I’ve just returned from a fantastic dim-sum lunch at Victoria Chinese Restaurant in downtown Vancouver’s Royal Centre. Johannes Selbach, the winemaker and family proprietor of Germany’s lauded Selbach-Oster winery, returned to visit Vancouver, and I was sitting in on a lunch he was hosting with master of wine Barbara Philip, the European category manager at B.C. Liquor Stores, along with a couple dozen of their product consultants.
As we tucked into pan-fried mini pork buns and house-roasted Peking duck, Selbach was refreshing all in attendance on his family’s terroir-driven wines from Mosel and mentioning that we’ll be seeing some great bottlings of vintage 2018 in coming years.
“With German Riesling, wine enthusiasts have a wonderful opportunity,” he stated. “It’s one of the last segments of premium European wine that is still coming in at an incredible bargain, whether you’re buying wine for consuming right now or laying them down to enjoy down the road.”
It’s very true. We look at the astronomical prices commanded by wines from places like Barolo, Burgundy, and Bordeaux, well into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and yet so many top-tier German Rieslings are coming in at well under a hundred bucks.
I’ve personally put my money where my mouth is. Like most Vancouverites, I don’t have a lot of disposable income to be dropping on flashy icon wines, and our 500-square-foot apartment doesn’t leave much room for wine storage, either. The one thing my wife and I try to cellar, though, is Riesling. Most of the small collection we have is wines purchased between $30 and $40 mark, and should be good laying down at least a dozen or couple dozen years. Willpower, or lack thereof, has also meant when we do opt to pop a cork or twist a cap, any of ’em is ready to go right now.
Selbach’s wines are phenomenal examples of place and time, full of charm and charisma, and very deserving of spots in your cellar or in your glass tonight. Here are some favourites.
Selbach-Oster Riesling Brut 2014
(Mosel, Germany; $35.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
This traditional-method, or Champagne-style, sparkling wine overflows with jasmine, honeyed peaches, and apricots but still finishes rather dry. There is a gentle kiss of sweetness balancing out the striking acidity, coming from a dosage of older Auslese Riesling before the cork goes in the bottle. A stunning wine that turned a lot of heads.
The bad news is that there’s only the smallest smattering of this wine left in B.C. Liquor Stores, a little bit each in Port Coquitlam and Kelowna (although you can request product transfers between stores). The good news is there’s more on the way and it’s likely to be here in time for summer.
Selbach-Oster Pinot Blanc 2017
(Mosel, Germany; $31.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Aromatics of elderflower and violets lead to a palate full of starfruit, Asian pear, and guava, with a little green almond rounding it out. It’s clean as a whistle, will work great as an apéritif, and shines a spotlight on an unsung but very worthy variety.
Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken 2015
(Mosel, Germany; $29.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Put on your sunglasses for this one. The steep, south-facing Zeltinger Himmelreich vineyard is planted in coarse slate with elements of loam and alluvial soils. It produces a remarkably bright and shiny wine with zippy lime, pomelo, and pink grapefruit and a lofty arc of acidity keeping that fruit buoyed at great heights. A mouthwatering, delightful wine that’ll induce many a grin.
Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2016
(Mosel, Germany; $39.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)
We’re getting a little sweeter with this one, but the lively acidity keeps it from coming anywhere near any cloying heaviness. Ripe Gala apple and Bosc pear are topped up with a dollop each of orange marmalade and lemon curd, then a hint of buckwheat honey on the finish. We’ve now entered the realm where spicy foods can start hitting the table.
Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2016
(Mosel, Germany; $28.99 for 375 millilitres, B.C. Liquor Stores)
Same vineyard, but the grapes are left to hang on the vine a little bit longer and are starting to develop a little botrytis, or noble rot, concentrating all of that fruity goodness. Think caramelized orange rind, fresh-squeezed blood orange, apricot jam, and orange-blossom honey. A brilliant wine with lots of life to it; it’s enjoyable if you’re pulling the cork tonight, but it should also last a good 50 years. Not a typo.
Oh, and speaking of great value: pick up one or two of these and head to Victoria Chinese Restaurant; I’ve just learned their corkage charge is a measly 10 bucks. Cheers to that!