Two Library Rieslings from C.H. Berres

Hello friends. What should a winery do to celebrate passing the torch from father to son, from 20th generation of winemaker to the 21st? If you’re Weingut C.H. Berres, you should release some of dad’s library wines.

I have mentioned on a few occasions my opinion that Riesling is the finest value in wine today. At the beginning of the 1900s, the most expensive bottles on American restaurant menus were typically Rieslings. They could cost more than three times as much as a first-growth Bordeaux.  An yet here we are, more than a hundred years later, and the quality of the grape hasn’t really changed.

But fashion has.

Today, let’s go against the grain of fashion. If Riesling is the greatest value in the world, than library German Riesling is the greatest value within the greatest value. My personal stash is filled with quietly-snoozing German Rieslings. Why? Because where else in wine can you have a transcendent experience for twenty bucks?

When Markus Berres took over for his father Alfred, the estate decided to release some of their library stock accumulated during Alfred’s heyday in the 1990s. I recently had a chance to taste two of those releases, and they are extraordinary. We have them both today:

1993 C.H. Berres Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Klosterberg

A quick review of the pradikat system before we jump in. The terms relate to must weight (sugar content). While they don’t always correspond perfectly to sweetness (winemakers can ferment the wine to total dryness or let some residual sugar remain), they serve as a pretty good rule of thumb. And that rule of thumb, from driest to sweetest is: Kabinett –> Spatlese –> Auslese –> Beerenauslese –> Trockenbeerenauslese.

Now the wine, from Wehlener Klosterberg (which means Klosterberg vineyard located in the village of Wehlen; here’s a map), a site with stony soils, decomposing slate, and a high proportion of iron. It’s a Spatlese, so in its youth, it probably drank with noteworthy sugar. Now, twenty years past vintage, the sugar is well-integrated, and it drinks just off-dry, that sweetness more of a honeysuckle complexity than overt cane-sugar. It possesses a fascinating nose, with faint smoky petrol notes, as well as alluring gin-soaked juniper aromatics. The palate still has rippin’ acidity and a kind of minty freshness that I found utterly appealing. The complexity of age mixed with a frozen-in-amber feeling of freshness: tough to beat.

1997 C.H. Berres Riesling Auslese Urziger Wurzgarten

We’ve only moved around one bend in the Mosel (see map), but now we’re in one of the famous terroirs of the Mosel, the “spice garden of Urzig,” the height of glorious insanity. This picture from the Dr. Loosen website gives a sense of the vertiginous nature of the site, as well as its enormous iron content, turning the slate soil red. Here’s one more picture for good measure. I’m not sure I could even walk that vineyard, let alone pick it.

It’s a notoriously long-lived vineyard, and Ausleses generally age longer than Spatleses, so we’re earlier in this wine’s evolution. The quality here is breathtaking for the price. I will almost certainly squirrel away a case of this to experience over the next 30 years. Aromatics of honey, earth, sweet spice, and light smoke give way to a luscious, caramel- and honey-drenched palate. I got pineapple, and mango, and lovely blood-orange acidity. The acid-sugar balance is divine. The overall balance is impeccable. It’s an intense drinking experience, and a gateway drug into the wonderful world of old German Riesling.

Please limit order requests to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you see fit), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in two or three weeks, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

1997 C.H. Berres Riesling Auslese Urziger Wurzgarten

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