TN: Checking out how 2019 GG Rieslings are coming along

Last July we had this smaller set of wines just to see how the 2019 GGs were coming along, seeing how much praise the vintage had garnered.

And based on how the wines performed, all the praise has been justified - although it seems that most of these wines were all too young at the tender age of less than 2 years from the vintage. All of them showed remarkable intensity, freshness and sense of structure, but they all came across as a bit awkward or disjointed, suffering either from a bit of reduction, too primary fruit flavors or just general sense of unintegration. However, I have no doubts these wines will get their game together, if just left to age. I really wouldn’t consider these wines for current consumption - although impressive, all the wines seemed like they are not really showing their best at the moment. For the time being I’d rather drink either some older vintages or then just some less ageworthy, lower-tier 2019 Rieslings and keep these GGs where they belong - in a cellar.

We also had two outstanding blinds after the tasting proper: a 2008 Niepoort from Douro and a 2011 Fekete from Somló. I suppose Niepoort is such a household name that no introduction is necessary, but I assume very few have ever heard of Fekete Pince before, so I guess a small summary is in order.

In short, Somló is a wine region that is situated on the slopes of Somló hill, an extinct volcano that stands in the middle of the flat Pannonian basin. Although relatively unknown outside of Hungary, this wine region is held in high regard in its homeland. Its powerful, dry white wines are almost universally exceptionally mineral and high in dry extract, producing very distinctive and ageworthy wines. Its specialty is a white variety called Juhfark - a variety which often produces rather simple and lemony wines, but on the volcanic soils of Somló it is capable of producing very intense and intensively mineral white wines. Think about how remarkable wines Assyrtikos from Santorini are and how relatively simple and underwhelming they tend to be outside this volcanic island - this is basically the same with Juhfark and Somló. The grapes achieve full ripeness very slowly, so the harvest can be as late as in November and most Somlói wines are very concentrated and relatively high in alcohol, yet without any overripe qualities and showing tremendous sense of acidity and minerality - especially those made from Juhfark or Furmint.

Béla Fekete is often called as “The Grand Old Man of Somló”. Some 40 years ago, he was offered 4 hectares from the southern part of the Somlói hill, so he purchased them and started his own winery, Fekete Pince. From the beginning, he has worked organically and virtually everything is done by hand. The grapes are harvested late, fermented spontaneously and aged for 2 years or more in large oak casks, with sparse or no top-ups. Even though the wines might see quite a bit of oxygen during the élevage, they are not oxidative like, say, Lopéz de Heredia whites, but instead closer to the pure, mineral whites of JF Ganevat - only showing more weight and power.

In the early 2010’s Fekete - already in his 90’s - decided 2013 would be his last vintage, so he started to put his winery ready for sale. The miserable, rainy 2014 vintage was (to my understanding) missed out completely and since 2015 the winery is run by three young fellows. However, I’ve understood that the style remains pretty much unchanged and Fekete still works as a consultant for the new owners, so even though the wines are not made anymore by the old man himself, the wines are still available and they haven’t turned into unicorn unobtainium, yet. However, the annual production is only a few thousand bottles per label, so there isn’t much to go around…

.
gg19etc.jpg
.

Pale lemon-yellow color. The nose feels clean but relatively closed and somewhat reticent with light yet nuanced aromas of sweet, zesty lemon, some mineral notes of wet stones, a little bit of herbal spice, light fruity nuances of cantaloupe and nectarine, a floral hint of apple blossom and a touch of grapefruit. The wine feels ripe and juicy yet almost bone-dry on the palate with a balanced, silky mouthfeel, medium body and quite intense flavors of ripe citrus fruits, some cantaloupe, a little bit of white peach, light mineral notes of wet stones, a hint of something slightly gaseous - perhaps a touch of SO2 still showing? - and a touch of floral spice. The crisp acidity lends great intensity and sense of precision to the wine. The finish is crisp, lively and wonderfully mouth-cleansing with lengthy flavors of ripe citrus fruits, some cantaloupe, a little bit of spicy red apple, light floral notes, a hint of mineral spice and a touch of again something slightly gaseous.

A lovely but also still very youthful and slightly nervous GG Riesling. Unlike the wonderfully exuberant 2018 vintage, this feels still a bit closed, slightly holding back. However, all the pieces seem to be there and the wine just needs a bit time to really come together. A very promising effort, but better suited for cellaring purposes than immediate consumption. Start drinking in a few years, keep for a dew decades. Solid value at 31€. (92 pts.)

