Written by Al Drinkle
To keep what is already destined to be a verbose piece of writing as concise as possible, I will spare you the background of the estate and refer you here if you need a re-fresher: www.metrovino.com/weingut-aj-adam
As for the 2015s, my friend Brad and I visited Weingut AJ Adam late in the afternoon of Saturday, April 16th. It was our 10th consecutive day tasting in Germany - we had already visited 26 other estates and tasted a few hundred Rieslings from the 2015 vintage. My palate was as much in the zone as it possibly can be and not only is this the most exciting collection of wines that I’ve ever tasted from AJ Adam, it was amongst the greatest lineups of Riesling of the entire trip. And we were tasting a great vintage at the very top addresses.
Andreas Adam had bottled his entire vintage the day before so some of the wines hadn’t even been in glass for 24 hours. But the charm of the 2015 vintage is resilient and if the wines suffered from the abuse of the previous day, they did a good job hiding it. Andreas himself was exhausted from the 16-hour bottling session the day before but he’s probably used to it considering that he’s the father of twin boys who are now just one year old. As usual he was a calm and cordial host, unhurried and thoughtful in his answers to our myriad questions.
Without further ado, I present to you my unapologetically irresponsible and immodest selection of AJ Adam’s 2015 Rieslings. (The few wines that I left behind were great too and I’ll probably come to regret it).
The Dry Crus
We ordered all three this year, with the Häs’chen admittedly the Premier Cru amongst its definitively Grand neighbours. And I encourage you to think of them as a trio, not so that Metrovino can sell more wine (there’s sweet fuck all to begin with), but because tasting them side by each I found their interplay to be wildly fascinating and complimentary and wanted to share these striking terroir statements with Riesling-loving Canadians. Think about it – if you had access to Comte Lafon’s Perrières, Charmes and Genevrières from the same benchmark vintage and could afford them all, would you pick and choose?:
2015 Häs’chen Riesling Trocken $58
This is from a tiny (0.3 hectare) monopole of ungrafted, east-facing vines planted in 1930. It’s on the left bank of the Mosel - in other words, on the same ramp as Goldtröpfchen and not Hofberg. The bottom section of the slope is trained to two fruit-bearing canes to provide grapes for a brand-new Kabinett whereas the upper, terraced parcels are restricted to one cane to make this lightish but very persistent dry wine. The entire production was fermented in a single 60-year-old halbfuder (500 L) and it’s resplendent with fine, springtime aromas of linden blossom, chervil, chives and honey, the latter of which definitely does not come through on the palate. It’s a daring dry Mosel wine in that the stony flavours are laid bare with no GG-style richness as buffering. In a warm vintage amidst a period of global warming, this is an amazing vineyard to make an early-20th-Century style wine where alcohol can be kept below 12% even when all the sugar is gone.
2015 Hofberg Riesling Trocken $69
A resounding baritone next to the alluring high keys of the Häs’chen. There’s a stoic, even pithy nature to this under which rambunctious exotic fruit runs wild amidst a barrage of slate shrapnel. The vines for this selection were planted in the 1950s, harvest conducted at the end of October and fermentation proceeding in old wooden fuder (1000 L). The palate is absolutely loaded and the briny fruit is redlining a bit at this stage of the game, but it’s perhaps the single greatest example of a big, rich, dry Riesling that still smells and feels like it’s from the Mosel. I wanna be around for this fella’s 10th birthday. And 15th. And…
2015 Goldtröpfchen Riesling Trocken $88
Adam’s tiny parcel in this legendary vineyard consists of 70-year-old vines in walled terraces high up above the hamlet of Ferres. There was just under 100L of this produced so fermentation had to take place in stainless steel but still with wild yeasts, just like all the rest. The wine offers greener glints in the glass and proceeds in a more peppery, herbaceous direction even smelling at first like stepping into a garden after an afternoon rain. The palate is super intense with almost aggressive, mouthfilling minerality and blackberries but there’s also a clover note that reminds me of Huet. The finish is interminable and my only reservation is that the 13% alcohol is poking through a little bit (Riesling’s many virtues does not include hiding alcohol) but I’m confident that time will remedy this. 24 bottles in Canada.
