ProWein 2023 in Düsseldorf was a strong statement from the leading international wine fair. Unfortunately, Wine Paris had also delivered a pretty strong performance a month earlier, and this one increasingly sees itself as a competing event. This has consequences especially for the French exhibitors. Their number has once again dropped significantly even compared to the previous year. Fortunately, the strong performance of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) remained unaffected. Otherwise, apart from Germany, it was mainly the USA and also Italy (not least through importers such as Schlumberger) that presented names of the very first category. Here is a personal selection:
1. Domaine Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 1er Cru 2020
There are only a few great Burgundies left to taste at ProWein. In contrast to the traditional houses Drouhin, Albert Bichot and Louis Latour (with very successful Corton Charlemagnes from 2020 and 2021), which are still flying the flag, Maison Vincent Girardin, founded in 1980, is a newcomer. But it has built a great reputation for itself with wines from its own and leased sites, as well as from purchased grapes. Les Combettes comes from a Premier Cru site in Puligy-Montrachet on the border with Meursault. Remington Norman writes that the thin soil from here produces lighter and more floral wines than those oriented toward Chassagne. In any case, the 2020 vintage shows well developed, lively and precise. In its slightly reductive, very precise way, the wine is clearly different from the rather woody Girardin style of earlier years (95 points). The Blagny (actually: Pièce sous le Bois) from the hamlet of the same name, which belongs to Meursault, is also very good.
2. Cantina Terlan Grande Cuvée Terlano Primo 2020
I had the biggest wow effect during ProWein at the Cantina Terlan, where sales manager Klaus Gasser presented the production peaks to me with great commitment. I know Alto Adige well as a wine-growing region – and I already knew the Sauvignon Quartz from a number of vintages (this time sheer bursting with aroma 2021). But what I got to taste here changed more than just my view of Pinot Blanc. Both Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg from 2020 and the sensational Pinot Bianco Rarity from 2010 (which would be worth a story of its own) were complex and downright bright with freshness. Perhaps the Pinot Bianco gains a touch of greatness in the blend with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, first as a very drinkable Terlaner Cuvée, then as a rich Riserva Nova Domus from the magnum and finally as Terlaner Grand Cuvée Primo 2020. Despite or better because of its 70 percent Pinot Bianco, for me perhaps the best Italian white wine ever: 97 points.
3. Château Doisy Daëne Barsac 2020
I love noble sweet Riesling – and this love is always repaid. I also love great Sauternes – but that, unfortunately, meets with less counter-love. Only a few Grands Crus from Bommes, Barsac or Sauternes please me as much as a great Auslese or Beerenauslese from the Mosel or Rheingau after decades of aging. But because I keep going to Sauternes for FINE – Das Weinmagazin, I always fall in love anew – and the tasting of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux gives a fine overview of some of the best bottlings every year.
At Doisy Daëne in 2020, at any rate, there was enough noble rot at the very end of the harvest to produce a Grand Vin worthy of the appellation. The château is owned by the Dubourdieu family and until 2016 was run by Denis Dubourdieu, who revolutionized white wine production in Bordeaux. Today, his sons Jean-Jacques and Fabrice run the estate, and the 2020 vintage would make their father proud: with good acidity, concentration and enough pressure, yet aromatically not extravagant and exuberant, but precise and with inner glow. 96 points
4. Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020
With its extravagant architecture, Château Smith Haut Lafitte stands for the success story of the wines of Pessac-Léognan in recent years like hardly any other winery. For the 2020 vintage, the Château even came on the black special label on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the takeover by the Cathiard family. Thereby, the Cru Classé, founded in 1365, belongs to the oldest wine estates of the Bordelais. After the purchase by Daniel and Florence Cathiard, they switched to organic, partly biodynamic viticulture and introduced state-of-the-art methods in the vineyard and cellar, such as grape ripeness measurements by drones or sorting tables with color cameras.
The great year of 2020 was a test of “bioprecision,” as the winery calls its method between organic and high-tech, and it passed with flying colors. Sixty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon, plus 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot make for a highly concentrated, almost exotic wine in which the coffee notes currently almost completely mask the fruit: 98 points. Almost on the same level, but perhaps a bit more classic were Château Canon and Pichon Baron 2020.
5. Morlet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
The Napa Valley Vintners had brought mostly the wines of the 2019 vintage – and it was already a remarkable presentation that was shown there in Hall 14. Probably the highest bottle price per square meter ratio in the entire fair. Inglenook, Arkenstone, Viader, Corison, Chappellet, Shafer, Silver Oak, The Debate, Gallica, Alejandro Bulgheroni … and almost all of them had brought their top wines. Not to forget other classics in the California presentation like Ridge. Whoever’s palate is calibrated to balance, structure and freshness will have increasing problems with the vintages that are increasingly marked by climate change. 2019 was for me in many cases, despite beautiful fruit and ultra-fine polished tannins, too much.
I was all the happier about the stragglers, who still had the 2018 vintage, which was clearly more structured in Napa, in their luggage. French-born Luc Morlet, who grew up in a winemaking family in the heart of Champagne, presented his Estate wine of 2018 from St. Helena alongside the remarkable Oakville cuvée Cœur de Vallée from 2020: complex, powerful, perfectly vinified. The fact that such a world-class wine, of which there are only a little more than 4,500 bottles and which received 99 points in Wine Adcocate, has found its way to Düsseldorf is a good sign for the fair. 98 points.
© Feature Bild: Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann
© aller übrigen Fotos: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images