2015 German Riesling: A Vintage for the History Books

I’ve had the great pleasure of sourcing and selling German wine for over ten vintage releases – and not one has been as exciting as the release of 2015s! For the German wine crowd, summer can feel like a Riesling version of the holiday season – lots of happy demand for the just-landed summer quaffers, salivating pre-arrivals, eagerly-anticipated GG releases and the looming annual auctions. But the 2015s have taken all that to the next level!

And rightly so since the wines themselves are also next level. 2015 was a vintage with an ideal configuration of elements that resulted in many near-perfect wines. Growers are claiming similarities along the lines of 2001 and (from those that can remember) 1971. If you recall, there was a very warm stretch in August that amped up the grapes physiological ripeness, but the cool, dry autumn meant they did not develop much botrytis. Harvest time was not rushed so the bunches could achieve optimal depth and extract creating textural and aromatic complexity, all the while temperatures stayed cool after that one heat spike, so the grapes retained natural acidity, freshness and energy.

Starting now and throughout the fall we will be doing all we can to source as much of the best of the 2015 releases for you. Please sign up for our Riesling list to receive 2015 offers from our known favorite estates – Prum, Kruger-Rumpf, Peter Lauer, Weiser-Kunstler, Willi Schaefer, Schafer-Frohlich, A.J. Adam, Carl Loewen, Schloss Lieser, and Egon Muller. We will also be highlighting a number of under-the-radar producers who made fantastic wines not to be missed – Merkelbach, Eugen Muller, Knebel, Kunstler, and Dreissigacker are just a few – it’s a fun vintage to explore and cast a wide net and catch some very, very good Rieslings. 

Cheers, Rosemary

Join our special Riesling list to receive advance offers of the 2015 Rieslings


Here is a list of the current 2015 Rieslings in stock and ready to purchase

More Riesling questions? Email Rosemary at rosemary.gray@flatiron-wines.com

Jérôme Prévost Les Béguines

CloserieUnder the La Closerie label, Prévost makes only two wines from a tiny 2.2 hectare parcel, Les Béguines, southwest of Reims in the village of Gueux. The grapes there are almost all entirely 40-year-old Pinot Meunier vines, with a very teeny amount of young-vine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc in an adjacent bloc which (for now) are blended in to Prévost’s flagship wine. The soils in this region are calcareous with sand, and the signature chalk of the Champagne region lies many meters below the surface, making these wines and interesting illumination of the varied terroir of Champagne.

All of Prévost wines are fermented in neutral oak barrels, and then bottled the following summer without fining, filtration, or cold-stabilization, and only a minimal amount of sulfur. Prévost prefers post-disgorgement aging and these wines spend less than three years in on the lees before release – which is why they cannot be officially vintage labeled. Though they are conveniently coded with the year of harvest (LC13 is harvest 2013 for example). There are fewer than 10,000 bottles a year in total production.

This wine embodies all the loveliest qualities of Pinot Meunier and the northern Champagne zone it thrives in – a unique character of umami, hay, earth, rose hip, structure, and generosity packed with the saline minerality signature of this subregion of Champagne.

As you can imagine, with only 2.2 hectares we see very little wine each release. That said, it’s worth the effort to find them and we spent a long while sourcing what we could to have a little stock of the most recent release (LC13). These are some of the best Champagne additions you can bring to your cellar. With proper mid-term aging they will weave together harmoniously, becoming more structured and generous with each passing year. How long? You will be rewarded with 5-10 years of patience – but, of course, it’s a joy to check in with a bottle here and there along the way.

Cheers, Rosemary

Jérôme Prévost, Champagne Brut Nature Closerie “Les Béguines”, [LC13] $104.99

Peter Lauer: 2015 Barrel X and Senior

We’re always excited for the arrival of Peter Lauer’s “Barrel X” and “Senior” as they’re one of our first (and favorite!) tastes of the new vintage from Germany. But we’re even more excited than usual for the lauded 2015s to arrive, though admittedly a little sad, too, knowing they’ll disappear as quickly as they came.

