Archives for posts with tag: Riesling

May this year is a strange Month: the end-of-Month Sock Party will be on June 1st; and the beginning-of-Month Tutored Tasting actually took place (due to an English Bank Holiday) on April 30th! Rest assured the middle-of-the-month May ICC Tasting will be indeed be in May….

So it was the WING group met to taste Mosel Rieslings guided by Andrew. Andrew had been partly inspired by a travels to Traben-Trabach very near the centre of the Mosel wine area. I too have stayed there and we both heartily recommend the area.

Regular readers will know my liking for Riesling, it’s probably my favourite white grape – especially in its traditional form from Mosel (or Mosel-Saar-Ruwer as the overall region was known until 2007). Andrew had noted the increasing propensity for Trocken and Feinherb (=Halbtrocken, sort of) wines in the area. When I first went there in 2001 only perhaps 10% of production was so labelled – last time (2015) I also had noted the change, then nearly half were.

(See my reflection on these issue in my post of September 17th 2015 – below>).

Andrew sought to explore the differences by showing 3 trocken wines  the first of each pair) against 3 more “traditional” wines with some residual sugar…

Here are my notes:

Rich oily nose with elderflower and peach, and a later honey hint – all classic Riesling notes but seems a bit dull, by that classic standard. The palate has a zingy acidity, quite rounded by soft fruit – but a little short.

This is an interesting wine, with 26 g/l residual sugar and 12% alcohol…so right in-between a traditional Auslese (50 -75 g/l and 9% ish) and a trocken (1 g/l and 13.5%). So, IMO, if the “Feinherb” styling means anything this is it! This had spicy hints on the nose, I would say Fenugreek, with citrus and peach. Palate has warmth, some sweetness and a mineral note with a citrus peel, slightly bitter tinge. Longer and more satisfying in my opinion than the previous wine. This has the acidity / sweetness balance of a traditional Kabinett but over a much richer fulcrum.


This is an artisan curiosity from the very North of the Mosel, near its confluence with the mighty Rhine. This pays little service to the old style classifications and is just crafted to make a dry wine with depth added by a proportion of botrytis-affected berries in the press. It shows hints of diesel already and orange peel (from botrytis) and some herb notes… Palate is gingery and rather dry, with the acidity rounded and softened by the complexity and depth of flavour. Similar weight to the previous wine and successful on its own, less-well-trodden path…

This is a traditional style and probably has a bit more sugar than the previous Feinherb. However the nose is dumb and the wine a little recessed too, so this sweetness sticks out rather at the moment – especially when slightly warmer than optimum… Against this the acidity is stunning:  piquant, lip-smacking and very, very long – leading to some mineral, slate tones… Unbalanced right now (some traditional Rieslings do seem have a “dumb” period from 3 or 4 – 7 or 8 years from vintage) but give it 3 or 4 years to open up again ….


This is a basic Qualitätswein fermented to dryness, but ripeness must have been between Kabinett and Spätlese levels. The nose has diesel and orange peel hints with some peach, but quite restrained. The palate seems a bit astringent – a thinner, more bitter acidity. This shortens the experience. Well made, clean… but my least favourite in this company.

This is a Große Lage wine and the Feinherb finished product is very like a dashing old fashioned Spätlese. So in many ways this is a counterpoint of the very first wine. Nearly diesel, vaguely furniture polish hint, some fruit blossom and herb hints. Palate has warmth, good supple acidity with soft fruit, long and lip-smacking it is well balanced and very pleasurable now.

I found this an incredibly interesting tasting. First I love this grape, and even my least favourite wine tonight would beat many other wines from many other areas – including, probably, the majority of New World Rieslings!

However the tasting re-enforced an issue I’ve had with German dry Rieslings since it began its forward march 20 years ago – I call it the trouble with trocken. This is the apparent effect of fermenting Riesling to dryness, particularly in cool areas like Mosel, doesn’t just reduce the sugar, but in some way also reduces the rounder flavours in the wine and the acidity. True the acidity, with less counter-balance, seems more fierce, cooler and more bitter – but those long, lip-smacking, zingy, zesty lines of warmer acidity seem curtailed.

