Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The world’s greatest white variety, Riesling, has very vibrant natural acidity, giving it longevity and the potential to make a very balanced and long-lived sweet or dry wine. Misunderstood and for the most part unappreciated, the brilliant Rieslings of GermanyAustria, and Alsace are tremendous values for those who appreciate them.

Riesling has thrived in Germany since the 15th century, and quite possibly as far back as Roman times, most notably in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau and the Pfalz. The great German Rieslings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were as highly sought-after as the top Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone wines of France. Unfortunately, much of what the world sees from this country is no more than sugar water – slightly sweet, watery white wine that fills the bargain bins. With an increase in awareness, a string of very successful vintages, and the growing popularity of Asian “fusion” restaurants whose spicy, exotic flavors are so ideal to be paired with a tart intense burst of green apple rather than another fruit bomb Chardonnay, the better quality wines are finally finding an audience on the international marketplace.

Rieslings from Germany, Austria, and Alsace range in styles from sharp, steely, and minerally to fat, tropical, and decadently sweet and rich. A high quality dry German Riesling is generally far lighter in alcohol than most other dry whites, averaging 8% rather than 13%. They’ll also stay fresh after opening for months. Dry Austrian versions are particularly more pungent, stronger, and sometimes herbaceous. Alsatian versions get fatter, richer, and sweeter the more expensive they are. While the wine world clamors for the sweet Beerenauslese, very sweet Eiswein and extremely rare Trockenbeerensauslese styles from Germany, and similar styles from Austria, the far more widely available Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling from Alsace is so vivid, pure, direct, minerally, and lingering one could easily count it as of the top ten wines of the world. Alsace also produces late harvest styles but theirs, the Vendange Tardive and Selection de Grains Noble are if not bone dry, then only slightly sweet.

New World versions are found in the USA and Australia, where they range from dry sweet. Better USA examples, most notably from Washington, Idaho, and Monterey in California are off-dry and minerally with green apple and peach flavors, and the top Australian imports are tropical but dry. New Zealand versions are often tropical and dry  as well.

Riesling: green apple, peach, tropical, petrol, mineral, pungent, steel, bone dry to opulently sweet, vibrant acidity.

Riesling: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Pfalz, Nahe, Wachau, Alsace, Mendocino, Columbia Valley, Finger Lakes, Niagara Peninsula, Okanagan Valley, Western Australia, Clare Valley

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Beerenauslese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany)
Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Riesling Eiswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany)
Franz Künstler Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Auslese, Rheingau (Germany)
Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling, Alsace (France)
Hirtzberger Singerriedel Riesling Smaragd, Wachau (Austria)
Pichler Riesling FX, Durnsteiner Kellerburg Smaragd, Wachau (Austria)

Best Value
Dr. Burklin Wolf Estate Riesling, Pfalz (Germany)  
Zelma Long & Philip Freese Sibyl Riesling Spätlese, Nahe (Germany)
Paul Ginglinger Riesling Pfersigberg, Alsace (France)
Grosset Polish Hill/Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley (Australia)
Esterlina Cole Ranch Riesling, Anderson Valley, California (USA)
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine “Silver”, Niagara Peninsula (Canada)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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