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07.13.2006

2005 German and Austrian Wines: Tasting The Terry Theise Portfolio

theise_catalogs.jpg
The wine world needs more people like Terry Theise.

It's easy to get caught up in the stuffy, over-intellectualized world of wine geekery, where people endlessly debate the smallest aspects of winemaking or vintage ratings. All of us who spend enough time talking, thinking, and reading about wine get sucked into that world occasionally, and I find myself attracted to those who fall into that trap with the least regularity.

As luck would have it, there are several simple cures for me readily at hand whenever I forget that wine is first and foremost fun. One of them arrives in two volumes every year with the name Terry Theise boldly printed in black across the top.

Theise is one of the genius-fools of the wine world, who despite their immense knowledge, manage to talk and write and think about wine with the boundless and pretensionless enthusiasm of a beginner. Picking up a Theise catalog is like opening one of the crazy manifestos that some Berkeley radicals mimeographed and sold in independent bookstores in the Sixties. Part rant, part poetry, part reference manual, and part literature, Theise's catalogs are simply a hoot.

I won't bother quoting extensively from them, but here's a gem from the recent German catalog, where Theise waxes metaphoric about terroir, and the permanent character of the soil:

"Soil...is a wine's DNA. It is the fundamental building block of that wine's identity. Elvis is Elvis. Some years it rained and he was thin Elvis; some years it was hot and he was fat Elvis. He was sometimes drunk Elvis, sometimes sleepy Elvis, or cornball, sleazy, charismatic or horny Elvis. In fact it's safe to say that he was every imaginable variety of Elvis his temperament could contrive. But always, he was Elvis."
Theise is madly passionately in love with wine and it shows in everything he writes.

And everything he imports. Theise has been bringing German and Austrian wine (and Champagne) to the States since... well, it seems like since before time immemorial. I actually don't know exactly when he started doing his thing, but his name has become synonymous with the highest quality wines from both countries. It is not fair to compare two unique and talented individuals, but a shorthand that helps me explain Theise to some people often suggests that he's the Kermit Lynch of Germany and Austria.

Now, about the wines. I haven't been carefully following vintages in Germany and Austria for years, so you'll have to take this with a grain of salt, but 2005 seems to be a an excellent year for both countries, at least among producers who know what they were doing. The wines are bright with acidity and rich with complexity of fruit. The harvests in both countries were variable, with southern Germany and various locales in Austria suffering rainstorms late in the year, but producers who were lucky enough to avoid total disaster and who were willing to thin their fruit and wait for proper conditions made excellent wines, to my taste.

There are undoubtedly some poor wines out there as a result of these weather issues, but choosing your wines based on the track record of an importer like Theise goes a long way to avoiding nasty surprises.

TASTING NOTES:
Note that with these wines I've given up trying to keep the names normalized to the way I usually list wines (year, producer, vineyard designation, proper name, appellation, country) and I have not listed many of the appellations because frankly it was too much work to capture them. I hope you'll forgive me.


SCORE: 9.5
2005 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Käferberg, Austria. Cost: $61
2005 Geil Bechtheimer Rosengarten Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spätlese trocken, Alte Reben, Germany. Cost: $45
2005 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $38
2005 Loewen Leiwener Klostergarten Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $18
2005 Loewen Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $27
2005 Loewen Thornicher Ritsch Riesling Auslese, Germany. Cost: $32
2005 Müller-Catoir Haardter Mandelring Scheurebe Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $40
2003 Müller-Catoir Gimmeldinger Schlössel Rieslaner Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $42
1993 Salomon Riesling Kögl 'Library Reserve', Austria. Cost: $39
2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese "Schmitt", Germany. Cost: $54

SCORE: 9/9.5
2005 Bernhard Frei-Laubersheimer Fels Gewürztraminer Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $21
2004 Christoffel Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese**, Germany. Cost: $42
2005 Geil Bechtheimer Rosengarten Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $15
2004 Hirsch Riesling Heiligenstein, Austria. Cost: $39
2005 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Germany. Cost: $256 per half bottle
2005 Leitz Rudesheimer Klosterlay Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $18
2005 Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $22
2004 Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $33
2005 Loewen Riesling trocken "Varidor", Germany. Cost: $19
2004 Loewen Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $27
2005 Mathern Niederhäuser Kertz Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $23
2005 Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $18
2005 Salomon Grüner Veltliner Wieden, Austria. Cost: $19
2005 Salomon Grüner Veltliner Lindberg Reserve, Austria. Cost: $32
2005 Salomon Riesling Pfaffenberg 'Reserve', Austria. Cost: $39
2005 Salomon Riesling "Noble Selection", Austria. Cost: $47
2005 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Renner, Austria. Cost: $32
2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $27
2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese, Germany. Cost: $32
2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese "Rotlay", Germany. Cost: $46
2005 Strub Niersteiner Grüner Veltliner Kabinett feinherb, Germany. Cost: $16
2005 Strub Niersteiner Oelberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $26
2005 Weegmüller Haardter Buergergarten Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $20