This was aptly illustrated by the last trocken (my least favourite)… which seemed shorter, aggressive and bitter in comparison to the wines with some sweet impression, The very first wine suffered a little, much less, from the same syndrome. The middle trocken is – eccentrically – made with 10% – 20% botrytis-affected grapes in the press… and balanced the acidity with the flavour-twist that is thereby imparted: orange peel, ginger…

In contrast the acidity in the Prum is exceptional, long (the most enduring by far), round, warm, lip-smacking, dashing, dazzling… The wine is currently unbalanced by a closed nose and the higher sugar “sticking-out”; although I would guess that, after 4 more years’ development and served a couple of degrees cooler, it could be the best wine of the six?!

However right now the middle trocken and the two  Feinherb wines were lovely – with the last just shading it, IMO.

Thanks so much Andrew for a captivating tasting!

À Bientôt


Most wine enthusiasts will be familiar with Alsace Wines. We have explored the area often and become familiar with their main grapes: Riesling; Pinot Gris; Gewürztraminer (of course)… but also Pinot Blanc; Sylvaner; Auxxerois; Muscat and Pinot Noir… Many fewer wine lovers will be as acquainted with Alto Adige, however.

Alto Adige is actually only the northern third of the full Italian region: Trentino-Alto Adige. That itself is the northernmost Italian region, comprising two areas with very different personalities: the Germanic Alto Adige (or Südtirol), which borders and once belonged to Austria, and right below it the more Italian but still very Alpine Trentino. The region’s capital and largest city is Trento, followed closely by the Südtirol provincial capital: Bozen (Bolzano). The breathtaking valley of the Adige River is renowned in the wine world for varietal labeled cool-climate wines, mainly white. It has no DOCGs, eight DOCs and four IGPs.

In fact the full region, Trentino–Alto Adige, is a similar size to Alsace in terms of area under vine and volume of wine production. In 2015, Trentino–Alto Adige produced about 2.5% of Italian Wine (13.7 million cases),  but Alto-Adige has less than a third of the Regions vineyards – mostly small growers unlike large co-operatives and producers further South – and it’s contribution is about 0.7% (3.9 million cases).

The Alto-Adige area is Y-shaped: Valle Iscaro is the right arm,  following the Iscaro river from nearer Austria until it meeets the Adige River near Bolzano. The Adige above Bolzano constitutes the left arm from the Valle Venosta, flowing though Terlano. Below Bolzano, going  due South towards Trento and the “tail” of the Y, fuller versions of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanco Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürtraminer are more common.

Terlano focuses more on international varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinots.  Valle Iscaro majors on the Germanic grapes: Riesling; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; and Grüner Veltliner.

Overall white grapes varieties occupy about 60% of Alto Adige’s wine-growing area and are vinified into the best wines. There are 20 varieties common: Pinot Grigio; Gewürtraminer; Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay lead the way, but Sauvignon Blanc; Müller Thurgau; Sylvaner; Kerner; Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are also significant in Alto Adige.

So Alto-Adige has many grapes of Germanic origin: Riesling; Gewürztraminer; Sylvaner; Kerner; Müller-Thurgau and Grüner Veltliner. The first three are shared with Alsace too – as are the Pinot Family – so comparison seems attractive.

It may be said that the most obvious comparison: Pinot Gris/Grigio is actually the most complicated. First of all there may be clonal or selectional differences in the grape plantings although they are the same variety. Secondly the “target” style is different: richer complex wines in Alsace and fresher lighter wines in Italy. Finally,  yields are often much higher in Italy resulting in a neutral “quaffing” wine. That’s being generous,  a lot of the Italian version – possibly two thirds – could be called Pinot (e)Gregious, wines that are often thin, inoffensive occupants of the early parts of Restaurant wine lists, where they offer (I would say) characterless wines for people who don’t like wine…

Actually some of the better examples, though of a radically different style, do come from Alto-Adige – and I think the comparison is one we are going to have to try.

