featured, Germany, Austria
In canvassing Germany’s precarious vintage 2000 for The International Wine Cellar in early 2002, I led off by observing: “The decade of the 1990s was an extraordinary one for German vintners. At its midpoint (back in Issue 64), I wrote: ‘We are in the midst of a streak of vintages utterly unprecedented in the history of German viticulture.’ And I hadn’t seen or tasted the half of it....!"
While I lack Neal’s talent or experience in this genre, I was invited to address one or more personal highlights of my year. If you and I are lucky, the recitation might pleasantly distract us from the symptoms of social and governmental dysfunction that have been so conspicuously in evidence. There was one vinous event in which I participated that could conceivably be set alongside the year’s many cultural calamities as “historic.”
The tension and excitement (in a single German word, “Spannung”) that attended the 2016 growing season for Austrian Riesling and Grüner Veltliner, as well as the resulting wines, were predictably nowhere more evidenced than in the Wachau and Kamptal. Lovers of Austrian Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are likely to discover much joy in investigating and drinking the finest 2016s.
A growing season that presented enormous challenges also harbored opportunities, on which Austria’s top practitioners of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling capitalized to make sleek, invitingly fragrant wines of intricacy, charm and alcoholic moderation. The best are often more exciting than their 2015 counterparts.
germany: Mosel, featured
The 2016 growing season in the Rheingau and Mittelrhein set weather records. But the resulting Rieslings, while variable in quality, are often impressive thanks to their balance and understated character, which stand in contrast to the vintage's meteorological extremes.
Like their counterparts from Rheinhessen, the top Pfalz Rieslings of 2016 are wines of delicious and animating complexity that managed to benefit from the growing season’s chilly October.
In 2016, Mother Nature and Rheinhessen’s top growers seem to have made the same request of one another: “Cool it!” Happily, both complied. Without question, Rheinhessen growers have experienced two outstanding vintages in 2015 and 2016, but the latter boasts a surplus of wines that display the imponderable interplay of balance, elegance and charm, which to my palate give them a slight qualitative edge and an at least equal claim on cellar space.
No German Riesling region can boast more consistent and distinctively delicious success in vintage 2016 than the Nahe, but terroir and weather don’t offer the full explanation.
Germany: Saar, featured, Germany: Ruwer, Germany
The Saar and Ruwer yielded a wealth of wines with improbable balance and finesse considering the meteorological extremes that characterized the 2016 growing season.
I discussed the travails and eventual triumph of vintage 2016 on the Mosel in my introduction to part one of this coverage, as well as some of the mysteries that still surround it and the personalities and aging potential of the resulting wines. Estates that were most seriously afflicted by downy mildew (and a few that were strafed by hail, such as in Graach) suffered significant crop losses, but nearly every grower I visited expressed delight with his or her 2016 quality, and quite a few turned in collections to challenge those of 2015.