As a professional critic, you drink a lot of good wines over the year. Especially if you write for “Fine” and run a blog “sur la pointe”. Evaluating a wine during a tasting is one thing, of course. “Understanding a wine,” publisher and sommelier legend Ralf Frenzel taught me, “can only be done after you’ve finished the bottle.” That’s why I only include wines in my Top 5 list that I haven’t drunk at a tasting. But in a private setting and “in sufficient quantity”.
Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane Brut (deg. 2020/07/15)
Among Rosé Champagnes, this cuvée is certainly one of the most unusual. In fact, the Pierre Péters estate produced only Blancs de Bancs until 2008. No wonder, since the family comes from Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, a landmark of Chardonnay production in Champagne. In 2009, however, Rodolphe Péters launched a cuvée named after his daughter. This was unusual in its assemblage and production method. The blend consists of 60 percent Chardonnay from the Les Musettes single vineyard (here: 2016 vintage) and a small proportion of reserve wines. As well as 40 percent of a “saignée” of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, which both macerate and ferment together. The Pinot Meunier comes from the befriended house Geoffroy in Cumières.
Péter’s intuition was that this should result in notes of grapefruit instead of the usual aroma of red berries. This was a bull’s eye. And probably one reason why Brad Pitt and the Perrin family teamed up with Rodolphe Péters in their search for a partner for the Fleur de Miraval Rosé Champagne project. Unfortunately, the subsequent enormous popularity ensured that the Rosé for Albane became almost untraceable. My bottle – sensual, refined, elegant – was the last from a special bottling for the great merchant Salvatori in Épernay. Now I have heard from “well-informed circles” that production of the Rosé for Albane is to be discontinued because of the Fleur de Miraval. This would make my article something like an obituary – and that would be a pity. 94 points
Henri Boillot Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet 2015
Actually, I should not write this. But I love great Chardonnays even more than great Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. This confession is probably still a minority opinion among critics. But it is becoming more and more common among enthusiasts and collectors. As a result, the prices of great white Grand Crus have risen almost more dramatically than those of their red counterparts. Above all, the prices of wines from the five vineyards on the border between Chassagne and Puligny-Montrachet below Mont Raphael can quickly reach four figures. Accordingly, their availability in Germany is close to zero. From my cellar they have long disappeared.
The fact that this fantastic Bienvenues is nevertheless on this list is thanks to the generosity of a Château owner from the Bordelais, who had the wine served at a joint lunch. In fact, Henri Boillot bottles only one barrel (!) of this wine. Since the Maison does not own the vines in this Grand Cru, it trades as Négociant in this case. In the unofficial classification of Grand Crus, Bienvenues (which is very expensive because of its small quantity) ranks above Criots along with Batard, but below Chevalier and Le Montrachet. However. Anyway, the wine demonstrates the superior class of the terroir especially in a year as difficult for white wines due to the hot weather as 2015.
In all my tastings of white Burgundies, the 2014s had been ahead of the somewhat broad and ponderous 2015s because of their high inner tension and animating acid backbone. In this wine, however, pure delicacy reigns: perfectly integrated wood, great aromatic density, style-conscious elegance. Whoever talks about great dry white wines must have drunk wines of this class. Otherwise, it remains just talk. 97 points
Domaine de L’Eglise Pomerol 1955
For the love of old Bordeaux, you need a fair amount of frustration tolerance: not only because of the increasingly difficult availability and skyrocketing prices, but especially because of the unspeakable number of fakes on the market. Against which, unfortunately, it must be said at this point, the auction houses in this country do almost nothing! This bottle, drunk at a good friend and collector, on the other hand, belonged to the star moments: with perfect maturity, the most beautiful balance of mellow tannins, subtle age sweetness, complex tertiary aromas and a last inkling of primary fruit.
Today the winery, probably the oldest in Pomerol, is called Château du Domaine de L՚Eglise. Since 1973 it has belonged to the Castéja family, renowned négociants from Bordeaux. The wines from here are all of reliable, sometimes very good quality. The 1955, however, was not only good, it was great! What is its secret? First of all, you need to know that in the history of Pomerol there is a year that divides the calendar into before and after. This year is 1956, when the great frost destroyed almost 90 percent of the vineyards and, as a result, almost all the vineyards were planted with strong-growing Merlot clones with government support. Domaine de L’Eglise traditionally grew one-third Merlot, one-third Cabernet Franc and one-third Cabernet Sauvignon, and today 95 percent Merlot.
The location of the vineyard is extraordinary: “Cocks & Feret” from 1969 states: “The vineyard (of the estate) is located in the shadow of the church tower of Pomerol and could not be better situated. Its wines are … much sought after in France and abroad.” Bernard Ginestet included the estate among the ten best crus of Pomerol in his excellent 1984 Pomerol book. In Feret’s Pomerol classifications (1929), which he reproduced, the estate ranks among the “1ers Crus” on a par with Lafleur and Conseillante, and in the 1941 courtier classification it is on a par with La Fleur Pétrus and above Clinet. The 1955, from a great vintage in Pomerol, was probably the swan song of this estate. 96 points
Domäne Bensheim Heppenheimer Centgericht Riesling Eiswein 1992
A rarity, and not only because the production of ice wines is becoming increasingly difficult due to the climate crisis. Here, of course, the reason lies above all in the complicated history of the Bensheim domain. Founded in 1904 as the Grand Ducal Hessian Viticultural Domain in Bensheim on the Bergstrasse, it became part of the Hessian State Wine Estates together with Eberbach Monastery in 1946. After restructuring, today the grapes are still harvested on the Bergstrasse, but vinified at Domäne Steinberg in the Rheingau. The tradition of ice wine production, which began in 1972, ended with the last vintage in 2012. The 1992 ice wine dates back to the “glorious” Bensheim days under administrator Heinrich Hillenbrand, whose grandfather was the domain’s first administrator. The bottle shows well aged and impresses with monumental widescreen: dried figs, dried herbs and lavender honey on the nose, with creamy opulence and great length. The acidity is quite soft for an ice wine, but buffers the tremendous sweetness well. 97 points
Argyros Estate Vin Santo Late Release 2001
At the beginning of November, some winemakers from the Greek Cycladic island of Santorini were guests in Berlin and presented their wines. From the impressive assortment of dry Assyrtiko wines, the Monsignori cuvee from the Argyros estate stood out, which came from over a hundred-year-old vines from the vineyard of the island’s small Catholic church (here’s my note on Instagram). But the Vinsanto Late Release, which comes from Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri ungrafted vineyards in Episkopi that are even over 200 years old, really blew me away. Harvested with minimal yields just over a month after the main harvest, it is followed by two weeks of drying in the sun as well as fermentation in concrete and 16 years (!) of aging in old wooden barrels of varying sizes.
Thanks to the generosity of the winery, I was able to re-taste the wine at home: indeed a monument, with an enormous sugar content of 285 grams, but also powerful acidity. A wine that you can almost chew because of its texture. And yet so incredibly complex and layered, with notes of dried figs and apricots, chocolate and molasses. Very intense, and enormously long finish that can make you meditate … Because word has spread about the quality of this elixir and colleagues, not least in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, have awarded very high points, the wine is admittedly no longer a bargain. 98 points
© Fotos: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images