Meyer-Näkel, Ahr Valley, March 2017

The village of Dernau, Ahr Valley

The Ahr Valley is one of Germany’s furthest northern wine regions (out of 13), more so than the Mosel. The total area is 150 hectares (of 100,000 total in Germany). Meyer Näkel is a young winery by Ahr standards, now at the fifth generation, with sisters Meike and Dörte Näkel at the helm. Before that there was a winery (Meyer) and a restaurant (Näkel). When the grandparents (Paula Meyer and Willibald Näkel) married the entities merged. In 1982 Meike’s father and mother (Werner and Claudia) took the winery and her uncle the restaurant. Started with 1.5, now there are 15 hectares under vines. Meike interned at the Dr. Heger winery in Baden and later with Weingut Fürst in Franken.

With Meike Näkel, Ahr Valley March 2017

The slopes are ridiculously steep. So difficult to work. Dangerously steep inclines, contours, weathered (in some cases blue) slate and greywacke define the grape-growing. “In our case it is both the shape and stone of the valley,” tells Meike. The Ahr runs west to east as a deep valley, creating canyon like topography. Just the southern part is planted to vines. Dark slate warms and conserves heat, returning it to the air very slowly. It’s a glass house in essence. The focus of the tasting was the varied ways in which Meyer Näkel makes use of spätburgunder, in sparkling, rosé and pinot noir varietal wine. I visited with Meike Näkel after attending the Prowein wine fair in March 2017. These were the nine wines she poured and my notes.

Meyer Näkel Rosé 2016

A 100 per cent pinot noir, one of two Rosés allowed under German law, no longer called weissaste, in which you need to use 100 per cent of that variety to say it on the label. Despite the old-school reputation (like the old aunt drinking sweet sherry) so the word Rosé gives credibility towards dictating quality. Intensely floral and full of strawberry essence there is also something very stony and certainly some sweetness. Summer refreshing with such capable acidity. Flavours promise citrus and candied flowers. It’s also just a bit crunchy. Success is not predicated on a stark and dry expression. The acidity sees to the balance and the energy. Just bottled too weeks ago. De-stemmed, crushed and two hours skin contact. Only stainless steel. RS 7.9 g/L ABV 12.5 TA 7.0. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Blanc De Noir “Illusion” 2016

Spätburgunder Blanc de Noir “Illusion” is obviously not Rosé like, but just a hint though not even Vin Gris. Half is made saignée, then 10-15 per cent is removed. The second half is crushed bunches of pinot noir. If just saignée the lack of tannins would lead to a tannin-less, potentially dull wine. Ten per cent in new barriques. Bottled two weeks ago. It just smells viscous, beyond berries and into peaches. You can imagine toasty and creamy notes on the palate, even if those notes are not yet present. Just an illusion, “looking over your shoulder.” Just hints at effervescence but it’s more like an analgesic tingle on the tongue. The citrus is like pure lime with acidity inward and intense. Very long and should really develop with two years of concentrating, fleshing time. The lack of bitters when you consider how much pure lime and tight acidity is a factor of the dual process, two connecting systems, blending acumen. An illusion because it had to be sold as table wine for eight years, but today it’s fine to call it and sell it as Blanc de Noir. A perfectly cleaner version of a Jean-Pierre Frick. 7 g/L RS and TA. 13 ABV. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017

Ahr Valley slope

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Ahr Valley 2015, Deutscher Qualitätswein

The entry-level pinot noir was bottled in the summer of 2016, after a hot season and dry elsewhere but in the Ahr it rained and it was cool overall. Picking was actually late and the aromatics show off the long, cool, floral temper. De-stemming and fermentation is immediately initialized but the maximum fermentation is 10 and usually six days. The pips are just a quick doo-wop to keep both green and bitter away. A focus on fruit, an absence of tannin and a pure varietal expression. Red trumps green, large wooden casks (15-20 years) also impart no tannin so the finality is simply cherry. That said, this carries some almond pit and green strawberry on the palate. It’s really what basic German spätburgunder is and expected to be. Nicely balanced and in at 13 per cent alcohol. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Steep grade of Ahr Valley vineyards

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Blauschiefer 2015

Spätburgunder Blauschiefer is from blue slate, from the steepest slopes with highest percentage of slate in the earth, to get it in the glass. A collection of all the blue slate sites in the two villages, this and the sister neighbour. “The stale gives us the specific micro-climate to grow grapes up here,” tells Meike Mayer, at 50 degrees of latitude, but also in the Rheingau and parts of the Mosel and the Nahe. “In our case it is both the shape and stone of the valley.” The Ahr runs west to east as a deep valley, creating canyon like topography. Just the southern part is planted to vines. Dark slate warms and conserves heat, returning it to the air very slowly. It’s a glass house in essence. Glass Houses. Billy Joel. Needs to be on the label. As a thank you and to tell the people. A niche wine locale and yes, there is this metal feel on the nose and even more so on the palate. It’s an intense impression, deep and mined. Vinified by a de-stem, followed by three days of cold soak, then heat and 18 days skin contact. Just new barriques, two to four years old. The tannins are long and indeed elegant with the stones imparting a constant warming blanket across the palate. This goes cool and warm then back again. Idiosyncratic and highly drinkable pinot noir. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017

The weathered slate and greywacke of Ahr strata

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder “S” 2015

The good problem to have is that as you grow and buy up land the accumulated hectarage become disparate, spread apart and generally all over the Ahr. Small pieces of land owned by older growers who stopped farming. The holdings are not contiguous. These small parcels need to be gathered and made in cuvées or blends. The plots are just too small for single-vineyards but the “S” is made from those tiny disparate plots. Also from some fruit “stolen” or bled from the three single-vinyard GG blocks, especially from fruit taken from younger vines. Small barriques and 40 per cent new oak after 21 days skin-contact maceration. You can’t write Selection on the label so you use the letter “S”. The nose shows tonic and cherry and a beautiful inhalant/liqueur. The fruit is made darker and more unctuous by the barrel but that fruit was clearly classified to begin with. The first pinot noir with true tang is here in this “S” so this and the wise Ahr bitters design the structure with long lasting intent. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Sonnenberg GG 2013

The VDO follows the Bourgogne cru system, looking for the climats of highest quality. Ostensibly Granc Cru, known as GG (Grosses Gewächs). Sonnenberg is a single vineyard from the “sunny mountain,” in the lower part of the Ahr Valley. From steep slopes though not the most, the underbelly is rock, with loess-loam aboard. That top layer of earth brings the fruit to mix with the minerality. Ice age, glacial pinot noir, fertile and for the first time, a Burgundian presence, if only because of the sweet extract concentration. Five to seven days of cold maceration, followed by a slow warming for seven days and 23 days maceration. Barriques, 75 per cent new oak. It carries that barrel with remarkable ease, like the vintage, ripe, easy phenolic development ensured and by picking. Drink this at your whimsy. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017

The cemetary in Dernau

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Pfarrwingert GG 2013

From the high part of the valley, on Grauwacke slate, a highly decomposed slate (in the area known as Fabrigatte) easier to crush so the soil is filled with fine pieces of this stone. There is so much break down that the soil becomes loose, like sand. A crunchy, crispy and fragmented pinot noir, in acidity at least. Means “church vineyard,” of the local dialect in origin. Once belonged to the Catholic church. More mineral, less fruit, a touch more oak then the Sonnenberg, spice but less so with thanks to the quicksand soil work in the development of this wine. Once again the sweetness created by extract from a top quality vineyard is impressive. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2017

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder Kraüterberg 2013

Kraüterberg meaning “herbal mountain,” going back to the Romans who created the terraces and began the wine making processes. The thought is that the reference is in to gardens where herbs were planted along with vines. In the upper Ahr, very steep old terraces, this seems a combination of the first two but more body, with thanks to an increase of clay to go along with the stones. Complexity is a step above, as is fleshy, ripe and elegant character. There is a medicinal quality which is the herbs speaking and a texture as silky as the Ahr is long. It’s a beautiful wine, from 80 per cent new oak but I really do think that the terroir will speak louder with a bit less oak. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017

Meyer Näkel Spätburgunder “SR” 2013

A “Selection Reserve” made from one selected barrique, not made in every vintage. Looking for plants which suffer blossom loss, plants that only produce small bunches of the smallest berries. Mostly skin, small pips and very little juice. Not possible every year and the concentration is really noted on the nose. Again it can’t be called Selection Reserve so “SR” is the moniker. The first vintage was 2009, then 2012 and now here in ’13. Sees 24 months in a new barrel, a total of three years aging and now just released. Very creamy, pretty ambitious and likely costs double to make what it sells for. This shows oak way more (and in the tannin it delivers) because there just isn’t the juice to support it. It’s certainly ripe though the wood makes it seem so sweet. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017

Good to go!

godello

The village of Dernau, Ahr Valley

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Thörle Riesling, Truly Rheinhessen

Some of Germany’s finest #riesling coming to @TerroirTalk May 29th #thorle #Terroir2017 #christophthorle #saulheim #rheinhessen #terroirsymposium #holle #agotoronto

I first met Christoph Thörle when Wines of Germany rolled their Next Generation Germany roadshow through Toronto in May of 2014. I know that he knew based on my reactions to his Rheinhessen rieslings that we would need to rekindle the relationship at a later date. That opportunity came again in May of 2015, albeit briefly but it was this past March of 2017 that the true immersion took place. Even then it was too quick and too short. But that’s OK because Christoph and his brother Johannes have really only just begun their lifelong journey of winemaking and understanding in Saulheim.

