at purchase time. It is also noteworthy that the older German wines are in 700 ml bottles (the 2001 in 750 ml), and the Sauternes is 730 ml.


Von Kesselstatt Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese 2001
Pale golden-yellow colour. The bouquet is soft and deep with well-concentrated density showing honey, lime and toast, the aromatics in the secondary phase, and growing in depth with aeration. Medium-sweet to taste, this is still fresh on the palate with an amalgam of honey and toast. This is well-integrated, soft and smooth flowing, with slight phenolic textures and a fine thread of acidity. This appears fully mature now. Served with identity known. Mosel, 8.0% alc. 18.0-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $38.00

P. J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 1971
Deepish light golden colour with slight orange hues. This has a full, deep and solid core of honey and caramel, with kerosene notes, stiil tight and firm at the core, Medium-sweet, piquant acidity lifts and enlivens the palate. Soft flavours of honey and toast, and notes of caramel and toffee. The mouthfeel is still fresh, supporting the depth of fruit. Very good length. This is not cloying at all, and has real complexity. My pick as a Mosel at Spatlese level. Mosel. 18.5-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Julius Kayser Waldracher Krone-Ehrenberg Riesling Auslese 1971
Deepish orange-gold colour, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is full, solid and densely packed, quite stolid in expression, with citrus fruit, honey and caramel and a little toffee. Very rich and sweet, the flavours of honey, caramel and toffee showing over the citrus. Certainly secondary. Some sherry-like oxidation appearing, and the back palate showing dried phenolic textures, with nutty elements now present. There is still good acid liveliness. A tad dried out on finish. Some tasters saw VA notes. My pick as a Mosel Auslese. Ruwer 17.5/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Jakob Hoffmann Neumagener Engelgrube Auslese 1971
Even, light golden-orange colour with some depth. The bouquet is soft and light, somewhat shy in expression, with honey and nutty notes. Quite sweet on palate, with soft textures, quite mellow. Honey and caramel with some floral lift, unfolding toast. The textures are soft, and the mouthfeel is gentle and smooth, the acidity with finesse and poise. Lovely integration and fully mature, still on its plateau. A little grip on the finish, and overall, a tad shy. My guess as a Mosel Auslese. Mosel. 17.5+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $20.35

Staatsweinguter Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spatlese 1975
Deepish light orange colour with golden hues. The bouquet is softly full with real depth and density, quite packed with honied fruits, a touch of toast, and custard and cream, unfolding caramel. This still has varietal character. Very rich and sweet on palate, this has a fine and firm core with depth and intensity. Honied flavours with some caramel, unfolding a little toffee and dark marmalade. Botrytis is evident. This is still remarkably fresh and not showing any drying. One taster saw brown rot. My pick as a Rheingau, at Auslese level (though only a Rheingau Spatlese were present). Rheingau. 18.5/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Ch. de Malle Sauternes 1971
Light golden-hued orange-yellow colour with some depth. This has a deep and fulsome bouquet, but with a tightly bound core with honey and caramel, with distinctive nutty notes, a little acrid in smell. Moderately sweet, this has a firm concentration at the core with tight honey, caramel and a little toast and toffee. The acidity is piquant and there is underlying drive and power. The palate is still active, and fades on the finish, unfolding decrepit tertiary notes. Clearly something different to the German wines. Preignac. 11.0% 16.5/20 Nov 2017 RRP $6.65


Von Kesselstatt Piesporter Goldtropfchen Auslese ‘Domklausenhof’ 1971
Deep, light golden-orange colour. This has attractive, piquant aromas of citrus fruits along with honey and toast, with caramel notes, quite mature and complete, and maybe a little past its plateau with tertiary earthy notes. The aromatics grow in breath in the glass. Very sweet, but with a stylish restraint, in fact with tautness at the core, showing ripe citrus fruits, honey and caramel. And a little toffee, with a little floral lift. Very smooth-flowing with light background acidity. Developing a hint of tiredness and possibly musty-musky notes on the finish. I thought Rheingau at the Auslese level (though no Auslese listed). Mosel. 18.0+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $9.24

Von Kesselstatt Josephshofer Auslese 1971
Light orange gold with some depth. This is soft and elegant on bouquet, with citrus fruit, honey and caramel aromas, still taut and with more to unfold on bouquet. Sweetish to taste, the flavours of citrus, honey and caramel are quite elegant in expression. There is acid cut, but also a dry textural aspect. The initial richness fades a little, but the nuances linger. Maybe losing its way. I thought Mosel at the Auslese level. Graach, Mosel. 18.0-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Von Kesselstatt Josephshofer Trockenbeerenauslese 1971
Light mahogany colour, orange on the edge. The bouquet is very full and deep with burnished toffee and caramel, barley sugar and caramelised fruits. Very sweet on palate, yet retaining a degree of elegance. This has acid bite, the flavours initially up-front with citrus marmalade, caramel and toffee, plus barley sugar. The flavours narrow on the finish, but carry with considerable length. This has a lovely freshness still. I thought Nahe at the Beerenauslese level. Graach, Mosel. 18.5+/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Schloss Schonborn Geisenheimer Schlossgarten Riesling Beerenauslese 1971
Pale mahogany colour with golden-range hues. This has a firm and intense bouquet with savoury toffee and barley sugar aromas along with dried tropical fruits and nutty notes. Very sweet on palate with a firm and tight core, showing barley sugar, caramel and toffee flavours. Some nutty notes add detail and a subtle nuance. The palate has retained elegance and is slender, but there is good presence. Very long on the finish, with some acid freshness showing. I thought Rheingau Beerenauslese. Rheingau. 18.5-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $17.10

