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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Mosel Tasting with Weingut Scholtes at Cambridge Food and Wine Society

It was an evening of firsts for me - I have had quite a bit of Mosel wine before, firstly on a driving and wine-buying holiday (reviewed here) and more recently a tasting at the London Fine Wine Fair (reviewed here). However, I had never previously tried sparkling Riesling or German Cab, or had a German Pinot Noir that I really liked.

The Cambridge Food and Wine Society is on something of a run of having producers come and present their wines, as GianPaolo Paglia presented his wines from Poggio Argentiera earlier this year (reviewed here).

Hans-Peter Scholtes of Weingut Scholtes comes from a wine-making family going back 300 years and runs a genuinely family business making a range of wines from 6ha of vineyards in Minheim in the Mosel.

A view of the Mosel
The Mosel valley is a bucolic stretch of meandering river with steep terraces on either side; the river winds so much that it takes 40km to cover a straight-line distance of just 25km - how very un-Germanic.

In fact the Mosel does not fit neatly into any German stereotypes; quietly rural, with rolling hills, it is neither urban and industrial nor mountainous and forested with no beer halls or oompah bands.

The first wine Hans-Peter presented was a Champagne-method sparkling Riesling, something I have never tried before; it was crisp, refreshing and delicate, with fine bubbles and honeyed notes, very different from a yeasty, biscuity Champagne. Hans-Peter explained that whilst the secondary fermentation in bottle is Champagne method, he does not blend across years to achieve a house style (as is done in Champagne) but allows each year's vintage to express itself. With an (again un-Germanic) sense of irony, he suggested that a blending approach results in predictable and boring wines.

From this point, we tried the wines in pairs: the first pairing was two dry Rieslings, a from 2009, the first light and everyday, the second a spaetlese (literally, late-harvested) from old vines which was riper and fuller.

German red wines to me have historically been little more than a curious novelty - often the most notable thing about them is that they are produced at all. However, a pair of reds, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon) were notable in their own right.

Light, yet complex, balanced and rounded, the 2010 Pinot was unfiltered and had aromas of cherries, vanilla and classic Pinot farmyard.

Cabernet is frequently tough, tannic and unapproachable in its youth - especially if it is good - but this 2007 was soft and well-balanced. Hans-Peter explained that he had grown the grapes as an experiment and, on first tasting the resulting wine, was disappointed with the results. He then put the wine into barrels of various oaks (US, French and Hungarian) and eventually decided that one year in new US oak followed by a year in new French oak was the best combination.

The next pairing was two off-dry whites - a Johanniter which was refreshing and clean and a Riesling spaetlese from old vines which was again fuller and fleshier.

Wine fashions seem to move in opposite and equal cycles and the current trend for unoaked and crisp, dry whites seems to have resulted in a preference for oaked and off-dry reds, so it's hard to know what the zeitgeist will make of these two off-dry white - as with all of Hans-Peter's wines, they were well-made, well-balanced and a delight to drink, if more suited to the garden than the dining room.

The last three wines were all stickies; first a delicious-but-light sweet spaetlese from 2007, followed by a pair of aged sweet auslese wines from 2003 and 1990 respectively.

The younger of these had a distinctly pungent nose of botrytis whilst the second had the classic aged Riesling nose of kerosene. Like many of us approaching our middle age, whilst its essential character was unchanged, the dramatic urgency of its youth had mellowed into something more rounded.

Hans-Peter explained that all his wines have a story to tell and the 1990 was the last vintage he made with his father.

Finally, Hans-Peter presented a grappa made from Riesling; pink in colour from aging in ex-Cab barrels, it was powerful and fiery.

Somebody apparently once said after seeing a picture of England football captain David Beckham modelling designer clothes, "That guy is talented, I hear he plays soccer, too !"

Hans-Peter is equally talented - after hearing him give an informative, entertaining and witty talk in a foreign language, I was impressed to think he also makes great wines too.

The food for the event was Germanic - if not actually German - and came from Kipferl, London's only Austrian delicatessen (more details here).


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