SCORE: 9
2005 Bernhard Hackenheimer Kirchberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $18
2005 Bernhard Hackenheimer Kirchberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $21
2005 Christoffel Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $27
2005 Christoffel Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese***, Germany. Cost: $52
2005 Clüsserath Trittenheimer Apotheke Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $21
2004 Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $40
2005 Geil Bechtheimer Geyersberg Riesling Spätlese trocken, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese, Germany. Cost: $108 per half bottle
2005 L. Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Thal, Austria. Cost: $24
2005 Leitz Dragonstone Riesling, Germany. Cost: $17
2005 Meulenhof Erdener Treppchen Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Germany. Cost: $117 per half bottle
2005 Müller-Catoir Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $31
2005 Nigl Riesling "Privat", Austria. Cost: $59
2005 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Salomon Riesling Kögl, Austria. Cost: $22
2005 Salomon Riesling Kögl 'Reserve', Austria. Cost: $39
2005 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese trocken, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $23
2005 Selbach-Oster Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Setzer Grüner Veltliner '8000', Austria. Cost: $40
2005 Strub Niersteiner Brückchen Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $17
2005 Strub Niersteiner Orbel Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $19
2005 Strub Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $23
2005 Toni Jost Bacharacher Hahn Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $24
2005 Weegmüller Mussbacher Eselshaut Riesling Kabinett halbtrocken, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Weegmüller Haardter Mandelring Rieslaner Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $27
2005 Weingart Schloss Fürstenberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $22

SCORE: 8.5/9
2005 Alzinger Riesling Liebenberg Smaragd, Austria. Cost: $53
2005 Bründlmayer Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein "Lyra," Austria. Cost: $58
2005 Christoffel Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese*, Germany. Cost: $31
2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $32
2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $55
2005 Gysler Weinheimer Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $16
2005 Hirsch Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein, Austria. Cost: $22
2005 Hoffmann-Simon Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese* Artist Label, Germany. Cost: $29
2005 Kruger-Rumpf Pittersberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Germany. Cost: $37
2004 Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $19
2005 Nigl Riesling Kremser Kremsleiten, Austria. Cost: $37
2005 Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $21
2005 Salomon Grüner Veltliner 'Hochterrassen', Austria. Cost: $15
2005 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese feinherb, Germany. Cost: $21
2004 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Strub Niersteiner Riesling Kabinett, Germany. Cost: $16
2005 Weegmüller Haardter Mandelring Riesling Kabinett trocken, Germany. Cost: $20
2005 Weingart Schloss Fürstenberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $29

SCORE: 8.5
2005 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Berg Vogelsang (12x375 ml.), Austria. Cost: $14
2005 Dönnhoff Estate Riesling, Germany. Cost: $21
2005 E & M Berger Grüner Veltliner Kremser Gebling, Austria. Cost: $25
2005 Hofer Grüner Veltliner Kirchlissen, Austria. Cost: $21
2005 Jamek Riesling Ried Klaus Smaragd, Austria. Cost: $94
2005 Karlsmühle Lorenzhöfer Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $33
2005 Kerpen Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese feinherb, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Kerpen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $25
2005 Nigl Grüner Veltliner "Privat", Austria. Cost: $43
2005 Salomon Riesling 'Steinterrassen' (Salmon Label), Austria. Cost: $17
2005 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Steinsetz, Austria. Cost: $24
2005 Selbach Riesling Kabinett (Fish Label), Germany. Cost: $15

SCORE: 8/8.5
2005 Alzinger Grüner Veltliner Mühlpoint Smaragd, Austria. Cost: $41
2004 Alzinger Grüner Veltliner Mühlpoint Smaragd, Austria. Cost: $40
2005 Bernhard Frei-Laubersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling trocken, Germany. Cost: $17
2005 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner "Kamptaler Terrassen", Austria. Cost: $21
2005 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Loiser Berg, Austria. Cost: $26
2002 Bründlmayer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben, Austria. Cost: $42
2005 E & M Berger Grüner Veltliner Loessterrassen, Austria. Cost: $20
2005 E & M Berger Riesling Steingraben, Austria. Cost: $29
2005 Hofer Grüner Veltliner Freiberg DAC, Austria. Cost: $19
2005 Jakoby-Mathy Riesling "Balance", Germany. Cost: $16
2005 Jamek Grüner Veltliner Achleiten Federspiel, Austria. Cost: $31
2005 L. Hiedler Grüner Veltliner 'Loess', Austria. Cost: $16
2005 Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Austria. Cost: $35
2005 Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese, Germany. Cost: $21
2005 Setzer Grüner Veltliner Vesper, Austria. Cost: $18
2005 Walter Glatzer Grüner Veltliner, Austria. Cost: $13

SCORE: 8
2005 Alzinger Riesling Dürnsteiner Federspiel, Austria. Cost: $35
2005 Bründlmayer Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Austria. Cost: $35
2005 Gysler Weinheimer Holle Silvaner halbtrocken, Germany. Cost: $13
2005 Hirsch Grüner Veltliner 'veltliner #1', Austria. Cost: $16
2005 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 'Gobelsburger', Austria. Cost: $15
2005 Selbach Riesling Dry (Fish Label), Germany. Cost: $13

SCORE: 6.5/7
2005 Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner "Hefeabzug", Austria. Cost: $26

In the Bay Area, Theise's wines are offered by Hiram over at the Vienna Wine Company in Berkeley, and who put on this tasting for the trade every year.

Comments (10)

07.13.06 at 9:56 PM

Non-trocken German rieslings in your 9.5 set?! If I needed any other proof that 2005 was a stellar year, that would have clinched it.

Alder wrote:
07.14.06 at 9:52 AM

Ha. Yes, they generally had enough acid to avoid the "death by sweet flabbiness."

Bill M wrote:
07.14.06 at 12:22 PM

Alder,
You've done another great review. I really like the new style of using scoring headers - much cleaner.
Thanks,
Bill

GregP wrote:
07.14.06 at 11:14 PM

Derick,

Just curious about your question, why do you think that only trocken (dry) wines are worthy of high praise?

Traditionally, its the sweet(er) wines that drive the show in Germany and they are the wines bringing highest bids and the most interest from collectors at the annual auctions plus they are the best aging potential wines there as well, not the trocken.

In general, sweet white wines age better and develop much more nuance than dry white wines, one exception may be Loire Chenin, but even there QdC's are usually the best and longest lived renditions as well. Sauternes, Barsac and Monbazillac also age much better than dry whites.

German dry whites are better consumed on the young side, reverse is true for the sweet wines. If anything, I'd expect (much) higher scores for sweet Rieslings when compared to dry.

Am I missing something?

Alder wrote:
07.15.06 at 2:06 AM

Actually Greg,

What Derrick is referring to (tongue-in-cheek) is the fact that _I_ greatly prefer dry wines to sweet. His point being that if the sweet ones made it to the top of MY list then they must be good indeed. Maybe I should just admit that my appreciation for the sweeter wines is increasing....

Greg Randle wrote:
07.17.06 at 10:54 AM

I love me some Theise! I went to the most-recent tasting in Houston. Somehow, my notes disappeared that night?!!!
My overall winery preferences ( http://goodtastereport.wordpress.com/2006/07/10/terry-theise-in-houston/ )were many! No Champagnes at the Houston tasting, though... :(
Cheers.
-Greg

Alder wrote:
07.20.06 at 9:21 AM
Alan wrote:
08.14.06 at 6:27 AM

I love German wine but I could never make sence of the lables.

Alan wrote:
08.14.06 at 1:16 PM

Speaking to the link you provided in the last post I must tell that wine culture in the US leaves a lot more to be desired. White wine and chardonnay are often one and the same. Of course the situation has improved a bit but in the 80's and 90's if it said "chardonnay" on the label, you could sell it; if it didn't, you couldn't.

Alder wrote:
08.14.06 at 1:26 PM

So how is your comment related to this particular review of wines?

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