So the varieties I have chosen to show in comparison of the two areas end up being the Alsace big three: Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. The Alsace wines will act as a style reference to see what we think of Alto Adige versions. I think the next time I approach a tasting focusing on Alsace I’ll make sure basic versions of those three grapes are entirely omitted and concentrate on all the other styles and varieties .

The wines will be in pairs to aid comparison, although it’ll be immediately obvious which is which – not least because the Alsace example will have more age. So only the most similar pair – the Rieslings – will be tasted blind… We’ll see how these – vaguely Germanic – wine areas deal with those grapes.

Notes will follow in 3 or 4 days…

Until then….

Due to my absence (in the land of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc) I could not lead the ICC tasting this month. So a special guest led the tasting in my stead. This arrangement will probably persist over the next two seasons when I will miss, roughly, every other ICC Tasting.

This month the Tasting could hardly have been in better hands, with Ralph Northwood showing Riesling examples from Austria, New Zealand and Germany.

This report is not founded on my notes of course, but information and notes from those who did attend…

PEGASUS BAY RIESLING 2009 (Pegasus Bay, Waipara, NZ)
This Winery is about 40 miles North of Christchurch in NZ’s S. Island.
They say that “this wine’s bouquet and flavour suggests citrus fruit, especially limes, along with peaches, nectarines, lychees, pineapple and tropical spices. The low crop levels have produced good fruit concentration and weight in the mouth. There is a core of minerality and tangy acidity, which flows through the palate, helping to draw out the wine’s length and balance its off-dry finish. While ready to drink on release, with careful cellaring, it should continue to develop and blossom for a decade or more.”
My spy at the tasting said:  “Greenish,  Lime, floral, diesel… Slight mousse, sweet but good acidity, well-balanced, European style, however went ‘sherbety’ by the end.”

BEL CANTO            WAIPARA VALLEY RIESLING 2009 (Pegasus Bay, Waipara, NZ)
The outcrop of land on which these grapes were grown consists largely of weathered stones. Millions of years ago these were torn off New Zealand’s Southern Alps and deposited in selected valleys. This individual terroir has shaped this wine. The winery claims: “ On release the wine has a beautiful lemon sheen. It exudes ripe citrus expressions intertwined with those of nectarines, peaches and greengages. This Riesling seems to expand in the mouth to become rich, concentrated and unctuous. It retains the poise, elegance and finesse that is typical of this most aristocratic of grape varieties. There is a flow of minerality, derived from the vineyard soils, which course through the wine and draws out its length. With careful cellaring it can be expected to develop additional fascinating nuances.”
But my beautiful assistant says:   “Darker colour.   Rubbery (tyres), herbs… Grapefruit, mousse again, drier but not so well-balanced. I found it duller than the first wine”

TERRASSEN FEDERSPIEL 2012 (Tegernseerhof, Wachau Austria)
The stone terraces of Wachau have a superb influence on Riesling Federspiel ‘Terrassen’ Tegernseerhof, producing a unique, distinctive wine. Delicate white flowers, citrus and stone fruit notes are balanced by a refreshing, crisp acidity and mineral tension. Decanter Magazine selected the 2014 as one of the “top 20 Rieslings to try”
My representative says:  “Lime, herbs, not so fruity….Grapefruit on palate, herbs, delicate. Still young but purer and more complex than NZs, and well-balanced..”