Kupp

Ayler Kupp

Florian Lauer, the fifth-generation winemaker of Weingut Peter Lauer is one of the finest vignerons in Germany. Thoughtfully farming a number of sites in the Saar Valley, largely in the esteemed Ayler Kupp, Florian’s wines are known for having both depth and precision and for revealing the myriad of unique terroirs in the Saar. It will be a long while before the 2015 single-vineyard wines are ready to drink, so we’re especially thankful for the “Barrel X” and “Senior,” which are made for early-drinking everyday pleasure.

Barrel X is the answer to all quests for refreshment: classic zippy Saar fruit with lots of mineral, chisel, acid, crunch, and cheer. And the magnums are perfect for your summer parties, reasonably priced and gorgeous in the always-stylish torpedo bottle. You definitely want to show up to the rooftop with that.

“Senior” is a little more serious. It’s the wine Florian selects each vintage to represent the cask that his grandfather would set aside for the household’s daily drinking pleasure that year. It’s not challenging, but with fruit from the Saar’s Grand Cru, Ayler Kupp, it is worth a moment of your attention if you’re so inclined.

There is such high demand for the 2015s that we don’t expect these to last all that long. We encourage you to grab quantity while the availability is good so you can enjoy the deliciousness for most of the year!

Cheers, Rosemary

Peter Lauer, Riesling “Senior”, 2015 $25.99

Peter Lauer, Riesling “Barrel X”, 2015 $19.99

House Wine: Chablis Edition

SavarySMOver the years Savary has become our house Chablis. Since we opened we’ve carried every vintage and made many customers very happy with the finely etched wines (wow, was the 2008 fantastic!).

At first, customers tried Savary’s Chablis for the obvious reasons. The pricing is great and the connection to Raveneau is certainly a good sign (they were childhood friends, and it was Bernard Raveneau that introduced Olivier Savary to Kermit Lynch). And when we first featured Savary in our newsletter it was from the bright and beautiful 2010 vintage.

And these are important factors to consider when venturing to try a new wine for the first time, but in the end it always comes down to taste. And more so than just about any other Chablis we have found at this price point, Savary’s wines are packed full of that indescribable, inimitable Chablis character: rocks, minerals, salinity, iodine, citrus. It is Chablis’ true essence – distinguished, delicious chisel.

2014 in Chablis is at least as good as 2010 and 2008, and many people think it’s even better. The new vintage just arrived in New York and we bought a ton so that we can have it for you at the best possible price. But also because we want to make sure that we (and you) can always have at least one bottle ready in the fridge all summer long.

Savary, Chablis, 2014 – $24.99

Orders for Savary 2014 Chablis can be placed online or by emailing us at order@flatiron-wines.com

New York Times Wine School: Grüner Veltliner

Eric Asimov’s New York Times Wine School: Austrian Grüner Veltliner 

We have two of his featured wines in stock—for now—and have a great substitute for the third, and we’re offering them today at a special discount (good through Sunday, July 10) as part of our celebration of this new website! We recently offered all of these wines to our newsletter subscribers, but luckily have a little more in (or coming in).

Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein, 2014 Pre-Arrival $25.99 $22.99

Nikolaihof, Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug”, 2014 $26.99 $23.99

Unfortunately, the Knoll sold out when we offered it to our email subscribers (sign up for our newsletter here, so that you get first crack at these kinds of wines). But we have an absolutely delicious and incredibly well-priced recommendation to take its place:

Bernhard Ott, Grüner Veltliner “Am Berg”, 2014 Pre-Arrival $18.99 $15.99this is always a great wine, but the 2014 is super-special. Read on to learn why!


 

Why we love Grüner Veltliner:

Reading Eric’s Wine School column reminded us of the great moment in the early aughts when Grüner Veltliner captured the attention of sommeliers and wine-lovers across the US – largely because of how great it is at the table.

Now here we are, more than ten years later, and many fashions have come and gone. But Grüner Veltliner, while no longer the grape-du-jour (or however you say that in German), has become something greater: a staple for wine drinkers. And rightly so! It is made into some of the most delicious everyday table wine and, when grown in the right terroir (and crafted in the right hands), becomes wine that is as complex, refined, nuanced, terroir-expressive and age-worthy as its Riesling brethren.

Though Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s most widely planted grape, some regions produce far less of this wine than others. The Wachau– home to Knoll and Nikolaihof, both Wine School features – is one of the world’s tiniest fine wine regions (1,350 hectares compared to Burgundy’s 25,000) and the wines are always very limited. So it’s no surprise that the 2014 Knoll Asimov featured sold out as soon as we offered it to our newsletter friends.

