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R. von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2002

Germany this week, and a wine I plucked from the cellar at short notice over the weekend. The Scharzhofberg vineyard is one of Germany's most famous, and this fame is reflected in its position as an ortsteil; such vineyards are not required to identify themselves as part of a community. So whereas most German labels state village and vineyard of origin, such as Wiltinger Braunfels (just to the west, as in the map below), or Oberemmeler Rosenberg (just to the east), wines from the Scharzhofberg vineyard make no such declaration, and are simply Scharzhofberger.

This vineyard has accrued great fame over time, perhaps mostly due to the wines of Egon Müller, but there are a number of other proprietors of this site, including Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt. There are about 28 hectares all told, and with 8.3 hectares the Müller dynasty has the largest holding, but the Reh family, who acquired the Kesselstatt estate in 1978, are less than a hectare behind them. The other principle proprietors are Van Volxem, von Hövel and Bischöfliche Trier, with very small plots in the hands of Reisch and Peters. South-facing, a sure benefit in the relatively high-altitude and northerly Saar, the site has also proven to be prone to botrytis over the years, the development no doubt aided by the proximity of the Pravelsbach, a tributary of the Saar itself. The soils are the typical slate of the region, which confers good drainage but also much reflected heat, as the shards of slate tend to warm up quickly under the sun.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2002

All this means the wines of this vineyard can demonstrate great ripeness and depth of flavour, but in combination with the Saar's typically racy acidity and definition. They are certainly worth trying, and for true fans of Germany they are an absolute must. The Müller wines are somewhat expensive, even at the kabinett level, although this is nothing compared to the prices achieved for the trockenbeerenauslesen, which are produced in minuscule quantities, sometimes just a few hundred litres, and sold at auction in Germany for prices that would put many bottles of first growth claret into the shade. Fortunately the wines of Kesselstatt are more realistically priced, and they provide an excellent example of the Scharzhofberg style. This Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2002 from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is no exception to this little rule. It has a very typical green-tinged hue, and a hugely expressive and pungent nose exploding from the glass, of sherbetty lime, mineral and slate. Then orange blossom as well. The palate shows a very faint prickle of carbon dioxide although the spritz of three years ago has faded, a lovely mineral weight, fine lime, pickle and slatey fruit and freshness. The pure and lifted aromatics make this really attractive, and yet there is good flesh on the palate, set against the backdrop of soft but present acidity. I suppose this doesn't really have the trademark laser-like precision of Scharzhofberg, but nevertheless it retains a huge amount of freshness and character. Rather soft and creamy towards the end, and lingering nicely on the finish, this is good for drinking now. 17/20 AP number: 23 561 077 22 03 (13/4/09)

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