Three Library Rieslings from C.H. Berres

Hello friends. One of our most popular international offerings to date was our initial exploration of the library at C.H. Berres. We sold through our entire allocation on original offering and have therefore had to send sold-out notices to the many list members who attempted reorders.

Good news today, then: further opportunities to plunder the fine cellars of Berres.

You can see our original Berres offering for the full details, but in sum: when Markus Berres (21st generation winemaker) took over for his father Alfred (20th), the estate decided to release some of their library stock accumulated during Alfred’s heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Also, 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.

1999 C.H. Berres Riesling Spatlese Wehlener Klosterberg
This comes from the same vineyard as the 1993 Spat in our original Berres offering: Wehlener Klosterberg, which means Klosterberg vineyard located in the village of Wehlen (here’s a map). It’s a site with stony soils, decomposing slate, and a high proportion of iron.Here we get plenty of the love-it-or-hate-it smoky petrol aromatics that characterize aged German Riesling, along with peach and tangerine. The palate, which drinks off-dry, contains pineapple, citrus peel, chalky minerals, and smoke. The acid is still quite vibrant here, the fruit still quite primary. It’s a wine at the tail end of its youthful phase: an interesting place to explore. 8% alcohol.1995 C.H. Berres Riesling Beerenauslese Urziger Wurzgarten
Now we’re moving well up the pradikat system, to wines with piercing sweetness and compelling botrytis notes.

We’re also into what is probably the finest vineyard Berres works with: Urziger Wurzgarten. We’ve only moved around one bend in the Mosel (see map), but now we’re in the famed “spice garden of Urzig.” These pictures (here and here) give a sense of the vertiginous nature of the site, as well as its enormous iron content, turning the slate soil red.

The site is known for long-lived wines, especially at the BA and TBA levels. I should also emphasize that this is a 750ml bottle, a bit rare for BAs, which are usually bottled in splits. The larger vessel should only increase the length of the aging curve.

This displays clear botrytis notes from first whiff – for me a mixture of porcini-powder-dusted honey and tobacco leaf – that wonderfully complement the dried peach and apricot fruit notes. The palate has plenty of bright, citrusy acid to balance all the sugar, and there is layer upon layer of fruit: red cherry, plum, peach, tangerine. That savory botrytis element continues to express itself as well, here as an almost nutty note on the finish. Complex, balanced, and still a baby despite being 17 years past vintage.

2005 C.H. Berres Riesling TBA Urziger Wurzgarten (375ml)
We’ve talked previously about the holy trinity of botrytis-affected sweet wines and have already offered a Sauternes and a Tokaji. Today we complete the triangle with our first trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) offering.

These wines are incredibly labor-intensive, which explains both their high prices and overall scarcity. For example, total production of this wine was 10 cases. 10 cases! As you can imagine, our allocation is miniscule (I can’t believe any made it out of Germany).

Also from Urziger Wurzgarten, this comes in at just 6.5% alcohol (compared to 8.5% for the BA) and presents an intense, piercing nose of lemon pastille, pineapple, honey, and fungus. A total infant on the palate, still very primary with caramel-drenched pineapple upside down cake and dried pickled raisins. The texture is positively unctuous, and I was still tasting this a half hour after the last swallow. Its best drinking window is still probably 15-20 years in the future.

Berres didn’t submit wines for review in the ‘90s, which explains the dearth of reviews for the wines above, but this one was submitted:

Wine Spectator (Bruce Sanderson): “($145/375ml); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 97pts.”

The Spatlese and BA are first come first served up to 12 bottles total (mix and match as you like). For the TBA, please limit order requests to 2 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. These wines are in New Jersey and will take 2-3 weeks to arrive, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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