KELLERBERG 2007 (Tegernseerhof, Wachau Austria)
Kellerberg (literally ‘cellar mountain’) is arguably Austria’s most famous wine-growing mountain; and Tegernseerhof vineyards lie in a particularly favoured spot. The wind has brought in volcanic loess, adding fertility to the soils beneath the rocky terrain of the vineyard. Named after the cellar of the wine cooperative, which was dug under the mountain. The Kellerberg exposure is from south to southeast and faces into the so-called Flickathal – a cold area that produces its own microclimate, resulting in a wine with “cool elegance that seduces with aristocratic charm”.
My informant says:  “Diesel but also face powder.  Rosewater, lemon… Good grip, complex, subtle, well-balanced, elegant”

JOHANNISBERGER KLAUS KABINETT 2005 (Prinz von Hessen, Rheingau, Germany)
A note I found for this says: “Riesling with lively pale yellow color and slightly green reflexes, which has a very ripe scent. The aromas are subtly reminiscent of apricot, a touch of peach, some citrus fruit and cavaillon melon. In the background the fine fruit aromas are carried by a gentle character. On the palate, this Riesling convinces with a fresh, well-integrated acidity and a fine-fruited flavor. A wine with a pleasant length…”
My correspondent says:   “Violets, honey, orange, perhaps acacia and a ‘stinkier’ smell, though not unpleasant.  Puckering acidity, violets, orange blossom, refreshing acidity, good grip, well-balanced…”

SCHARZHOFBERGER SPATLESE 2002 (Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Saar, Germany)
The Scharzhofberg vineyard lies in a side valley of the Saar River. It is probably the Saar’s most famous and climatically coolest site. It qualifies for the VDP and was also classified by Hugh Johnson and Stuart Pigott as a “Grosse Lage” (top site). With 6.6 ha (16.3 acres), Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt numbers among the largest owners with holdings in the site. Scharzhofberg is a south-facing slope with a grade of 35-60%. Its soil consists of loess, as well as coarse gray and reddish slate (up to 70%). These soils are less prone to weathering than those of the Kaseler Nies’chen in de Ruwer valley.
Wines originating from Scharzhofberg are distinctive for their penetrating, salty mineral tones and refined elegance. Even very mature wines continue to show an astonishing cornucopia of ripe fruit. The aging potential and vitality are the basis of the Scharzhofbergs legendary reputation worldwide.

Wine description on release:
“A brilliant start on the palate with lots of minerality and a pleasant acidity. Very ripe concentrated fruit, such as raisins, apricots, and peach, lends the wine depth and a variable mouthfeel with a wonderful play of sweetness and acidity. A great Spätlese with a tremendous future…”
My conspirator felt:   “Golden colour.  Toffee, caramel, creamy and linseed underneath. Gorgeous!!   Refreshing acidity, rich, caramely, puckering.  Elegant, good grip, subtle, complex – all of it!”

The couple of people I’ve heard from favoured the Europeans, and probably the Germans; and found “NZs compared to European:- much less complex and more ‘blousy’”!!

Many thanks Ralph for providing – as always -such an interesting tasting, and thanks too to those who have commented… feel free to join in….

Until soon!

As you may know, Riesling is my favourite white grape, by quite a long way, and a leading candidate for favourite grape of any colour. So it’s a pity that I can’t be at the tasting this week. But those attending are in exceptionally good hands with Ralph Northwood.

Riesling is the German grape! Although planted throughout the world, there is only about half as much as (say) Sauvignon Blanc, and less than a third as much as Chardonnay. About half of the World’s Riesling is in Germany, with USA, Australia and France (entirely in Alsace) having up to 10%. Ukraine contributes 5%, Austria 4%, then Moldova, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and NZ are all at around 2%.

In Germany, of course, the about  half of Riesling is neither dry (trocken) nor off-dry (halbtrocken or, increasingly, Feinherbe [see post of September 17th 2015 – worth reading again if I say so myself]).

The great Riesling areas around the Mosel and Rhine are cool for wine production and Riesling is a highly acidic grape variety. The wonderful searing acidity has traditionally been balanced with some natural sweetness, not all the grape sugar being converted to alcohol. That is why a traditional German Riesling will have around 2% or 3% (occasionally even more) of its potential alcohol left as residual sugar. This makes a fabulous wine for drinking without, or before, food.

