Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2016

£39.95

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“Wet stone, smoky struck flint and a saline, savory intimation of raw scallop vie for aromatic attention with ripe peach, Persian melon and mango. The creamy, nearly weightless palate confirms both luscious fruit and a mouthwatering abundance of umami, while adding wafting inner-mouth floral perfume headily suggestive of lily and gardenia. A superbly sustained finish soothes yet manages to refresh, with sweetness that’s entirely supportive of the wines intense fruit and flowers yet doesn’t obscure smoky, stony, and saline nuances. Drinking window: 2017-2040. 94 points

Whereas some growers reported communal success in combating peronospora by increasing the frequency of helicopter sprayings, Oliver Haag attributed his ability to keep peronospora at bay to a decision to opt out of helicopter spraying in many of his parcels in favor of a return to laborious, old-fashioned spraying on foot with a tank strapped to one’s back. Overall crop loss was kept to a minimum. “Pre-harvest” culling began on October 8 and, Haag emphasized, was carried out in every single parcel. Serious picking got underway the following week, and with a few exceptions was completed by month’s end. “What was left toward the end had begun to lose some acidity,” observed Haag, “but that was fine for Kabinett.” (He had in mind this year’s superb Kabinett labeled simply “Brauneberger” and sourced from both Juffer and Juffer-Sonnenuhr.) The volume of nobly sweet wine was relatively small due to paucity of truly noble botrytis, most of which was selected out relatively early. But that didn’t keep Haag from bottling a plethora of Auslesen. Acid levels having been lower than in 2015, he elected to eschew pre-fermentative skin contact for his dry wines. But relatively speaking, his 2016s have bragging rights for very healthy acidities in the 8-8.5 gram range, not to mention that we’re talking about a dominance of efficacious tartaric acid that generally balances sweetness while offering brightness and animation.

Make no mistake: other than in the upper echelons of nobly sweet elixirs, here is a 2016 collection that rivals its hugely impressive 2015 predecessor. If one wants to call 2016 a “Kabinett and Spätlese vintage” – as many Mosel growers have suggested – this collection supports that assessment not merely statistically speaking but also in terms of where its most obvious strengths lie. I feel compelled to point out, though, that my perception of this collection is somewhat at odds with that conveyed by several of my esteemed colleagues whose point scores seem to track with residual sugar and whom I don’t think give the dry and feinherb Haag wines anywhere near their due. (For further observations concerning this prestigious estate and its recent evolution, consult the introduction to my report on its 2014s.)”

David Schildknecht, Vinous (01/18)