Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2002

I was at my local grocery store the other day, where they frequently change wine inventory. This means that they always have a large selection of clearance wine that is the remnants of what they’re not going to carry anymore. I’ve gotten quite a few great wines for half-price in the clearance rack. I was looking through the bottles, and the wine guy came over and saw that I was checking out this Riesling. It was originally priced at $17.99, marked down to $7.99. He told me that it was a great wine, that it didn’t sell because no one knows what it is. (This may be the same reason this grocery store carries maybe a dozen French wines yet several hundred wines from California.) He said it was a little sweet, but had a dry finish, so it was a great food match. With the reduced price and a pitch like that, how could I pass it up?

A distributor for Selbach-Oster had this to say:

“You may have noticed our wines are a bit drier the last two vintages than they used to be,” said Johannes Selbach. “We know how to make reductive fruit-bombs that get high scores and stand out in big tastings,” he continued, “but the problem is everyone writes about those wines but nobody drinks them. We want to make wines for food, that people can use in their everyday lives.”

The results are some of the deepest of all Mosel wines. They refuse to be merely aesthetic. They strive for (and often attain) a sine qua non of Mosel-ness. They take you through the gift-wrapping of mere flavor and they show you something you may not know how to see.

“sine qua non of Mosel-ness”, huh? Well, I see that the label of my wine says “Mosel, Saar, Ruwer” and “Mosel River Valley”, so that looks to be the region. And possibly “Bernkasteler Badstube” is the vineyard? I see that the bottle says:

“Since the 17th century, the noble Riesling grape has been the premier grape grown on the steep, rocky slopes here, yielding unique, crisp, and delicate wines of great distinction. ”

“From the gentle slope rising behind the town of Bernkastel. The soil here is light, finely grained, cumbly Devonian slate.”

Well, beyond that I’m not sure if the slopes are steep and rocky or gently rising, what can I learn about this wine? “Mosel-Saar-Ruwer” is apparently the region. “Bernkastel” is obviously a town near where the grapes are grown. I couldn’t find this exact wine on the Selbach-Oster Web site, so I guess I’ll just wing it. It’s German. And Rielsing. Germans are known for dry Rielsings. To the tasting–

This wine was very light in color, lighter than I would expect for a 2002, actually. But maybe it’s just that we’ve been trying so many French Chardonnays that I’ve forgotten how much lighter the Riesling grape is comparatively. It had a bit of a fruity nose, but the taste was surprising. It tasted effervescent. Almost. It was bright and acidic, which possibly gave it the allusion of carbonation, but it was a little offputting. And despite the wine seller’s assurances of a dry finish, it mostly had no finish at all. Our final evaluation was that it probably was worth what I paid, but not really worth the original price. It just didn’t have enough substance to it, other than that hint of fizziness. Which isn’t really a flavor or a complexity as much as it is a sensation on the tongue. Maybe it was the “sine qua non of Mosel-ness” that we were experiencing.

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