In the Old World plantings are concentrated in cooler – long season – sites where it flourishes, particularly with a “heat advantage” of steep south facing slopes, or soil with high mineral content. In the New World the opposite is true – cooler, oceanic or altitude, sites are better, giving grapes cooler nights during which their acidity develops.

New World wines often show an oily pre-cursor of the honey and diesel that aged Old World Rieslings achieve, but only exceptional New World versions really mature. In general they have a deeper flavour and the citrus acidity is often more reminiscent of lime cordial than fresh limes. Good examples tend to be concentrated in cooler areas: Eden Valley in Australia, Oregon or Washington rather than California in the USA, and in New Zealand which can offer – as with an increasing number of grapes – a cooler climate style.

In Germany now, though, much more wine is produced for the table in a much dryer style. However, trocken wine permits roughly twice  as much sugar as a typical dry wine elsewhere. Against this it must be said that Riesling will usually have twice as much acid as a normal dry wine. Balancing sweetness with high acidity is the challenge of making wine from this grape in cooler places.

In my view the success of these more modern German styles depends rather on the nature of the area. Mosel (which includes the Saar and the Ruwer now), for example, is at the same latitude as the South Coast of England, and the acidity is so strong and limey that dry versions can seem unbalanced. Losing the sweetness seems to actually reduce the fruit and mineral qualities too. The Nähe and Rheingau have some famous Halbtrocken but in most cases the traditional styles still seem more reliable to me.

However the Rhein-Pfalz, Alsace and Austria make great dry Rieslings, which can age wonderfully to show a dazzling number of notes overlaying each other. Better examples often show a mineral note that underpins the wine and allows it to develop its diesel and honey character without any heaviness as the wine matures.

The central feature of Riesling is its racy, supple acidity, which supports the sugar when the wines are not dry and underpins an amazing array of scents and flavours:  oily, limey fragrance – delicate floral notes – pungent diesel – honey, elderflower and acacia… in many combinations. It can be herby, slatey, fruity – peaches, melon, gooseberry… mineral, chalky, citrusy – from lime to lemon to mandarin, honeyed, with orange peel, cinnamon, spices…

Acidity also preserves the fruit flavours and complexity while aging all styles of Riesling for 10, 15, 20 plus years. When the acidity becomes unbalanced the result can produce (occasionally) steely unyielding examples but, more usually, heavy, ponderous examples – the very antithesis of what good Riesling is about.

So in this month’s tasting Ralph will look at Riesling from 3 different countries: Austria; New Zealand and Germany. Hopefully you will see which wines best pull off the balancing act of acid and richness, pungency and delicacy…

It would be great to be there but I cannot – if anyone tasting wants to e-mail me their notes I’ll publish a report in a around a week.

Happy imbibing!

À bientôt


A monthly review of an easily obtainable wine that’s had a recommendation somewhere in a National newspaper. Always posted just before the usual monthly theme, this may be the latest post for only a few days…

Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2014 (Aldi £7)

A very red month coming up with the focus on Nebbiolo, so we start February with a white – in some ways – at the other end of the wine spectrum: Riesling. The grapes do have some things in common though – acidity, age-ability, and if you chose well, complexity!

This wine won the “Great Value Champion White” accolade at the 2015 IWC. It is light with an immediately beguiling nose of orange-blossom florality, a little of the hallmark diesel aroma, citrus hints, and as it warms – peachy fruit. The nose fades a little and doesn’t have the open pungency of many lime-fuelled Clare Valley Rieslings. You might regard that as either good or bad however…

The palate has a sappy acidity, citrus with a slightly grainy texture. The citrus is more lemon and lemon pith than lime again and warm – and slightly reigned in. There is a sweet peach element in the centre which grows in volume as the other flavours recede. Later the bitter-sweet lemon pith finish shows mineral hints.

With food (a chicken in spicy sauce) the sweet peach fruit core helps but the acidity surrenders, making the wine appear shorter.

All in all a slightly restrained or, if you’re feeling harsh, dilute Clare Valley Riesling. It has many elements of a good dry(ish) Riesling but they appear sequentially rather than in integrated complexity.

