2021 Ludes Riesling "Gackes" Kabinett Two-Pack - $60 includes one bottle of 2021 Kabinett Feinherb "Gackes Unten" and one bottle of 2021 Kabinett "Gackes Oben"
In the year two-thousand and twenty-one, from only around five hectares Julian Ludes and his uncle Hermann vinified nine unique bottlings. Of these nine bottlings, no fewer than six of them are Kabinetts.
Commercially speaking, this is not an intelligent thing to do. It is rather the opposite. It is the absolutely maniacal expression of exacting specificity, the hypervigilant articulation of singularity with zero concern for the "efficiencies of scale" or any efficiencies of any kind, whatsoever.
We are, of course, thrilled.
This is exactly the type of insanity that stirs our souls. The vintage, 2021, was pretty damn good for Kabinett - you've probably heard - so why not just be totally honest as to what the vintage was?
So here we are: six different Kabinetts from one tiny estate.
Today we thought it'd be fascinating to deep-dive into two of the six Kabinetts Ludes made - a study of contiguous plots, divided only by a ten-foot-tall wall of slate, or "Gackes" as the locals call it, that surfaces through one side of the formidable Thörnicher Ritsch.
The parcel above the wall of slate, above the wall of Gackes, is called "Gackes Oben." The parcel below the wall of Gackes is called "Gackes Unten." You'll forgive me if we don't translate this?
So how, you ask, could a wall of slate, a rather banal divide, change the expression of a wine so dramatically that Julian and his uncle Hermann would choose to divide the wines completely? As we learned in a conversation with Julian the other week, there are a lot of differences - click here to watch the interview.
Let's start above, or "oben." The parcel that Julian and his uncle call "Gackes Oben" has the younger vines; here they are only around 75 years old (!). The planting density is very high, at somewhere around one meter by one meter, resulting in around 8,500 vines per hectare. This is one of the highest-altitude sites they have at over 700 feet. As such, it's exposed, both to more sun and to more wind. There is a good amount of soil here, at least as compared to the "Gackes Unten" parcel, so "Gackes Oben" tends to have better water and higher yields - though with old vines like this we are talking around 40hl/ha at most.
Now, jump down off the ten-foot wall of Gackes, landing under, or "unten," and it's a different world. The plants here are mostly between 80 to 100 years old; they are largely ungrafted. There is much less soil here, more exposed slate; as such there is much less water and very, very low yields around 20hl/ha. There is less sun and less wind.
So how does this affect the style of the wine?
Well, to start the nose of "Gackes Unten" is pungently mineral; this is one of the saltiest wines I have ever smelled. One the palate you can feel, very obviously, the density of "Gackes Unten," the extreme concentration. You'd call it weight, but the wine has such power and lift. I mean, a cannon ball is dense and weighty, but fire it out of a cannon and the effect is power, not weight. There's something similar going on here.
This is a Kabinett Feinherb, meaning it has Kabinett lightness, but is a bit drier than what Ludes would normally expect a Kabinett to be. For you German wine dorks comfortable with analytics, this wine is extreme: Nearly 11 grams of acid (like our Hammelmann in the Pfalz from last week) yet only 20 grams of residual sugar. The effect is, amazingly, dry. There is a whiplash salty spray of tart pear and green apple, a complex botantical aromaticity; there isn't a gin on the planet that isn't jealous of what's going on here.
Now, let's talk about what's happening above, or "Gackes Oben." If "Gackes Unten" is a cannonball, "Gackes Oben" is an arrow. This is a soaring, darting wine - ultra-fine, ultra-linear. This wine has the very fine layers, shavings of green apple, apricot, mint and a resiny-floral green-ness. While the wine has nearly three-times the amount of residual sugar (~56), the acidity is roughly the same as "Unten" (just under 11 grams) yet it feels perfectly balanced. The overall effect is much longer, more attenuated - it is finer and longer. Julian says he loves it because the acid is "always kicking."
Which one is better? Who cares - what's better a circle or a square? The great beauty, the point, is that they are wildly different. And the elaborate confusing truth of German wine is honoring all these beautiful differences.
We'll finish with a quick note from Mosel Fine Wines about the already-legendary-in-our-minds 2021 Ludes collection: "Julian Ludes completely nailed the vintage and the estate’s collection will go down in history as one of the finest at this traditional estate. The uncompromising style embracing acidity and finesse delivered wines of great vibrancy and cut yet with great aromatic depth, and this right from the entry level wine, the Riesling 'Hermann.' In many ways, they are all cut from a hypothetical blend of Joh. Joh. Prüm's early backwardness and Hofgut Falkenstein's zing while embracing the delicacy and finesse from both estates. While these wines are exceptionally good, they are also exceptionally old-school and still often firmly marked by residual scents from their spontaneous fermentation. But we cannot wait to taste these beauties in 8-12 years: It is going to be a feast! Bravo to young Julian and his team for this incredible collection."
2021 Hermann Ludes Thörnicher Ritsch Riesling Kabinett "Gackes Oben" "The 2021er Thörnicher Ritsch Riesling Kabinett 'Gackes Oben' was made from fruit picked at 78° Oechsle in the upper front part of the vineyard and was fermented down to fruity-styled levels of residual sugar (56 g/l). It offers an impressive even if still rather backward nose dominated by residual scents from the spontaneous fermentation. Gradually, elements of passion fruit, pear, limoncello, and herbs join the party. The wine is highly sprung and beautifully delineated on the palate and leaves a gorgeously mouthwatering feel of sweet-acid tension in the finish. The aftertaste is all about passion fruit, chalk, mint, a hint of apricot, and fine spices. This superb Kabinett now only needs patience to reveal its inner beauty." Mosel Fine Wines, Issue 63, August 2022
2021 Hermann Ludes Thörnicher Ritsch Riesling Kabinett Feinherb "Gackes Unten" "The 2021er Thörnicher Ritsch Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 'Gackes Unten' was made from fruit picked at 78° Oechsle on largely un-grafted old vines in the middle front part of the vineyard part of the vineyard and was fermented down to off-dry levels of residual sugar (20 g/l). It is still marked by quite pungent scents from its spontaneous fermentation (dare we write “as in the old days at Joh. Jos. Prüm!”?) and only hints at more than displays its nose of white peach, flowers, pear, fine spices, and herbs. The wine is gorgeously chiseled on the palate where fruity flavors mingle with herbs and spices. The finish is deep and multi-layered yet also feather-light and animating. What a great success!" Mosel Fine Wines, Issue 63, August 2022