I’m jumping the gun about six months here, so cut this column out and tape it to your fridge: The 2009 vintage in Germany was glorious.
Producers always try to put the best spin they can on a harvest even if it has suffered through all 10 plagues. My rule of thumb is that you can never really pronounce the quality of a vintage until three to 10 years out, depending on the wine. However, tasting is believing, and I’m confident enough to tell German-wine fans to buy the 2009s with reckless abandon.
In some areas, the crop was down as much as 20 percent from 2008, but given the ideal weather conditions, there should be more sweet wines. Not only does this mean more beerenausleses and trockenbeerenausleses, but also ausleses and spatleses that will be declassified to QBA levels.
What does all this mean? First, it means lots of very high-quality and age-worthy wines at reasonable prices. And, in spite of elevated must weights, these wines have such tremendous vibrancy that they don’t seem too sweet. Also, a good number of the wines will be fermented dry.
Before recommending some 2009s, I want to stress that the ’08 vintage was very good too. Even in the most difficult years, there’s a plethora of excellent wines made throughout most of Germany’s 13 wine regions. The areas of Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen in the eastern part of the country have some catching up to do, but the potential is there.
Here are my top three from ’09, to date:
Dr. Heyden Riesling Diamont (Oppenheimer Herrenberg Spatlese Trocken), 2009 (Rheinhessen, Germany): Dr. Karl Heyden took over the Baumann estate in the town of Oppenheim in 1999, but only had six years to enjoy it before passing away. His son Frank has carried on and is now one of Germany’s most exciting young winemakers. This dry Riesling is perfect for those who eschew residual sugar, with its tart nectarine fruit and an underlying racy minerality. Suggested retail: $21
Dr. Deinhard Riesling Kabinett, dry, 2009 (Pfalz, Germany): Dr. Deinhard has gone through a winemaking transformation recently, and for the first time these wines are available in the United States. Austere but fragrant with passion fruit, guava, grapefruit and green apples, it is a cross between a Jolly Rancher and a tropical-flavored Life Saver, less the sugar. Projected suggested retail: $28
Weingut Carl Loewen Riesling Spatlese, Leiwener Laurentiuslay, 2009 (Mosel, Germany): Purchased in 1982 from the Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt estate, the Leiwener Laurentiuslay vineyard is one of the most prized in the Mosel. Fragrant and floral with apricot and honey, this wine has immense concentration yet is elegant at the same time. Projected suggested retail: $30
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.