Still this wine costs £7… that criticism, if criticism it be, could be lived with…

Ratings: Quality: 13/20     Value: 16/20

The Group met for a Tasting, led by Ralph, of Wines from the Wachau, in Austria. This is the most Westerly of the main Austrian wine areas, sitting picturesquely on the banks of the Danube between Spitz and Krems. Nearly all wines there are white – and based on either Grüner Veltliner or Riesling.

The Wachau has its own categories, all for dry white wines: Steinfeder (“Stone feather”—named after a grass, that grows in the vineyards): maximum 11.5% alcohol mostly consumed locally. Federspiel (named after a falconry term): 11.5% to 12.5% alcohol and a minimum must weight roughly equivalent to Kabinett. Smaragd (named after an ’emerald’ lizard that lives in the vineyards) is regarded as a mark of quality and depth, with wine made from fully ripe grapes and complying with some standards: minimum 12.5% alcohol, with a maximum 9 g/litre residual sugar.

Ralph showed us 6 wines 5 from Tegernseehof (a grower from just East of Dürnstein): 4 Riesling and a Grüner Veltliner; together with an additional Riesling by Johann Donabaum from Spitz.

Here are my notes:
Grüner Veltliner Lobennerg 2007 (Tegernseehof)
Over-ripe peach and mango notes with hints of caramel, vague peppery hints – if you look for it – but green peppercorn rather than white. Palate has a slightly stony texture with a green pithy acidity with exotic fruit and a clean, slightly salty, greengage finish.

Riesling Terrassen Federspiel 2012 (Tegernseehof)
Slightly oily nose – that may become diesel with time, floral hints, blossom with a herby touch. Acidity is warm (with, in fact, a peppery touch), and a bitter-sweetness, pith and honey palate. Pretty long with a citric, spicy crunch at the finish. Although a light example some quite warm flavours…

Riesling Steinertal Loiben Smaragd 2010 (Tegernseehof)
Lime hints with a spicy tickle and a soft fruit tinge. Cooler balance than the previous wine but with a warm stony texture and honeyed white fruit flavours. Long line of mineral acidity and food-demanding. A very nice, and rather distinctive Riesling.

Riesling Steinertal 2007 (Tegernseehof)
Diesel notes, peach, blossom and herbs in quite a Germanic package. Much more typical palate too, honeyed sweetness and soft white fruit cut by a citric acidity and a herby, fennel? touch. Softer and sweeter than the previous wine from the same vineyard – maybe with too much residual sugar to be a Smaragd. Good but less distinctive than its predecessor or >>>

Riesling Kellererg 2007 (Tegernseehof)
Lighter diesel with delicate but complex nose of white peach and slightly spicy mango fruit, some herbs too. Precise acid line right through the palate with stony and pepper elements (again!). Cool, clean, complex, long – very good.

Riesling Setzberg Smaragd 2007 (Donabaum)
Smokey, apple, diesel, honey on quite a pungent nose. Sweetness first – warm honey flavours with a line of acidity backing it. Warmth right through the wine and an oily finish. Another more Germanic (or orthodox?) style.

A very interesting tasting which brought to mind several things, Firstly, that although the area produces wine with good acidity and keeping potential it is within a slightly warmer and richer climate, which makes for wines that sometimes show more new-worldly flavours. Secondly, that many of the wines, the Rieslings as much as the GV, show peppery notes – often cited as a GV indicator – maybe it is also a characteristic of Wachau, or at least Tegernseehof sites. Finally, for me, the wines I most appreciated – partly for their slightly distinctive expression of Rieslings were wines 3 and 5. Both very good, but the more distinctive, at least at the moment, was the Steinertal Smaragd 2010.

