Frank John, Riesling Buntsandstein trocken, 2016


Buntsandstein is a ubiquitous part of Pfalz geology. The southern half of the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest) is home to its most obvious incarnations: countless castles, cliffs, rock formations, and rocky outcrops of red sandstone, all ablaze in the evening sun. It becomes more of a beige-coloured sandstone, the further north you head towards the classic district of the Mittelhaardt, where Frank John and family are based.

Frank John was the winemaker at Von Buhl when I did a four-week internship there in my early 20s during the summer of 1997. I have positive memories of Herr John – a very calm, and calming, figure at a winery that was re-emerging from a period of relative mediocrity. John was the subject of a recent podcast (I can very much recommend it if you understand German; here’s the link). As he tells interviewer Wolfgang Staudt, the Von Buhl cellars in the 1990s were suddenly full of spanking new stainless-steel vats thanks to an injection of cash from Japanese investors who began leasing the estate in 1989. There were no wooden vessels at all. John and Von Buhl eventually parted ways in 2002. It seems that the then management did not necessarily share all of John’s eco-friendly convictions.

I tasted this wine gradually over seven days but only made notes on three of them. Initial iodine and peaty notes on the nose, followed by red fruit (mostly raspberry), honey, and wax. Day two: herbal aromas, maybe a hint of quince along with dried fruit (peach or apricot, not sure). Day seven: beeswax, succulent red peach, and herbs.

Very dry on the palate. Most of the above but with less fruit and more of the same iodine tang. Mouthwateringly fresh, with a subtle bitter twist and herbal, almost medicinal character. The wine has also acquired a greater generosity since 2019 when I drank the first bottle. But there is not an ounce of fat.

This excellent wine still has years ahead of it and certainly further ageing potential.

Hand-picked grapes. Wild-yeast fermentation, including malolactic fermentation, in 1,200- and 1,400-litre oak casks, with a proportion of whole bunches. Maturation on the gross lees for one year. Minimal addition of sulphur.


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