We’re eagerly awaiting the 2015s (in late fall or even early January), but in the meantime we have lots of great Grüner to drink. Our first recommendation is to try a wine from the Wagram, which is actually the region most famous for Grüner Veltliner.

We have long praised Bernard Ott, a biodynamic grower deeply devoted to Grüner Veltliner’s potential. He does make a Riesling, but all of his single vineyard grand crus (Stein, Spielgel, Rosenberg) are devoted to the power, finesse and depth of Grüner Veltliner.

2014, however, presents a rare and special opportunity: yields were so low that Ott didn’t have enough wine to bottle the single vineyards on their own. So he declassified all these top sites, and blended them into his estate bottlings, giving them an extra boost of depth, texture and substance.

The result is a 2014 Am Berg that is simply off the charts.


 

Asimov’s Wine school selections, Nikolaihof and Hirsch:

We actually featured Nikolaihof’s 2014 Hefeabzug in our weekly newsletter just last week, so many of you already snagged some bottles at our special newsletter price. Luckily we were able to grab another drop of the wine and are happy to extend the newsletter pricing to online customers this week.

Nikolaihof is a storied winery. Thought to be the oldest in Austria (production is documented back to 470 A.D. and portions of the cellar date to 1075), it has been in the Saahs family since 1894. They have cared for the land fastidiously, working as naturally as possible and ensuring health and stability in the vineyards. They began farming biodynamically in 1971 and were the first winery to be Demeter-certified. Again and again we find that Nikolaihof’s practices enable the vines to preserve their wonderful energy and transmute it into the vibrant, long-lived wines we love.

Johannes Hirsch is another Flatiron favorite; in fact, just a couple of weeks back we made a special offer of the Hirsch wines to fans of German and Austrian wines on our list (see a longer version of that offer here on our blog). We don’t think it’s hyperbolic to claim these are some of the most delicious, nuanced, and impressive wines coming from all of Austria. Johannes brings a special energy and joy to his craft, and that combined with impressive Kamptal terroir makes for some very extraordinary wines.

We stressed in that blog post that Grüner Veltliner and Riesling often need a little time in the bottle before they begin to reveal their true depth, nuance and complexity (the biggest shame is that most Austrian wine is consumed too young!). So we are super-thrilled to have a small selection of Hirsch wines with bottle age. [link to search?]. But of course we’re also happy to have the 2014 Heiligenstein GV for those interested in diving into Asimov’s Wine School.

Cheers,
Rosemary

Nikolaihof, Grüner Veltliner “Hefeabzug”, 2014 $26.99 $23.99 From Austria’s esteemed Wachau region, the fruit is bright and refreshing—classic 2014 character highlighting grace and energy. Subtle white pepper and fresh melon make this a perfectly versatile food wine. The depth of texture from time on the lees elevates the body without any loss of elegance.

Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner Heiligenstein, 2014 (Pre-Arrival) $25.99 $22.99 From one of Austria’s top producers who consistently highlights the true great sites of the Kamptal region. This wine is classically savory, aromatic and quite amazing: a wine with a perfect balance of freshness, energy and depth—and an exceptionally long finish.

Bernhard Ott, Grüner Veltliner “Am Berg”, 2014 (Pre-Arrival) $18.99 $15.99 From the Wagram master of Gruner Veltliner, the 2014 Am Berg is elevated because of contribution of declassified fruit from some of the most ideal sites for GV in Wagram. Still marked by the grace and freshness of the vintage, there is so much substance, depth and complexity for under $20.

Please click the links to order or email us at orders@flatiron-wines.com. Offer pricing is available through Sunday, July 10 and the wines will be available for pick up or delivery early next week. Not on our newsletter yet?

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Hirsch: The Upper Echelon of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner

HirschBlogsmI enjoyed a stunning reminder of just how profound Johannes Hirsch’s wines are when I was at an Austrian wine tasting this past June. Not that I ever really forget, but it was still amazing to see just how next-level the wines seemed even when surrounded by many of Austria’s other great producers. Even more shocking, the Hirsch line up was all 2013 and 2014s – not the already legendary (and mostly not yet released or, admittedly, ready-to-drink) 2015s.

