Wine Review: 2009 Muller-Catoir Mussbach Riesling Kabinett

24 03 2011

German wine aristocracy.

After last night’s CNDP debacle, I wanted to make sure I bounced back strong tonight.  So I turned to my go-to varietal (Riesling) in my go-to wine country (Germany) to bring you the first ever non-dessert white wine featured in PnP, the 2009 Mussbach Kabinett Riesling from Muller-Catoir.  I bought this wine a few months ago from Bin 905 on 4th St and 23rd Ave SW, on which visit I discovered that they have the most ludicrously large German Riesling selection in Calgary, probably in Canada…it’s like Anglo-Saxon Mecca in there.  I don’t go to Bin a lot, but I foresee a few periodic Riesling pilgrimages in my future.

Muller-Catoir is a producer exclusive to Bin 905 in the city, and it is undisputably in the German wine elite, sometimes even considered to be THE best winemaker in all of Germany.  MC is rich in history as only a European producer can be:  the winery was built in the 18th century and has been owned and operated by the same family since 1744…9 generations!!  It is located in the Pfalz wine region, which is in southwest Germany, notably further south than the country’s most famous wine region, the Mosel valley.  As a result of this drop in latitude, Pfalz grapes tend to get more and warmer sun than Mosel grapes, so they ripen more and lead to (relatively) fuller-bodied wines with higher alcohol levels.  Even so, compared to most wines, German Rieslings are alcoholic babies:  your usual Cali Chardonnay is around 14.5% alcohol, while a Mosel Riesling generally comes in around 8.5% and this Pfalz Riesling is 9.5%.

If you’ve read this previous post about deciphering German wine labels, you will notice one major difference between this Riesling’s label and the labels discussed in that article:  no Two Word “Er” Rule indicating the wine’s vineyard and closest town.  This label shows the name of the producer (Muller Catoir), the grape (Riesling), the ripeness level (Kabinett) and the wine region (Haardt/Pfalz — Haardt is the village in Pfalz where MC is based), but instead of a double-word vineyard/town combo like “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”, there’s just a single word left over, “Mussbach”.  I’m guessing this is because the grapes for this wine aren’t from one single vineyard.  Mussbach is the name of the town in Pfalz closest to where the grapes were grown; if they came from a single vineyard the label would read “Mussbacher [vineyard name]”.  Ahh, German labels…even when they’re missing words, they tell you something.

Cork Rating: 8.5/10 (Best cork so far. Leave it to the Germans.)

I’ve wanted to try a Muller-Catoir since reading about them in one of the first wine books I ever bought, and this one didn’t disappoint.  It was a very pale straw colour, not surprising since it’s from 2009 — unlike red wine, white wine darkens as it ages.  The nose was sort of quiet for a Riesling, which tends to be a very aromatic grape; granny smith apple aromas mixed with grassy/vegetal undertones, a rubbery, pencil-erasery sort of scent and strong minerality.  Then I had a sip.  Fireworks!!  Waves of lime, pineapple and white peach erupted on the initial attack, leading into the classic German Riesling flavours of slate and wet rocks.  Unlike some more northerly German wines, though, this wasn’t lean or tight in any way:  it was lush, juicy and almost creamy without being full-bodied or heavy. The wine’s incredible, fierce, vibrant acidity was smoothed out by a remarkably soft, yielding texture and a small hit of offsetting sweetness.  It shouldn’t be possible to get all of the adjectives in the last two sentences into the same glass of wine, but Muller-Catoir did.  The Mussbach was electric on the palate while still being impeccably balanced:  precision with soul.  The finish lasted for well over a minute, but this wine was in my brain for a lot longer than that.

This is a stellar effort from a justifiably famous producer — and this was their entry-level Riesling.  If the gothic fonts and the weird-shaped bottles have scared you away from the German Riesling section up until now, I implore you to face your fears, head to your nearest wine shop and grab a bottle.  When they’re done right, they can affect you like no other wine in the world can.

92 points

$35 to $45 CDN

[Wine Jargon Notes:
attack = the initial taste impression of a wine on the palate, which leads into the midpalate and then the finish]



One response

25 03 2011
The Basics: Hot vs. Cold Weather Wine « pop & pour

[…] wines = higher alcohol; cold weather wines = lower alcohol.  The 9.5% alcohol German Riesling I reviewed last night is a perfect example of this rule:  it is inconceivable that a wine with that low of an alcohol […]


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