  • 2019 Van Volxem Riesling Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (13.7.2021)
    This is the Alte Reben (old vines) version of the regional entry-level Saar Riesling of the Van Volxem range, made exclusively from grapes sourced from old vines - many ungrafted and some up to 130 years old. 12% alcohol.

Pale lemon-yellow color with pale greenish highlights. Youthful and quite open nose with vibrant aromas of sweet golden apple and fresh pear, some cool stony mineral notes, light perfumed notes of white orchard flowers and a hint of peach. The wine is lively and playful yet still very serious on the palate with its medium-to-moderately full body and quite intense flavors of sweet white fruits and apple sauce, some primary notes of pear, a light floral tones, a little bit of ripe peachy fruit and a hint of stony minerality. Although the fruit feels ample and juicy, the high acidity keeps the wine wonderfully firm and precise. The finish is lively, long and crunchy with bright flavors of lemon citrus fruits, some sour apple candy notes, a little bit of stony minerality, light sweet nuances of ripe white peach and a hint of perfumed floral character.

A beautifully fresh, youthful and precise Riesling that shows quite a bit of fruit and ripeness, yet feels remarkably light on its feet, thanks to its high acidity, modest alcohol and cool mineral overtones. Although there’s still a bit of candied primary fruit left to the wine, it drinks really wonderfully already now and doesn’t call for any further aging - it is shooting on all cylinders already. However, that doesn’t mean that the wine couldn’t age, as I’m positive this wine will continue to improve wonderfully for a good number of years and won’t hit its peak at least before its 10th birthday. An excellent wine for both immediate consumption and cellaring purposes. Excellent value at approx. 17€. (91 pts.)

Somewhat concentrated lemon-yellow color with pale greenish highlights. The nose feels quite seductive, but also somewhat closed with a tiniest bit of reductive funk, hiding nuances of ripe citrus fruits, some primary apple candy notes, a little bit of white peach, a hint of white flowers and a touch of honey underneath. The wine is ripe and medium-to-moderately full-bodied on the palate, but also wonderfully dry with remarkable sense of focus. Intense, mineral-driven flavors of lemony citrus fruit, cool slatey stony notes, some fresh white peach, light steely nuances, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, a hint of savory spices and a floral touch of apple blossom. The fresh, racy acidity lends the wine great sense of structure and energy. The finish is long and crunchy with very intense and rather acid-driven flavors of stony minerality, tangy salinity, some tart green apple tones, a little bit of lemony citrus fruits, light steely nuances, a hint of spicy red apple and a floral touch of apple blossom.

An excellent, very harmonious and really promising GG Riesling that has quite a bit of ripeness, yet no excess weight or baby fat whatsoever. You can taste the immense quality and potential immediately, but the wine doesn’t feel fully ready yet: true to Van Volxem’s Gottesfuss style, the wine is still a bit reductive at the moment - and probably will be for a handful of years more - so the wine either needs a really long decant or just needs to be cellared for a good number of years more. All in all, a fantastic and very promising old-vine Riesling that needs at least 8-12 years more before it really hits its optimal drinking window, and will improve for a lot longer. Can hold a candle to the impressive 2015 vintage of GG Gottesfuss with ease. Priced according to its quality at 42€. (94 pts.)

Pale lemon yellow color with faint greenish highlights. Ripe, somewhat sweet-toned and slightly restrained nose with very youthful aromas of zesty citrus fruits, some floral spice, a little bit of pear peel, light stony mineral notes and a fragrant hint of Asian spices. The wine feels ripe, quite concentrated and even slightly viscous on the palate with a full body and intense, youthful flavors of honeydew melon, juicy Golden Delicious apple, some steely mineral notes, a little bit of cantaloupe, light saline nuances and a mineral hint of wet stones. The bright, high acidity lends good freshness and sense of structure to the wine. The finish is long, crisp and lively with quite concentrated flavors of ripe citrus fruits, some cantaloupe, light stony mineral notes, a little bit of tangy salinity, a crunchy hint of fresh golden apple and a touch of pineapple.

A big and impressive but also still very youthful and somewhat nervous GG Riesling. There seems to be a lot of stuffing to this wine, but it is still a bit all over the place - the nose feels a bit closed and while the taste isn’t lacking in power, it is a bit lacking in focus. Nevertheless, the wine is brimming with potential and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it improve noticeably over the next decade or two. All in all, a promising effort - let it wait at least a few more years so it can grow out of its clumsy baby years. Quite good value at 30€. (90 pts.)

