Maurice Barthelme, who takes care of the vines while brother Jacky directs the winemaking, told me that 2005 was an outstanding year for botrytis wines (in gewurztraminer, he compared 2005 to past great years like '98 and '94). The brothers plan to offer riesling and gewurztraminer SGN, and they also brought in a batch of muscat at a similarly high level of must weight. These '05s are carrying substantial residual sugar, but most of them have enough acidity to maintain their balance. Still, Maurice told me he's almost always eager to pick on the early side. "But Jacky wants to wait," he told me. "We need an arbitrator." (Weygandt-Metzler Importing, Unionville, PA)
Also recommended: 2005 Pinot Noir Clos de la Faille (86), 2005 Riesling Cuvee Albert (85+).
($45; from deeper soil and a sunnier site that Maurice Barthelme compared to Cote-Rotie; this is at least 13.5% alcohol) Full, bright red-ruby. Sexy aromas of dark berries, plum, cherry liqueur and minerals, with a subtle floral perfume. Suave and silky on entry, then rich, penetrating and dry in the middle palate, with sappy plum and spice flavors complicated by minerals, earth and smoke. This has serious size and volume for Alsace pinot noir, as well as the back-end sweetness to support its big, dusty tannins. A ripe cherry flavor emerged with aeration.
($16; approximately a 50/50 blend) Pale color. Subtle, pure aromas of citrus peel, flowers and buttery apple pie crust. Juicy and a bit strict, with a piquant pineapple flavor; tastes drier than its 8 grams of sugar would suggest, thanks to good firming acidity. Very easy to drink.
($18) Pale color. Fresh aromas of citrus peel and white flowers show excellent lift. Dry and juicy, with a touch of sweetness that goes nicely with the wine's chewy texture. This has very good palate presence. Finishes fat and a bit oily, with flavors of soft citrus fruit and lichee.
($35) Very pale color. Superb purity to the aromas of dusty stone, peppermint, quinine and lime blossom; a riesling for the Chablis lover. Densely packed, classic and quite dry despite possessing 10 g/l r.s.; flavors of crushed stone, licorice and lemon peel coat the palate. This has terrific balance and backbone for aging. Just 12% alcohol-and a much more classic rendition of Schlossberg than the '04 made here. (Incidentally, I found the Riesling Cuvee Albert to be vibrant but quite austere, even slightly bitter-edged on the back.)
($35) Very pale color. Candied citrus peel, smoke and a suggestion of exotic fruits on the slightly reduced nose. Then wonderfully pure in the mouth, with compelling flavors of sweet pineapple, minerals and crushed stone. This conveys a chewy impression of extract and the crushed stone character and succulent acidity give the finish superb grip. Even denser than the '04; I would not have guessed that this was carrying 21 grams of sugar.
(12% alcohol, 16 g/l r.s. and 7.7 grams of acidity) Very pale color. Superripe aromas of peach, lime blossom, licorice and mint; a bit less tropical and exotic than the '04. Then silky yet powerful, with pungent, sappy acidity serving to intensify the pineapple, grapefruit and spice flavors. The very persistent finishing flavors of fresh pineapple and grapefruit stimulate the salivary glands and leave the mouth feeling fresh. I love the sugar/acid balance here.
($25) Rich aromas of soft citrus fruits, honey and spices. Ripe and expressive on the palate, with plump flavors of white peach, floral honey, beeswax and spices. A fresh and elegant pinot gris with lovely fruit intensity. A bit in the style of the '04 but perhaps fatter.
($35) Pale yellow-gold. Captivating nose offers white peach, orange zest and powdered stone. Then fat, rich and fairly sweet, but with a stony underpinning giving shape and verve to the nectar-like peach flavor. This rich, broad, palate-coating wine, which fermented until the summer of 2006, shows an almost VT sweetness. Finishes with notes of sweet apricot and wet stone. This may yet merit an outstanding rating if it absorbs some of its alcohol with time in bottle.
($22) Very pale color. Exuberant nose offers rose oil, smoked meat and spices. Powerful but a bit topheavy for a wine from this cellar. More concentrated than the '04 but also more phenolic. The wine's slight finishing bitterness calls for service with food. Perhaps in an awkward phase.
Discreet aromas of yellow plum and nutmeg. Rich, round and pure, with a silky texture and lovel clarity of fruit. Just hints at incipient complexity in the mid-palate but finishes with captivating notes of violet and lavender. There are no hard edges to this gewurztraminer. Barthelme recommends pairing it with a munster cheese or an apple tart-or simply enjoying it on its own.
($34) Wild, highly aromatic nose offers scents of cured meat, bergamot, saffron, floral oils and lichee. Very rich and full, with a deep smokiness and much more nuance than the Altenbourg. Conveys a strong smoky impression of soil. Very sweet on the aftertaste but with lovely smoothness and lift. Here the sweetness serves to elevate the wine's fruit.
($35) Pale color. High-pitched aromas of orange oil, flowers, honey and spices. Very sweet and rich, with terrific thrust and building spice tones on the finish. This has sound acidity but will require at least a few years to integrate its considerable sweetness, which currently seems heavier than that of the Steingrubler. But the purity of varietal fruit is very impressive.
Pale, green-tinged color. Explosive aromas of lemon verbena, ginger, quinine, floral oils and pungent pepper. This shows almost SGN-like richness and an exhilarating sugar/acid balance, although the powerful, varietally typical fruit and floral flavors are not yet particularly complex. In fact, the Barthelmes did three pickings to make this wine, and the last brought in fruit at SGN ripeness. Already drinkable, but I'd wait until 2008 for more nuance.
Bright yellow-green color. Sexy, extroverted aromas of butter, honey, spices, toast, licorice and dried apricot. Very sweet and rich yet light on its feet, with strong acidity and a saline element contributing to the wine's tactile texture and adding lift. Very firmly structured, nuanced pinot gris, made entirely in stainless steel.
Bright, pale yellow. Exotic aromas of honey, white tobacco and nutmeg, with saline and noble rot notes. Sweet, glyceral and highly concentrated, but with bracing acidity giving lift to the wine's juicy flavors. The very long, fresh finish coats the palate with dusty extract.
(9% alcohol, 135 g/l r.s. and 7.4 grams acidity; just 80 liters made, and bottled with a screwcap) Pale color. Pungent aromas of mandarin orange, mint and spices. Supersweet, pliant and creamy but with wonderful ripe acidity lifting the flavors of mandarin orange, honey and licorice. In a rather Germanic style but with softer acidity. Does it have enough grip for the long haul? I could suck up a bottle of this elixir right now.
(13.5% alcohol, 100 g/l r.s. and 5.5 grams of acidity) Pale straw-yellow color. Exotically ripe aromas of honey, orange peel and clove. Fat, dense and supersweet but a bit youthfully musclebound, even aggressive, today and in need of time. Dominant flavors of marzipan and cherry-almond. These 50- and 73-year-old vines were picked berry by berry. Is there enough acidity for this style?