Apricot preserves, candied violets, licorice, marzipan, rowan, gardenia, white raisin, and tangerine mark both the nose and palate of the 2004 Riesling Brand Vendange Tardive, a wine of enormous botrytized ripeness, high acidity, and low alcohol, but in none of these respects quite as extreme as the Clos Windsbuhl. Here there is already elegance, refinement and lift, a ravishing combination of textural richness and palpable extract with delicacy and buoyancy, and an extraordinarily clear, pure finish with a mineral dimension as unmistakable as it is ineffable. Compared with the Clos Windsbuhl, the density here is allied to more winsome creaminess of texture (with patisserie-like flavors of vanilla cream and marzipan), and the finish - while no less penetrating and fresh - caries an intricate interplay of flavors and is not at all severe. This breathtakingly beautiful Riesling is too complex and ravishing today to tell you â€œwait!- but it can certainly be safely followed for a quarter century.
Olivier Humbrecht compares his 2004s with 1992. These were the two most copious vintages of recent times, delivering truly dry wines with quite high acidity. Although he characterized 2004 as more precocious than 2005, Humbrecht kept harvesting through early November, insisting that this was only possible due to his stringent, biodynamic viticultural practices and consequent generally healthy fruit. Humbrecht insists too that he did not seek botrytis, as rain was rendering noble rot nearly impossible. But it certainly seems sometimes as if botrytis sought out him! One price for his protracted harvest was elevated alcohol, which some wines struck me as hard-pressed to gracefully support; and acid levels too occasionally reached extremes. Overall, in fact, I have never tasted such a wide rage of quality nor so many unusually distinctive and at times downright inscrutable wines at this address as those of 2004. Two thousand five, relates Humbrecht, brought ample botrytis, especially with Pinot Gris, but later ripeness, again with formidable acid and extract levels thanks to the cool, well-watered August. Nearly all of the Riesling musts fermented dry. Humbrecht considers it a classic vintage for (in most instances dry-tasting) Gewurztraminer. And despite the blanket of rot that descended on the Pinot Gris vineyards, a cold, virtually cloudless five day period permitted patient and rigorous selection of fruit. A tribute to the ripeness and high tartaric acidity of these 2005s is that although well more than half of his lots of Riesling and Pinot Gris underwent malolactic transformation, an experienced taster would be hard-pressed to identify which! â€œHad we had the challenging October of 2004 in 2005 as well,- he says, â€œmost -04s would be better than the -05s.- But as things turned out - October 2005 having been the second warmest after 2001 in the last decade - Humbrecht believes that in the long run these two collections will prove well matched in overall quality.
Broad and honeyed, yet with a firm structure. Shows a hint of bitterness, like grapefruit peel, pulling it out of balance for now. It's young, so give it time to develop. Long, smoky finish. Best from 2009 through 2020. 420 cases made. â€“BS