Riesling at its Most Mysterious and Heartfelt
1990 JB Becker Walkenberg Spätlese Trocken
JB Becker's 1993 Walkenberg Spätlese Trocken was my wine of the year in 2014. It was easy to single out.
Becker's Rieslings represent some of the most challenging, singular and ultimately compelling expressions of the grape. The fact that old examples are available with perfect provenance and at very fair pricing only sweetens the deal.
This seemed like the perfect bottle to kick off Hocks and Moselles Week, the week leading into Rieslingfeier.
I've drunk at least a handful of bottles in the past month. Most recently, I opened a bottle on Saturday for two colleagues who hadn't tasted it. After about 45 minutes, everyone commented on how beautifully it had evolved.
Even after all the bottles I've drunk, the wine continues to show a different nuance, a glimmer of something that I'd previously missed every other time I've opened it. This starts to get to the heart of Becker. They are some of the most soulful and mysterious wines out there. In my mind, they occupy a place with Pepe, Valentini, Verset and Bartolo Mascarello.
These are wines that undoubtedly have an "old-fashioned" feel to them. However, that alone won’t account for Becker’s unique vision and stubbornness. Hans Josef Becker, who is currently at the helm of the estate, has focused on dry Riesling since his first vintage in 1971. He practices what is probably best called idiosyncratic traditionalism. The wines spend a long time in large casks, many of them the 2,000 liter doppelstucks, as people did back in the day. The story is that when he took over the family domaine and concentrated on dry Rieslings, they lost 50% of their customers.
Becker's are singular expressions of Riesling. Once you taste them, you'll look on the Rheingau in a whole different light. The 1990 beautifully shows what makes Becker special. They are brutally honest wines. There's a deep savoriness to the wines that I love. It's backed by a saline minerality, notes of tobacco, citrus, moss and caramel.
When I tasted through a line-up of old Beckers, the 1990 was a standout. The vintage is a ripe one, but that's for sure not what stands out when you taste Becker's. The 11.5 alcohol immediately clues you into this. The wine has a cut to it that, tasted blind, would never make you think it's from warm vintage.
You've probably gotten the gist that Becker's wines aren't for everyone. The people who fall for them fall hard and they seem to grow daily. These are some of the most stirring, mindbending Rieslings around.
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