I decided to revisit the 2001 German vintage this year to see how it is progressing and ended up opening 12+ bottles in 2011. The wines ranged from the kabinett level to an eiswein. Most of the wines I tried were Riesling although 1 Scheurebe is included. 2001 was the best German vintage in the last 20 years in my opinion (since 1990) and perhaps since 1971. Terry Theise recently said that he prefers 2005 but my money is still on 2001. I prefer the balance and harmony of 2001 over the richness of 2005. What made 2001 so spectacular is the so called "Golden October" with it's perfect ripening weather which allowed extra hang time for the grapes. The MSR (and to a slightly lesser extent the Nahe) benefited most although all regions had great weather. As a result I bought almost 10 cases of wine from 2001 from all regions (I still have 5 cases left although all of my kabinett is now gone). What I have left is Spatlese and higher. I don't regret a single purchase. Surprisingly, I have been to a few stores within the last month looking to see what 2009 Germans are available and have seen a stray 2001 wine here and there (usually at a higher end wine specialty store) and the prices were the same release prices in 2002.
My tastings over the last year confirm the greatness of 2001 to me. I have rarely, if ever, been disappointed by any of these wines. So many of them still tasted young and vibrant while adding depth over the last 10 years. I am particularly impressed by the Spatlese from this vintage. As previously mentioned, this vintage is all about balance and harmony. The acids are not too high but prominent enough to keep the wines youthful and vibrant. Every wine was very clean and was characterized by a fine purity. The tropical fruits which are so enjoyable in young German Riesling have not faded. I did not detect any overly tart fruit. Minerality and other secondary flavors are now showing up to add depth. Surprisingly, with only a few exceptions, I did not notice many petrol nuances which is very common in older Riesling and can be a flaw if overpowering. The fact that so little petrol is present in these wines at 10 years tells me that the wines will continue to age gracefully for decades. My vintage rating for 2001 is 99 points.
My notes on the wines I tried are below and my opinions on the drinking windows for each pradiket level for 2001 prefaces the notes for that level. My comments about aging apply only to Riesling wines and not other varietals which do not age as well.
Kabinetts- Every kabinett level wine no matter the producer should be at least in it's drinking window now. Some from lesser producers might already be in decline. The best will not start to decline for another 5 years.
2001 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (11/18/2011)
Opened my last bottle. 3rd time I have had this wine. Notes of lemon pledge, coconut and grassy notes. Solid acidity. Slight oil texture. This was holding up very well for a 10 year old kabinett. This really wasn't showing any of it's age. It tasted just like it did in 2003 when I first had it.
2001 Weingut Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Rheingau (8/14/2011)
Opened one in STL with my brother. This 10 year old kab was one of the few 2001's showing it's age. Yellowish green color with a slight golden hue. Not nearly as fresh as when young. No real petrol notes but the fruit was much more serious and somber. Like drinking autumn in a glass. Drink up. 88 points.
Spätlese- My favorite pradiket level. These tend to show the best balance for my palate. Everything should be showing very well now. No signs of sulfur, funk or wines still in a dumb phase. I would drink the wines from the lesser producers within the next 5 years. The wines from the best producers (JJ Prum, Donnhoff, Weil) and the top wines from 2nd tier producers (Schaefer, Leitz, Christoffel, Selbach, etc.) will show well for another decade and in some instances will improve.
2001 Franz Karl Schmitt Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Rheinhessen (5/31/2011)
2nd time I have had this. Last time was in 2003. Opened on Memorial day with some friends in Michigan. This wine has evolved very nicely. Another fine example of how good the 2001 vintage in Germany was. This is normally not a top estate or wine but was elevated by the vintage.Medium yellow color. Not as sweet as it was back in 2003 but like so many Spatlese and Auslese from 2001 this has put on some depth. 92 points.
2001 Franz Karl Schmitt Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Rheinhessen (7/4/2011)
2nd time I have opened this wine this year. Another solid bottle. Drank with grilled pork chops, grilled zucchini and hash browns on the grill. 92 points.
2001 Florian Weingart Schloss Fürstenberg Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mittelrhein (4/25/2011)
Drank this on Easter. Great buy for $9. This family estate in the Mittelrhein is run by the young Florian Weingart who owns 9 hectares. He makes about 7500 cases per year (the vast majority of which is Riesling). In 2001, yields were kept low through green harvesting and a strict selection was employed. Most of his vineyards are on steep sites of weathered slate although he makes this wine from a leased vineyard. Very nice Spatlese from a great vintage. Still showing a vibrant and fresh side despite being 10 years old. It also showed a few signs of it's age. Medium yellow color. Lush pear notes with mango. I think this was a declassified auslese. Sweeter than you might expect for a spatlese. 92 points.
2001 Alfred Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese #5 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (4/4/2011)
Opened a bottle last weekend. 3rd time I have had this wine. This wine has changed quite a bit since the last time I had it in 2005. It is much less fruity and showing more secondary nuances. Some slight petrol and herbal qualities. Drinking well right now and in it's drinking window. I have 1 left and will wait a few more years to open it. 90 points.
2001 Weingut Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Rheingau (11/9/2011)
Opened a bottle with some friends. At 10 years old this wine is progressing nicely but showing no signs of fading. I've had no regrets buying heavily into the 2001 vintage. Amber yellow color. Slightly more aromas of petrol than when I last had it. This wine is putting on weight and adding depth. On the palate, there is slate, slate, slate and more slate mixed in white some pear and tropical flavors. Starting to show a creamy texture on the finish. Do yourself a favor and open one now. Bonus for me: I thought I only had 2 of these left but when I pulled this bottle I found that I had 3. 95 points.
