A glorious 1964 Thanisch Riesling, plus others from a vertical
December 2, 2012
Weingut Dr H. Thanisch Riesling Auslese / 10 November at the Merano Wine Festival
I recall trying my first Thanisch wine over dinner in Washington D.C. with German wine lovers. Like other German wines, this estate has a long history. The Thanisch family has been involved in the wine trade for more than 350 years, with the oldest official documentation in Bernkastel dating to the early 17th century. The Thanischs purchased the famous Berncasteler Doctor vineyard in the late 18th century. According to legend, the Doctor vineyard was given its name in 1360 by Archbishop Boemond II of Trier who was cured of a serious illness by drinking wine from this vineyard. The family firm enhanced their international reputation in the mid 1800s under the direction of Dr. Hugo Thanisch, a doctor of philosophy active in county government. The estate is currently managed by Sofia Thanisch-Spier.
The legendary Berncasteler Doctor vineyard is located behind the Mosel town of Bernkastel and counts among the most famous in Germany. Its steep slope lies 125 to 200 meters above sea level, with a south/southwest orientation, the soils include rock, clay and schist. Its orientation guarantees ample sunshine. Interestingly, numerous slate-covered roofs above radiate heat onto the steep slope, which enhances grape maturation.
At the Merano Wine Festival, we enjoyed a fine vertical: in bold I liked in particular; red and bold even more and when underlined, the best.
1959: Apparently one of the best vintages. A cold winter preceded a fine spring and a perfectly dry summer period. But the taste is a bit over-honeyed for me: with botrytis aspects that make it just noticeably … cloying. Still, for a white this old, I was quite impressed.
1964: But this wine completely overshadowed the 1959. What a difference in color. This wine looks far more youthful than the above – by more than just five years. And the freshness is pleasurably noticeable too. There is a saline minerality, a palpable crispness to this wine the exudes balance and flavor. Beautifully balanced are two words that come to mind in tasting and drinking this treasure. Acacia notes, not honey. Subtle fruit and richness balance the iodine. A superb wine. 5 stars.
1971: Coming from a great vintage, this wine was sadly oxidized. We asked for another bottle, with the same result. Way past due…
1990: Here another 1964 like wine… saline yet rich too. Perhaps richer than the 1964, but still very nicely balanced, and showing fine precision on the palate, with a smooth and lingering finish. About 11.5% alcohol. 4 stars.
1996: Not as good as the above. The color already displays more rapid evolution. In fact, the 1996 looks older than the 1990. Still, there is good enough acidity, albeit a bit of wet sock that detracts. Not as clean as the 1990, perhaps. But not unenjoyable. 3 stars.
2001: Here the alcohol level is lower – at 9% – and I feel that the wine is a bit flat, perhaps as a result? Seems on a fast evolutionary track. The color is just as dark as the 1996, which is five years older. Lacks excitement. 2 stars.
2010: Very pure mineral notes on the nose. Rich yet nicely balanced. Good verve from the acidity with a pleasing sweetness of fruit that is not over the top. The 2011, tasted at the stand in the main tasting hall, was good, too. Quite nicely balanced.