Tuesday, December 23, 2008

1990 Vintage

Adele and I remember vividly the summer of 1990 in Europe. We traveled through much of France in extremely intense heat. The temperature in the Loire Valley was in the upper 90s and reached 104 when we arrived in Bordeaux. A few days later, when we stayed in a hotel in Carcassone without air conditioning, some guests slept with their doors open. If the heat debilitated people and made sightseeing onerous, it was certainly beneficial for the grapes. 1990 was the sort of vintage that occurs only once every 20 or 25 years, in which outstanding wines are produced in nearly every European wine region. It was probably the best vintage of the 1990s for Red Bordeaux, a milestone in modern Red Burgundy, superb in Tuscany and the Piedmont, excellent in Rioja. Yet, perhaps no wine region had more exceptional results than the Mosel region of Germany. In 1990 its Rieslings had a purity of concentrated fruit combined with high but refreshing acidity that is more commonly associated with years of less extreme heat and sunshine. The balance of these qualities is what distinguishes most 1990 Mosels from those of other fine years. Excluding 1971, which for many lovers of German wines remains the standard by which great vintages and wines are measured, I consider 1990 my favorite Mosel vintage of the last half century (Verdicts are still out on 2001 and 2005). I was reminded just how wonderful these wines are last night. After dinner Adele and I shared a 1990 Erdener Teppchen Auslese from Meulenhof, whose wines have been imported to the US for many years by Terry Theise. Its color was deep yellow, almost orange, It had an enticing fruity bouquet (apricot?, peach?, pineapple?), a taste of very rich fruit allied with that strong streak of acidity, and a long finish that reminded us of citrus fruit. When I first tasted this wine, in 1992, it was exceedingly sweet. Now, over 16 years later, it tasted virtually dry. Adele remarked that it would have been perfectly appropriate to serve it with a meal.



Robert M. Oliva, ND, LMSW, MA said...

This is a lovely story,Eric. You artfully bring across the intensity of the experiences. I could feel the heat! Your description of you and Adele enjoying the 1990 Erdener Teppchen is sublime. I admire the way you link historical detail with facts and information pertaining to the wine in question. Thanks for this post. I was wondering about the 2001 and 2005 vintages you mention. I assume you mention those particular years due to the record breaking heat. When will we begin to know the quality of these wines?


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bob. Actually 2003 was the year of great heat in much of Europe. 2001 was not especially hot in Germany but the Mosel was blessed with a wonderful autumn. 2005 was a quite warm growing season.

The 2001 wines were promising from the start but the Auslese were very closed up and probably will not be at their peak for five years or more. The 2005 have been good ever since they were bottled (the Saar wines were sensational)but they have less acidity than in 1990 or 2001. So, it will be interesting to see if they develop and hold as well as the 1990s. Depending on the grade of wine, I imagine that we'll have answers in 5-7 years.


PS. There was a typo in my posting. The vineyard is Treppchen, not Teppchen. Sorry about that.