The last two days have seen wonderful visits to Weingut Kerpen by friends of mine: Chris Thomas, winemaker at Dowie Doole in McLaren Vale, and Jimi Lienert, with whom I worked in New Zealand at Terra Sancta. On both occasions, Martin Kerpen generously opened many bottles for us to taste, so I enjoyed the good fortune of sampling a range of Kerpen wines from the last three decades.
To single out one wine seems a little pointless, as the interest in such wide ranging tastings lies in understanding the diversity and flavour development within the style. However, I felt one wine above all others was dripping with beauty and quality — this 1995 Auslese ***.
There’s a big jump between Spätlese to Auslese, and within the latter quality level a wide range of permissible ripeness levels. This wine, a three star Auslese, is at the top of the ripeness scale, a fact abundantly evident in the richness and power of its flavours. It simply screams from the glass, not in the strident manner of a young, dry Riesling, but in the buxom style of a deeply fruited wine, layers of rich fruit aroma emerging from the glass. There’s a good deal of flavour development, but this doesn’t read as an especially old wine; rather, its primary fruit smells burnished, high toned edges having been replaced with golden, glowing hues.
In the mouth, an exceptionally long wine. This is probably carrying a ridiculously high level of residual sugar (by Australian Riesling standards, anyway) but it’s taut and clean, balancing powerful fruit at the front of the palate with refreshing, fine acid at the rear. What one gets at these higher ripeness levels is more power and complexity, and this seems to me quite remarkable for the amount of fruit that is packed into what never seems an especially sweet or dessert-like wine. Line and length are impeccable, as is balance, so critical with this style. On the basis of tasting much older wines from this estate and vineyard, I’m sure many more years could accrue without detriment, but I think it’s fabulous right now. I hope Martin will sell me some from his cellar.
Note: I’m currently working the vintage with Weingut Kerpen.