Kracher Zwischen Den Seen Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2004 No. 2
The enormous name of this wine needs some explanation. Kracher was one of Austria’s most famous names, and before he recently passed away from cancer he built a reputation for producing some of the most exciting dessert wines in the world. These wines are made with ugly duckling varieties (in this case welschriesling, which is unrelated to riesling), and in a wine making style that pushes the grapes to their limits. As a trockenbeerenauslese wine (the highest ripeness level), all of the grapes used in it are botrytized by the noble rot – a fungus that grows on grapes with extended hang time such that humidity is followed by dry sunny days that allows the fungus to form and prevents the bad grey rot. This is the same fungus that is used to produce the world famous Sauternes of Bordeaux. These unique conditions are made possible by the unique terroir of Kracher’s domaine, which is situated on Lake Neusiedl, resulting in morning mists and fog that burn off in the afternoon.
As for wine making style, Kracher pushes his wines as far as they will go without loosing balance. The numbering system he employs reflects the power of the particular wine, and often corresponds to the level of residual sugar in the wine. While this no. 2 wine is one of his least powerful offerings, he has been known to produce wines labeled at no. 12 with an entire pound of residual sugar – that’s right 454 grams of sugar per litre of liquid. I’m not sure any other dessert wines in the world go that far. I should also mention that Kracher makes three kinds of dessert wine, Eiswein (or icewine) – a style with which Canadians will be familiar, Zwischen Den Seen (Between the Lake) – a style that uses old oak and unique indigenous varieties, and Nouvelle Vague – a style made with new oak and modern varieties such as chardonnay.
What’s fascinating about this wine, though, is that it is actually very fresh despite all the sugar (probably around 250-280 g/l). And, its lightness prevents it from pairing with overly rich or sweet desserts. Rather, you want to put this together with an apple tart or a lemon meringue (with which it forms a heavenly pairing). The very dark yellow liquid bouquets aromas of apricot and lychee. The fragrance expands in the mouth quite lovingly into apricot, peach, and light caramel tones. Balanced and long, this does not fatigue the palate in any way, even without dessert. This is unique for dessert wine, most of which (including some of the best) only provide pleasure in small quantities. The bright acidity in this welschriesling keeps the palate hungry and alive. I could drink a half bottle on a quiet evening with a suitably intense and engrossing novel and feel perfectly content.
Very Good+ to Excellent
$55 / 375ml at Marquis
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