Calgary Wine Life: Weingut Thörle Tasting @ Vine Arts

2 06 2017
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Christoph Thörle

It’s been a bit of a banner wine week, seven days tailored to the precise preferences of my palate.  My personal favourite types of red and white wine are Washington Syrah and German Riesling respectively, and late May has seen visionary producers specializing in each of these areas visit our fair city.  My Washington wine prayers were answered last week when Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars put on a remarkable Master Class in Calgary; this week it was Germany’s turn, thanks to an eye-opening portfolio tasting put on by the dynamic Christoph Thörle of the eponymous Weingut Thörle, from the global home of Riesling’s Rheinhessen region.  Through four different earth-shattering Rieslings and seven total wines, Thörle took us through what must be some of the world’s best expressions of my first vinous love.

If you say the word “Rheinhessen” to a wine person, the tenor of their reaction might be a generational one.  The region, located in west-central Germany, due south of Rheingau and southwest of Frankfurt, is the largest in the country in terms of planted acres and is tailor-made for grape-growing:  it’s dry, sunny and relatively warm, with limestone-based soils overlaid by a variety of alluvial deposits, as long ago it was largely part of an underwater seabed.  Rheinhessen once had a reputation to match its physical advantages, and was long considered one of the pinnacle areas of German viniculture.  But a mid-20th-century flirtation with new lab-crossing grape varieties and mass-market, quantity-focused bottlings turned into a 1970s and 80s Liebfraumilch obsession that saw lesser varietals dominate much of the vineyard area and Blue Nun and Black Tower nearly obliterate the world’s prior impressions of German wine.  If you stopped paying attention to Rheinhessen then (as many did), you will have missed out on what’s going there now:  a quiet quality renaissance, and a return to the right grapes properly planted and tended on the right sites, perhaps not better personified than by Christoph Thörle and his brother Johannes.

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They took over the operation of the Thörle family winery in 2006, when Christoph was just 22 and Johannes 24.  Together they have overseen an expansion of the estate’s vineyard holdings and a corresponding increase in annual production, paired with a return to simple, hands-off viticulture and winemaking practices:  no pesticides or herbicides in the vineyards, multiple-pass harvests, all natural yeasts and no additives in the cellar, minimal sulphur at bottling.  Weingut Thörle now has 80 acres of vine holdings, remarkably spread over 100+ different vineyard parcels but largely centered around the town of Saulheim in north-central Rheinhessen.  The area features a wide array of different slopes, soils and sun exposures, allowing for the production of multiple different varietals, and Saulheim itself is surrounded by Thörle’s three crown-jewel vineyards:  Probstey, Schlossberg and Hölle.

Thörle has been generating increasing acclaim for both its white (Riesling, Silvaner, Chardonnay and more) and red (Pinot Noir, known Germanically as Spätburgunder) wines and made its glorious entrance into the Alberta market last year.  Now some new offerings are on their way to the province, and we were fortunate enough to have Christoph talk us through most of them, including a few bottles that might change your perspective on, well, everything. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine Review: 2008 Ratzenberger Bacharacher Riesling Sekt Brut

13 12 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Redefining the world of German bubbly.

Redefining the world of German bubbly.

What’s this?  A wine review?  Isn’t this a whisky blog now?  OK, I probably deserved that.  But Advent only comes around once per year, and since no one yet has taken up the torch of my idea to find 24 good half-bottles and make a Wine Advent Calendar, this is what you get instead.  For those wine lovers out there just dying for the calendar to turn to January, this one’s to tide you over.

This bottle is another selection from Cellar Direct (cellardirect.ca), the online Canadian Natural Wine Club that allows people from all over the country to have high-quality, artisanal, naturally made wines shipped to their door via an array of tailored subscription packages ranging from $40 to $80 per month depending on your location and the package selected.  Since I last wrote about the service back in September, it has revamped its website, introduced an offer of two free bonus bottles for every 24-bottle annual subscription, and added an online shop (which will be operational in January) where Cellar Direct members can order more of their favourite bottles over and above their subscription.  It has also gotten rave reviews in BC, where price increases and regulatory chaos have otherwise made reasonably priced access to many good wines a pipe dream.

