Two Forgotten Bottles Köhler-Ruprecht

We are drinking two rediscovered bottles from the Köhler-Ruprecht winery in the Pfalz: a 2011 Riesling Auslese from the Kallstadter Saumagen and a 2007 Spätburgunder.

Indiana Jones hunts for lost treasure, while I sometimes hunt for lost bottles. Though “lost” and “hunt” aren’t quite right. The reality is staring at the label in bewilderment, coupled with rummaging through my memory and mentally correcting the assumption that it should have been drunk long ago. Like, there’s still a 2007 Köhler-Ruprecht Spätburgunder Spätlese here? I meant to drink it right away. Well, I didn’t. Same with the 2011 Auslese from Kallstadter Saumagen. Notably, it’s off-dry and not the dry type one usually expects from Köhler-Ruprecht wines. I didn’t attribute any particular urgency to this bottle though, it’s just along for the ride so the Spätburgunder wouldn’t be lonely. Which will turn out to be quite a good move. A bit of further archaeology in old emails later, I’m surprised to find that both bottles served as carton fillers when reordering some even older Philippi wines. Just last week, I was so happy with my well-functioning memory, and now this. That’s how it goes sometimes I guess. As mentioned, Köhler-Ruprecht is known for wines from Kallstadter Saumagen, but usually they are dry. From Kabinett to Auslese (sometimes with R or RR), everything is included. The winery was an early member of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) and its predecessor, the Association of German Natural Wine Auctioneers, before leaving in 2014. This was because Köhler-Ruprecht wanted to continue offering more than one dry wine from Kallstadter Saumagen, graded by Prädikat, which was no longer compatible with the VDP rules coming in place at the time. These wines have already appeared early on the blog as Kabinett and Spätlese. Today’s bottle however would have posed no problem in the association discussion with its 60 grams of residual sugar. And the Spätburgunder doesn’t even have any vineyard designation on the label.

We had already tasted a bottle of 2011 Auslese relatively soon after purchase, and in my memory, the wine seemed much sweeter then than it does now. But aging affects the perception of sweetness. There’s orchard fruit, a slight funk, and then more and more creaminess on the nose. On the tongue, exactly the sweetness I remembered. There’s honey mixed with fresh grapes and then this creaminess, which is stopped by a small bitter note on the palate. And as it happens when you have wine in your mouth, the aroma travels backward into the nose. There’s honeydew melon, sweet honeydew melon, herbs, and a lot of honey. You can tell the wine has a few years on it, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was 13 years old. The nose becomes more herbaceous, and the structure increases. We rarely drink sweet wines from the Pfalz, mostly from the Mosel. And you can tell this is not from the Mosel. It lacks the slate spice, the minerality, and also the often much more uncompromising drive that Mosel Auslese Riesling can have. That’s why Saumagen feels a bit unfamiliar but no less lovely. Just different.

And a day later, not much has changed. There are herbs, yellow fruit, and creaminess. I really like the fruit the wine has. Mango, yellow gooseberries from the garden, much sweeter than those you can buy, but unfortunately so rare because the gooseberry bushes don’t seem to like the location here. Another story. And even today, with each sip, the wine becomes more herbaceous and ethereal. I can well imagine this wine gaining a few more years. But if you have more than one, now is also a good time to go looking for one of the bottles.

The Spätburgunder has a rougher start. The color does not inspire confidence, appearing more ochre than red in the glass. But it doesn’t smell old. Not at all. There’s cherry, a bit of earth, and surprisingly a lot of freshness and clarity. Nothing at first that would suggest the wine has been away from the vine for 17 years. The first sip is the same: clear, lots of acidity, and then cherry and structure. But then it slowly starts to scratch. And immediatly it’s like someone pulling the wrong stick in Jenga or flicking the base of a house of cards. It collapses entirely. The next glass is squashed, overripe berry and rough wood. Sure, the acidity is still there, but the clarity is completely gone. And it doesn’t feel right anymore. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Rapid aging in the glass, as if the wine held itself together for exactly one glass only to collapse completely under the weight of oxygen. And it stays that way. No resurrection on the second evening. After all, Easter was some time ago. Scruffy, dried fruit, plums, and lots of maturity. Like one imagines tired port wine, only without the sugar. Normally, I’d chalk this up to “my own fault,” simply ignore it and not write about it. But because the first glass, the first sip, was so good, it deserves a mention here. And there’s still a bit of Riesling left. That reconciles.

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