Hand harvested on the steeply inclined slopes that rise directly out of the river in the Mosel, these special wines are a serious treat.
‘Beeren’ means ‘berries’ and ‘auslese’ stands for ‘selected harvest’. Rotted by the botrytis cinerea fungus that makes them look shrivelled and as if they’re covered with ash (where the ‘cinerea‘ comes from), one really has to wonder about the mental acuity of the first person who decided to try and produce wine from grapes that would have looked as these did.
If you don’t believe me, check this link out. As most are aware, the Germans are incredible sticklers for the rules. So when one year the declared harvest date was pushed far into the autumn, by the time pickers were able to harvest the grapes, they had been affected by the noble rot.
For some reason, they thankfully decided to persevere and the rest is literally history. This error evolved into one of the most intricate ladders of wine distinctions. In Germany, the Pradikat wines are part of the QMP wine category (Qualitatswein mit Pradikat – quality wines with distinction).
There are 6 levels assessed according to their must weight and ripeness progressing from the lightest and most delicate Kabinett to Spatlese and Auslese, then Beerenauslese (BA), Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA).
The BA and TBA wines are always affected by noble rot. The BAs are rich and deep and used to be rare, but with improved harvesting techniques, growers are able to produce them in most vintages. And not to be trite about it, but global warming helps by ensuring those long, warm autumn afternoons follow cool and foggy mornings so the botrytis can infect the grapes and spread without simply becoming grey rot (that’s the ‘bad’ kind).
The botrytised grapes (try saying that 10x in a row) are hand-picked in very careful ‘tries’ or passes through the vineyard because the fungus doesn’t affect all the grapes at the same time. They really are some of the very best world class wines around, they take much time and care to pick and vinify and can’t be made in every vintage. The best ones are made from Riesling grapes, that fabulous ‘can-make-any-kind-of-wine-there-is’ grape.
This wine is clear and bright, pale gold with legs. The nose is clean and youthful with medium plus intensity and aromas of botrytis with apple and lemony citrus, orange blossom and mandarin slice.
On the palate, it’s sweet with high mouthwatering acidity, medium body, low alcohol with medium plus intensity and flavours of stone fruit – green, red and yellow apple and pear with apricot – mandarin blossom, fresh marmalade, honey and the distinctive botrytis. It has a lovely medium plus finish.
WSET ‘Very Good +’, this wine is sweet but not cloying with a refreshing and juicy acidity balanced by the residual sweetness. It’s drinking beautifully and can last for a long time yet with that acidity and the fruit concentration. When paired with the Benton Brothers’ Challerhocker Swiss cheese, it becomes simply Outstanding.