One of my very best tastings at this year’s ProWein was with Roman Niewodniczański of the Van Volxem winery in Saar, Germany. 2009 is an exciting vintage in Germany – especially in the cooler regions – and Van Volxem’s line-up might well be the Kollektion des Jahres, as the Germans like to put it. Tasting through the barrel samples here I was very excited by the basic Saar Riesling 2009 as well as the Riesling Alte Reben 2009 with superlative length and aromatic presence. The sweeter wines such as the Riesling Rotschiefer 2009 are also very promising.
A great showing for Van Volxem, which seems to be going from strength to strength. 2008 is extremely successful here too, especially in the vintage’s rather unexceptional context. Where rain during harvest ruined much of the quality elsewhere, here old ungrafted vines, low yields, biodynamic farming with grass between rows help mitigate the effect of water. And then 2007 which was also very good.
It’s since 2007 that Roman Niewodniczański has re-oriented his style slightly. Now the wines are mostly bone-dry, though the alcohol is still rather low; there’s visible less of a chase after maximum ripeness that formerly made many of the Van Volxem Rieslings taste vaguely like Alsatian Pinot Gris. As a result, there’s more minerality, poise, and dynamism.
But I must admit liking the ‘old’ style here just as well. With residual sugars around the 15 g mark in the cru wines, these wines are ageing tremendously well, and their ripe richness adds an extra aromatic and textural dimension. A few months ago I tasted a few older magnums with Roman and they were all spectacular (with Braunfels 2001 the most memorable; read full article and watch Roman speak on video here).
Today it was time for one of my own 750 ml bottles. The Riesling Rotschiefer 2004 is a kind of second vin, made from declassified fruit from the classified vineyards. 10.5% alc. on the label, and I guess there the usual 15 g residual sugar. A brilliant wines A medium deep golden colour is only slowly maturing. Very good mid-aged Riesling nose: mineral, peppery, assertive, with minor fruity notes of peach and citrus. Palate is rather rich, though balanced by sufficient minerality and acidity. The constitution is very peculiar with plenty of body and concentration (something you rarely see in a Mosel / Saar wine) but surely more obvious minerality and acidic structure to substantiate the ‘Alsatian Pinot Gris’ stereotyped comparison. Although we’re really into Auslese halbtrocken territory in terms of body and texture (there’s a whiff of botrytis, too), there’s also a lightness of touch and transparency to the mineral character. I thought this, from a 750 ml bottle, would be more or less mature but in fact it has a long way to go.
There is no wine like a good Riesling from a great vineyard site. If anybody needs to be reminded about this, this bottle is very eloquent. And it’s also interesting that although made in a different style than the more recent Van Volxem releases, it’s an equally good wine.
Source of wine: own purchase.