Reichsrat Von Buhl Tasting 2018

Matthieu Kauffmann reported only very modest losses to peronospora in 2016 and insisted that the estate’s biodynamic approach proved far superior in combating that scourge than did so-called conventional spraying regimens. Although a regular defender of early harvest, he found the unusually sluggish accumulation of must weight and stable acidity that characterized fall 2016 entirely conducive to restraint, in consequence of which the last Riesling for dry wine was not picked until the third week of October, and selection for Auslese only took place in November. The stylistic changes that ensued at this address with the arrival of a largely new team in vintage 2013 – most conspicuously, trocken Rieslings of absolute dryness, but also nobly sweet wines with an unprecedented precision and animation – are complemented by the character of the 2016 vintage, with its penchant for clarity, phenolic finesse and relatively modest must weights that meant even bone-dry Rieslings would not ascend to problematic levels of alcohol. “This year the Grosse Gewächse have zero residual sugar,” said Kauffmann with evident pride, but, he assured me, no exaggeration: “really, no sugar could be measured.” To get Rieslings routinely to such vanishing levels of residual sugar unsurprisingly usually involves having to add cultured yeasts in the later stages of fermentation, but there are probably few people more savvy on the subject of yeast selections than Kauffmann, given his long tenure as cellarmaster at Bollinger and his continued work with sparkling wine at von Buhl.

Since on my most recent vintage I tasted through the cellar with Kauffmann, I am able to report from cask or tank on all but one of the vintage 2016 Grosse Gewächse. But in many instances – including any of nobly sweet wines – I won’t be able to taste and report on von Buhl wines until they have been released for sale, which explains my reviewing certain dry 2015s for the first time on this occasion and no sweet 2016s. Incidentally, the share of dry wines here that are slated for 10 months of élevage and for release a year or more after harvest will, if anything, increase. I was struck on this most recent occasion with how impressive were two of Kauffmann’s earlier-bottled efforts from so-called “Erste Lagen” that had been raised in a combination of tank and cask, wines capable in their buoyant, animatingly bright way of holding their own with the vintage’s Grosse Gewächse. Kauffmann noted, though, that, given the odd volumes involved, even the Grosse Gewächse often benefit from the blending in of a small portion raised in tank because wine is left over after the chosen casks are filled.

Those 2016s on which I report below had fermented in the casks from which I tasted them “and had nothing done to them afterward,” Kauffmann emphasized, until being racked from their full lees and filtered (“very slowly and gently,” he noted) a few weeks before my July 31, 2017 visit. They were due to have been bottled a week or two later, for releases beginning late that year but extending well into 2018. DAVID SCHILDKNECHT, vinous