Robert Parker 91
The Keller 2010 Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Grosses Gewachs delivers zesty fresh lemon and milled grain on the nose as well as on a firm, overtly chalk-dusted palate for a personality more than a little reminiscent of a high-acid (and indeed, high-strung!) white Burgundy. A welcome, saliva-inducing sense of salinity emerges in a glowingly persistent finish, with piquancy of peach kernel and almond lending some counterpoint. This understated, relatively austere but (at just 12.2% alcohol) buoyant and intense Riesling should be worth following for at least the next half dozen years, though it will have to prove to me that it can become more friendly than formidable. There are, incidentally, a mere 500 liters, the smallest lot of Grosses Gewachs in this collection. I considered leading off my introduction to the 2010 vintage with a quote from Klaus Keller senior, utilized for the estate’s own vintage report: â€œWe have never experienced a vintage in which along the way we stood so near the qualitative abyss and in the end harvested such fantastic quality.â€ â€œIt’s not easy to explain all of the efforts we made in 2010,â€ says Klaus Peter Keller of a collection enormously impressive even by his recent standards and which he claims cost a record number of man-hours, â€œbut certainly the best recipe was to postpone harvest for as long as possible ” by which time, the other growers in our sector had long since finished ” and then correct (acids) only moderately. With patience and low yields, everything was possible. We only began picking Riesling near the end of October, and for the basic (i.e. generic) level of wines we had to de-acidify from 12 to 10.5 grams, which after tartrate precipitation and fermentation resulted in around 9 grams,â€ still high for German Riesling, which is to say for any dry wine! â€œWith the parcels we harvested into November,â€ though, Keller continues, â€œwe didn’t have to correct acidity at all,â€ and the musts for dry wines registered in the 8-10 gram range. For controlling dauntingly high (13-19 grams) acidity in the eventual sweet wines, Keller emphasized the significance of his having employed a basket press recently acquired from the Mosel that permits introduction of buffering matter without the risk he felt would be run by extended skin contact in wines where â€œyou already had no end of extract and risked ending up with something bitter, ponderous and lacking in tension or interplay.â€ Not that Keller believes the basket press superior merely for dry wine, quite the contrary. He finds it conducive ” indeed, he suggests â€œcriticalâ€ ” to elegance and transparency in residually sweet Riesling as well. And this ” along with generally restrained and especially well-judged sugar levels ” has made for as fine a collection at that end of the stylistic spectrum as I have yet witnessed at this address. Finished alcohol levels for all of this year’s dry Rieslings ranged between 12-13% (with one of the Grosse Gewachse as low as 12.2%), the lowest levels since Klaus Peter Keller has been working his family’s vines, but, he emphasizes, more than enough ” indeed, more than merely fine ” by him, given the flattering flavors and textures he achieved. Keller began bottling the Grosse Gewachse in late spring, with the Morstein, Abtserde, and G-Max bottled mid-August and not due for release until spring 2012. For all of the astonishing range ” not to mention quality ” of wines that Keller rendered from 2010, one category near to his heart, residually sweet Kabinett, was simply not possible from any of the material he harvested. The latest amazing array of Keller Trockenbeerenauslesen finished fermenting already by June and so was bottled before high summer. â€œYou’re always going to get at least a bit of malo-lactic transformation in wines of this sort that sit for a very long time,â€ he says by way of explaining his decision to bottle them when he did. Note that as explained in Issue 192, the name of the site Abtserde continues to appear on Keller’s labels as AbtsE, since it remaining legally proscribed ” if capriciously enforced ” to label with any vineyard name that was registered before the Wine Law of 1971 went into effect but not registered as an official Einzellage thereafter. Now, however, the relevant Einzellage, Brunnenhauschen ” of whose surface area the original Abtserde makes up perhaps 10% ” appears on what is technically the â€œfront labelâ€ of each Keller wine, so I have begun including it as part of that wine’s name. Lest Keller’s ” and hence, my ” attempt at dealing with this annoying situation engenders yet further confusion, readers should please bear in mind that the name â€œBrunnenhauschen – Abtserdeâ€ as I have now begun writing it, refers to exactly the same delimited vineyard area as did simply â€œAbtserde.â€ Once again this year, I did not manage to taste the entire huge Keller collection, even though I scheduled an entirely separate appointment for Pinot Noir. (As mentioned in the general introduction to my 2010 vintage German coverage, I shall devote a later report entirely to German-speaking Pinot Noir, so I have not included Keller’s reds in the reviews that follow). Wines on which I cannot report include a high-r.s. Kirchspiel Spatlese; Scheurebe Spatlese; Rieslaner Auslese; and Riesling Auslesen from Hubacker und Morstein, about these last two of which Keller wrote me, apologetically, in early December that he had overlooked them â€œin the flood of nobly sweet winesâ€ that he presented during my September visit. Imported by Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ; tel. (856) 608 9644, Dee Vine Wines, San Francisco, CA tel. (877) 389-9463, and Frances Rose Imports Inc., Huntley, IL; tel. (815) 382 9533
Elegant aromas of apricot pit, lemon oil and pine nuts. Crisp and fresh, with noteworthy nerve, poise and balance. Salty minerality and penetrating spices carry the finish. Very refined and eminently drinkable.