Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Striking Silvaner and a Solid Stopper

When last I wrote of Klaus-Peter Keller's Gruener Silvaner on these pages early this spring it was about his 2007 vintage, which I paired with simply prepared, fresh caught trout — a pretty classic pairing (even if I do say so myself). I've enjoyed the current release (2009) since then but I was surprised when hunting through my over-packed, under-organized wine closet for something to imbibe with dinner earlier this week to find a bottle of the 2006 vintage. My first thought was, "Oops, this one got away from me."

Mind you, I do realize that Silvaner can in some cases be quite age worthy. Consider Franconian Silvaners from producers such as Hans Wirsching, for example. But I've always thought of Keller's Silvaner as being intended for relative immediacy. For one, it's a basic level qualitatswein — a silly prejudice, I know, but one that's not entirely irrational. For another, it's fairly inexpensive; the current release goes for around $18, while the 2006, when it was still on the market, was closer to $15. Yeah, yeah, another silly prejudice; I do know better. And third, it's sealed with an alternative in-neck stopper, generally a pretty strong (if not universal) signal that, from the producer's perspective, the wine is meant to be drunk young.

Rheinhessen Grüner Silvaner QbA trocken, Weingut Keller 2006
$16. 12.5% alcohol. DIAM. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Four years is hardly old by wine standards, but then one must bear in mind that plenty of wines out there, both white and red, start to sag, droop and develop age spots in as little as one or two cycles of the calendar. I didn't think it unreasonable to expect Keller's '06 Silvaner to have slipped into that kind of decline. And I was pleased to be proven wrong.

Certainly, there's been some development. The wine now shows yellow tones in the glass, darker than its hay-tinted mineral water appearance in youth. It's also taken on some richness, both of aroma and flavor, curving much more into the Riesling-esque end of the spectrum than when young; less forthright pear fruit and salinity, more dark minerality, truffle, and citrus oil characteristics. Still, though, it remains completely vital. What surprised me most was that the element of residual carbon dioxide, so typical of the wine in its youthful stage, still had not dissipated; morphed, yes, but completely dissolved, no. Rather than a refreshing prickle on the first touch, that CO2 now expressed itself via a sense of active energy, like a wave breaking gently across the rear palate. Now I'm left wondering how it would be another year or two down the road. Alas, as is so often the case in such scenarios, this was my last bottle....

On a related note, the alternative closure I referred to above was a DIAM. As I've mentioned here in the past, the DIAM is my favorite of the alternative in-neck stoppers on today's market. Again, while four years is hardly old by wine standards, at three-and-a-half years in bottle, this might be the longest "under-cork" DIAM sealed wine I've yet had the opportunity to sample. As should be obvious from the above note, the experience was a positive one. The stopper itself was in good shape and had not — at least not to my palate — imparted any discernible flavor to the wine, something I can't say for the various plastic/polymer closures currently in use. Also, though I have heard of a report or two from others, I've still yet to encounter a TCA-tainted wine sealed under DIAM.

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