I was hoping, against my better judgement for even more from this bottle – partly a sentimental hope, as it had travelled a long way to get to my fridge – from Germany to the USA and then to South Africa in the luggage of an old friend returning here to live, who’d incredibly kindly bought this remnant of his collection of wines there as a gift for me.
But the 2003 vintage on the Mosel was very ripe and comparatively low in acid, even in the magnificent Doctor vineyard near the town of Bernkastel (it was a notoriously hot year in northern Europe. Tonight this Wegeler Berkasteler Doctor Spätlese 2003 was still brimming with life, but showing a little more sweetness and not enough thrilling vibrancy to come close to the effortless vinous perfection that the Mosel often achieves. At something more than a decade old, it was still quite youthful, with the fleapowder notes that I associate most with riesling from the Mosel, complexly interacting with peachy fruitiness. Far from flabby, but not excitingly cutting.
Lovely enough it was, however, and a good accompaniment while I prepared dinner – smoked duck breast and my latest happy, delicious discovery (as, along with half the middle class and middle aged of the world, I seek alternatives to the major carbohydrates) lightly mashed celeriac with fresh thyme.
No-one loves classic Mosel riesling more than I. (Now’s a chance to repeat once more the words of Hugh Johnson describing it: “clean as steel, with the evocative qualities of remembered scents or distant music”, words which long ago made me love the wine even before I tasted it.) But, dinner made, I turned without reluctance to my second wine of the evening, Adi Badenhorst’s White Blend 2012, that brilliant chenin-based blend of nine varieties.
On this occasion, the warm Swartland (with a bit of Paarl’s nearby Voor-Paardeberg inmixed) gave more steely elegance than the Mosel. The Badenhorst White blend is fine, subtle and complex, with a quiet intensity showing on a long, rippling finish. Whether it will take a decade and more in quite such an easy stride as Mosel riesling in a less-than-perfect vintage, I’m not convinced. But what a privilege to have both wines in one evening.
I returned to the Doctor later with renewed appreciation. With the saltiness of cheese the sweetness and inherent finesse of the wine was better balanced. The main cheese was a new one I found at Woolworths: “Boutique de Leeuwen”, described on the label as “semi-soft washed rind cheese with blue veins””. It seemed to me like Münster meeting Bavarian blue brie and having a fantastic time together, especially when the riesling joined in the party.