The Famous Dr. Loosen
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a private wine and food pairing. The tasting was in honour of Ernst Loosen and his collections of Rieslings from his Dr. Loosen winery. This winery has been in Ernst’s family for more than 200 years with some of his ungrafted vines averaging 60 years. When Ernst took over in 1988, he changed the vineyard practices by reducing the crop size, and returning to organic fertilizers. He believes in sustainability by recycling, energy efficiency and water consumption. We were about to be taken on a lesson in the subtle differences soil structure influences the grape. Expecting to taste maybe 5 or 6 Rieslings, I was curious to see what the chef could do to pair a complete meal with one varietal. We ended up tasting 12 rieslings that night.
A note from Ernst regarding the elements of quality.
Steep slopes and cool climate: Dr. Loosen is situated on the Mosel river where the vineyard is on the south slopes that are very steep. The reflection of the sun off the river influences the vines from getting too cold at night. The grapes ripen slowly developing full flavour and keeping the bright acidity.
Mineral rich stony soil: The stones in the soil retain the heat from the day creating a very warm microclimate promoting excellent ripeness. The thin topsoil forces the roots to go deep bringing out the minerality in the wines.
Old ungrafted vines: Because the Phylloxera louse can’t survive in the soil in this area, it is one of the only regions in Germany where ungrafted vines are still allowed. Although the average age of the ungrafted vines is 60-70 years, some are 120 years old. The yeild on these wines diminishes but the production produces a more concentrated and expressive wine.
The evening started with sparkling wine from Ernst’s own private collection, 1990 Graacher Himmelreich Sekt. He produces only 1000 bottles per year of this bubbly.
Because most of us know riesling as a bright fresh wine, the chef and sommelier chose to start with a slightly Asian dish thathad panko and coconut coated shrimp on an bed of Mango salsa. We started with 2 different 2010 rieslings.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Alte Reben GG and Erdener Treppchen Alte Reben GG. The first is grown in blue slate where citrus and white stone fruit predominate. The second is grown in red Devonian slate which produces a more mineral qualityto this slightly sweet wine.
Second dish was Kamchatka crab with tarragon and scallions topped with thyme. After presentation it was flooded in a puddle of gazpacho . Again we had two young rieslings to compare. 2010 Uerziger Wuerzgarten Alte Reben GG and 2010 Erdener Praelat Alte Reben GG.
The first grown in red volcanic soil produced spicy notes and exotic fruit. The second is grown in red slate has notes of sweet apple and ripe pear.
The third dish, Cepes lobster thermidor was paired with 2010 Uerzinger Wuerzgarten Kabinett and 1991 Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett. Visually and taste, two very different wines. I had never had a riesling more than 5 years old so this was an education. Both are grown in the blue slate soil. The Uerzinger for me was on the sweeter side with high acidity almost on the verge of bubbles. I am sure with age is will change into something I would enjoy drinking. The 1991 on the first nose had a gasoline hint but on tasting, it was dry with over ripe pears and apples. This wine definitely grew on me with each sip.
The main course of roasted duck with orange and onion tartbrought a pairing of 2010 and 1983 The older the riesling the dryer and more complex. This 1983 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spaetlese had again the first nose of gasoline then honey ripe pears. Interesting that the taste did not linger. The 2010 Erdener Treppchen Spaetlese had notes of honey and clover. A great pairing for the duck.
Prior to the dessert we were presented with a cheese course of Cambozola and slow braised balsamic prunes and thyme compote that if the cheese was a softer creamier Gorgonzola would have better complimented both the2009 Uerziger Wuergarten Auslese and 1976 Erdener Treppchen Auslese. The 76 had earthy undertones with a hint of mushroom and ripe fruit, very complex aromas, my absolute favourite of the evening. The 09 hadspicy notes with fruit but no where near the complexity of the 76.
The dessert was a fruit tart with a beautiful lavender ice cream ( my favourite thing of the night. The pairing for this dish was 2008 Bernkasteler Lay Eiswein and 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Trockenbeerenauslese. The Trockenbeerenauslese which is the pinnacle of dessert wines because the fruit is allowed to completely shrivel on the vine. The conditions for the Botrytis are totally dependent on the weather so that makes these wines expensive because the yield is small. The Eiswein is harvested at a minimum -8 C and processed in the frozen state. The water stays in the frozen state making this type of wine rounder and more honeyed then the botrytis wines. Both were delicious.
This evening gave me a new perspective on rieslings..
The Famous Dr. Loosen
Tuesday, April 3, 2012