TN: Tasting of Austrian, German and Champagne with Terry Theise

Some thoughts on a fun Terry Theise tasting event yesterday at Table & Vine:

Terry was in fine form (as usual), covering topics that ranged from pro wrestling to the return of David Schildknecht to the wine reviewing game. The most important question of the day was how specific one needs to be when using “floral” in describing a wine. We apparently had a horticultural is in the audience who wanted specificity in her floral descriptors.

Anyway it was great to see Terry again, and the wines did not suck.

We started with a 2013 Glatzer Zweigelt “Riedencuvee” which showed all the black cherry that Zweigelt typically has, but added some black licorice and other savory notes. Good QPR for $17.

The 2013 Glatzer Pinot Blanc was all pear and apple fruit with greater richness than I would have expected. Good acidity on the back end of this. By the way, in Austria a Pinot Blanc must be Pinot Blanc. No Auxerrois allowed. $15, and worth every penny.

Next up was a lovely bottle of 2013 Nigl Grüner Veltliner Freiheit that had digital clarity and the classic GV blend of green notes and fruit. So refreshing! $20.

Two wines from Hiedler were up next, the 2013 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Loess and the 2013 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Kittmansberg. The Loess was broad and rich, especially since it followed the Nigl. It was an LP to the Nigl’s CD. It carried the richness all the way through, focusing on ripe apple fruit. The Kittmansberg showed more brightness but even more depth than the Loess. Apple, peach, a touch of lime zest-just a gorgeous wine. The Loess was good value again at $20, but the Kittmansberg for $32 was the buy for me. I just loved it.

Moving on to Riesling, we had a third Hiedler wine, the 2013 Hiedler Riesling Urgestein that showed baking spices, red apple, peach skin and a lot of minerality. It feels funny to keep saying this, but another value for $25.

Then the 2006 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Vom Stein took it to another level. Per Terry, this was a late release from Nigl that was supposed to be held back even longer for one of their special bottling so, but they ran out of cask space! Bottled this year (so nearly 9 years post vintage) it threaded the needle for me, showing the extra depth, richness and complexity of extended cask aging, but not going too far to the cask dominated character of the Vinothek series. This was so gorgeous, with more baking spices, rich peach fruit and endless depth. So beautiful, and yes, great, great value at $40!

We then moved on to a single Champagne, the Varnier-Fanniere Cuvée St. Denis Brut NV which was disgorged in 2011. What a beautiful Blanc de Blancs! Baked apple, creamy notes, toast, spices, excellent depth and just a mouthful of delicious. It did pick up more advanced notes with air (Laura grabbed an extra pour at the end of the event), so I would drink this disgorgement soon, but what a great drink for right now. $70.

Moving on to German Riesling, we sampled 7 different wines.

Starting with the 2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Feinherb Ur Alte Reben we were really at the summit for me. This is my “sweet” spot for German Riesling. It’s amazing how powerful this wine is, while never being remotely heavy. The complex aromas and flavors spanned green fruit, mint, green tea, Sweet-Tarts and red apple. I kept some of this in a glass through the rest of the tasting, and it was always a star. Stunning stuff and superior value at $30.

We followed up with the 2014 Selbach Saar Riesling Kabinett which was bright, Kabinett in weight and style, and showed the green, leafy and tart fruit that just said “Saar” to me. Another great QPR at $15.

A perennial favorite, the 2014 Dönnhoff Riesling (Estate) showed as well as it always does, and was immensely more expressive than when I last tasted it in June. Fresh peach fruit and salty minerality dominated the palate, with a level of depth that sets the standard for estate Rieslings. Pardon me while I proclaim yet another stunning value at $20.

I will mention that we tasted the 2014 von Winning Riesling “Winnings”, but will reserve judgement, as the wine was incredibly reductive.

Moving on to the 2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, the green fruit and bright character of 2014 was again in play. This may be a little bit big for Kabinett, but it still can sing in that choir. Excellent focus here. $25.

Back to the Nahe for the 2014 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpful Riesling Kabinett , and the purity and depth that always mark a Dönnhoff wine were on show again. Lime zest and peach (that seems to be the 2014 marker for me) with a bright top note and palate staining depth is aligned to a freshness and lightness that speaks again to Kabinett. The Krotenpful is not a typical vineyard for Dönnhoff, so the flavors are a bit unique in the stable, but the grace and purity shows the signature of the estate. $25

Finally we went backwards in time to the 2012 vintage, with the 2012 Meulenhof Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese Alte Reben that came from a section of the vineyard that escaped the replanting several years ago. The 70-ish year old vines, on their own roots, make for a mouthful of chalky, creamy, peachy goodness that carries its sweetness with aplomb. I have been drinking through the 1998 of what is essentially this same wine, and it is in prime time now, so expect a good 15-20 years or more from this delicious 2012. All this for $25!

Well that was fun!

Thanks for the notes David. Sounds like S-O did pretty well in '14. I’ll be sure to look for some. Surprised to see the price for the Varnier and glad to have purchased some for $40 a year ago.

Thank you for this, David.

For someone committed to exploring Germany/Austria more fully, these succinct notes covering a broad array of wines are very helpful. I have limited experience with Riesling, but I can say that those old vine Selbach-Oster wines always stand out to me and seem very well priced.

The distributor for the Theise Champagnes in my area takes a very healthy profit margin. I can get the wine much cheaper elsewhere, but even at $70 it is outstanding.


Thanks for this. Really like the descriptor “digital clarity”. I will be on the lookout for the re-released 2006 Nikolaihof.