R and RR - The Incredibly Rare Top Wines of Koehler-Ruprecht

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Koehler-Ruprecht was a pioneer in crafting high quality, age-worthy dry Rieslings in Germany way before doing so became fashionable. We love their wines and had the great fortune of re-introducing them to the market with the riveting 2010 vintage, one in which even their humble entry-level wines are savory, mineral and outstanding. Anyone who has come into the shop looking for a dry Riesling over the past year knows this already, as we've been foisting the wines on as many people as possible and waxing on to anyone who will listen. As good as these humble wines are, though, the estate is most celebrated in Germany for its incredibly scarce R and RR wines, which we are thrilled to be among the first to offer in good quantity in the US.  

R doesn’t stand for any one thing in particular, but it refers to both ‘rare’ and ‘reserve’ (both of which make perfect sense, as the wines are made in exceedingly small quantity, and they are held back for many years in bottle before release, much like Barolo Riserva or Rioja Reserva). RRs are even higher quality with much smaller lots. For those interested, a further explanation of how they label the wines can be found below.

Very few of these wines are available to us and the provenance is absolutely perfect (direct from the estate). Despite their extended bottle-ageing prior to release, they taste insanely youthful right now. I can't imagine dry Rieslings that will continue to develop longer than these; expect up to 15 years for each in the cellar, perhaps more. These are really special wines and, if you have the means, we encourage you to try at least one. As these price tags are nothing to sneeze at, we’re also offering the delightful Saumagen Kabinett Trocken and Spätlese Trocken – both excellent wines that are somewhat more affordable! The R and RRs will be here later this year, while the Kabinett and Spätlese Trocken are available now.

A quick word on nomenclature:

One thing we love about the estate is how stubbornly they stick to their traditions. They're one of the only estates in the Pfalz to not jump on the GG (Grosses Gewächs) bandwagon, and they still use prädikat language on their labels, albeit in a way that's unique to them. As Dominik Sona, one of the main forces behind K-R’s energetic, youthful team tells it, terms like Spätlese and Auslese don't have much to do with sugar levels here. Especially since all the wines we’re discussing are dry, the familiar prädikats are used as terms to describe the character of the wine. The selection process is a bit complicated, but the short version is that they harvest in multiple passes, then select what's going to be Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese based on tasting the barrels in the July following the harvest; the lightest and most refreshing wines become Kabinett, the most mineral are deemed Spätlese and the most deep and complex are declared Auslese. Additionally, two passes in the vineyard are dedicated to collecting berries of particular phenolic character: tiny, perfect, golden berries are selected for a Spätlese ‘R’ barrel and even smaller, amber-colored berries with no pips are selected for Auslese ‘R.’ If these barrels don’t live up to expectations, they are blended down into the lower cuvèes. and if they are better than expected, an ‘RR’ is born. Prior to release, the various reserve wines are held back in the cellar for late release: Spätlese ‘R’ for 4 years, Spätlese ‘RR’ for 5, Auslese ‘R’ for 6, and Auslese ‘RR’ for 7 years.

No Longer Available

Koehler-Ruprecht 2008 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Spätlese Trocken 'R'

Really, really beautiful aromatics here — freshness, bright citrus, tons of crushed shells and limestone notes. Chewy, rich depth, and really a lot of acid here. The palate is all shells, crisp apples and clementines. Expect to see some variant of "shells" or "seashells" in just about all of these tasting notes; the limestone-based Saumagen vineyard imprints itself indelibly on every one of these wines and can be relied upon to shine through regardless of variations in extract, weight and fruit character brought on by vintage and selection.   -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2008 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Auslese Trocken 'R'

Very rich and intense stone fruit nose, with much deeper aromatics than you'd expect from the normally reserved 2008s, but that just speaks to the fastidious selection for the Auslese 'R'. The acidity is prominent but not as much as in the '09 Spätlese; here it's layered deep beneath crisp fruit layers of such rich, fleshy fruits as nectarine and persimmon. As with many of these, it's very elegant, very long and just beautiful. Among the most youthful of the whole lot as well. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2007 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Spätlese Trocken 'R' PRE

Lemon curd, shells, minerality and a slight hint of coming maturity on the nose. On the palate there's delicious, barely emerging secondary character and racy, Chablis-like focused minerality. Delicate and lean compared to the sturdy, full-throated Auslese 'R'. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2007 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Spätlese Trocken 'RR' PRE

Rich citrus fruit with absolutely stunning acid for 2007. Expressive, incredible length, very youthful, fresh citrus notes -- creamy but not petroll-y. This one is really special! -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2007 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Auslese Trocken 'R' PRE

More grainy aromas especially fresh wheat. On the palate it's just unreal. Insane cut with a never-ending finish. All depth, chiseled fruit macerated with crushed shells. Long, long, long. My favorite of the entire lineup. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2007 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Auslese Trocken 'RR'

While normally held back for 7 years, this RR is being released early just for this offer. Due to a mishap in the cellar, we didn't actually get to sample this but given the uniformly high quality of the other 07s, this can only be stunning. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2005 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Auslese Trocken 'R' PRE

Savory with fresh dill and classic mature riesling tones, but the color is still bright straw-yellow. There's a very slight hint of botrytis here so the wine is somewhat broader than the 2007s and 2004s, and there's much richer fruit. Dense, powerful and penetrating, all on a sturdy frame with tons of minerality. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2004 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Ries Auslese Trocken 'R' PRE

Brighter aromatics than can be found in the brooding 2005, this still has some intriguing funky and savory aromas. On the palate it's the most delicate and high-toned of all the Auslesen with wildly pretty lime zest notes. The gentlest wine of the bunch that speaks the softest but sticks around for a really, really long time on the finish. -jfr

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2012 Pfalz Kallstadter Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken

Quite delicious. Dark, sappy, rich, and textured with some power lurking behind the beauty. Bracing acidity and intensity complement the residual sugar. Though no longer on the label, this is still sourced from the sandy, pebble-laden Steinacker vineyard. Jonathan Kemp

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Koehler-Ruprecht 2010 Pfalz Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Spätlese Trocken

Saumagen! No, not the ridiculously meaty, traditional dish from the Pfalz, but from Koehler-Ruprecht's classic site. Koehler-Ruprecht is certainly of a kin with Hofgut Falkenstein in the Saar, but with naturally broader, more concentrated wines. This is dry Riesling that's truly like no other: intesne, ripe aromatics combine with green, mossy, savory notes, mint, minerals, yellow and orange fruits. Bernd Philippi is sternly old-fashioned in his approach to winemaking and his traditions are continuing under the new guard at K-R. Fans of the ridiculously good-value 2010 Saumagen Kabinett Trocken should rush to taste this, as all of the same characteristics that were on display in that wine can be found here but with much more length, depth and persistence. Drink it or age it. Either choice is just fine. -jfr

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