Related – Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

On day three of ProWein I jumped on the großer Magie Bus with 17 international journalists and headed for the Ahr Valley, followed by the Rheinhessen. We stopped in for a visit with Christoph Thörle at Weingut Thörle in Saulheim, the most progressive winery he started with his brother in 2006 after taking over from their parents. Thörle concentrates on natural ferments and they farm organically without certification. The vineyards are planted to 50 per cent riesling, 25 pinot noir and 25 mixed varietals; including silvaner and pinot blanc. The estate structures are narrow and long, mimicked in the vineyards, a leftover from Napoleonic times. This history must be kept in mind because there are so many different terroirs that all need to be kept separate. Fossilized oysters and mussel shells are found in the limestone, plus there is clay, iron-oxide, loam and yellow sands. The blocks roll out on wave-like, hilly landscapes over land that was once submerged beneath an ocean.

Godello with Christoph Thörle at Ball’s Falls, Ontario

The Thörle brothers make full use of their mixed vines ages and variegated terroir qualities to craft a range of riesling from Villages through Premier Cru and into Grand Cru level wines; Trocken, Feinherb, Kabinett, Spätlese and single-vineyard GGs from Hölle and Schlossberg. Their bottles of Weissburgunder and Spätburgunder are anything but afterthoughts and with climate change gaining speed, pinot noir will only increase in importance, not just at Thörle but across the Rheinhessen.

Two class @terroirtalk #riesling fellas, @RavineVineyard Sultan of St. David’s @marty_werner and the Rheinhessen’s Souverän of Saulheim #christophthorle #terroir2017 #terroirsymposium

Christoph came back to Ontario this past May as a special guest speaker of the Terroir Talk Symposium. In advance of that Monday congress we spent a day in Niagara tasting at Flat Rock Cellars with cellar master Allison Findlay and then at Henry of Pelham with Daniel Speck, Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates and Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards. Terroir afforded the opportunity to revisit two of Christoph’s rieslings, the Kabinett and the Schlossberg GG. Back in March I tasted 11 wines at Thörle. Here are the notes.

The mythology of #thorle #riesling in Beerenauslese and Trockenbetenauslese #weingutthörle #gabsheim #rheinhessen #holle

Thörle Riesling Feinherb 2016, Rheinhessen, Germany (420091, Agent, $18.95, WineAlign)

Off-dry riesling does not always have to be bottled as such but in the Rheinhessen and at Thörle the category of Feinherb is anything but an afterthought. This started as a side fermentation in its first years but is now an important wine in the estate’s multi-tiered processes. The cuvée is gathered from younger vines plus one barrel of premier cru Saulheim fruit. A slight skin maceration (12-18 hours) is employed which helps to temper the tartaric acid though this will be swapped for whole bunch fermentation in warmer years. Hides some of its sugar, especially on the nose which is quite floral, of white flowers and honeysuckle. Honey and wax with sweet herbs bring all into playful light to taste, with plenty of sweet lime and lik-a-maid sour touches. For every Indian Food list in the world. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  thorle_c  thorleestatewinery  univinscanada  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling  

