I recently joined Yapp after a number of years servicing the good and great of London's restaurants for rival merchants. What first attracted me to this company was the vibrant list, a reputation for great service and of course the unparalleled selection of wines from the South of France, the Loire and the Rhône Valley, many of which are indisputably iconic. What I wasn't aware of was the exciting and growing selection of aromatic varieties being stockpiled from Germany and the Alsace, including rising stars Klumpp (Baden) and Jürgen Hoffman (Rhienhessen).
Wine royalty has recently joined this swelling section of the Yapp ranks through Léon Beyer in the Alsace and most recently, the historic estate of Reichsgraff von Kesselstatt in the Mosel. Last week, at very short notice, the estate's director Mona Loch joined us on a whistle stop tour of our London restaurant accounts. Mona is a passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgable ambassador of this acclaimed 670 year-old winery and we enjoyed an extremely productive couple of days visiting many of the restaurants we supply, culminating in an exceptionally special lunch with paired wines (including archive bottles sent from the Kesselstatt vaults going back to the 1990's) at Trishna restaurant in Marylebone, who's refined Michelin-endorsed southern Indian cooking proved a perfect foil for these world-class Rieslings. The feedback and support has been tremendously enthusiastic, with many new homes found for these seminal wines.
Reichsgraff von Kesselstatt is unique as it is the only estate with vineyards in all three of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer valleys which allows for a great variety of styles within the portfolio of the estate. The Mosel, with it's steep south facing (up to 70 degrees) slopes, quick-drying rocky slate soils and the warming influence of the river below is one of the great terroirs to produce long-lived, profound Rieslings. The Saar, being slightly cooler, produces fruit that take longer to ripen and therefore wines with wonderful acidic backbone, pronounced minerality, finesse and a spicy complexity. Finally the Ruwer, the 'river' itself is practically a stream so has little effect of the micro climates of the vineyards, it is also high in altitude so is comfortably coldest of three valleys - this combined with dark slate soils result in wines of incredible finesses and subtlety. Across all sites, viticulture is extremely difficult due to the steep valleys and yields are on the whole extremely low - the monopole vineyard Josephshöfer, for example, only produces a miserly 12 hectolitres per hectare.
Much of the estates recent success and critical acclaim must be attributed the legacy of the late and much-missed Annegret Reh-Gartner. Her reign, between 1983 and 2016, heralded a number of vital contributions such as the decision to reduce the holdings of the estate to 46 hectares and most recently the building of a state-of-the-art new pressing facility. She was extremely conscious of promoting German Riesling abroad and was deeply concerned for the well-being of her staff. Here are my tasting notes from a great couple of days!
Alte Reben Riesling 2016
60 year-old vines (Alte Reben means 'old vines' in German). Great tension, minerality and a deep, concentrated palate full of stone fruit and a touch of flinty smokiness coming through on the finish. This was an exceptional match with a delicious shrimp, mango and chilli dish at Trishna.
12.5 % vol. Alcohol; 7.0 g/l Residual Sugar; 6.8 g/l Acidity.
Josephshöfer GG Riesling 2015
The wines of this prodigious monopole vineyard are highly sought-after and the 2015 was showing very well despite it's youth and great potential for ageing. Ideally this needs to be decantered for best results but is already showing incredible depth, complexity and balance. An abundance of ripe stone ripe fruit on the nose giving way to some savoury smokiness, a rich, broad palate follows with seriously impressive balance and length. Extremely versatile, this would be a great match with pork belly, the acidity cutting through the fat but more than enough body and character to hold its own!
12.5 % vol. Alcohol; 7.0 g/l Residual Sugar; 6.2 g/l Acidity.
Josephshöfer GG Riesling 2008
(very limited availability)
A mature example from this wonderful plot which shows great intensity and complexity on the nose. 'Green apple, Kiwi and a touch of orange zest' according to Mona. Great depth and acidic backbone with great minerality. Delicious and a great window into the potential of the 2015.
12.0 % vol. Alcohol; 6.9 g/l Residual Sugar; 6.1 g/l Acidity.
Extremely distinctive style from this Saar vineyard. Deep golden colour, bruised apple aromas with stone fruit and great texture on the palate. Very complex and (despite what the lab analysis might say) showed driest of all the wines. A fully mature treat.
11.5% vol. Alcohol; 8.6 g/l Residual Sugar; 7.0 g/l Acidity.
Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett
A wine of wonderful balance. Aromatics of stone and citrus fruit with more trademark flinty smokiness on the nose, weighty with perfect judged sugar and acidity balance on the palate. 'Incredibly drinkable' wouldn't do the complexity of this wine justice but would be very difficult to leave anything in the bottle!
10.0% vol. Alcohol; 31.7 g/l Residual Sugar; 8.4 g/l Acidity.
Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2003
Lovely evolved aromas of lime, honeyed stone fruit with a hint of kerosene and trademark minerality - unmistakably a top German Riesling in it's prime. A very hot year but the acidity is there and the ripe, candied sweet fruit make this an excellent match for fruit based puddings.
8.0% vol. Alcohol.