Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Riesling Réserve

Some things need time. Wine especially so.

In a market such as Germany that wants its GG (grand cru) white wines of a given vintage ready for sale by September of the following year, it's reassuring that there are still some growers out there who hold back in releasing specific wines for a number of years. Obviously, economic considerations mean that not every producer has the luxury of being able to sit on his or her stock interminably. After all, private customers, merchants, restaurants etc. all need supplying.

Being such a successful all-round operation, Knipser Winery from the Pfalz can probably afford to wait longer than most.

Weingut Knipser, "Halbstück Réserve" Riesling Spätlese trocken 2004, Pfalz, Germany
This wine was released for sale in September 2010 after five years of bottle ageing. It was vinified in a traditional Pfälzer 600-litre wooden vat called a "Halbstück". According to the Knipsers, the Riesling grapes used for the wine were selected from old vines in some of their choice vineyard blocks. The result is something quite unlike most Rieslings.

Shimmering gold in appearance, the wine showed an intially oxidised whiff which gradually dissipated to unveil something seriously complex and forceful underneath. During the first hour or so after opening, mature notes from the Halbstück dominated. These felt slightly diffuse and blowsy at first, but then precise ripe citrus fruit took hold - mostly lime - as well as blossom. A day later, banana and pineapple notes emerged. These components were translated almost like-for-like onto the palate. Surprisingly light in alcohol considering the voluminous mouthfeel. The fruit had slowly retreated again 48 hours later, making way for yeasty, multi-layered flavours almost remininscent of dry sherry. Acidity was ever-present, underscoring an elegant, mouthwateringly long finish.

Given its vitality and firm, sinewy, almost "athletic" personality, this is a wine that shows no sign of flagging. Despite drinking excellently now, it might improve even more over the coming decade. I could probably cellar it for 20 years if I had the patience.

The ageing afforded this wine - firstly in the Halbstück, then in the bottle - is what sets it apart from most of its peers, I would say. This is a Riesling built for the duration yet - and this is the good news - one that offers unadulterated drinking enjoyment even now.

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