Riesling, Oberhäuser Brücke Eiswein, 2010
100 / 100 by Robert Parker
"You couldn't do this in the Hermannshohle," notes Donnhoff, "but by the same token, you couldn't do ... Read more "You couldn't do this in the Hermannshohle," notes Donnhoff, "but by the same token, you couldn't do that," he adds, gesturing to the Hermannshohle T.B.A., "in the Brucke. -(My wife) Gabi hates Eiswein," says Donnhoff, "and the unwritten rule is that it should at least be picked in time for us to be able to relax over the holidays, but this year I had to say "Sorry, Gabi," and we picked the 2010 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein A.P. #31 on December 26." I suppose you can't take a parcel of Eiswein hostage, but you can take your unfortunate spouse hostage for the sake of an Eiswein. What a difference three additional weeks - and a location nearer to this site's walled perimeter - seems to have made: where the A.P. #30 was extraordinary, this wine is practically other-worldly. Cherry, peach, apricot, and strawberry preserves all seem mingled with kirsch distillate, caramel, nut pastes, radish, and fresh lemon, while wreathed in spirituous essence of an entire garden of herbs and flowers. The result is mesmerizingly kaleidoscopic in scent alone, not to mention the reprise on a palate that is both soothingly creamy and invigoratingly, nay, dead-quickeningly bright. Somehow this steers clear of dissonance, presumably on account of sheer abundance of extract and diversity of flavor, a diversity that doesn't seem excessive while you are under this constantly shifting elixir's spell, but only seems so once you try to express what you just experienced. It hardly matters to the finish of this wine whether you spit or swallow, or even how long a break you take to recover your composure. "At the highest echelons of Eiswein I want something puristic and clear," comments Donnhoff. I could assent to those adjectives, too. But essentially this is Eiswein taken as close as is possible to the level of great art. When and under what circumstances it is to be sold remains to be determined, but this won't happen anytime soon, its author assures me, saying the wine is far too young, and intimating that it has a very long life ahead of it. Here's one Eiswein about which I could believe that. Helmut Donnhoff is quick to point out that the challenges of 2010 would seem normal by 1980s standards, and he likes the sharp differentiation of site character that he thinks is enhanced in a cooler, well-watered vintage. He harvested through the first days of November, but voiced skepticism that one could have accomplished much - at least in his vineyards - thereafter. "We harvested like the world champions in the last days, practically around the clock, because the weather reports had forecast rain and that's what we got," he noted, handing me a slip of paper on which his vineyard manager had written a day-to-day report intended to explain to yours truly "who had a free day November 10 and had hoped to be present for some late picking" why the harvest here ended November 5. "It would have been nice to have been able to wait until the second half of October to have begun," he adds, "but practically speaking, I need four weeks to harvest all of my vineyards, so in my mind I plan from back to front. You can't just wait, wait, wait, or it might be too late, you'd end up rushing, and as a result lose out on precisely what would have been your best (wines). We de-acidified the early pickings - simply with calcium carbonate,"he explains. "Acid levels were dropping, but very slowly, and in the end we arrived at levels of 9.5 or 10 grams in the must, which is still high, but by that time the levels of tartaric and malic were comparable (to one another), and with the strong must weights we had, it was enough to do the job." Bottling for most of the wines took place in late May or in June, around a month later than usual. There was some discussion, notes Donnhoff, about whether to leave higher than usual residual sugar behind in the dry wines. "But I decided against that as I didn't want to mask the wines' character. To be sure, there's a sort of hardness here - though it's not a green, under-ripe hardness but rather (an expression of) sheer density. At first I had some misgivings about the (dry) wines, but later on, I didn't merely reconcile myself to them. On the contrary, I really started to take pleasure in them, admiring their straight lines, their clarity, and their potential. I'm a fan of Clos St. Hune and a devotee of this puristic style." Donnhoff has repeatedly expressed his satisfaction in being able to ostensibly -complete- his vinous tour of the middle Nahe - first by acquiring property in Norheim; then in Bad Kreuznach - but the expansion has taken yet another turn with the acquisition of two and a half acres in the red Permian sandstone Roxheimer Berg, for whose maintenance his son Cornelius - a critical if publicly little-known member of Team Donnhoff for some years now - will be responsible. It was another case of a site about whose many steep, once-prestigious and increasingly-neglected vineyards Helmut Donnhoff felt frustrated and apprehensive. "One by one," he relates, "I gazed out at parcels about which I thought, 'Man, if things go on the same way for another year or two, this vineyard will be finished,' and I thought about the distance - seven or eight kilometers - from Oberhausen; and (my wife) Gabi could tell just what was going through my mind, so she grabbed me under the arm (and said) "No!""? to no avail. The old Riesling vines are being restored and a barren portion will be replanted, but 300 liters were bottled from the 2010 crop of (no, that isn't a misprint) Gewurztraminer.
[ Source: 198, The Wine Advocate ]