Sunday, 21 October 2012


By anyone's standards, Weingut Odintal is a unique property in the Pfalz. Occupying a sizeable clearing of land up in the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest), its vineyards are among the region's highest. The vineyard "chateau" is a country villa that changed hands a few centuries ago after its builder Johann Ludwig Wolf lost a game of cards (they did things differently in those days).

Berlin-born Thomas Hensel bought Odinstal in the late 1990s, originally with the intention of renovating the house as a place for him, his wife and three children to live. After renovation was complete, his attention moved to the adjoining vineyards. Identifying their cool climate characteristics 350 metres above sea level and unique soil formations in close proximity to the mouth of a formerly active volcano (the "Pechsteinkopf"), Hensel promptly hired the services of winemaker Andreas Schumann. Winegrowing methods at Odinstal are biodynamic, all grapes are picked by hand and musts ferment spontaneously via indigenous yeasts.

I had been quite intrigued by Odinstal for some years, but only recently took the plunge - by purchasing this, a lone bottle of one of the property's top Rieslings from a local merchant in Basel.

Weingut Odinstal, Riesling Bundsandstein trocken 2010, Pfalz, Germany
Quite brilliant light yellow. Initially, a nasty whiff of oxidation rises up out of the glass. Trust me to have bought a dud bottle, I chunter to myself. Leaving it overnight in the fridge is the only option. Thankfully, my fears prove unfounded. One day later, the funk has dissipated. What emerge are salty, iodine notes reminiscent of fizzy German mineral water, coupled with something very hard to describe. My best stab at it would be nail varnish remover - laughable, I know, but more pleasant than it reads. And dirt of the soil - or, put simply: good old-fashioned muck. Fruit-wise, the most distinctive note is of ripe pear.

Zingy, pure and highly strung on the palate. I imagine that the grapes used for this wine must have been intensely aromatic. And for me, the main flavour is of grapes. Everything is in high definition, so to speak. The acidity is unbelievable. Unbelievably tasty, I mean - and fully integrated. This wine offers a tremendous amount of substance in the mouth and is also still quite taut - obviously, given how recent the vintage is. The finish is long.

To be honest, I thought the wine's cool climate origins might result in something slimline and maybe even slightly weedy. My preconceptions couldn't have been more misguided. The extra elevation up in the forest has allowed the grapes to ripen "on slow burner". In an already cool vintage such as 2010, this has evidently resulted in something special.

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