The Feinherb bottlings
Wherein we discuss the least appreciated but perhaps most important style of which Andreas Adam is an absolute master. Wines that utilize what David Schildknecht calls “dienende süsse,” or “serving sweetness” when the residual sugar is stealthy, barely existent, but eminently useful for harmony and food-pairing:
2015 im Pfarrgarten Riesling $32
From Adam’s “flat-slope” vineyard of 50-year-old vines comes what I feel to be one of the most useful wines on the planet. This is somewhat subdued aromatically, likely just grumpy from bottling, but the palate is a sizzling panoply of honeycomb, green fruit, verbena, star anise and that rock juice that so firmly plants us in the Mosel. There’s a ridiculously, almost suspiciously long finish for a wine of this price. Very promising, and perfect for anybody who’s tired of choosing between big, dry Riesling and light, sweet Riesling. Why not a featherweight, harmonically-dry Riesling that quenches thirst and pairs with everything?!?!?
2015 in der Sängerei Riesling $54 / MAGNUM $115
From 60-year-old ungrafted vines in an amphitheater upslope from Pfarrgarten, this is the beating heart of the Hofberg vineyard, fermented in fuder. Terry Theise calls this a “Mosel monument” and for me it’s perhaps the single most representative wine that we offer from Germany, one that dares to be delicious in a style that’s so natural to the grape and yet so unnatural to the (idiotic) market. The first smell is like the enticing and emotion-laden air that you get when stepping on to the tarmac at the dawn of your vacation. It’s devastatingly slatey, assertively floral and redolent of fantasy heirloom apples. The palate is so unyieldingly intense, both in terms of flavour and structure, that really a few years are necessary for true enjoyment as opposed to just an amazing experience. The fruit is dazzlingly ripe, the slate is so pristine and vivid and the wine overall is so wildly complex that the varietal character seems to be buried within an oscillating expression of pumping terroir. Do not miss this wine.
The predicated, fruity wines:
Since 1971, the “classical” styles of the Mosel.
2015 Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Kabinett $39
The first thing that you should know is that this is an incredible wine. The second is that 2015 was not a year where there was much potential for “true” kabinett so we’re basically back to declassified spätlese here which is great for bargain-hunters but not so good for those who crave levity. I fall into the latter camp, but I’m in awe of the intermingling of pan-fried pear and chillies, grilled pineapple and ginger and lovely acidity. It’s somewhat like the collision of a tropical fruit orchard and a Szechuan restaurant and the complexity is insane… That fact that I even have a complaint at all shows how spoiled I am.
2015 Dhroner Hofberg Riesling spätlese $54 / MAGNUM $115
60-year-old vines in a choice parcel of Hofberg provided spätlese fruit with 0% botrytis this year and the utter precision in this wine is staggering. George Clooney handfeeds you Morello cherries, wintergreen reduction and peach cobbler while Gene Tierney unloads round after round of Devonian slate bullets from a tommy-gun. It’s a powerful, daring spätlese with formidable balance and a sweetness that’s rendered innocuous by double-digit acidity.
2003 Dhroner Hofberg Riesling spätlese $58
Made by a 23-year-old Andreas Adam, this is direct from the cellar and I bought it un-tasted. Wouldn’t you have done the same? Sourced entirely from the Sängerei sub-parcel, the warm vintage shows but a beautiful sub-aqueous minerality holds the apple frittery, savoury qualities together. Delicious.
2015 Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Beerenauslese $129 (375 mL)
This is the first time that BA was possible for Adam since 2011. Desiccated berries were selected from parcels throughout Hofberg and a minute quantity of this miraculous nectar was made, 12 half-bottles of which made it to Canada. Breathtakingly articulate though hard to assess at this point – but what I find most amazing is that the sleek, slatey Mosel notes make themselves heard amongst the botrytis. My nephew was born in 2015 and in several decades when I’m the one wearing diapers, I’ll enjoy sharing a bottle with him.