Articulating delicacy

The Saarburger Rausch vineyard / Weingut Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken

Two wines enjoyed over dinner the other day suggested a question: how can wine writers articulate a wine’s delicacy to their readers? Both wines were Rieslings. The first, Joh. Jos. Prüm’s 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, was exuberantly expressive, bursting from the glass with a projected bouquet marked by modest evolution (petrol tones), vivid fruit and noble complexifying reduction; though from a cooler vintage, the wine had all the authority one would expect of one of the middle Mosel’s grandest Einzelagge. The second was Ziliken’s 1999 Saarburger Rausch Spätlese: an altogether more discreet wine, but one of breathtaking complexity, revealing notes of bee pollen, honeycomb, candied lemon and rock salt, and underpinned by the crisply energetic acidity of the Saar. Smaller-scaled despite its higher Prädikat level, the Ziliken bottling’s charm lay in its detail, harmony and refinement. How to communicate, we wondered, the appeal of understatement, a concept often viewed with suspicion by those who identify it with dilution or ephemerality? Indeed, would we ourselves have appreciated the merits of the Saarburger Rausch as keenly without the Wehlener Sonnenuhr to throw it into relief? Articulating delicacy, in fact, seems to be one of the central challenges in writing about the Mosel’s inherently light-bodied, traditional off-dry Rieslings.

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