2001 J & HA Strub Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Rheinhessen (10/16/2011)
3rd time I have had this wine and it just keeps getting better all the time. This is the first time I have scored it in the 92 point range which the WA gave it. I bought this for $15 on release in 2003 and opened it over the weekend with some grilled pork chops, baked potatoes, apple sauce and butternut squash baled with butter and brown sugar. Simply a beautiful wine which drank great thru the whole evening. Aromas of walking through an apple orchard. Wonderful balance of sweetness. Noted the same flavors of green apples and passion fruit as previous bottles but with more depth. The most striking thing about this wine was how fresh and pure it tasted 10 years after the vintage. This is why you age German Riesling and what you should expect from the 2001 vintage. I have 1 more bottle which I'll hold until 2016. 92-93 points.
2001 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (9/29/2011)
Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Vertical (Otis' house): Lost Verse brought this. This was the consensus winner among the 7 Prum WS Spatlese's in the vertical we tried. 3rd time I have had this wine and it has always been in the 94-95 range. Wines from the 2001 German vintage rarely disappoint. Slight spritz. Clear straw color. Wonderful core of white fruit with some mango notes. Very deep with a long finish. 94 points.
Auslese- You can start to drink Auslese level wines from the lesser producers now. They will be very enjoyable and show depth and balance that was not there 5-8 years ago. However, wines from better producers (like the Schaefer below), still need time to show their best. And when they show their best they will be spectacular. I have a few JJ Prum GKA's which will end up being 40+ year wines with proper storage.
2001 Vereinigte Hospitien Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (6/23/2011)
Allred brought this over when he visited after my surgery. 3rd time I have had this with consistent results each time. This time around the wine was lusher with smoke and peach notes. As with almost every 2001 auslese, this wine was still going strong. 92 points.
2001 Kurt Darting Ungsteiner Honigsäckel Scheurebe Auslese - Germany, Pfalz (11/11/2011)
Terry Theise gave this 1 star and thought it's drink window was between 3 and 15 years. I bought this on sale for $9.50 shortly after release and took it to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant this weekend. A sweet wine with 120 Oechsle but not as sweet as the 2001 Durkheimer Nonnengarten Rieslaner Auslese and without any noticeable botrytis. 8% alcohol. Helmut Darting apprenticed at Muller Catoir and uses the same reductivist approach with his wines. As a result, some say his wines taste like mini Catoirs. 2001 was a great year for Darting. A golden yellow color and very aromatic. Notes of pineapple and apricot. Full bodied. 92 points.
2001 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese #9 - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (11/27/2011)
Opened my first bottle over the weekend with friends. A $35 purchase back in 2002. WS gave this 97 points. The first 2001 German wine I had this year that I thought needed additional time to show it's best. Not as sweet as many Auslese. It definitely had some sweetness to it but was not close to being a dessert wine. Deep and lush. Notes of tropical fruits and some botrytis. Full bodied. Some slate on the finish. 94+ points.
2001 Bollig-Lehnert Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Auslese *** - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (11/24/2011)
Opened a 500ml bottle at Thanksgiving. Last had this on 2003. This was an $11 purchase on release which I thought was a great price for a 3 star Auslese (even if it is from a lower end producer). 2001 was a great vintage which lifted all producers. This was given a 92 rating from WS. Golden color. 8.5% alcohol. A little soap on the nose at first. Quite sweet with lower acidity. Notes of peaches. Pineapples and other tropical fruit. A lush wine. Moderate length on the finish. 87 points on day 1. Tried this again the following day and liked it better with some air time. 89-90 points.
Dessert- I would not touch any BA's or TBA's for another 10 years and they will drink well for decades after that. Eiswein's are another matter. They often drink well when young after the acidity integrates. I'd consider drinking them now and over the next 10 years. They best will show well for longer.
2001 Seebrich Niersteiner Ölberg Riesling Eiswein - Germany, Rheinhessen (8/11/2011)
Took a bottle of this to LostVerse's house last weekend. Weingut Heinrich Seebrich is in the Rheinhessen and is considered to be a moderate-good producer. I had the chance to meet the winemaker Jochen Seebrich in March 2002 and enjoyed talking to him about his wines and the 2001 barrel samples he was pouring at the time. They own 10.5 hectares of which 40% are planted to Riesling. The estate was founded in 1783. 4th time I have had this wine. Paired it with a chocolate dessert. Not the best combo as the chocolate overpowered this wine. Similar notes as when I last had this wine in 2003 and 2005. It is holding up well and does not seem to have lost any of it's fresh acidity. 90 points.
2001 Müller-Catoir Gimmeldinger Schlössel Rieslaner Beerenauslese - Germany, Pfalz (12/2/2011)
Opened by Allred.I've had the 2003 Spatlese and Auslese Rieslaner from this vineyard but never the BA. Medium yellow color. Solid acidity. Notes of apricots and peach pits. Botrytis spice shows up on the finish. Medium body. This was an outstanding wine but in a lineup with the 2001 SQN Noble Man and 2001 Kracher #7 it finished in 3rd place. Lighter, more elegant and less concentrated than the other two. 93-94 points.
I'd be interested to hear what others who have tried these wines recently have thought about them. Also, there was a lot of talk about this vintage on the board back in 2002 and 2003 and I know many of you bought them. What do you have left? I hope you did not drink all of these because you would be missing out on one of the true treasures in the white wine world.