Von Plettenberg Schloss Bockelheimer Kupferrgrube Riesling Beerenauslese 1967
Dark, deep mahogany colour with orange on the edge. The bouquet is very full with deep and dense aromas of raisins and fruit-cake, along with honey, caramel and toffee notes. Some nutty detail shows complexing secondary elements. Very sweet and very rich, quite unctuous and intense, with concentration of raisins, fruit-cake, barley sugar, caramel and toffee, along with dates and figs and orange marmalade . A touch of bitterness emerges, with balancing poised acidity, and fine-textures carry to a soft, lingering finish. I thought Rheingau Trockenbeerenauslese. Nahe. 19.0-/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A

Schloss Schonborn Marcobrunner Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 1971 «««««
Very dark, deep, mahogany-brown colour with green hues on the edge. The bouquet is full, solidly concentrated and dense, quite complete with aromas of raisins and sultanas, fruit-cake, caramel and toffee. Very, very sweet and unctuous in texture, with masses of flavour, showing raisins, sultanas, caramel and toffee. Exotic spices abound. The textures are soft from the richness and lusciousness, but there is fine, underlying acid cut. This flows smoothly, and carries to a very long and sustained finish. Some tertiary earthiness creeps in at the end, but this remains glorious stuff. I thought this a Mosel, and at the Trockenbeerenauslese level. Erbach, Rheingau. 19.0/20 Nov 2017 RRP $N/A


The Hand-Up Table
Following are the hands-up numbers for 1st, 2nd and Last preferences, and guesses as to whether Mosel or Rheingau. This was very ‘loose’ with many tasters not consistent in their voting – some not always choosing, and others voting more than once. I admit I was guilty of the latter (but I’m not telling the details!

Wine

1st

2nd

Last

Mosel

Rheingau

1. Von Kesselstatt Spatlese 2001 (M)

-

2

-

N/A

N/A

2. Prum Spatlese 1971 (M)

-

-

-

2

6

3. Kayser Auslese 1971 (M)

-

-

10

3

2

4. Hoffman Auslese 1971 (M)

-

1

-

6

1

5. Staatsweinguter Spatlese 1975 (R)

1

-

2

2

2

6. Ch. de Malle 1971 (Sauternes)

3

1

4

N/A

N/A

7. Von Kesselstatt P Auslese 1971 (M)

-

-

3

3

2

8. Von Kesselstaat J Auslese 1971 (M)

-

-

-

3

1

9. Von Kesselstatt TBA 1971 (M)

6

4

-

3

-

10. Schonborn BA 1971 (R)

-

3

2

3

-

11. Plettenberg BA 1967 (N)

2

6

-

2

3

12. Schonborn TBA 1971 (R)

9

3

-

3

2


There was a heavier preference for the higher pradikat wines with the final wine, the Schonborn Marcobrunner TBA 1971 taking most votes for best wine. This was followed by the Von Kesselstatt Josephshofer TBA 1971, this being the 9th wine served. The highest second choice wine was the Plettenberg BA 1967, the second last wine served.

The least preferred wine was the 3rd in the line-up, the Kayser Auslese 1971.The Sauternes, served 6th - though quite different in style, was second least preferred wine, but better liked generally than the Kayser wine.

Picking the origin was very difficult, as secondary and tertiary characters were predominant. I used the degree of acid cut as my basis for guessing. I was moderately successful in doing so with 7 correct picks from the 10 wines available for guessing (counting the Nahe as more similar to the Rheingau, for me – though others see Nahe as being more akin to Mosel). Tasters were more correct in guessing Mosel for wine #4, the Hoffman Auslese 1971, and more incorrect on the Prum Spatlese 1971, served as wine #2.

An Overall Thought
This was a remarkable tasting considering the rarity of the wines and their age. So it was a privilege to attend this event. All credit to Geoff Kelly for cellaring these wines, and offering them to the keen enthusiast to taste and share.

In general, the wines were, I felt, now past their best, though still holding on to their integrity. However, the sweetness and secondary and tertiary characters were prevalent, and at the expense of the fruit, which I regard as an important part to be still expressive in all wine. If you have any 1971s in your cellar, I’d drink them up, as with the 1975s and 1976s. However, one should keep in mind that German Riesling can last 4 – 5 decades.
Copyright © 2011 Raymond Chan Wine Reviews
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