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Kracher: A Brief Essay 2003-2010
Kracher 2010 Cuvée Auslese 88
Kracher 2009 Cuvée Beerenauslese 92
Kracher 2003 #1 Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague 92
Kracher 2005 #3 Traminer Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague 96
Kracher 2010 #3 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen 96
Kracher 2010 #6 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague 97
Kracher 2005 #7 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague 94
Kracher 2006 #7 Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen 95
Kracher 2010 #10 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen 96
Listening to Gerhard Kracher talk about his family can only be described as emotional. Kracher’s grandfather, Alois Sr., was chronically undernourished and was thus mistaken for a boy and spared by the Nazis during World War II. Kracher’s father, Alois Jr. ‘Luis’, was one of the most beloved figures in the world of wine. Luis Kracher put his estate on the map with a series of stunningly beautiful and rich dessert wines that showed the world what was possible with meticulous viticulture and inspired winemaking. Tragically, Luis Kracher died of pancreatic cancer in 2007 at just 48 years of age. Knowing he was a dying man, Luis Kracher spent his last year imparting a lifetime of wisdom to his son, Gerhard, who now runs the family estate. These stories of pure survival and a family’s struggle to continue their traditions stand in stark contrast to much of life today, when it is so easy to be consumed with far more trivial matters.
Kracher makes a wide range of wines, but it is the late-harvest, botrytised sweet wines, known as the Collection, that are the most famous. From year to year, the production varies. In 1995 Kracher the lineup included 15 different wines, but in 2003 there was just one. The wines in the Collection are numbered in order of concentration from lightest to richest. There are two basic styles at Kracher. The Zwischen den Seen ‘between the lakes’ wines are aged in stainless steel and/or cask and mostly emphasize freshness, while French oak shapes the Nouvelle Vague selections. Both approaches yield fabulous results.
I was particularly struck by the 2010s in this tasting. It was a difficult vintage with a severely limited crop, but the wines have incredible acidity, minerality and depth. For example, the last wine in this tasting, the #10 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen boasts residual sugar of nearly 300 grams per liter and acidity north of 10%, a combination that is rarely seen. I can hardly wait to taste the rest of the Collection. I tasted all of these wines at a seminar I led at Pebble Beach Food & Wine in April. As is my custom, I tasted all of the wines several times throughout the afternoon, including before and after the seminar.
The 2010 Cuvée Auslese is a wonderful introduction to a gorgeous vintage for Kracher. Lime, passion fruit and white floral notes are all woven together nicely in the glass. There is a distinct saltiness to the 2010 that adds energy and focus. The style is light to medium in body, but all the hallmarks of the year are very much present. The 2010 is 70% Welschriesling and 30% Chardonnay, fermented and aged in stainless steel. Residual sugar is just 80 grams per liter, resulting in a wine that is first and foremost about freshness. Drinking window: 2013-2018. A distinctly richer, deeper palette of aromas and flavors emerges from the 2009 Cuvée Beerenauslese. Tropical fruit, peaches, yellow stone fruits and spices flesh out in a wine that is beautifully layered, voluptuous and textured. The blend is 75% Welschriesling and 25% Chardonnay, aged 80% in steel and 20% in cask. Residual sugar is 114 grams per liter. Drinking window: 2013-2019.
The #1 Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague is the only wine Kracher made in 2003, one of the most difficult years ever in Europe. Crème brulée, figs, orange peel and honey all take shape in this rich, creamy wine. Although texturally quite beautiful, the heat of the year is impossible to fully escape. I don’t see the 2003 as a long-term ager, but it sure is beautiful today. The 2003 #1 is 50% Welschriesling, 25% Scheurebe and 25% Pinot Gris, aged 50% in cask and 50% in barrique. Residual sugar is 211 grams per liter. Drinking window: 2013-2018. Kracher’s 2005 #3 Traminer Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague is dazzling. Miraculously rich yet also vibrant, the 2005 Cuvee #3 is utterly captivating. In 2005, the Cuvee #3 is 100% Traminer, and those exotic, floral notes keep the wine lively, fresh and wonderfully lilting on the palate. Hints of orange peel, apricot jam, flowers and honey flow through to the full-bodied, exotic finish. What a privilege it is to taste this magnificent wine. The 2005 carries all of its 191 grams of residual sugar with uncommon grace. The 100% new French oak is also impeccably integrated. Drinking window: 2013-2020.
The 2010 #3 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen is a product of a vintage in which the estate lost a whopping 50% of the production because of poor weather during flowering. Passion fruit, wild flowers, lime and crushed rocks emerge over time, but it is the wine’s insistent minerality that stands out most. The 2010 was aged in stainless steel. Residual sugar is 215 grams, all of which the 2010 handles with grace. This is a magnificent showing. Drinking window: 2013-2030. Another utterly magnificent wine, 2010 #6 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague is flat-out great. Savory notes lead to honey, chamomile, apricot jam and earthiness in a wine that shows the explosive, exuberant style of the year. New French oak gives the #6, a Chardonnay/Welschriesling blend, its soft contours, and warm, resonant personality. It is exceedingly rare to find a wine that is so concentrated yet equally delineated and nuanced, but it’s all there in the glass. Drinking window: 2013-2030+.
Nothing really sticks out in the 2005 #7 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese Nouvelle Vague, a wine that is first and foremost about total balance. The style is rich, layered and sumptuous. Apricot jam, cloves and orange peel are supported by lovely beams of acidity. I am not sure the 2005 will improve materially from here, but it might very well keep at this gorgeous plateau for a number of years. Today, it is striking. Drinking window: 2013-2023. The 2006 #7 Welschriesling Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen is one of the more delicate wines in this tasting. Banana, caramel, honey and chamomile notes are given an extra degree of brightness by the floral overtones that run through the wine. With time in the glass, hints of white peach and pear appear, adding to the sense of lift. There is a lot to like, but my impression is that the 2006 will drink better earlier rather than late. The #7 is 100% Welschriesling that was aged entirely in stainless steel. Residual sugar is 206 grams per liter. Drinking window: 2013-2018.
Kracher’s 2010 #10 Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese Zwischen den Seen is a wine for both the heart and the intellect. White flowers, citrus, lime, spices, passion fruit, smoke, and crushed rocks are woven into a fabric of nearly indescribable class. Bright saline notes appear later, adding focus. The #10 is Scheurebe that spent 20 months in stainless steel. The 297 grams of residual sugar are seamlessly integrated and beautifully supported by acidity that clock in north of 10%, something that is exceedingly rare. Drinking window: 2013-2030.
-- Antonio Galloni