Pale yellow-green color. Somewhat odd, sappy nose with aromas of Mediterranean herbs and almost pilsner-like note of noble hops, followed by notes of floral spice, a little bit of zesty lemon, light citrus-scented hand soap nuances, a hint of pineapple and a salty touch of ocean air. The wine is quite ripe and concentrated yet surprisingly dry and crisp at the same time. Intense flavors of honeydew melon, exotic flora spices, some stony minerality, a little bit of sappy herbal character or spicy noble hops, light salty mineral notes, exotic hint of papaya and Asian pear and a touch of apple peel bitterness. The racy acidity feels very crisp, lending good sense of freshness and structure to the wine. The finish is lively, crunchy and acid-driven with lengthy flavors of stony minerality, some tart lemony citrus fruit notes, a little bit of pilsner-like sappy or hoppy herbal spice, light floral notes, a hint of apple peel bitterness and a touch of saline minerality.

This was something of an odd bird. In our small 2019 Riesling tasting this wine was unlike any other Riesling, having quite atypical aromatics for the varietal, showing more spicy herbal qualities with almost noble hops kind of character - which I could expect to see in a Northern Rhône white perhaps, but not really in a Riesling. I enjoyed the great sense of freshness and good acidity here, but aromatically the wine was a bit all over the place, not really showing the sense of focus one could expect to see in a GG. I’m happy to give the wine benefit of the doubt, seeing how it is still so very young - most likely all too young for its own good. While the wine didn’t impress me that much now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a completely different wine once it gets it game together. Let it age. Perhaps not worth the 34€ at the moment, but things might change if the wine gets better as it gets older. (89 pts.)

  • 2008 Niepoort Douro Tiara Branco - Portugal, Douro (13.7.2021)
    A blend of old-vine (40-100 yo) Códega, Rabigato, Donzelinho, Viosinho, Cercial and other local white varieties. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, MLF blocked, aged for 4 months on fine lees, then racked off the lees. Aged in stainless steel for a total of 8 months before bottling in June 2009. 12,4% alcohol, 4 g/l residual sugar, 5,67 g/l acidity, 0,47 g/l VA, pH 3,22 and 20,6 g/l dry extract. Total production 10,200 bottles. Tasted fully blind.

Medium-deep honey yellow color. Enjoyably evolved and slightly nutty nose with aromas of slivered almonds, cantaloupe, some woolly lanolin, a little bit of beeswax, light fresh notes of star fruit, toasty hints of browned butter and fresh brioche and a creamy touch of crema catalana. The wine feels balanced, evolved and slightly oily on the palate with a medium body and very complex flavors of peanut butter, wizened golden apples, some marzipan, a little bit of beeswax, light sweet notes of honeydew melon, a slightly aldehydic hint of sorrel and a touch of cooked carrot. Fascinating stuff. The bright acidity keeps the wine wonderfully fresh and quite light on its feet despite its evolved flavors and slightly viscous mouthfeel. The complex finish is long and quite evolved with layered flavors of cooked cream and browned butter, some nutty notes of chopped almonds, a little bit of wizened apricot, light marzipan notes, a hint of honeyed sweetness and a touch of pineapple.

A wonderfully fresh, balanced and complex white Douro that is in a beautiful spot right now, at 13 years of age. Shows a beautiful combination of tertiary, nutty complexity, rich and sweet-toned exotic fruit notes and bright, refreshing acidity. It was quite impossible for all the attendees to guess this correctly, but everybody seemed to enjoy the bottle greatly nevertheless. A very delicious and rewarding wine. Outstanding value at 25€. (94 pts.)

  • 2011 Fekete Pince Juhfark Nagy-Somló - Hungary, Balaton, Nagy-Somló (13.7.2021)
    This wine is one of the last vintages ever made by Béla Fekete, the Grand Old Man of Somló. The wine is made from specially selected grapes which are fermented spontaneously in old 1100-liter Hungarian oak casks with the help of natural yeasts. The wines are racked off their lees and left to age in these casks for 18 months, after which they are transferred to stainless steel tanks to avoid further oxidation and aged for another 18 months. The wines are released to the market 4 years after the vintage. 14,56% alcohol; 2,5 g/l of residual sugar; 5,7 g/l acidity; pH 3,55. Total production 3950 bottles. Tasted fully blind.