Thank you Ralph for a lovely tasting…

Until soon…

No mid month Tutored Tasting to report so a “what-we-did-on-our-holidays” post about the Mosel:

A view of the Mosel from the Bernkastel Doktor Vineyard

A view of the Mosel from the Bernkastel Doktor Vineyard

This is one of my favourite single grape/location combinations in the world – so complex, refreshing and versatile with food. So we spent hours of gruelling effort on your behalf seeing how the style grape is doing in the Mosel – (known until 2007 as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer).

This unremitting effort involved 4 producer visits and several hours in the Bernkastel-Kues Vinotek… We tasted about 50 wines from about half that number of growers, including 6 who I had visited before or tasted in England.

There are a few general impressions worth discussing, I think.

The first is the increasing division of wines by their impression of sweetness. 15 years ago and probably ten years ago Weinguter would list wines by their classic classifications, supposedly quality categories: Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese, with – perhaps – an occasional Trocken wine separated off. Now most growers divide their lists into the categories of Trocken / Feinherbe (or halbtrocken) / Fruchtsüß (or Leiblich) / Edelsüß.

The old categories had some measurable boundaries – depending on the specific gravity of the grape juice before vinification. So really they relate to the weight of the wine, which could be realised in either alcohol or residual sweetness depending on how the wine was vinified. However they would not in themselves impart much information about the finished wine. Now they are complicated further by a star system where *, **, *** indicates that the wine could be categorized higher than it actually is… Does that mean a Kabinett** is really an Auslese? Confused? I am… and there’s more to come…


The “Lieblich” room in the Vinothek Cellar

The newer categories are aimed to help the consumer with classification which at least refers to the impression of the finished wine. However, quite what these categories mean is rather vague. At least Trocken and Halbtrocken have objective criteria: Trocken is 0-9 g/l residual sugar; Halbtrocken is 10-18!

However Feinherb usually can be taken to mean off-dry and seems to be a little bit more elastic than Halbtrocken, although many growers seem to use the terms pretty well interchangeably. However the Feinherb category seems to be a growing designation. Nearly ¼ of the 220 wines I saw listed bore “Feinherb” on the label…

To my palate, a good quality old fashioned Kabinett from a lean year might seem to be off-dry (Feinherb?) in overall balance. However that balance may be achieved at higher sugar and acid levels than what seems to be typical most wines bearing the name Feinherb on the label. The designation seems to indicate acidity is dominant, that perhaps being achieved by decreasing the sugar by fermentation – thereby producing alcohol a point or two higher too…

At any event Trocken, Halbtrocken and Feinherb wines seem to be half what’s on offer in the Mosel now….

The second observation that struck me is that the majority of traditional style wines now seem to be rather quotidian, perhaps because the grower’s concentration is elsewhere. The wines aren’t bad, but rather simple and only the better producers are seemingly making complex, highly crafted wines. I don’t know how what proportion of producers fall into each camp – but I’d be surprised if there were more than 60 or so interesting growers out of something like ten times that number producing wine in total.

The final point is not new at all but the trip provided a confirmation that site is very important. It would be a lifetimes work to specify this well but I had some confirmation at these tastings. I tried several Ockfener Bockstein on the visit in various styles, and all has an element of pear in them. Not the slightly confectionery pear-drop flavour found in some Italian whites (Cortese based wines most prominently), but fresh, earthy, slightly sharp real pear. I’ve noticed this before but this wider sample confirmed it. Also I noted Graach wines  (we tasted 12 in various styles from several vineyards and growers, though most (9) were from the Himmelreich) all had round peach notes…

Graacher Himmelreich

Graacher Himmelreich

I don’t know what conclusions to draw – be careful to chose a good producer, and a site you like – obviously. But also think carefully about the basic weight, alcohol, residual sugar and final acidity in the wine. It’s a pity the classifications don’t require all this information on the label!

By the way I bought Dr. Wagner Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett (traditional style) and Martin Müllen Kröver Kirchlay Riesling Auslese (a genuine Edelsüß [“noble sweet”] wine with very high sweetness and very, very high acidity).

You’ll hear more about the latter in November – meanwhile onward to Burgundy!

%d bloggers like this: