Steel – Stone – Wood, Round One!
Okay, so here is the first round of tastings of Steel, Stone and Wood from the “Sixpack” from Weingut Andreas Schmitges. If you do not yet know what these wines are all about – or need to refresh your memory – please check out my post on the experiment here.
This review of the three wines is taken from the first round of tastings, conducted on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of June, after having received the wines on the 17th of June. Four days of settling down after shipping should certainly have been enough, but it is important to bear in mind that the wines themselves had been filled only a month previously. While this isn’t horrible, wines often profit from having a bit more time to re-establish their equilibrium after filling. For this reason – and for the sake of comparison – I’ll be tasting the wines (from fresh bottles, naturally) in a couple months again. Check out the review for them here once it is finished!
A Brief Summary of the Raw Materials, the Pedigree and the Vinification
The wines are made from the fruit of 25-year-old, ungrafted vines originating from wood cut from vines in the Wehlener- and Zeltinger Sonnenuhr vineyards – this means they came from very old genetic material. The grapes were hand-harvested on October 29, 2016 after having reached 93° Oechsle, and come from a 5500m² parcel of the Erdener Treppchen – south-facing and with a 60% grade. Fermentation was spontaneous (indigenous yeasts) after a short maceration and very gentle pressing at just 0.4 bar. Fermentation took place without temperature controls in three different vessels: a 1050-litre oak Stück (second-fill), a 1000-litre steel tank and a 1000-litre granite barrel. Temperature remained between 15° and 20°C, with the lowest temperatures in the granite barrel. Filtered once with diatomaceous earth, but unfined. Sulphured only once: on April 15. Filled on May 21. The wines are under screwcap – there should be no variance in the oxidation that has taken place after bottling.
The Tasting Notes
Mosel – “Sixpack” Steel – Stone – Wood 2016 12.5% abv – Weingut Andreas Schmitges
All three of these wines look fairly pale lemon in the glass and are very young, offering mostly primary fruit characteristics and nothing from bottle age. All three are very enjoyable, even at this very early stage, and show the quality of both the vineyard and the grapes.
The Steel incarnation is very forthright in the nose, if not exactly “explosive”. Lime juice, lemon peel, some pineapple, honeysuckle, a hint of iodine and chamomile. Everything in the nose is found easily on the palate, with a bit of baking powder and wet stones into the mix. Lovely acidity, excellent salty minerality and very good balance of alcohol, fruit and floral concentration, and length. The wine is already showing very well despite its youth, and will certainly develop very good complexity with a few years in bottle. The chalky, baking powder aspect manifests as an almost powdery, salty character on the mid-palate, easily distinguishable from the mineral finish. Upon first opening there was the tiniest hint of reduction – most likely from the screwcaps. A sulphuric element is not really to be found, and the reduction at opening disappeared quickly.
Due to its elegance and lively structure, this wine seems to be of slightly higher overall quality than the Steel version, and is an excellent comparison to it. Although the basic aromatic profile remains very similar, the floral aspect steps up its game, and the salty, sodium bicarbonate elements are also stronger. The honeysuckle of Steel is replaced by acacia with Stone, and there is a hint of nettle and of white pepper. The wine has really lovely acidity, excellent concentration of fruit and floral element, very good density and length, just like the other wine – but the mineral presence is definitely enhanced, and even makes itself felt inside the mouth on the cells of the cheek skin. Interestingly, the overall effect is more rounded than Steel, but the acidic/mineral effect is more pronounced. A fascinating juxtaposition. Also my favourite of the three.
The only wine of the three to offer some notes of fruit development – perhaps unsurprisingly, as it is also the only wine that had a vessel permitting oxidative winemaking. This wine offers some of the floral aspect that the others have, but instead of acacia as with Stone, we’ve gone back to honeysuckle. Lemon curd comes to the fore, and there is some ripe yellow apple and some pear. The impression on the palate is that it is also the roundest of the three. I’m not sure about how different the oxygen uptake is between the granite and the wood vessels, but there is definitely more development in this wine, despite its infancy. There is not a taste of wood, per se, but there is a very clear, definite wood influence – including the ginger aspect which I didn’t notice in the others. Relative balance and length remains the same, this is also a fascinating comparison with the other two. And also very enjoyable. The floral aspects are less pronounced, and the minerality is also a bit more subdued, comparatively, and the softness and approachability of the wine have been enhanced thereby. It “bites” less. And I enjoy it a little bit less – possibly because of that.
A Note About the Chemical Analysis
The wines were, as expected, quite similar with regards to alcohol, total acidity, residual sugar and extract. But there was one very interesting thing that I noticed from the analysis that Schmitges provided for me: Wood had both slightly higher alcohol AND 25% more residual sugar than the other two wines. Not that you notice that on the palate, directly, but it almost certainly plays a role in the “roundness” of the resulting wine – and it was interesting to see the values.
The One-Line Takeaway
If you can lay your hands on these wines, do so – even if only to test your tastebuds and find out what you really like.
For the results from Round 2, click here.