Jeffrey Benson led the London Branch tasting Fine Mature Beerenauslese and Eiswein at the Naval Club, Mayfair, of these luscious sweet white wines from his cellar. Six wines in the tasting were Beerenauslese from Germany, one was from Austria, and the Eiswein was from Austria.
The best sweet wines are made from grapes that are very rich in sugar. One way of achieving this is through botrytis cinerea or noble rot, a fungus which appears when the grapes are ripe under certain climatic conditions of humidity. Beerenauslese wine is made from individually selected late harvested grapes, normally affected by botrytis. Eiswein is made in another way, from freezing grapes (which are unaffected by botrytis) on the vine. The must is pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated wine with increased sugar, making wine that is very sweet with pure fruit flavours.
This was the tasting sequence.
1982 Binger Bubenstück Beerenauslese
From Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine growing region. From the Optima grape, created by crossing a Riesling-Silvaner cross with Müller-Thurgau. Its colour was light toffee and it tasted rich.
1980 Kirchheimer Schwarzerde Beerenauslese
From a noted grower in the Pfalz, today Germany’s second largest wine region, and its sunniest and driest. The grapes are Scheurebe, a crossing of Silvaner and Riesling; Ortega, a crossing of Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe; and Huxelreise, another crossing. A brown caramel colour. This wine is not from such a good vintage as the others in this tasting, but showed good fruit and good residual sugar.
1979 Deidesheimer Letten Ehrenfelser Beerenauslese
This is from the Pfalz. Ehrenfelser is a crossing of Riesling and Silvaner. Jancis Robinson approves of this crossing rather more than many other crossings in Germany. It is named after a romantic ruined castle on the Rhine at Rüdesheim. It ripens earlier, in greater volume and on less promising sites than Riesling, with somewhat less acidity, and its wines do not age as well as Rieslings. This wine was not as rich on the nose as the previous two, and although still quite pleasant, was too old.
1979 Niersteiner Spielberg Beerenauslese
From Rheinhessen. The well respected producer is Strub. The grapes are Ortega and Siegerrebe. This latter grape is intensely aromatic. It is generally used in minute quantities to add richness to a blend. This wine was lighter in colour. It tasted excellent, nicely balanced.
1978 Monchhofer Himmelsjoch Eiswein
Austrian. Made from Neuburger, a crossing of Weissburgunder and Silvaner, and Traminer. The colour was brown caramel. There was a rich bouquet to this wine, but it was missing the complexity on the palate of previous wines.
1976 Podersdorfer Traminer Bouvier Neuburger Beerenauslese
Austrian. Made from Traminer, Bouvier and Neuburger grapes. Bouvier is mainly used in the Burgenland and Styrian regions of Austria for blending. This wine’s colour is similar to the last Austrian wine, but the wine was more complex, with good botrytis on the nose and palate, and far more honeyed; delicious, a superb richness.
1976 Kreuznacher Brückes Ruländer Riesling Beerenauslese
From the Nahe region of Germany and a top grower. The level was up to the cork, and the cork came out easily; but it is not possible to know how an old wine will be until the cork is pulled, and this was disappointing. It was too dark. The nose was of molasses, but there was no Riesling petrol aroma. It was still drinkable, but was drying out and had lost its complexity and sweetness. It would have been better ten years ago.
1971 Wehlener Abtei Beerenauslese
From the Mosel area of Germany, the third largest region, although arguably the most internationally known. Made from Riesling, Bacchus and Optima. Bacchus is a crossing of a Silvaner-Riesling cross with Müller-Thurgau. This is a lighter style and colour, typical of the Mosel. The colour is a pale orange-gold. It has sweetness and acidity, and would make a magical aperitif.
This was a great opportunity for us to compare these mature sweet fine wines.