Thursday, March 1, 2018

Riesling Riot

Riesling producers are still trying to win over the larger wine drinking public. For a number of years we had the ‘Summer of Riesling’. Now they have upped the game with the ‘Riesling Riot’. I attended two different tastings. Here are my impressions:

First of all: I know the German winemakers were tired after a long flight, but it does not help if they do not pay any attention to the tasting public. Here is Dr. Loosen working his iphone. You may as well stay home.

This first tasting featured mainly German wines from the 2016 vintage.. Each winemaker showed two wines, an entry level Riesling and mostly a single vineyard Riesling. The  Riesling standard  in Australia is high, so the entry level wines have little to offer. They are quaffers, often fruity and not well defined. This applied to the wines shown by Dr. Loosen, Heymann Loewenstein, Georg Breuer, Donnhoff, Christmann, Gunderloch, Wittmann, Paul Blanck.

I was not too impressed by the single vineyard wines either. Sure, the fruit intensity was higher, but, surprisingly, most lacked definition and acidity. Internationally, the wines from the Mosel are the most recognized. This is driven by the demand of the US market for off-dry and sweet wines. In particular the off-dry wines are neither fish nor fowl. I much prefer a wine without sugar residual or an Auslese style, which matches well with deserts.

Of the more expensive second wines, I liked the Gunderloch Nierstein Riesling from a red slate vineyard in the north of Hessen. It had good citrus, minerality, spice and elegance. The German wines were however upstaged by Brundlmayer from Austria. The entry level Kamptaler Terrassen showed attractive spice, and the Heiligenstein Lyra Reserve showed great energy and drive. This is a precise wine of citrus and minerality.

The second tasting was very international. Funnily enough, my favorite Riesling here was from Germany, by Dr. Burklin Wolf from the Pfalz, the warmest Riesling growing area in Germany. The 2015 Wachenheimer Altenburg was fresh and dynamic and very well balanced with good length.

Following this was the 2016 Kientzler 1er Kirchberg Grand Cru from Alsace. This is quite a full wine, yet elegant and refined. Holding its own is the 2017 Grosset Polish Hill, with good depth and length. This wine has not quite come together yet. It should be put down for at least two years. It could be drunk fresh then or cellared much longer to develop into a mature wine. 

In the next group were the 2008 Trimbach 'Cuvee Frederic Emille', a very dry wine with earthy notes, the 2015 Salomon Undhof Kogl, a crisp wine with good depth, the 2015 Bloodwood Riesling from Orange, with pure lime flavours and good energy,  the 2016 Frankland Isolation Ridge (balanced aromatics, long finish), and the 2016 Crawford River, with a clean and steely profile.

There was a 2012 Pewsey Vale 'Contours' from Eden Valley, but this fuller, fruity style is not my thing. I also found the 2017 Pikes 'Traditionale' too sweet. The 2017 Jim Barry wines, the 'Lodge Hill' (some talc and minerality) and the 'Florita'  (good fruit, but lacking definition) left me cold as well. 

I tasted more overseas wines, but they are not of special interest here.

Overall, if I draw conclusions by region, my favorite Rieslings came from Austria and Alsace. They offer extra complexity. The Austrian Rieslings often offer spice, which makes these wines well suited to accompany Asian spicy food. The Rieslings from Alsace deliver a big mouthfeel, but it is not fruity, rather of an earthy complexity. The best German Rieslings have great minerality and a steely backbone, but many wines are too fruity and broad in their definition.  The best Australian Rieslings are mostly fashioned dry, lean and precise, the fruitier styles do not appeal to me.  


Anonymous said...

Hello Thomas,
I hope you can assist.
I have had little exposure to Australian Riesling but I am trying to understand it more.
My short term experience has shown it to be limited in what it can offer overall, to me anyway.
That's where you come in.
Can you recommend an Australian Riesling of reasonably recent vintage that may be able to capture the essence of Australian Riesling?
Price isn't particularly critical and I don't really want to Cellar it for an ion to truly understand it.

Thanks again

Alontin said...

Hi Colin,

The best is obviously to taste. I don't know if you live in Melbourne or Sydney, but leading specialty retailers there, such as Prince Wine Store, Five Ways or Best Cellars would run at least one major Riesling tasting during summer.

Otherwise, the key areas are Clare and Eden Valley. I see three different styles: floral (mainly Eden Valley), fruity but dry (Watervale, Clare), lean and steely (Polish Hill, Clare). Personally, I prefer the steely wines. They are typical Australian and different from German wines. Two good examples are 2017 Jacobs Creek Steingarten Riesling (don't be put off by Jacobs Creek. This is an acquisition and a first rate vineyard) and 2017 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling. Both can be enjoyed young.

Please tell me what you think.