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German wines at Fortnum & Mason

Famous Piccadilly department store Fortnum & Mason has recently been working hard on its new range, with some significant additions, and a remarkable own-label range which features many of the world’s great winemakers.

In the course of researching a piece on German wines for the Fortnum & Mason magazine, I caught up with wine buyer/manager Tim French (pictured above) to look at some of their German range. Here are my notes, together with some of Tim’s comments. We looked at wines from three different producers who have all contributed an own label wine, each from a different region.

Robert Weil, Rheingau

Fortnum’s Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2006 Rheingau £15.50 
The Rheingau is one of the great regions of Germany , and this is the ultimate modern Hock, with a lovely aromatic nose of sweet lemon and melon fruit, backed up by some minerality. The palate is lively and dry with crisp acidity and appley, lemony fruit. Dry but quite rich, with a slight spritz to it. ‘These wines have a great backbone of acidity’, says Tim, ‘and although this has a richness to it, it is dry. It can be used with foods in the same way as a white Burgundy ’. 91/100

Robert Weil Riesling Spätlese 2006 Rheingau £21.50 
This has a deep herby, honeyed nose with a bit of limey intensity. It is very rich, concentrated and sweet, with viscous lime and melon fruit. Lovely spicy acidity kicks in to keep it fresh. ‘The acidity and sugar balance is far more apparent here’, says Tim. ‘There are big levels of richness, but it is so fresh underneath. This is a great aperitif wine: a pick-me-up after work; a perfect first glass of the evening’. 93/100

Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese 2004 Rheingau (Half) £32.50
From one of the great vineyards of the Rheingau, this is a simply stunning expression of sweet Riesling. It has a beautifully pure, fresh, intense nose that’s powerful with some sweet melony fruit and fresh spiciness. The palate is intense and concentrated with bold fruit bolstered by high acidity. Expressive and complex. ‘This has everything the Spätlese has, but it is magnified’, enthuses Tim. ‘It’s very luscious and opulent, with huge honeyed concentration’. 95/100

Max Ferd Richter, Mosel Saar Ruwer

Fortnum’s Graacher Dompropst Riesling Kabinett 2004 Mosel Saar Ruwer  £9.75
The Mosel is the most famous of Germany ’s vineyard areas, and this Kabinett has a fresh mineralic nose with some lemon and herb notes. The palate has nice breadth and richness, with some sweet melony fruit that’s countered by crisp acidity. It’s just off-dry. ‘This is the perfect summer picnic Riesling’, says Tim. ‘A great wine to introduce people to the Mosel with’. 91/100

Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2004 Mosel Saar Ruwer £11.50
Moving up in sweetness, this has a lovely complex limey, minerally nose with some honeyed notes. The palate is fresh with some nice broad appley fruit and good acidity. There’s lovely freshness allied to sweetness. ‘You could use this before or after dinner’, says Tim. ‘It has enough sweetness to match a delicate pudding such as a lemon tart.’ 92/100

Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2003 Mosel Saar Ruwer £18.50
A complex, limey, fresh, minerally nose leads to a palate that is sweet and melony with a lovely vibrant citrus freshness. Once again, there’s a lovely contrast between the sweet, almost viscous fruit and the minerally acidity. ‘You can feel the warmth of the vintage coming through’, explains Tim. 93/100

Horst Sauer, Franken

Fortnum’s Escherndorfer Lump Silvaner Spätlese Trocken 2006 Franken £14.50
The final producer in this short line up is Horst Sauer, from the less well known region of Franken, where the wines come in a flattened flagon-shaped bottle known as a Bocksbeutel. And this wine is made from the Silvaner variety, not Riesling. ‘Silvaner is often a workhorse variety’, explains Tim, ‘but in Franken it often hits the heights. I sell this as an alternative to Grand Cru Chablis: it has more honeyed character than a Chablis, but it can be used in a similar way. It goes well with smoked fish, and my dream combination is with smoked eel.’ This wine shows lovely fresh, forward melony fruit, with an appealing minerally, spicy character alongside the honeyed melony richness. Beautifully expressive, and dry in style. 91/100

Horst Sauer Escherndorfer Lump Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2001 Franken (50cl) £65.00
Finally, an incredible sweet wine made with late-harvested, nobly rotten Riesling grapes. A golden/orange colour, this is very intense and sweet with notes of caramel, raisins, apricot and marmalade. It shows incredible concentration, immense sweetness, high acidity and a finish that is verging on the eternal. ‘This stands up against any of the great sweet wines of the world’, enthuses Tim. ‘It’s different from Sauternes, but the quality is every bit as good. It’s figgy, quincy and there are all sorts of candied fruits. The acid backbone is critical to the balance of the wine’. 97/100

Article published November 2007

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