Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 9

9 12 2017

By Raymond Lamontagne

The series of odd coincidences continues during my debut blogging gig, as on day nine I draw a Riesling to complete the “favorite grape triumvirate”, and my second offering from Markus Huber. Perhaps Markus should put me on staff. An Austrian Riesling no less, a curveball tossed just as we were starting to think that we could accurately soothsay this superbly curated array of classic regions and styles. Stuart Pigott (see book in photo, a quaint but scholarly little tome) describes the Austrian persuasion as the most underrated Riesling in the world, stating that these are more crisp and fruity than Alsace, and more full-bodied, aromatic, and balanced than those of Germany. Lofty praise indeed. Although such sweeping generalizations are easy to puncture with counterexamples, particularly where Riesling is concerned, the claim is not entirely without merit. Austria’s warmer climate means that the grapes can reach greater physiological ripeness, a state more challenging to reach in colder northern regions. Less acidic, riper grapes mean that wines can be fermented completely dry, in contrast to many of the sweeter German examples. Or so goes the argument. Dry is far from rare in Germany these days.

IMG_0496Riesling constitutes 15% of Huber’s production. This one hails from the Berg site, an east facing vineyard with dry gravely and chalky soil stained red by iron and manganese oxides. The vineyard lies at high elevation, allowing a lengthy ripening process, and hot days and cool nights provide a Burgundian type climate, which according to Markus Huber yields “very fine aromas and spicy finesse”. Note that this is an Auslese, the German/Austrian category for a later harvest wine, with grapes picked when they are shrivelled and high in concentrated sugars. Although this means that most Auslese wines contain residual sugar, they can be fermented dry, with dryness representing a typological dimension separate from the Pradikatswein categories that capture ripeness. The Huber website makes mention of botrytis or noble rot being desirable for Auslese wines. I’ve heard and read different musings regarding the issue of botrytis and the Auslese designation. The final word seems to be that while many such wines are free of noble rot, a fair number do contain some botrytized grapes. Rest assured that any Auslese is going to be large and formidable, heedless of the presence or absence of noble rot character.


Besties hugging it out.

Here we go: 2015 Huber Riesling Auslese. I should note that I have a very low detection threshold for petrol or kerosene notes. I occasionally get these even in non-Riesling white wines, and research on other grape varieties supports the notion that I am not having olfactory hallucinations (in this case). Perhaps atypically for such a sensitive individual, I very much enjoy these diesel tractor aromas caused by 1, 1, 6-trimethyl-1, 2-dihydronaphthalene, or TDN (you can see why the acronym is an absolute must … Just a little vinification pun to keep ya on your toes). Low key to moderate TDN greets me right at the door, and then I am introduced to notes of honeysuckle and yellow asters, elderflower, furtive pink grapefruit and lemon-lime, chalk, Epsom salts, starfruit, a pinch of cinnamon and mace. The nose is mellow but rewards close scrutiny. Take your time here. The aromas are exquisitely fresh and the prominent yellow flower notes evoke a mountain meadow. The amateur botanist in me adores all these weedy wildflowers. A sip provides a sluice of tinned mandarins, fruit cup peaches and pears, dried papaya spears, candied grapefruit, Kraft caramels, a slight drizzling of honey. Not a dry Auslese (as supported by the 6.5% abv). I enjoy switching my focus between the floral nose and the focused sweetness on the palate. Fortunately there is enough acid to prevent this from being cloying. This golden deity features the somewhat clipped Huber professionalism also apparent in the Gruner from the number three spot: very precise, clean, elegant, even somewhat delicate for the style, and full of finesse. I love this winemaker and this region, but surely there isn’t a third hobgoblin of a bottle lurking in that crate, with me in the crosshairs.


92 points



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