Pat Nolan Blog

A bit of Germany & Italy in Enniskerry

When one considers the vastness of the US, we can only thank our lucky stars that we’ve been born part of a much more diverse European Federation in which so many different countries and cultures co-exist and commute easily between one another’s countries. Otherwise it would not be possible to have two leading winemakers, one from Germany and one from Italy, in the same room at the same time in a small boutique wine shop in a little village in North Wicklow....

Classic Drinks is back in The Parting Glass, my local off-licence in Enniskerry, for our monthly get-together, this time with two of its wine suppliers: Ado Huesgen of Villa Huesgen in the Germany’s Mosel region and Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzago of San Leonardo in Italy’s Trentino region.

Both seem genuinely delighted to have the opportunity to pitch their respective Rieslings and Trentino reds to our small – and select (my words) – group of 10 to 15 wine guzzlers, all under the watchful eye of Classic Drinks’ Paul Savage.

Ado kicks off with a presentation of three of his Rieslings: Huesgen By The Glass, Huesgen Schiefer and Huesgen Riesling Kabinett. He represents the ninth generation of the Huesgen family to be working in the vineyard, taking over from his father just six years ago.

Even Ado’s six foot four inch demeanour suits Villa Huesgen’s slogan for its high-end Riesling wines – ‘Made by happy people’ – as he happily explains the care that goes into harvesting the grapes by hand from the side of the precipitous slopes that constitute Villa Huesgen’s vineyards in the ‘middle’ Mosel.

This area is arguably best-known for one vineyard in Bernkastel, The Doctor, explains Parting Glass proprietor Dom Brice in his preamble: “The Mosel then turns through the regions of Graacher and Zeltingen in slow meanders. Villa Huegen has vines in the area around Traben and Enkirch; overland from Bernkastel by maybe two miles, the river takes perhaps 10 miles to make the journey. The area is described by Hugh Johnson thus: ‘The wines of Torbach are well-known. Enkirch deserves to be’ ”.

Huesgen’s self-same steep slopes help produce the minerality in Ado’s wine, aided and abetted by the black slate and the exposure to the sun that the topography enhances.

The vineyard’s slopes also help keep the heat in the soil at night which has favourable implications for harvesting as late as October or even November, explains Ado.

He established the first of our wines for tasting tonight, Huesgen By The Glass Riesling, for his wife who wanted a wine light enough to drink on a daily basis. But when it appears on a wine menu in the on-trade, people take it literally, believing they can order it ‘by the glass’ – which might be no bad idea for vintners to consider.

The second wine, Huesgen Schiefer Riesling 2010, will be overtaken by the 2011 vintage in the next month or so as the new vintage has just arrived at Classic Drinks. According to Ado, 2011 is a “great vintage”.

The vines in this case are 40 to 60 years old and with older vines, expect more concentrated wines. This wine seems to suit Lufthaunser which has made it its in-flight wine for Business Class.

It’s only the winery’s first year trying the third wine, Huesgen Rielsing Kabinett, a “half-dry” wine often served as an aperitif, according to Ado, who assures us that all three wines can easily age another 15 to 20 years.

Indeed German wines have come such a long way from their 70s & 80s ‘Liefraumilch’ reputation —  ‘Ronseal Wines’ — as Dom so wickedly puts it! And whether from the New World or the Old, Rieslings are worth a try now for anyone who’s cheesed-off with Chardonnay or sick of Sauvignon yet remains reticent about Riesling. They might well find themselves converted.

We move considerably south to taste the wines of San Leonardo with the help of Anselmo Guerrieri Gonzago.

Dom introduces his wines: “Based in the very south of Trentino, the winery takes its name from the church of Saint Leonard of Noblac that was first dedicated to the area in the Sixth Century by French settlers. Anselmo’s family have owned the property since the Eighteenth Century and have been involved in wine-making for over two centuries”.

The old chapel on the property is dedicated to San Leonardo, the patron saint of prisoners and dates back 1,500 years. Anselmo’s own family history is not without incident. His father did not seem to get on particularly well with his own father, Anselmo’s grandfather. Anselmo’s father went abroad to study oenology and the very day before he returned home from his studies, the grandfather hired an oenologist! The interloping oenologist is still with the company Anselmo assured us….

Anselmo’s family’s oenological search is “a quest for elegance, not for power in a wine” and so these wines come in at 13 per cent ABV. The wines produced are Bordeaux-style blends such as San Leonardo Terre di San Leonardo which the family first produced in 2008.

The second wine, the 2006 San Leonardo San Leonardo, was first produced in 1982 and is a “style of wine that Bordeaux was producing 30 years ago,” says Anselmo. In that short time it managed to reach 12th place on the Wine Spectator’s list of the World’s Top 100 Wines.

And so Ado and Anselmo bid us adieu. They have no doubt been busy hammering out prices and deals with their distributor here during the day but still have the time and grace to come to a little wine shop in the Dublin mountains and propound their faith in their wines to this small band of wine-faithful.  That speaks volumes for the passion that they put into their wines – and the dedication to see it get out to new audiences and markets around the world.

They are to be commended.


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