Obviously, my wine of the year had to be a Riesling. I love Riesling and this year I tasted more Rieslings than one could possibly shake a stick at.
This summer I went to Germany with importer extraordinaire Rudi Wiest and tasted over 400 Rieslings in nine days. (My dentist will be able to retire early.) It was a thrilling ride hitting all the great winemaking regions in Germany: The Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau, Pfalz, Baden, Franken and more.
I can say with conviction that the 2005 vintage is special. It is definitely one of the best young vintages I have ever tasted. All the top names made killer wines: Zilliken, Prüm, Karthauserhof, Dönnhoff and Wirsching to name but a few. Choosing just one bottle among the 2005 Germans was no easy feat. With that in mind, I believe the wines of Schäfer-Fröhlich are truly extraordinary. This estate is often overlooked, and the 2005s show intense thrust, intensity, richness, acidity, elegance and a supernal balance. (That's right, supernal.) For me, the bottle that best represents the lineup at Schäfer-Fröhlich for 2005 was the Bockenauer Felseneck Spätlese. Need I say it? Yes, this is my wine of the year. What takes this wine to the next level is the addition of botrytized grapes (5% to be exact - see sidebar). This adds so much complexity to the wine; it makes every sip an adventure. The botrytis provides a restrained opulence and frames all the other flavors -- fleshy white peaches, stone fruits and that intense Felseneck minerality. The balance of this wine is remarkable. It floats on your palate and stings you like a bee with its great acidity.
My visit to Schäfer-Fröhlich was definitely a highlight. Bockenau might get my vote as the sleepiest town in all of the German wine country. It's small and elegant, with not many people and even fewer cars. But in this tiny locale lives Tim Fröhlich, who at only 30 years old is arguably making some of the best wines in the Nahe. Gault Millau, the most prominent German wine magazine, gave Schäfer-Fröhlich's TBA the "Sweet Wine of the Year." A huge honor for this estate. For me though, the Felseneck Spätlese is the wine that's fun to drink right now! This wine is showing tons of baby fat and is an absolute hoot to drink. The fireworks however, will really start within 15 to 20 years. I cannot think of a wine I enjoyed more this year, and I encourage you to respond to this email or call 212.980.9463 to try this exemplary Riesling. While the wine won't be available for delivery until January, believe me it is well worth the wait! We've secured the last of this wine availabe for the U.S. and likely the world. (The wine is sold out at the estate!)
2005 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Felseneck Spätlese Crush Wine of the Year