The one thing I can so far say for sure about Cellar Direct is that its selections are not fooling around; each of the three bottles I’ve now had the chance to try from their library have been of exceptional quality and proud ambassadors of where they’re from.  These are wines from somewhere as opposed to wines that could be from anywhere, and this gets all the more impressive given that this latest wine is a bottle of Sekt.  Nobody usually makes quality and terroir proclamations about Sekt (German sparkling wine), and for good reason:  most Sekt doesn’t deserve it.  In fact, it’s hard to say anything specific about Sekt as a category because it might be the least regulated category of Old World wine I’ve come across.  German wine law doesn’t mandate that Sekt be made of any particular types of grapes; it doesn’t even require those grapes to be from Germany; and it doesn’t require the wine to attain its bubbles any particular way.  Sekt is required to be at least 10% abv, but after that, all bets are off. Read the rest of this entry »





Happy Anniversary, PnP

12 03 2012

I'm reasonably sure that both birthday and anniversary pics are applicable.

I guess it’s sort of trite to wish yourself a happy anniversary, and borderline creepy to do so to a non-sentient website that you’ve created, but here we are.  This past Friday, March 9th, was exactly one year from the date of my very first post on Pop & Pour.  The brevity of that piece (something that got lost along the way) didn’t conceal my evident ignorance about what I was getting myself into and my indecision about what I wanted this site to be.  152 posts, 730 tags and 181 comments later, it’s turned into more than I ever could have hoped.  By big-game Internet standards it’s still a tiny operation, a blip on the search engine radar, but I initially didn’t know if I’d keep up my posting beyond the first couple of weeks, and I especially didn’t know if what I put out there would be picked up by anybody.  Twelve months later, I’m psyched that there are people who actually read this blog (I was at a very good friend’s wedding this past weekend, and when I was introduced to the groom’s mom, the first thing she said to me was that she was a regular PnP reader!  Thanks Chris!) and humbled by the opportunities that have come my way because of it (my monthly calgaryisawesome.com column, as well as a sweet new gig that will be announced shortly).  Here are a few insider Pop & Pour stats, accurate as of today thanks to the crack team at the WordPress Analytics Department, detailing some of the numbers behind PnP’s first year: Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2005 Wegeler Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Spatlese Trocken

26 04 2011

Everyone needs a little Riesling in their life.

What better way to inaugurate popandpour.ca than with my favourite kind of wine?  This German Riesling was previously featured in this post from the PnP archives about how to decipher German wine labels; if you’ve read it, you now know that this Riesling from producer Weingut (“wine estate”) Wegeler is from the Hasensprung (“hare’s leap”) vineyard near the town of Winkel in the Rheingau wine region of south-central Germany.  It’s been classified with the Spätlese (“late harvest”) ripeness designation, meaning the grapes were picked at a slightly riper level than the baseline Kabinett level for top-quality German wines, but it’s also a Trocken (dry) wine, which means that there will be very little if any residual sugar left in it.  The word “Trocken” is a key hint on this bottle, because most Spätlese wines are at least somewhat sweet, but those stated to be Trocken definitely won’t be.  So before you deride all German Rieslings for being too sweet for your palate, take a closer look at the label! Read the rest of this entry »





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. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 1989 Schloss Reinhartshausen Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Beerenauslese

19 03 2011

Today was as good as it gets in terms of wine-drinking occasions:  we had two great friends over to our place to celebrate their recent engagement.  They are both amazing people and are perfect together, so this was definitely cause for opening something special.  Most people might think to toast news like this over Champagne — me, not so much.  We went with German Beerenauslese dessert wine instead, and once we tried it, there was no doubt that we came out ahead. Read the rest of this entry »





Tips & Tricks: How to Decipher a German Wine Label

18 03 2011

In preparation for a special celebratory edition of PnP tomorrow, I thought that tonight I would run over the finer points of wrestling with German wine labels.  German wine is often a struggle for people, either because they often think that every German white on the shelves will be sickly sweet (totally untrue) or because they don’t feel like wending their way through 16-letter words with two vowels on the label (go figure).  I’m actually a huge fan of German wine labels because they provide what so few other Old World labels do:  information.  Once you learn how to decode them, you can tell a lot about your Teutonic wine before you even open it. Read the rest of this entry »








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