WBW 45 – Old World Reisling | Catavino
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WBW 45 – Old World Reisling

Joh.Jos. Christoffel, 2003 ÃœRZIGER WÃœRZGARTEN Auslese***

Today, I have a treat for myself. I need a treat. It’s been one of those weeks that leaves you wondering why you even bother going to bed, since you’ll be up at back at work the minute you wake up again. Recently, my days have started to feel drawn out and full of ups and downs, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to participate in this month’s Wine Blog Wednesday even though the theme, Old World Reisling, is something I truly adore. I just don’t have the energy, but then I decided to change my attitude to become a little more relaxed and calm.

The reason I love Old World Reisling is for one simple reason, or rather one particular man, Terry Theise. If you’re not familiar with his name, please stop reading and go to his page at Skurnik Wines. Download all of his wine catalogs and start reading veraciously. I can wait. In fact, if you don’t make it back here, I excuse you, because these catalogs are too good to be true.

To be honest, I’m not much of a writer, nor am I much of a reader. And because I love them both, we call this a conundrum. I write here, and I read there, and I sometimes find myself feeling a little empty. Maybe it’s the content, the subjects or both. I’m not really sure, but when I went looking for information on one of my Reislings today, I found Terry.

Mind you, if it weren’t for this man, I wouldn’t be appreciating these bottles of wine right now. It would be equivalent to using the 100 point system and not knowing who Robert Parker is. So, I quickly downloaded his catalog where I thought I might find reference to my German Reisling, but suddenly, I was lost. Lost in his words, wit and wisdom. Terry’s catalogs, whether you like wine or not, are a must read for his frankness, honesty, word play, and humor. If you don’t love German Reisling, well, you may change your mind when you read Terry’s words.

To start his report, he always places his manifesto at the top, before you get to the meat of the report.
Theise Mannifesto

  • Beauty is more important than impact.
  • Harmony is more important than intensity.
  • The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of
    its parts.
  • Distinctiveness is more important than conventional
  • Soul is more important than any thing, and soul is expressed as
    a trinity of family, soil and artisanality.

This is a manifesto that I can get behind! Drinking Iberian wine everyday, I often forget how much I love the world of wine and not anyone region. These words are timeless, and in my opinion, great advice for anyone just getting into wine. Live by these words and you can’t go wrong.

But this post is not about Terry Theise, but rather Old World Reisling. Today, we have 2 wines in front of us, one from the heralded 2003 vintage in Germany, an Auslese from one of the premier wine makers in Terry’s collection. I bought this wine as a future at a tasting in Minneapolis back when I still sold wine. A guided tasting with one of the sharpest palates I’ve ever been with, Terry showed us that despite “Crazy-ass heat” one could still make a Reisling full of nuance and character. In truth, I can’t tell you why I bought this one versus the many others that were in my price range at the time. I was relatively new to German wines, and excited to explore a region that seems totally frightening when you look at the complicated labels. But on this particular night, I learned that I had to at least try and dig through the odd characters, strange accents, and unpronounceable names to get at the heart of these treats. And consequently, I fell in love.

2007 Sumarroca Reisling, Penedès, Spain

Today I sit in a Reisling wasteland. I’ve tried Reisling from around Spain, and I believe that I’ve even had a Portuguese Reisling once. But I wouldn’t recommend them. Nonetheless, I’m here to taste, so you don’t have to. Therefore, to balance the pie a bit, I’m also about to open a 2007 dry Reisling from down the road, a Penedes treat that has never offended me, though that is not much of an endorsement either.

From the moment I open the Sumarroca 2007 from the Penedes, I’m instantly happy and sad. Happy that it’s still fresh and lively. Sad, because there is not much to it. Reisling, I’m afraid, is not meant for Iberia. It loses its soul. The land of the Toro, and the feisty Spanish persona, is not a home for something with a delicate nature. Spain is land of bold wines with bright flavors and complex traits, and for me, I want something more subtle when I drink Reisling. The Sumarroca is easy to drink, simple and a great example of muscat, or a simple summer white blend. From their site (annoying flash, don’t bother visiting it):

Entirely produced from grapes grown in the Sumarroca Estate, only the best 50% from the first juice (free-run) of these carefully selected Muscat varieties has been used for this wine. Fermentation took place during 3 weeks under strict temperature control at 15º C in stainless steel tanks. It has been gently filtered and stabilized at a low temperature before bottling.

