Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

2002 Christoph Von Nell Ludovico Sekt Brut, $24, Mosel Wine Merchants. My friend Adam poured this for me recently and it was fantastic. This is one of Lars Carlberg's selections at Mosel Wine Merchant, the exporting company he created specifically to bring fine wines of the Mosel to the USA. Their website, by the way, is well worth visiting. It's easy to navigate and well designed, and it contains a lot of useful information about the producers and the wines. There is also a link to the Mosel Wine Merchant catalog, which at 20 pages, seems like something many German wine lovers might keep on the same shelf as their Terry Theise catalog.

Here is what I learned about this wine from email exchanges with Lars and from reading the website:

Von Nell has made sparkling wine longer than any other producer in the Ruwer Valley. Production for Ludovico is just over 330 cases, about 4,000 bottles. The wine is 100% Riesling from the 2002 harvest, all from the Kaseler Dominikanerberg vineyard, a monopole site with blue Devonian slate in the Ruwer Valley. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented in stainless-steel tanks with outside yeasts. "Outside"yeasts is Lars' term - I'm guessing it means added yeasts.

The wine was aged on its fine lees until early 2007. Riddling (the art of turning and angling the bottles in order to encourage the dead yeast cells to converge in the neck of the bottle before disgorgment) is done in the old manner with pupitres. Dosage was done with a 1994 Riesling Auslese - how intriguing is that? Dosage is often done with concentrated grape must, or some other sweet liquid. But to use an old wine for dosage - I imagine that accounts in part for the complexity of the finished wine.

I loved the contrast between the incredibly round and ripe nose suggestive of orchard fruits bursting with sweet juice, and the dry and mineral palate with its almost bitter finish. Surprising how dry it felt considering there are 12 grams of residual sugar here. Whereas the nose is all exuberance and joy, the palate is more about finesse, very sleek, complex with fruit, mineral, and earth. The overall effect is just delicious. This would work well as an aperitif, it would be great after dinner with a plate of fall pears, and I can imagine how nice it would be to have a glass of this wine with a plate of steaming beef goulash over spaetzle. Yes, I enjoy bright white wines with deep meaty dishes. So sue me.

I searched for this wine on retail shelves and discovered something unfortunate - the only store I know of that carries it is Chambers Street Wines - apparently Lyle Fass immediately took to this wine and brought it in when no one else did. It's possible that you might find the wine in Texas or Colorado, but I'm not sure - distributors in those states also purchased some. When I asked Lars if anyone else will carry the wine, and if there are further sparkling wines in the von Nell portfolio, his reply made me sad."He does several different sparkling wines, including an off-dry Riesling called Elenora," Lars said. "We have some in the warehouse in New Jersey. The others are Stephanus (trocken), Dominikus (extra brut, zero dosage), and Ruva-Rubin (Pinot Noir, off-dry). I'm less optimistic about carrying von Nell in the future due to a lack of demand for Sekt."

Can you believe it? A truly wonderful sparkling wine that retails for under $25, and Lars is having a tough time getting folks to buy it. I would love to taste the other sparklers in von Nell's portfolio too - I bet they're quite good. Maybe Lars' upcoming visit to New York to pour with the Polaner folks will allow more people to taste this wine, and increase demand. If you don't feel like waiting, There are over 60 bottles right now at Chambers Street, and I encourage you to try this wine the next time you shop there.


Marcus said...

Thanks for writing about this Neil.

Agh - lack of demand for Sekt?

Sekt was the best part of me visiting the Czech Republic.

It's also always good for a bad pun.

Cliff said...

Lars, if you're looking, please hang in with this. This sounds beautiful. I can't wait to try some. Make Lyle take some of the Elenora, too. Any guesstimate about how long these might develop?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the write-up and the comments. I replied earlier, but it didn't seem to go through. Anyway, I meant added (or, pure culture) yeasts for "outside," which is an ambiguous term. Both von Nell Sekts should be drunk in the coming years. My favorite is a 1999 Riesling brut from Weingut Stein. Ulrich Stein did a long lees contact, a late disgorgement, and a subtle dosage with Eiswein.

Anonymous said...

I have loved the wines from Weingut Stein that I have tried. Are you bringing in the Sekt (I haven't seen it)? It would be wonderful to have a reliable source of affordable sparkling wines that develop in the cellar.


Anonymous said...

Cliff: OK, I'm biased, but I like Stein-Wein, too. In regard to his Sekt, it would be more expensive than von Nell's, because we discounted the von Nell for close-out and purchased it with a stronger dollar back in early '07. Perhaps, Ulli Stein will bring a bottle to the Polaner tasting this spring.

Anonymous said...

Alright, I'll start working on Lyle and have my fingers crossed about the dollar.

Lyle Fass said...

Just saw this. This wine has been drinking amazing and had a fascinating evolution since I brought it in the store last year. It's a long time to have continuity on a wine this small production and so interesting. t first it was all fruit and tang. Three to six months ago it was all ruwer earth and dark orchard fruits as Neil says. Now I need yo see where it is again. It's great wine and it will be around for a while I hope.

And what Lars says rings true. Not much demand for sekt in the US. They drink it all over Germany. It's still a great value.

Cliff said...

Okay, it has taken me WAY too long to get around to this. But I just got back to NYC and have a bottle of the Elenora open tonight, and it is just absolutely glorious. Beautiful stuff. If this is not flying off the shelves, it is a crime against taste. Really.