It may be a cliché, but my first take-away from the tasting was that it’s true: buy the producer, not the vintage. Good producers’ wines will reflect the vintage, without allowing inherent quality levels to waver. And in the hands of very top producers, like Johannes Hirsch, less wildly praised vintages will even outperform what average producers can do in a more highly praised vintage.

And just a handful of Austrian vignerons are as inspiring as Johannes Hirsch. Based in the bucolic Kamptal region, his estate looks directly toward the Grand Cru sites of Heiligenstein, Gaisberg, Lamm, and Renner. No other producer quite reaches the heights he achieves from these great Kamptal sites. It may be meticulous biodynamic practices, or attentiveness in the cellar, or adaptability in challenging vintages, or world-class terroir, or just the passion and care of a vigneron and winemaker who loves fine wine from all regions and pours his heart into his craft. However the inspiration happens, Hirsch makes magic wines at both the village and the Grand Cru level every single vintage.

Heiligenstein Vineyard

Heiligenstein Vineyard

My second take away from these recent tastings (and my visit last summer at the Hirsch estate) is that the 2013s are becoming really, really delicious! If you haven’t checked in on them (or maybe were apprehensive to buy on release?), now that the wines have had the opportunity to relax in the bottle it’s time to reacquaint yourself with what this vintage has to offer.

2013 was, if you recall, a classically structured cool vintage that, to the delight of acid-freaks, was crunchy, tense, and energetic, with the sort of unbelievable tension and vivacity that riper vintages simply cannot deliver. But with a couple years in the bottle the wines have eased, their elemental components harmonizing. Their youthful zing has become joyfully refreshing, and what is emerging is a collection of very delicious terroir-expressive wines.

We are thrilled to celebrate finding the last stash of 2013 Hirsch available. These are neither fully mature, nor too young to enjoy fully tonight; they are wines that should not go overlooked for cellaring or for daily drinking.

We also have a few bottles of back-vintage Hirsch available – all of these wines are going to begin to show a little more sense of being settled than their current release counterparts. However, don’t expect them to be displaying characteristics of maturity– even the fantastic 2003 Heiligenstein feels like it’s barely budged.

Cheers, Rosemary

Hirsch, Gruner Veltliner No. 1, 2013 $18.99
Likely the best quality for value in under $20 Gruner Veltliner. Hirsch’s style maintains grace and elegance and never goes overtly savory or too peppery. We have a smallish stash of this wine (the last splash!) but ultimately it’s limited here. But we could not resist having around a (cheap!) fresh, delicious GV showing far more complexity and depth than any baby 2015 could attempt to match.

Hirsch, Riesling Zobing, 2013 $24.99
This is a precise wine emphasizing a smoky mineral focus and crunchy acidity. Fresh, zippy and bright with remarkable depth of fruit even though it feels weightless on the palate. Exceptional length. Ideal Riesling for all summer drinking.

Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Gaisberg, 2013 $54.99
A site with a bedrock of pure microschist and primary rock, these wines always have a powerful minerality with an exotic spice tone. Hirsch makes multiple passes with only the most ideal fruit going to this single vineyard bottling. While the power and a core structure cannot be denied, here it’s gracefully interpreted and the finish is epically persistent.

Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve Back Vintages
There is always a signature smoky minerality because of Heiligenstein’s volcanic origins. Without being heavy the wines always exceptional depth of fruit, texture and length. While the wines are still totally refreshing, their complexity and compelling nuance cannot be overlooked. Arguably Hirsch’s top wine there is are few Rieslings in the world as profound as what he nurtures from his best vines in the Heiligenstein.

Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2013 $53.99
Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2003 $59.99
Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2007 $59.99
Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2009 $59.99
Hirsch, Riesling Reserve Heiligenstein, 2010 $59.99

You can place an order for Hirsch online by using the links or you can place by emailing us at orders@flatiron-wines.com.

NYC Thursday Special Local Tasting: Shinn Estate!

New York, Thursday, May 19, 2016 5:00pm – 7:00 pm

There’s delicious wine being made right in our own backyard as Jamie, from the North Fork’s Shinn Estate, will be in the shop to remind us. With a background in cooking and the arts, winemakers Barbara Shinn and David Page began planting their vines in 1998 with the goal of building an estate winery with a cozy bed and breakfast attached. Today, they have established biodynamic vineyards and a thriving B&B, and they make over 10 different wines as well as brandy! Drink local!

