Emmerich Knoll Riesling Ried Pfaffenberg Selection 2018
“The 2018 Steiner Riesling Ried Pfaffenberg Selection is pure, fresh and herbal on the pure and flinty nose. On the palate, this is a round, rich and quite powerful Riesling with remarkable intensity, grip and mineral tension. The finish is long and complex and promises good aging potential. Tasted at the domain in September 2019. Drink: 2022-2034. 92 points
2018 is better than we initially thought, if you like to summarize our findings in just one sentence,” says Emmerich Knoll senior, before we tasted through a lineup of the most recent vintage. “In spite of the dry weather and the early harvest, our wines are much less abundant and, due to their low acidity, less broad than, for example, the wines of the 2011 vintage,” which he describes as “above all powerful and broad-shouldered but neither fine nor elegant.” He concluded his commentary by diplomatically saying, “Okay, we wouldn’t have had anything against a little more acidity in 2018, but we don’t miss it either.” He also finds that even Grüner Veltliner doesn’t have phenolic acidity, and he’s not even sure that Riesling will be ahead in 2018. The response in the press and among customers is balanced with regard to this question, he reports. “Certainly, however, nobody would have thought that the Grüner Veltliner would at least be able to stand up to Riesling.” Knoll senior sees 2018 as similar to 2017 and, from the distance, to 2013 and 1992. Yet, unless asked, he does not tend to compare vintages anyway, since the character of the wine is more controlled in vinification today than in the past. In 2017, the weather changed earlier, at the end of August, but in 2018, it changed in September, in the middle of the harvest.
At Knoll, the 2018 harvest began at the beginning of September, and it was “anything but simple, actually rather complicated,” says the senior Knoll. Rot problems had already set in at the end of August, and this made sharp selections necessary and forced rapid processing at temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). At Knoll, too, the hot midday and afternoon hours were omitted. The mash was cooled and then went into fermentation clearer than usual, simply to prevent a too stormy fermentation. Also, the pressing process was much gentler than usual due to the rising pH values. “The harvest was large enough,” says Knoll pragmatically. The maceration times, if they took place at all, were also kept very short, even for the Gelber Muskateller, so as not to compromise its elegance and lightness. Emmy Knoll junior, who finished tasting with me, reported that in warm vintages such as 2018, it was important to slow down ripeness, especially for Grüner Veltliner, through higher yields. He was quite happy with the result, yet I wasn’t. To be honest, I was quite disappointed by Knoll’s Grüner Veltliners, which I found somewhat diluted and not expressive at all. Luckily, I tasted some of the Smaragd wines again in early December in a blind tasting in London, and I liked them much better then. However, I am still not convinced the Grüner Veltliners can compete with the Rieslings here in 2018. The future will reveal if I simply missed the right moment for these wines or if Knoll perhaps harvested too many Veltliner grapes in 2018. The vintage was generous by nature anyway. My favorites of the 2018 vintage are the Riesling Smaragd Ried Schütt (as it is almost all of the time, but especially in warm vintages because the winds coming down from the creek cool the grapes), the Riesling Smaragd Vinothekfüllung and the Loibner Muskateller Smaragd.”
Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (03/20)