Thörle Riesling Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Trocken and Feinherb bottles aside, this riesling denoted as Saulheim is the signature Thörle product and with succinct style represents this corner of the Rheinhessen, a renaissance region in west-central Germany, due south of Rheingau and southwest of Frankfurt. The fruit sources are several parcels and soils around the village, from vines 28-37 years old and an élèvage in 50 per cent old oak barrels. The avoidance of oaked flavours is part of the ultimate goal, that and balance in a riesling seemingly quite dry. A slight petrol aroma (perceived, or not, towards its future) submits to pure, crisp orchard fruit. Some glycerin and a mineral saltiness will aid in developing these notes over time. As opposed to other regions in Germany and their four levels of quality definitions, the Saulheim here sits between a villages and a Premier Cru, as it is written on the label and as it is defined by its soils. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Weissburgunder Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Weissburgunder from Saulheim is dubious here as a very dry pinot blanc, presented in that between villages and cru level. The Thörle oeuvre is all about combing and combining soils, “to show the other grapes of Germany,” and expressly important for Rheinhessen. The ’15 went into 500L French Beaune (Allier) Tonneaux. A hot summer so clearly lifts ripeness but says Christoph, “we left it a little bit shorter under the flame.” The oak is 30 per cent new and it really hides it, despite the lower acidity but the wood helps to usher it along and replace the tannins not always originally there. The net function is one third naturally unforced malolactic and good crisp orchard fruit with crunch and persistence. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Hölle 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Hölle is a single-vineyard of high limestone at 35 degree steepness and housing 42 year-old vines, planted by Christoph’s grandfather. Minimal air flow in this valley during the day makes for a warm, still place. So dried fruit results; peach, apricot and plum. I find this streaking in liquid limestone chalk, glistening in glycerin consistency, nearly bone dry and popping in pearls of fine acidity. So focused and precise. This shows precocious acumen, wisdom and patience. Both the fruit and the mineral are never shadowed or will one defeat the other. Let it rest a year or two because the secondary notes will blow you away. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Schlossberg 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Schlossberg is a vineyard in the north of the (Saulheim) village, closer to the Rhine, on clay, iron-oxide and further down, limestone. With converse effect (in relation to Hölle) this higher and cooler spot carries with it more wind and airflow. This and the tenet of a cool 2013 vintage results in quite the floral riesling but it’s also noted by the hint of smoke, flint and therefore, great potential development. The nose is full of flowers to suggest glycerin and petrol even if it’s not quite yet in tune. The body is graced by more structure and variegated soil tang. It’s not dry but it acts dry without austerity or unnecessary intensity. More roundness, body and soul. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Spätburgunder Saulheim 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Spätburgunder Saulheim is villages level, aged in 20 per cent (225L) barriques and 80 per cent old barrels for 12 months. It’s a blend of three vineyards, 30 year old and 15 year old vines. Typical for northern Rheinhessen pinot noir, with no stem inclusion, done in open top fermenters and with no added yeast. It’s a palpable mouthful of glycerin fruit, morello cherry, raspberry and a touch of sweet orange. Made in a reductive style, in avoidance of volatile acidity. Quite silky with a liquid limestone, dusty chalk feel. Much prettier and brighter than most and just enough fine grain tannin to make it last five plus years. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Spätburgunder Hölle 2014, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Hölle is pinot noir at the Grand Cru (Grosses Gewächs, Großes Gewächs, or GG) level, from the middle part of the slope where plantings owe their history to the 1971 German clone. The élèvage is 20 months in 50 per cent new barrels, similar to the Saulheim but fortified by an extra year in respect to the single vineyard. The cherries and the raspberry repeat but in a deeper liqueur with bigger grains of tannin. Though a comparison is fruitless this is the most NSG of the German pinot noir. Smoky, meaty, and blessed with full on density in structure that will allow it to travel long. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Kabinett 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Thörle’s estate level Riesling Kabinett 2015 comes from young vineyards and is harvested at the beginning of October. It’s a matter of natural fermentation in the cold cellar (at a maximum 22 degrees) and takes 8-10 weeks, then cooled further at seven to eight per cent alcohol. Green tinged, green citrus, crisp and fresh like a bite out of both a green apple and a ripe peach. Pure and refreshing Kabinett to drink by the bucketful, on the beach or wherever works, from now through its 10th birthday. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Spätlese 2015, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Spätlese was harvested two to three weeks after the Kabinett and with no botrytis, in other worlds, fully healthy grapes. Looking at it now it shines lucent in a yellow-orange hue. The aromatics and flavours repeat what the colour tells them to. A bit less gregarious than the Kabinett, the nose hints at stone fruit and also a smoky, flinty note. More citrus to taste than you’d expect but this added complexity goes along with ripe peach, apricot, passion fruit and even methinks some guava. So focused, of clean lines, pure, precise, linear and inwardly intense. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Beerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

Only 350 bottles were produced of the 2011 Riesling Hölle BA (Beerenauslese), an intense Rheinhessen late harvest with “not only a little botrytis but the perfect weather for sweet wine.” Rain in September and the intangible brought on the botrytis and then warm weather persisted through the harvest. The residual number 150 is the minus for sugar but this reached 186 g/L. So much stone fruit with good acidity. Apricot, longan and mangosteen but also this sweet basil note. A wine of clarity, the freshest botrytis, so juicy and as clean a BA as you are ever going to taste. A bit of spice at the end shows further complexity. I’d like to see three years of development so that these notes all contrive to morph and begin anew. Drink 2020-2036.  Tasted March 2017

Thörle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Hölle 2011, Rheinhessen, Germany (WineAlign)

The Hölle TBA 2011 is a minuscule 180 bottle single-vineyard production and the vintage was simply perfect for the effort. The process involved the collection of a few berries at a time over the course of three weeks, started in the fridge and was then pressed when the amount of approximately 100L could be obtained. “This is the king’s discipline for creating such a riesling” explains Christoph Thörle. Thick like honey, full of unctuousness and viscosity. It is expressly noticed how the colour and the development have not advanced considering the six year mean. The exoticism is what separates this, with fruits far east, creamy and perfectly easy to assimilate, in flavour, consistency and understanding. Sweet herbology, of thai basil and thyme and candied mandarin rind. Here, a piece of history and legacy from Christoph and Johannes. Drink 2021-2041.  Tasted March 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign