Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr R. Spätlese 1997
My Weekend Wine feature seems to include a number of German wines already – I hadn’t realised I drank as many as I do. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised; this is testament to the fact that these wines can be fresh, vibrant, balanced and yet flavour-rich antitheses to the over-oaked, over-extracted wines turned out by some other regions.
I was a little concerned with these bottles though, a six-pack of Spätlesen from well known Mosel guru Fritz Haag (the estate is now run by Oliver Haag, who has taken over from father Wilhelm). An auction purchase, it was some time before the wines arrived (they were held in storage for about six months) and then they lay in the cellar for some time before I unpacked them. They didn’t look to be in pristine condition, and most noticeable was a sticky residue around the capsules, in some cases long rivulets of sticky brown residue ran down the bottles and over the labels. This is in fact something I have seen on a good number of German wines before – the 1994 Traiser Rotenfels Riesling Auslese from Crusius is one that sticks in my mind – and in every case the wines have turned out to be just fine. But nevertheless, such a finding is still worrisome, especially as in this case it didn’t look as though I would have any recourse to compensation should the wines be completely over the hill.
Fortunately with this bottle it turns out that I had nothing to worry about (at least, not at the moment). Despite its ten years, and those worrisome streaks of sticky brown wine residue, this Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 1997 is just singing. It shows a pure, crystal clear, pale and reassuring green-tinged hue when poured into the glass. The nose has a similar purity, throwing off notes of fresh limes with a smoky, mineral streak. There are lots of stony, rocky notes here, all presented in a fine, crisp, very expressive fashion. Certainly not a hint of oxidation or other damage. On the palate, it becomes even clearer – this is simply fabulous. It is well defined, yet broad and mouthfilling, quickly expanding to show a creamy, rounded character with great depth, all supporting fresh limes and minerals like those on the nose. It is brilliantly precise, with a fine presence. This is superb, certainly wonderful to drink now, but no doubt will develop further in bottle over many years. And what a bargain – £10 per bottle at auction! 18.5+/20 AP number: 2 577 050 7 98 (5/3/07)