I hate to be one of those guys who brags about what he’s drinking. It’s a rotten part of the wine business. We’re excited about wine. We want to share that enthusiasm especially when we taste certain wines that are unusual. So please forgive my animated remarks about a handful of wines I’ve had in the last few days — there’s a larger point to be made.
Last week, I was in Charlotte with some friends — folks from Winestore and one of America’s best wine writers, Josh Raynolds. We tasted through a pretty nice set of wines, but the wine that inspires this post was Fritz Haag’s Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Goldkapsule Auslese 2001.
It was nowhere near as sweet as in years past, a phenomenon I have observed for years but still can’t fathom.
Bettina Sichel, owner of the estimable Laurel Glen, was also in attendance. Her father, Peter Sichel, described to me long ago the possibility that the sugars in these wines become larger and more complex with age. Hard to say. I’ve not seen any great evidence one way or the other.
But something happens: the wines become a bit drier with the years. The sugars don’t disappear; don’t misunderstand me. And the apparent lessening of overt sweetness is matched by a generosity of texture and mouth weight.
Today my friend JK popped open a few German wines: J.J. Pruem Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1983 was very fit and showed plenty of overt sweetness. It tasted years younger than its age — indeed, I was off on my guess at the age by at least a decade.
He followed that with a J.J. Pruem Wehlener Sonnenuhr Goldkapsule Auslese 1983. It was corked. I would hate to guess how many such we’ve had over the years — the 80s were not kind to corks.
Fortunately, he had another available and it was much better, though not as expressive as the Auslese 1983 we started with. The sugars were surely higher, but it showed much of the character that I’ve described: rich, textured and not particularly sweet, not like it used to be. No complaint; it was a mouthful.
But where do the sugars go?
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.