Where does Dr Ernst [Erni] Loosen get his energy from? (I sometimes idly wonder if naturally curly hair and an individual dress sense – not evident in this photo – are a sort of safety valve for an unchannelled excess of brio.) He seems barely to have changed since he appeared on Jancis's BBC TV series Jancis Robinson's Wine Course and certainly his passion and enthusiasm for his wines and their origins is undiminished, as I found out last week at a tasting of German 2006s in London.
As well as his eponymous estate in Bernkastel in the Mosel Valley, he owns and runs JL Wolf in the Pfalz, and his Riesling reach extends across the Atlantic in the shape of Eroica, his joint venture with Chateau Sainte Michelle in Washington State. (See Despatch from Rieslingburg for Jancis's take on Erni's role in Riesling's increased popularity in North America.)
But this is a Pinot Gris from the Pfalz, from the vineyards around the Mittlehardt to be precise. It's a QbA, ie the first level on the Germany quality scale. I've just tried it on my builder Olly and he said it was 'refreshing', thus a highly conclusive focus group of one and a unanimously positive judgement.
Cool fermented in stainless-steel tanks to a moderate 12.5% alcohol and residual sugar of just under 9 g/l, thus, in German regulatory speak, trocken or dry. Although it tastes off dry, the acidity (6.9 g/l for anyone who is interested) is perfectly balanced with the slight softening sweetness and the weight of rich ripe Pinot Gris fruit.
It's very pale gold, with rich aromas on the nose of ripe apples and pears, a touch of honey, spice and apricot but also an underlying minerality and citrussy streak. Lovely depth of fruit in the mouth giving richness and roundness without too much alcohol. In the vineyard, quite a lot of foliage, especially all the lateral shoots, is removed early in the season to get the grapes accustomed to the sun so that they ripen early and reach flavour maturity before the sugar levels have got too high, and before acid levels drop too low. I've noticed some pretty high alcohol levels in the Pfalz recently, particularly now that there are so many more dry-style wines. These grapes were picked around the end of September, before the heavy and problematic, rot-encouraging rains that hit most German wine regions in October, and this contributes to a marked freshness and purity, setting off the full, generous style. Best well chilled to accentuate the freshness.
Good value at around £6.99 in the UK and quite widely available – in the UK and the US. Sealed under screw cap and probably best over the next year or so. Some stockists may still have the 2005 but wait for this fresher vintage.
UK stockists include Booths supermarkets and a number of independent merchants, eg Auriol Wines, Hartney Witney, Hants; Booths; Connolly's, Birmingham; Hedley Wright, Bishops Stortford; SH Jones, Banbury; Momentum Wines, Oswestry; Christopher Piper Wines, Ottery St Mary, Devon; Charles Steevenson, Tavistock; Taylor's Fine Wines, Kingston upon Thames; Whitebridge Wines, Stone, Staffs; Worth Bros, Lichfield, Staffs.