Will 2003 German Rieslings Age?

I was at otis' house on Friday for a Kathryn Kennedy vertical tasting dinner he threw for a few board members. Not having any KK wines, I brought a white. The 2003 Willi Schaefer Gracher Domprobst Spatlese #10 (TN here). The conversation that night got me thinking about the ageability of the 2003 German vintage.

I won't pretend to know the answer. Only time will tell for sure. However, I do have an opinion and it is that they will age well. Here is the basis for my opinion.

The argument I hear most often to support the claim that the wines won't age is that they lack acidity. Clearly, 2003 was a low acid year; but, lets keep in mind that vintners were allowed for the first time ever to acidify wines. Thus offsetting a bit of this concern.

More importantly though is the misperception that low acid German Riesling will not age. I do not see any historical proof to support this claim. First, there has never been a year like 2003 (at least not in anyone's memory). 2003 had more sun than any vintage in over 100 years. The years 1921, 1947 and 1959 had the next most sunshine; but, 2003 still had about 100 more hours of sun than any of them. Each of those years produced extremely ripe grapes with low acids. Now I have not had wines from any of those years; but, they are all reported to have produced classic wines which aged very well. Another ripe vintage with low acidity was 1976. I have tried some of these wines and they are holding up very well. I do not think there is much dispute over the quality or longevity of the 1976 vintage.

Second, from what I have read, riper vintages which produce wines with higher must weights (like 2003) compensate for lower acidity levels. If a young 2003 is voluminous, rich, balanced and loaded with fruit, my opinion is that it should age and perhaps longer than even some so called classically styled vintages.

Anyone else care to share their opinion?

Original Post

I just bumped this thread for you. It has to do with Sulpher among other things.

To answer your question though, I do not think sulpher will disporportionately affect aging. Sulpher has always been present in young German wine. Of course a vintage like 2003 might show more sulpher. However, this sulpher has a historical tendency to subside in the wines as they age. I see no reason why it will not subside in the 2003 wines.

The Muller-Catoirs, Donhoffs, JJ Christoffels and JJ Prums will all age fine. Darting over-acidified. I haven't tried enough of any of the other producers to come up with an opinion, but those who knew how to adjust acid levels came out fine and with good agability, imo.

Otis opened a bottle of 1976 Weingut Hessisches Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese from the Rheingau last week and it made my think of this thread. I thought I would repeat some of the comments I made in my TN of that wine in this thread.

This was a very interesting wine to try. not only because it had aged very well and was of good quality; but, also because it had something to say about the 2003 German wines which are still on the market. 1976 was a very hot year with which produced wines marked by low acidity. Although not as hot as 2003 it is very similar. Since 1959, only the 2003 vintage has seen hotter weather than 1976 in Germany. Many pundits have espoused the theory that 2003 wines will not age because of low acidity. My response is to have them try a wine from 1976 (even a wine which is not from one of the top producers like this wine) and see if ripe German wines with low acidity can age or not. They can. As a result I have bought quite a few 2003 German Rieslings without fear that they will fall apart after 10 years. 2003 is a one of a kind vintage which will be talked about for decades to come and I recommend that anyone interested in German wines pick up whatever deals on 2003 wines you can find.

I'm no expert on German riesling, but Clare Valley, which is one of the premier sites for Australian Riesling, is regarded as having a warm to hot climate. The best producers from there have their rieslings last 30+ years in good vintages. Of course for Clare valley the better vintages tend to be cooler rather than hotter.
My opinion that 2003 Rieslings will age very well has not changed. I have tried 5 2003 Germans over the last 2 years and did not detect any sulfur problems in them. The only wine which showed low acid was the Prum Spatlese. Here are my notes:

2003 Müller-Catoir Haardter Herrenletten Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Pfalz (8/11/2012)
Opened before dinner. Light yellow color. Notes of apple and similar quality as before. Moderate sweetness. 92 points.

2003 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe (5/27/2012)
Last bottle. No formal notes. 91 points.

2003 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer (9/29/2011)
Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Vertical (Otis' house): Opened my first bottle of this at Otis' house as part of a vertical. Didn't think this was showing as well as the 1987, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2007 or 2009. It was the sweetest of the group in my opinion but suffered from the low acid that was prevalent in the 2003 vintage. Apple notes. 89 points.

2003 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Auslese - Germany, Nahe (9/10/2011)
This bottle was a gift. WA98. Took this bottle to a friends and drank it next to a 2003 Donnhoff Kab. Rich a lush with a lot of depth. The color was starting to get a deeper yellow. Still a very young wine. Notes of chamomile, slate, honey and ripe apples. Full mouth feel. 96 points.

2003 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe (9/10/2011)
Not as fresh as it once was but certainly in it's drinking window. Consistent notes. 90 points.

This is a small sample size. However, as I mentioned to Brashley in another thread, I am planning on opening about a dozen 2003's next year to check on the vintage at 10 years old. I'll have a better idea of how the vintage is doing a year from now.


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