Monday, February 1, 2010

Ernst Loosen Wines Up and Down

Picture: Chateau Ste. Michelle's winemaker Bob Bertheau and Ernst Loosen

There are a number of German wine makers who are increasingly operating on a global scale. To name a few, Armin Diehl, the 4 Gault Millau grapes wine maker from the Nahe region, now also produces Riesling and Pinot Noirs in Washington State and Oregon. Karl Heinz and Patrick Johner not only produce outstanding Pinot Noirs in Baden, Germany, but also in New Zealand. Werner Naekel, one of the fathers of the German red wine revolution, makes one of the best German red wines in the small Ahr region; at the same time, he produces wine in South Africa. The most successful among these German wine makers who are operating at a global level is Ernst Loosen.

He is the owner of the Weingut Dr. Loosen, located just outside Bernkastel in the Mosel wine region. At the same time, he is very active in the US. He exports German wines to the US and makes wine in the US. In Germany, Ernst Loosen has some problems to maintain the highest standards he is known for, while in the US he is clearing on a steep upward trend.

Picture: The Dr. Loosen Estate in Germany overlooking the Mosel river

The Weingut Dr. Loosen in Germany, with a 130,000 annual bottle production, is one of the larger producers in the Mosel region. It is particularly known for the quality of the Rieslings and won the "Riesling of the Year" of the German wine magazine Der Feinschmecker in 1989. In 2001, the Gault Millau wine guide named Ernst Loosen as the German winemaker of the year.

For many years, the Weingut Dr. Ernst Loosen was one of the few German Estates that got 5 grapes (out of 5 grapes) by the Gault Millau. This year, however, it lost one grape and was downgraded to 4 grapes. It is thus no longer in the top group in Germany, according to the Gault Millau. The 3 Mosel Estates that currently have 5 grapes are Fritz Haag, Egon Mueller and J.J. Pruem. In total, 9 German Estates are in the Gault Millau group of world class producers.

In the US, Ernst Loosen is a rising star. Only two German wines made it this year to the Top 100 wines of the Wine Spectator. One of them is Dr. Loosen’s Dr. L, a wine that is a big success in the US. The Loosen Dr. L. Riesling (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, $13) is a delightful wine and a good value. However, it is completely unheard of in Germany and only produced for the export market.

On the three Top 100 lists of the Wine Enthusiast, Dr. Loosen appears twice, with an Auslese from Mosel and with the joint venture wine Eroica from Washington State.

Dr. Loosen 2007 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer); $42; 93 points.

This thrilling Auslese starts off with intriguing spicy, musky aromas, then moves easily into flavors of pear, melon, pineapple and even red berries on the palate. It somehow comes across as plump, yet crystalline and pure, with a long, fruit-driven finish. Drink now–2030. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA.

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2008 Eroica Riesling (Columbia Valley); $24; 93 points.

The 10th vintage of Eroica may be the best ever. It’s supremely fresh, spicy, and mineral-driven. The well-textured mouth feel runs the gamut from celery, chervil, and other fresh herb into melon, citrus and stone. Though technically off dry, this is a low pH, high acid wine with plenty of length and depth.

Picture: Ludwig van Beethoven

Eroica is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle, the huge Washington winemaker, and Dr. Ernst Loosen, the eminent Riesling producer from the Mosel region of Germany. The wine is made at Chateau Ste. Michelle from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley.

Promoting the worldwide ascendancy of Riesling was a big reason why Ernst Loosen began the joint venture with Chateau Ste. Michelle 10 years ago. He was convinced that it would take a seriously good New World Riesling to help bring the variety back to the forefront. Eroica was launched in 1999. Named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica is supposed to reflect not only its variety and site, but also its heritage: bold and forward from its Washington roots, elegant and refined from German inspiration.

Picture: Eroica

They make three kinds of the Eroica. The regular Eroica, an icewine and a single berry selection. The latter is made in the traditional German Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) style and is one of the few TBAs in North America. Literally, the word means a wine made from a selection (Auslese) of individually picked grapes (Beeren) which have been left on the vine until so ripe as to be practically dry (trocken) or raisened. They are raisened because of noble rot (Botrytis). This wine is made in very limited quantities, typically less than 75 cases a year. The single berry selection has scored a 98 in the Wine Spectator.

Ernst Loosen is also venturing into the red wine production. With his wine making partner, Jay Somers of the Holloran and J. Christopher labels, Loosen has crafted two Pinot Noirs.

They created Two Worlds, which retails for about $10 to 12. This is an inter-continental blend. Two Worlds is composed of 90 percent of German Spätburgunder from the Pfalz, where Dr. Loosen owns the J.L. Wolf winery and 10 percent Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

Picture: Two Worlds

In addition, the two wine makers have started to produce a boutique bottling of Oregon Pinot Noir called Appassionata after their passion for Pinot Noir. So far, they have produced four vintages of their boutique wine but released none giving Appassionata extra time to barrel- and bottle-age. Appassionate is a collector’s item which retails in the $70 – 80 range.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

German American Wines: (1) Pacific Rim Riesling (2) Eroica and (3) Woelffer's Schillerwein

Wine ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 include Wittmann and Loosen Rieslings

Wine ratings: Mosel and Pfalz regions dominate German Wines on Top 100 Wine Enthusiast List in 2009

German Wine Basics: Erstes Gewaechs, Grosses Gewaechs, Erste Lage

Germany's Top Wines: Ratings of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast (US) versus Eichelmann and Gault Millau (Germany)

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

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