Reisling was never meant to be 100% dry, or at least not very often. Alsace is an exception, however, and the sugar makes a big difference. Now I know that some of you are saying, “I don’t like sweet wines”! To you, I say, “give me a break”! Put down your dry Coca-Cola and listen. Sweet is good. Sweet is nice. And just like in dry wines, if the wine is NOT balanced, than it will taste bad. Mogan David tastes horrid, because it’s like drinking syrup! Good Reisling doesn’t have this problem, due to its high acidity. I’ve served very sweet Reislings to friends who have quickly responded, “what a nice dry wine this is”. 50 grams of sugar dry! The acidity balanced the wine, whereby keeping your tongue from becoming a syrup slick. Ok rant done…Now on to what has made my afternoon pleasant.

Joh.Jos. Christoffel, 2003 ÃœRZIGER WÃœRZGARTEN Auslese***, that’s a mouthfull! Let me preface the next few lines with this, I love Spanish and Portuguese wine, but I needed this. This is a pure stroke of bright light through my Tempranillo stained tongue. New flavors, aromas and textures, dance though my mind, and I feel handicapped describing the wine before me. Because I am so tied up in Iberia, I almost forgot why I loved wine, diversity. In my glass sits some of the most gorgeous honey flavors with minerals, petrol, fruits and flowers, exotic and rare. Here are Terry’s own notes from his report on this wine.

2003 Ürziger Würzgarten Reisling Auslese*** ++
“This is always from the same parcel, and it cannot produce more than forty hectoliters per hectare,” says Hans-Leo. “We’ve had at least Spätlese from this site in every vintage except 1991. I could make these wines heavier, but it goes against my philosophies. The day I can’t make wines like these any more is the day I’ll pack it in.” It’s down below, to the right of the sundial, in case you want to locate it. This 2003 has the extra note, the Grand Cru flavor, now glazed with the finest botrytis maltiness. As always what amazes here is the density and delicacy, and here, in 2003, the siren-song of minerality.
SOS: 3 (between ten and thirty years)

I’m glad I wrote this!! I’m glad I opened this treasure before it’s time (I wanted to wait 5 more years), and I’m glad I still have 2/3’s of a bottle left for dinner tonight. Although, I’m not sure I want to drink this with the meal. It is perfect for some many dishes, as its balance would complement more treats than you might expect. But no, I think I’ll grab the bottle, sit up on my roof, watch the sun set over Montserrat, and let my mind drift. That’s what wine is for. Thanks Terry!


Ryan Opaz


  • 2003 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ãœrziger Würzgarten Reisling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (5/7/2008)
    Still showing a bit of spritz on this lightly golden wine. The nose though is mature, with deep honey tones, light petrol notes, hidden nuts and fruits. Really a complex nose that I think will develop nicely into the night. In the mouth though this is a lush treat. with a racy acidity, that cuts though a high buy non-cloying sweetness. Incredible…really fun to taste as complex flavors seem to develop in my mouth, and shift from one flavor to another. Think of flesh fruits, on a bed a gravel with a floral honey lightly drizzled over the top. Light mustiness like darkened honey comb, lingers around the edges of my mouth as I revel at this wines elegance and beauty. Perfect balance. 5/5
  • Gabriella

  • 2003 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ãœrziger Würzgarten Reisling Auslese *** – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (5/7/2008)
    Light golden yellow in color with tiny bubbles that lay dormant, only occasionally springing to the surface of the wine. On the nose, the wine shows its age and maturity with rich honey, cooked peaches, ripe pear and a touch of petro right on the end. The bouquet is reserved, graceful and classy. In the mouth the wine has a beautiful spritz, alive with acidity, zest and life, perfectly balancing the sugar. Incredibly rich and round mouthfeel that covers the entire palate before it gently slides off leaving a lovely yellow floral and honey flavor. I’ve had some lovely whites in my lifetime, but this is incredible. Perfectly integrated, well balanced and overall, an unbelievably good wine! 5/5
  • Ryan</strong

  • 2007 Sumarroca Reisling Penedès – Spain, Catalunya, Penedès (5/7/2008)
    Light golden in color this wine has a nice simple nose of white flowers, melon, and honey. Really clean and straight forward, while in the mouth a medium acidity balances this fully dry wine, whose fruit is one again simple and straight forward. Nectarine, minerals, and honey notes mingle in and out. Not bad for a summer sipper, though not inspiring either. 3/5
  • Gabriella

  • 2007 Sumarroca Reisling Penedès – Spain, Catalunya, Penedès (5/7/2008)
    Light golden in color with a slightly green tinge, showing a lovely and expressive white floral bouquet, bolstered by aromas of white peaches, honey, lychee and a slight barnyard aromas. In the mouth, the wine is slightly off balanced, as the racy acidity shows shows a tartness that is quite frankly, a little unpleasant. Full and round in the mouth with a medium body and a nice gentle finish. Candy mandarin and honey on palate, with hints of orange peach and gravel. Paired with a fresh pasta salad with garden picked cherry tomatoes, however, I think this would be a nice wine. 3.5/5