Despite declaring on the header of this site that Pop & Pour is an “Independent Calgary Wine Blog”, I’ve been guilty of not really focusing many of my posts on the wine scene in Calgary. I want this blog to be of general interest and not overly localized, but at the same time one of my initial goals in starting up PnP was to draw attention to hometown events and shops and help fellow Calgarians make the most of the wine-related opportunities offered in the city. Today gave me a perfect opportunity to advance this latter goal: this afternoon, Bin 905 (located on 4th St. and 23rd Ave SW) held a German Riesling Extravaganza (their title, not mine, although I fully endorse it), where anyone could drop in and sample 5 different German Rieslings from top producers, ranging fully dry to fully sweet, valued at $30 to $50 a bottle, at no charge. Sorry, did you say free German Riesling tasting? I’m there! And so I was.
I would be willing to bet that Bin 905 has the most spectacular selection of German Rieslings in the country, let alone the city. Someone in ownership obviously has a big affinity for the region, because the Germany section in the store is half a dozen times bigger than those I see at other places in town, and it’s jam-packed with the best names, many of which made an appearance at the aforementioned Extravaganza. I showed up at noon with my friend Tyler (whose recent engagement spawned a Germanic Beerenauslese-based celebration captured here), who was the one who found out about the tasting in the first place and who deserves co-authorship credit for the notes on each of the wines set out below. We were the first ones there, but it’s never a fault to be overeager about gratuitous Riesling. The tasting featured two Trocken (fully dry, i.e. no residual sugar in the wine) Rieslings, followed by one example of each of the first three ripeness classification levels in top quality German wine: Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese. Click here for a quick run-down on what these terms mean. If you already know, or don’t care, feel free to dive right into what we thought of each of the wines poured, in the order they were served to us:
- 2009 Robert Weil Riesling Trocken (Rheingau, $30): Rheingau is a German wine region just west of Frankfurt whose Rieslings tend to be slightly richer and fuller than those produced in Germany’s most famous wine region, the Mosel. This one, however, was surprisingly light and delicate, with a somewhat quiet nose of grapefruit and rubber and a tart, mineral flavour profile predominated by citrus notes. The “Trocken” on the label spoke true, as this wine was exceedingly dry, with piercing acidity and a long clean finish. It would be a versatile match with food, but it wasn’t overly complex, which is something to be expected from a producer’s entry level wine. Organic and biodynamically farmed. On the whole, pretty solid. 86-88 points
- 2007 Muller-Catoir Riesling Trocken (Pfalz, $29): Another entry level fully-dry Riesling from another top German producer — you may remember Muller-Catoir from this Riesling that I went nuts over back in March. Pfalz is a region located due south of Rheingau, just north of Alsace, France. Both the MC Trocken and the Robert Weil Trocken were at 12% alcohol, much higher than the standard German Riesling because all of the sugar in the grapes of each wine was converted to alcohol to make the resulting wines dry. On the nose I thought I would like the Muller-Catoir way better than the Weil: it was much more aromatically intense, with riper, more tropical fruit and just more stuff than the previous wine. But that richness didn’t translate over to a light, almost austere palate where the fruit didn’t stand out compared to stronger flavours of mineral/bath salts and a green, vegetal, almost celery-esque note on the finish. To me, even though I’m a huge fan of the producer, this was a wine that made a promise on the nose that it didn’t fully deliver, which ended up putting it in the same scoring range as its Trocken competitor. 86-88 points
- 2007 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett (Mosel, $49): What more can I say about this wine after the War & Peace-length mondo-review I published in June? I absolutely adore this bottle, and was amazed to find that somebody in town had the 2007 Prum Wehlener Sonnenhurs still in stock a couple years after that vintage was released. I’ll try to confine my comments here to what I noticed today, which was that this JJ Prum absolutely pounded the first two wines into submission. This was the tasting’s first step away from ultra-dry Trocken wine, and the layer of residual sugar stood out in contrast to the lip-smacking tartness of the prior two Rieslings, but the impeccable balance of this wine kept this additional sweetness well under control. The smell coming off of the Prum this afternoon was, well, smelly: gym socks, sulphur, fire and brimstone, burnt tires, and similar funkiness made a strong olfactory appearance. But that settled down with some air and gave way to delicate-yet-intense, long-lasting flavours of stewed peach, apricot, cinnamon, rubber and wet rocks — quintessential German Riesling. I honestly can’t believe somebody opened this in a free tasting. Take a bow, Bin 905. Still one of my favourite whites ever. 93-94 points
- 1996 Schloss Schonbom Hochheimer Daubhaus Riesling Spatlese (Rheingau, $41): Ahh, the curveball. Once we got up to the Spatlese ripeness level, the folks at Bin went a little mad scientist on us, pulling out this 15 year-old Riesling from a slightly lesser-known producer and in a bizarre 1L bottle (the standard bottle size is 750 mL…this looked like the standard-sized bottle had gotten a little hefty over summer holidays). Everything else we tasted was quite young, so it was great to get a chance to see all of the complexities this grape develops after a few years to spread its wings. Like the Robert Weil Trocken that we tasted first, the Schloss Schonbom was from the Rheingau region, but the Schonbom was only 9% alcohol while the Weil was 12% due to the residual sugar left in the wine. I haven’t said anything about the colour of the other wines (young German Riesling is pretty universally a clear pale straw colour, maybe with a greenish tinge), but this one was this amazing deep gold that really stood out. It was sweet (cotton candy) and tropical (pineapple/mango) on the nose, but the sweetness was toned down on the palate, with green apple the main fruit note and the classic petrol/gasoline flavour that Riesling gains as it ages coming through in the background. As strange as this sounds in describing a white wine, the Schonbom was almost earthy on the finish. Super interesting bottle of wine — and getting 1 1/3 standard bottles of 15 year-old quality German Spatlese Riesling for $40 is a deal and a half. 91-92 points
- 2009 Wittmann Westhofen Marstein Riesling Auslese (Rheinhessen, $49): Now we’re into the really sweet stuff. The Wittmann that wrapped up the tasting lineup was another odd bottle size (500 mL), and at only 7.5% alcohol, it was carrying a ton of leftover sugar. While not strictly a dessert wine, this Auslese would probably be too sweet to pair easily with a lot of main courses (though it would go great with really spicy curry, as the sugar and the spiciness would offset each other somewhat). It smelled fantastic: Del Monte canned pears, stone fruit and pineapple, though both the nose and the colour weren’t as deep as I expected from this ripeness level. Those same flavours came through on the palate in waves of sweetness, which for me weren’t quite balanced off sufficiently by the acidity in the wine — I would have liked it to have a bit more of an acid backbone to put it in better balance. To its credit, though, the Wittmann wasn’t at all thick or syrupy, staying almost weightless despite the huge sweet flavours it contained. It was absolutely delicious, but it left me thinking that it could have been a fair bit better. 88-89 points