Getting Technical: Dr Loosen tasting

by Chris Haywood

Jan 27

These technical blogs are a way for me to scratch my wine-nerd itch, and hopefully spark some more interest in our wonderful industry.

If you’re passionate about wine, or would like to know more, read on…

winemaker chris haywood astley vineyard
Chris Haywood

I’ve always been a nerd. And proudly so.

I enjoyed school, loved university, and now I love learning about wine. Afterall, its all too easy to stop learning after you leave the education system. One upcoming occasion is a coffee course I was given this Christmas (no doubt i’ll write a bit about that) but for now, here’s a summary of the Dr Loosen tasting I attended last weekend at Frazier’s Wine Merchants in Solihull.

I adore Riesling. Who doesn’t? (Quiet, you). So when I saw a tasting event with Dr Loosen pop up on my Facebook, I knew straight away that I had to go. And not only was it local and affordable, it was ACTUALLY Ernst Loosen going! I’ve heard him speak on a couple of podcasts (and loved him) so I booked tickets for myself there and then. That’s right, on my own. I don’t mind!

What struck me instantly, and was obvious throughout, was that I was not listening to a sales pitch. He wasn’t selling me his fabulous wines (as open as I am to that idea), but instead was telling me their story. And THAT is what I want in a wine tasting. By imparting his knowledge about German wines and telling me the stories of his life, I felt connected to him like no elevator pitch could ever have done. By loving him, I loved his wines.

Ernie’s a great, honest speaker. Incredibly human and genuine. Some of my favourite quotes from his talk:

  • “Welcome to the rocky horror Riesling show!”
  • He told a wonderful story about all of the staff leaving when he joined the company. He had no idea where his vineyards were, so he left all of the other producers to pick their grapes first, and concluded everything that was left at the end of the vintage was his – as unusable as those grapes were!
  • Calling himself (and therefore me) a “wine clown”
  • “Riesling is like an actor who can play a lot of plays”

Honestly, I could fill this entire blog about his stories and quirks, but I’m sure those have been recorded elsewhere. Plus it was a “you had to be there” sort of moment.

I also didnt expect to take so much away about viticulture. He does, and has done every job in his business, which means that he is excpeitonally knowledgable about all aspects of our industry. The most exciting fact I learned, for example, was the value of Millerandage fruit. This is a condition particularly found in old vines (hello Kerner/Madeleine Angevine) where fruit set is particularly poor, and the bunches appear sparse and thin.

These bunches look inferior, when in fact, because there is such a focus of energy on these few grapes, the skins grow thicker, which means they are more disease resistant, which means you can harvest them later, and also means there are more flavour in those skins. In a business where we currently make 3 styles of Kerner (young, premium, sparkling – AND an orange wine) this knowledge of separating fruit for different outcomes is invaluable. PLUS the resulting wine he showed us (see below) was so obviously different that I simply MUST experiment with this.

Onto the wines.

In short, how wonderful! Eight different rieslings, and all so different.

Red Slate Riesling Dry, 2018

A simple, grapey, unexpressive nose – which is absolutely allowed in his table wine I might add! The palate, however, was much fresher and nicer than I was expecting. A tingly, lively acidity. Fine, and probably great value.

Urziger Wurzgarten 2018 AND 2017

I do love a comparative tasting. Same vineayrd, same wine, two different vintages.

The 2018 was rich, flowery and fruity on the nose compared to the Red Slate. Almost creamy. Defined peach. Decent balance.I preferred the 2017 as it was leaner and fresher. More petrol’y and citrus, but still with a great palate. Lovely texture and great acidity.

Urziger Wurzgarten “Reserve” 2012

This was the one. This is it. This is why I love wine. This is the wine that only used Millerandage fruit. And oh boy was it incredible.

Firstly, the colour was a rich gold. The aroma was explosive. Hugely expressive and inviting. Classic, classic riesling. The texture and richness were sensational. I wrote “perfect”. I don’t say that much about wine. My notes were limited, sadly, as I was too busy drinking it and revelling in its delight. I wish I could show this wine to everyone.

Unfortunately this wine is only just, or not even yet released. Around £50 RRP, apparently Honestly, i’d pay that in a heart beat. And buy two, if I could, so that I could age the other. I hope to see this wine again…

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2018

A delightfully quaffable wine. A real breakfast wine (if those exist). 55g/L residual sugar, but you could barely tell that because of the acidity. Light aroma, but beautifully upfront fruit on the palate.

Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese 2015

Another great aperitif wine (or borderline dessert). Creamy honey, spice and peach nose. Not overwhelmingly sweet. Delightful.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2015

Fabulous aroma. Honey marmelade? Toasted nuts. Fig. Smokey. Definitely a pudding wine, although you could possibly manage it as an aperitif with food. The texture wasn’t as syrupy as I feared. Nice

Beerneauslese 2017

Stunning aroma. Thick orange marmelade. “Proper” candied peel (not “wine-talk making it up” language – cooking ingredient precision). Candied ginger & ginger syrup. Flowery. Thick texture, but STILL not too sweet. Very impressive.

All in all, I had a wonderful evening. If Frazier’s hold events like this again, I’ll be a regular.

Oh, and perhaps the most special moment of the evening was Ernst Loosen himself trying our Old Vine Kerner 2014, blind. My heart was racing. And he didn’t spit it out! See our Instagram for the full video. It was also his very first English still wine. What an honour!

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