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Kabinett Trocken
Becker | K-R | Leipold | Stein
in celebration of restraint

{ "Kabinett Trocken" as a category is simultaneously ignored, overlooked, misunderstood, threatened, disappearing... and, CELEBRATED by many as perhaps the apogee of a cool-climate viticulture. }
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You may be forgiven for believing that the term "Kabinett" refers only to a wine with noticeable residual sugar. In truth, the Kabinett designation suggests only a certain delicacy, a nervy vigor and a lower level of alcohol. Here, the "Trocken" part means the wine is dry.

So, a certain delicacy, a nervy vigor, a lower level of alcohol and dry. Yes, a Kabinett can be bone dry: enter "Kabinett Trocken."

For this celebration-offer, we have gone deep with the German wine scholar David Schildknecht and our friends at TRINK, exploring the historical context and current day status of Kabinett Trocken. Please check out TRINK volume 06 "The Forest for the Trees" with reflections on Kabinett Trocken by David Schildknecht, Jérôme Hainze and me.

To add to the mania, we have also collaborated with the curious artist-chef @pizzacamp on the must-have T-shirt of summer! The Source Material merchandise train begins with this limited shirt. Please note this shirt is now sold out.   

We have also curated two Kabinett Trocken packages that explore three vintages and three different varieties: Riesling, of course, but also Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Silvaner. Three of the estates are old-school traditionalists who refuse to abandon the Kabinett Trocken designation (J.B. Becker, Koehler-Ruprecht and Stein) while the young Peter Leipold uses the category to produce incisive wines of extreme delicacy.

The Kabinett Trocken four-pack master class (strongly recommended, of course) includes Stein's 2019 "Red Light," a wine Schildknecht calls "part of a new dawn for Kabinett Trocken."

But as with everything @sourcematerialwine: the driving force here is love, plain and simple.

Kabinett Trocken is a category Robert and I are both passionate about. As I write in my TRINK piece, Kabinett Trockens have been some of the "most transparent, detailed and soul-stirring wines I have ever had." These are wines that are diminutive in alcohol only, most often carrying 11.5% alcohol or less. Schildknecht, in his TRINK article, writes: "The notion that somehow because a wine is lightweight, its vineyard identity won’t be expressed and should be concealed from consumers rather than used as a selling point is baseless and ludicrous. If anything, delicacy brings distinctive details into greater focus."

They are delicate, yes, but they are serious. I have personally had single-vineyard Kabinett Trockens at close to 40 years old and they have been garden-fresh, though my personal preference is to drink them young, around 5-15 years post vintage. You may have heard us exclaim this phrase; it is as absurd as it is worth remembering: "Age your Kabinett Trocken!"

I may be overlooking something, but I cannot think of another wine culture that asks for so much specificity - up to the "Grand Cru" single-vineyard designation as in the case of the Becker - while also asking for only what is most essential. "Petit Chablis" may value vigor and refreshment, but it does so at the expense of place and "seriousness."

Kabinett Trocken is the wine world's most extreme editor, not simplifying anything, but rather polishing even the grandest terroir into only what is most tactile and immediate.

You are perhaps more aware of Kabinett Trocken's sibling, the GGs or Grosses Gewächs (the phrase translates roughly to "great growths"). These are often Spätlese or Auslese Trocken, analytically - they are unquestionably the "Grand Cru" dry wines of Germany and they well deserve the recognition and successes they have had. Yet the question is not either/or; this is not a simplistic argument seeking what is best or most true.

If a GG is the grandest symphony, the Kabinett Trocken is the solo violin. If the GG is the expansive canvas of Jackson Pollock, the Kabinett Trocken is the dense-with-detail etching by Albrecht Dürer. One is not better than the other; all of the above deserve their context and should be celebrated.

This is nothing more than a spotlight on the other, the more delicate wine sometimes overshadowed by the obvious grandiosity of the GGs. Something that is so quiet and restrained and, because of its very limitations, can be so moving, so expansive, so satisfying.

But taste for yourself.

As Schildknecht writes in his piece: "When everything works, the effect can be transparent, kaleidoscopic, and electric." 

2013 J.B. Becker Riesling Walkenberg Kabinett Trocken
If we were doing this, we wanted to offer something EXTREME. 2013 is one of our absolute favorite recent vintages, an "old school" year with glaring and wild acids that can be quite intense. Yet, when selections were done well and the picking earlier (as would be the case for a Kabinett) the wines can be extraordinarily pure and angelic - darting, sparrow-like wines that show just an electric energy, intensity without weight. This Kabinett Trocken is sourced from HaJo's greatest site, the Walkenberg. At eight years young the wine is just beginning to enter its youthful stage, with high-toned citrus and salt framing the razor-sharp acids. Sourced directly from the Becker cellar, this wine enters the U.S. with a perfect provenance. Give this some air, or cellar for another 10 years easily.

2018 Koeher-Ruprecht Pinot Noir Kabinett Trocken
The traditionalist estate Koehler-Ruprecht dramatically left the VDP with the 2013 vintage, seeking to preserve their labeling system, which relies on "Kabinett Trocken," "Spätlese Trocken," and "Auslese Trocken" to differentiate different styles of dry wine from the same vineyard - most often their famous Saumagen vineyard. And yes, the phrase "Kabinett Trocken" can be used with grapes other than Riesling. In the case of Pinot Noir, the meaning is the same: a more nervy wine of energy, finesse and cut - never weight. 2018 is one of the great vintages in Germany for red wines, the ripeness of the vintage in this cooler climate shaping wines with more push and cut. This is a curious balancing act, the ripeness of the vintage with the restraint demanded by Kabinett Trocken. We think it's a great success.

2019 Leipold Silvaner Kabinett Trocken
The next generation of "Kabinett Trocken" - the young Peter Leipold fashions a number of Kabinett Trocken. As we've included two rather serious wines above, we wanted to show a more playful, truly ethereal style. Kabinett Trocken can be a single-vineyard monument, as in the case of the Becker, but it can also be just a profoundly refreshing, electric wine for serious, SERIOUS refreshment. Leipold's touch is noticeable here as much as it is in his top, top Silvaners. This is so, so good.

2019 Stein Spätburgunder Kabinett Trocken
The traditionalist Ulrich "Ulli" Stein at this point must be considered one of the true masters of Mosel Kabinett Trocken. While his Riesling Palmberg (sourced from 100-year-old, ungrafted vines) Kabinett Trocken is one of the most iconic Kabinett Trockens being made today, for this offer we turn our attention to perhaps the greatest Spätburgunder Kabinett Trocken we've ever had. While a red wine in every way, the wine is completely transparent - both literally and figuratively. From the more classic 2019 vintage, the wine is brisk and compact, delicate, ethereal and laser-like.... yet has so many layers, is so ultra-fine and complex. This is a profound bottle of wine, period.

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