We will be tasting:
Shinn Estate Vineyards, Red Wine, NV $13.99
Shinn Estate Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc “First Fruit”, 2014 $17.99
Shinn Estate Vineyards, “Coalescence”, 2014 $13.99

NYC Friday Tasting: Rosé Favorites from the Classic to the Obscure!

New York, Friday, May 20, 2016 5:00 – 8:00pm

From light and fruity to textured and savory, we’ve got you covered this season, and this Friday is your chance to try a few of our favorites!

First we’ll pour a mineral-driven, high-acid Sancerre rosé by Loire superstar, Jean-Paul Labaille of Domaine Thomas-Labaille. His 100% Pinot Noir rose is a direct press that is sure to pair well with your next picnic.

Next, moving west into the Loire Valley in Chinon, we have a 100% Cabernet Franc rosé from Domaine Bernard Baudry. The wine is both savory and wild, while still pure and lipsmacking.

Moving to the south of France, we have a perennial favorite, Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol Rosé. At just $23.99, this Bandol rosé is a steal and offers all of the soft fruit and herbaceous notes that we love in pink Bandol.

Finally we will finish with one of our favorite less-well-known rosés, Los Bermejos Listan Rosado 2014 from the Canary Islands. We like it so much that we’re still not ready to say goodbye to the 2014 vintage. The wine has had a year to settle into itself and offers lots of salinity and minerality from the island’s treacherous volcanic soils.

We hope to see you soon!

We will be tasting:
Thomas-Labaille, Sancerre Rosé “L’Authentique”, 2015 $23.99
Domaine Bernard Baudry, Chinon Rosé, 2015 $19.99
Los Bermejos, Listan Rosado, 2014 $21.99
Domaine de la Tour du Bon, Bandol Rosé, 2015 $23.99

NYC Saturday Tasting: True Shochu, The Spirit of Japan

New York City: Saturday, May 21, 2016, 2:00 – 5:00pm 

Shochu (different from Korea’s Soju) is one of Japan’s most interesting additions to the world of spirits. Some may think they’ve had it before in vodka-esque cocktails at their neighborhood sushi joint, but that is far from the “real thing.” Stop by the shop Saturday to taste three great examples representing the most popular categories of true “Honkaku” Shochu: Rice (Kome), Sweet Potato (Imo), and Barley (Mugi).

For sake fans, Kome shochu is an easy transition to make. We’ll be tasting Kawabe Shochu from Kumamoto, famous for its oysters! The melon and mineral components on the palate are even more refreshing when served over ice and make a great pairing with a chilled platter of shellfish.

Hailing from the Kagoshima prefecture on Kyushu Island, Satsuma Shiranami is as classic as it gets for shochu made from sweet potatoes. This Imo shochu is rich and earthy with a touch of creamy mango fruit making it a great choice to serve warm or chilled.

Last is an example of cult-class of barley shochu, Kintaro Baisen Mugi. A rare example using 100% toasted barley, Kintaro Baisen is a bottomless ocean of rich and earthy flavors with a touch of carob and cacao. A fantastic experience for single malt explorers.

We will be tasting:
Kawabe Kome Shochu $28.99
Satsuma Shuzo, Satsuma Shiranami Imo Shochu $19.99
Kintaro Baisen, Kintaro Baisen Mugi Shochu $25.99

NYC: Sunday Spirits: Lejay Casis Kir Royal Cocktail for Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 8, 2016 3:00 – 5:00pm, New York City

Lejay is the original Creme de Cassis made in Dijon since 1841. Made with 2 different varieties of cassis – the aromatic and rustic Noir de Bourgogne and black round, sweet, smooth Black Down.

Also, Fun Fact: As the charismatic Mayor of Dijon from 1945 to 1968, Canon Felix Kir popularized vin blanc cassis by drinking Lejay Cassis with white wines. As a result of his vibrant reputation the drink, Canon Kir was named after him.

His loyalty inspired Kir to sign the trademark of his drink’s name to Lejay in 1951.

We’ll be sipping:
Lejay Casis Kir Royal Cocktail
1 oz Lejay Cassis
4 oz sparkling wine

Lejay, Creme de Cassis de Dijon $29.99