For my "verbal rating system", see postscript, if necessary.
<b>Clemens Busch Riesling Spätlese #22 Pündericher Marienburg 2004</b>
A bottle I opened for Nedster. No different from my recent TNs other than that it now already needs a whole day to open up, meaning that it is closing down, with somewhat more of an emphasis on pear than tropical fruit and with the high acidity surfacing a bit more. Already time to get some 2005s to have over the summer? Outstanding.
<b>Château de Fonsalette Côtes-du-Rhône 1989</b>
A bottle I opened for Nedster, no different from the last I reported on three months ago. An amazingly firm and sharply-etched CdR, more like a copperplate engraving. The pure and perfumey, lightly peppery Kirsch-like fruit is as precise and hard as the lightly thyme-scented tannic backbone. Heaven knows if the impressive sweetness of the red berry fruit is ever going to win the battle, perhaps not, but balance and resistance to oxidation are utterly impressive. Drink or hold. Safely outstanding.
<b>István Szepsy Tokaji Aszúessencia Mádi-Király Szölészet 1993</b>
I had the opportunity, thanks to Nedster, to taste a slightly more warmly, if still very well-stored, just somewhat more advanced bottle, and was amazed by what I learnt. Not only does the amber-yellow colour reveal a hue verging on the chocolatey or coffee-like, the aroma and flavour profile has started to show an emphasis on cocoa dust, caramel, date and less fig over the still youthful backing of sweet candied lemon and quince – in short, in all roundness, smoothness and harmony, this is starting to behave almost like an old-style, oxidative Aszú, although minus any of the potentially negative old-style characteristics (such as volatility, medicinality, undue nuttiness, disintegrated alcohol and acidity). Note I am not saying there is anything wrong with this, on the contrary, that slightly oxidative phase into which this wine fell a few years ago seems over along with that tobacco ash-tinged with surface rancio dryness, and the wine now tastes much like it used to in its youth at the core, but beautifully "traditional" on top. The only other Tokaj wines I remember that behaved the same way were pure Eszencias: Márta Wille-Baumkauff's 1988 and Disznókö's 1993. Szepsy's 1993 AE Király is different not only in that it is an Aszú (contains base must or wine) and was bottled earlier, it has also evolved more quickly from the beginning than his (and other producers' top 1993s) for a combination of reasons: not only was it made from fruit of young vines, more importantly, it is one of merely a handful pure Hárslevelü Aszú I know or have heard of. The variety just tends to yield nicely floral but more softly-structured wines. As such it seems back on track more quickly and impressively than I would have thought possible. Hard to tell whether the Hárslevelü manifests itself as much in the aroma and flavour profile as one might think (at a time when we did not know, we only thought this – well – different, maybe unusual). The acidity level, while lower than in Szepsy's primarily Furmint-based 1993s, is satisfactory. Certainly the terroir characteristics appear to dominate this wine more than anything else, obviously to the wine's advantage. Entirely possible that it will keep longer than I had started to fear three or (and – according to my TN databank) four years ago. Well outstanding.
Greetings from Switzerland, David.
I usually avoid using numerical scores on the web (in order to avoid e-mails solely concentrating on the virtues of numerical rating, since I'd really rather talk about the wines themselves). For those who have problems interpreting my "verbal scoring", the numerical correspondences are as follows:
79 and below = NOT GOOD (i.e. no need to figure out exactly)
80 – 84 = GOOD (same as 16 and over in the European 20-point system)
85 – 89 = VERY GOOD (same as 17 and over; I sometimes use EXCELLENT or ALMOST-OUTSTANDING to indicate 88 – 89)
90 – 94 = OUTSTANDING (same as 18 and over)
95 – 99 = GREAT (or CLASSIC, same as 19 and over; I sometimes use NEAR-PERFECT to indicate a 98 – 99 score)
100 = PERFECT (20 out of 20)
Note I will rarely buy wine below my own EXCELLENT rating (that's where wine really starts standing out for individuality from the mass of technically impeccably-made wines) except for an occasional and there truly exceptional QPR (I must insist any wine in the VERY GOOD category with me is serious stuff, way above average wine, that I still wouldn't buy because I've got to somehow limit my wine buying). But if a wine is costly, it had better be at least OUTSTANDING!