There is no shortage of wine dinners in Manila. The importers, gourmet societies, wine stores, and private groups have something going on nearly every day. But despite this abundance, you rarely get to see an event featuring Germany’s signature grape, riesling. In fact, the last time I can recall a riesling dinner was one maybe nearly 10 years ago! My favorite white grape doesn’t get much publicity in these parts.
I was very pleased to find out recently that one of the pioneer firms in importing fine German wines into the country, Brumms Quality Wines, was having over Johannes Hasselbach of the top-notch Rheinhessen estate Gunderloch and that he would be presenting his wines at a dinner at the elegant Lemuria Restaurant at the Arya Plaza in Fort Bonifacio. This was definitely something I couldn’t afford to miss as I’ve been a fan of the wines of Gunderloch for quite some time and, in fact, have quite an inventory of their wines in my cellar.
It was quite a cosy affair with just about a dozen people in attendance. Mr. Hasselbach, winemaker and son of the owner, gave a short history of the estate and expounded on the terroir of their most famous site, the Rothenberg vineyard. With slopes as steep as 80 degrees, it is quite a difficult vineyard to work and he says the saying in their family is that the vineyard does not work for them, but they work for the vineyard. He didn’t want to get his audience bogged down in technical details and preferred for us to judge the wines for ourselves together with the food prepared by Lemuria’s new Chef Katrina Torres.
The seafood based menu had quite an interesting progression of wines going from dry to sweet, then dry again, and back to sweet. It was quite challenging to have wines served this way as observed by Mr. Hasselbach, but he thought the wines would acquit themselves well.
The first course was a salad served with the Balbach Estate Riesling 2017.
Although a separate property from Gunderloch, Balbach is also owned by the Hasselbach family. This was a dry, racy wine with lemon notes dominant. A good match for the salad and its lemon vinaigrette.
A sweet corn gazpacho followed with the same wine. If you like cut and contrast between your wine and food, the pairing worked with the soup as well.
We then progressed to the fish course of pan-seared Atlantic cod which was paired with the first of the sweet wines – a Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Spatlese 2013 – a memorable wine for Johannes as this was the first vintage he worked as winemaker. Despite a chimichurri sauce, the chef managed to restrain the flavors of the dish in order to let the wine take center stage. Late harvest sweet wines are somewhat out of fashion but it is a style I appreciate, and, to my taste, riesling needs that bit of sweetness to round out the acidity. Here was a wine of some heft with peach and red apple coming to the fore. The length was quite impressive on this wine.
We took a break with a slightly too sweet kiwifruit sorbet before moving on to the next course and back to dry wines.
The final course was assorted seafood in tomato broth with Mediterranean herbs. Although the menu paired this with the Gunderloch QbA Trocken 2015, we were privileged to also try the Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Grosses Gewächs (Great Growth) 2006 which was brought in by Mr. Hasselbach for this dinner. The regular QbA trocken was a stony wine with a definite mandarin orange character although again, lemon notes also came through. The wine from 2006, although dry, had a richness and weight about it. The unmistakable scents and flavors of grapefruit and pomelo dominate this wine.
Back to sweet wine for dessert. The peanut butter fans at the dinner were certainly in for a treat as the dessert was a brownie with a peanut butter cream cheese and a to-die-for coconut ice cream on the side. I thought this would be too much for the next wine to handle, but the Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Auslese 2007 acquitted itself quite admirably against this dish. Red apple, hints of marmalade and honey and clementines are the flavors found in this wine. Although sweet enough to challenge the brownie, the acidity cuts it so it is still a refreshing drink.
We already had a bonus when we had the 2006 Grosses Gewächs, but we were in for an even bigger treat. Marina Schroeder, the owner of Brumms and Lemuria decided to open some bottles of the exceedingly rare Nackenheim Rothenberg Beerenauslese 2015. Wines of this level of ripeness, with grapes completely infected with the noble rot which produces luscious sweet wines don’t get made too often, and when they are produced, the quantities are measured in tens of liters so there is very little to go around. Full of apricot jam, candied orange, marmalade, and wood spices. Despite the richness, it still manages to achieve a great balance in all its elements so that it is never tiring to drink it. What a privilege to drink such a beauty!
Just a short mention about the water we were served for dinner. Brumms also imports Antipodes water from New Zealand and they serve it as the water for their wine tastings as it supposedly has a no effect on the taste of wine.
Hopefully we get more dinners showing the versatile riesling!
Brumms Quality Wines imports the wines of Gunderloch. They are located at #5 Julieta Circle, Horseshoe Village, Quezon City. Tel. 723-7139.
Lemuria has two locations, one at Arya Plaza BGC and #5 Julieta Circle Horseshoe Village, Quezon City. By reservation only. Tel. 722-2185 (QC), 541-1723 (BGC)