Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein Kabinett 2006
To Germany this week, and to be specific the Rheingau. This section of the Rhine, which lies roughly half-way along its course as it flows towards the North Sea, is the result of a meeting between river and mountain. The Rhine’s smooth northward passage is blocked by the Taunus mountains, and it must take a turn to the west; it continues on for about 30 kilometres until it reaches the last peak, the Rüdesheimer Berg, at which point it turns north once more. The right bank, as a consequence, has a southerly exposure which is an absolute must for the optimal ripening of grapes at this northerly latitude. Along the bank of river the vines stretch up the slopes, clustered between the many small streams that run down to join the Rhine. The names of some of the vineyards are evocative and will be well known to many even remotely familiar with German wine; Schloss Vollrads, Schloss Johannisberg, Marcobrunn. Many of the names of the vineyards – Jesuitgarten, Bischofsberg and the like – hint at ecclesiastical origins, and indeed, like many other regions of Germany, for centuries these vines were tended by monks rather than wealthy aristocrats. The contributions that these religious orders made to the development of German viticulture should not be underestimated, as it was in their hands that Riesling came to the predominance that it enjoys today, and the vineyards around Schloss Johannisberg are reputedly the first in Germany to have seen the harvest of nobly rotten grapes for the production of sweet wine.
When it comes to the Drachenstein vineyard, however, the name perhaps fits with a rather more Darwinian view of the earth’s history than these religious orders might wish to promulgate. Here, on the slopes of the Rüdesheimer Berg just above the Bischofsberg, Berg Roseneck and Berg Rottland vineyards, there are fossilised dinosaur prints, regarded by some as the origin of the vineyard’s name. This is a site rich in quartzite, a mineral which may perhaps contribute to the wine’s character, and indeed in many export markets wines from the vineyard are released by Leitz under the name Dragonstone. In this week’s wine, the 2006 vintage of the Rüdesheimer Drachenstein Kabinett from Josef Leitz, we see some of the character that has made Leitz and his wines so popular in recent years. The nose has the aroma of fresh rosemary, along with a sherbetty vibrancy of lime and minerals, all of which give the wine a fresh, vivacious and frankly delicious character. On the palate this vibrancy continues unabated. It carries a little touch of sweetness, but it is the sherbetty, minerally, tingling acidity that dominates the palate, and I love this. It continues into a fine, slightly sappy finish amid lots of flavour and character. This is an excellent value which offers plenty of pleasure, and which would make a truly refreshing palate-reviver if it should become somewhat overfaced by rich foods in the coming weeks. 17/20 AP number: 24 079 008 07 (15/12/08)