Concentrated golden yellow color. Very characterful, somewhat evolved and slightly vegetal nose with ridiculously complex aromas of canned asparagus, peat, volcanic smoky notes of struck flint and soot, some ripe citrus fruit notes, a little bit of blackcurrant leaves, light evolved waxy notes of paraffin, crunchy hints of cloudberries and greencurrants and a touch of mustard seeds. There’s so much going on here that I’m simply baffled. The wine is dry, waxy and evolved with a somewhat oily mouthfeel, a medium body and complex flavors pronounced stony minerality, lemon marmalade, nutty notes of slivered almonds, some rusty metallic notes, a little bit of ripe red gooseberry, light mature notes of peanut butter, a vegetal hint of canned asparagus and a touch of bruised apple. The overall feel is remarkably concentrated, spicy and noticeably robust. The high - almost piercing - acidity keeps the wine quite tightly-coiled and lends remarkable sense of focus to the intense flavors. The finish is dry, fresh and waxy with quite a bit of extracted - almost bitter - feel and moderately evolved flavors of wizened apples, beeswax, some nutty notes of almonds and hazelnuts, a little bit of distinctive mustard seed character, light green notes of currant leaves, a hint of steely minerality and a metallic touch of rusted iron.

A ridiculously complex, distinctive and eminently singular wine that is starting to show some age now - at 10 years of age - but is still remarkably tightly-wound and showing tons of potential for future development. A very unique wine by any standards: it is obviously very ripe - all evident in its concentrated flavors, high alcohol and noticeable dry extract - yet it has a slightly vegetal edge to the flavors (possibly reduction? decanting might help?), counterpointing the very ripe feel of the wine quite effectively, tons of mineral nuances that seem to almost overwhelm the bold fruit notes, and finally, a distinctive, smoky undercurrent that betrays the volcanic origins of the wine. Even though many of us had had the wine before, we all were baffled by it and it took a lot of time and guessing before we managed to home in to Somló. The wine was almost as impressive as it was before, but there was a subtly metallic off note that distracted me a little bit, taking a small toll on the score. Nevertheless, a unique experience and a wine of exceptional complexity. Outrageous value at 13,36€. (94 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

8 Likes

Fun to see the Douro white. [cheers.gif]

And an excellent one at that! Not really typical of the region, seeing how many modern Douro Brancos tend to be quite high in alcohol, show at least some oak influence and often are rather modest in acidity. It was pretty hard to guess this was a Douro, seeing this wine wasn’t anything of the above. :slight_smile:

1 Like

The Douro is a very big region, and for a wine to be labeled ‘Douro’ says very little of its terroir. Places like Murça, Alijó (where moscatel galego is still dominant, although receding) and certain parts of the Douro Superior are capable of producing tense, high acidity whites owing to their altitude. This is very far away (geographically and stylistically) from the prime Cima Corgo terroir where most of the great Port houses are headquartered. Many great Douro quintas, like Quinta Nova, don’t have a single white vineyard, and produce all of their whites (some of them remarkable, like Mirabilis) from purchased fruit in the aforementioned sub-subregions.

2 Likes

FYI- SommSelect just listed 2015 Fekete Pince, “Aranyhegy” Furmint for $32. I just snagged a bottle.

1 Like

Awesome! I’ve yet to taste any of the Feketes made after the ownership change - apart from one 2015 Chardonnay, which felt surprisingly fat for a Fekete, but it might be just the variety. I’d love to see how the traditional local varieties are performing.

Will be sure to post a TN when I try it.

Great post (as usual) Otto!
I recently had some younger Somlo and the pairing with oysters was phenomenally good. I checked the Fekete website (feketepincesomlo.hu) and they list stores that stock their bottles. The one in Regensburg had the exact bottle you tasted and now it should be on its way to me :slight_smile:

1 Like

Bloody awesome! I’d be sure to stock any available Fekete bottle available, so if yours seems to be in fair condition, I’d heartily suggest stashing all the remaining bottles you can find. There are not going to be any more bottles from the Grand Old Man! [training.gif]

We opened the first 2011 Juhfark over the weekend and I immediately ordered some Fekete '12 Furmint, '12 and '13 Harslevelu and '12 Olaszrisling. It was that good.

There was a certain resemblance with aged Loire chenin blanc (specifically Huet 1ere tri '89 but without any residual sugar) given the notes of aged bees wax and honey, but there was so much more to this wine. Our bottle didn’t show as much the vegetal elements you described above, but more a dark brooding undertone that is difficult to bring across in descriptors. I guess I now know what liquid volcano tastes like…

1 Like

Yeah, as I pointed out it might’ve been just a hint of reduction. The previous bottle I had (in 2016) didn’t show any green elements, but since there had been so much time between these two bottles, I didn’t have full picture what was just bottle variation and what was due to evolution. If your bottle didn’t show any green notes, I suspect our bottle was just a little bit reduced.

But yeah, it really is THAT good! [cheers.gif] Now is definitely the high time to get out any remaining pre 2014-Feketes (ie. made by the old man himself) if one is interested in tasting a very important (yet often overlooked) part of Hungarian wine history. I’m glad you managed to stash some!