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04.12.2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45 Announced: Old World Riesling

wbw_icon.jpgSeven years ago, I didn't really know anything about Riesling. Seriously. Most of the Rieslings I had tasted at that point were purchased in supermarkets. Which meant that they were all from California or Washington, and that almost without exception, they sucked.

I had yet to begin exploring the wines of Germany and Austria (I would shudder at the thought of decoding those inscrutable five-syllable names) and when it came to the wines of Alsace, I tended to pass over Riesling in favor of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc. I had probably tasted one or two Rieslings from the Clare Valley in Australia, but as far as I was concerned, the entire grape variety was uncharted territory.

At a certain point, however, I got serious about filling in the major gaps in my wine knowledge and experience, and dove headfirst into Riesling, tasting hundreds of German and Austrian wines per year. I've kept that up ever since, and have come to love Rieslings, especially old ones, for their gorgeous, stony zest and brightness that is unique in the world of wine. I tend to prefer drier Rieslings -- up to about the level of Spatlese -- which makes some of my Riesling fanatic friends snigger over their Auslese, but despite my aversion for the super sweet, I pretty much think that German and Austrian Riesling kicks ass.

This month's Wine Blogging Wednesday event, the 45th in our series, is hosted by my friend Tim Elliot who runs Winecast.Net. He's selected Old World Riesling as the the theme for the tasting. This means Riesling from Germany, Austria, and France, primarily, although if you can find some from Northern Italy or elsewhere in Eastern Europe, more power to ya.

If you're not familiar with Wine Blogging Wednesday, it's the Blogosphere's virtual wine tasting event, where bloggers all over the world taste wine based on a theme, and then post their reviews on a designated Wednesday. For WBW#45, bloggers all over the world will be drinking and reviewing Old World Riesling on May 7th. Even if you don't have a blog, you can participate by posting your review at www.winebloggingwednesday.org.

See you on May 7th, and may the Trockenberenauslese be with you.

Comments (12)

Nancy wrote:
04.13.08 at 7:41 AM

Thanks for the info on Wine Blogging Wednesday. I first became aware of rieslings through reading Willie Gluckstern's fun and snarky book, "The Wine Avenger." I still, for the most part, buy grocery store rieslings, but I have found a favorite from Germany that (humble though it probably is) is indeed just that shade more elegant -- and drier -- than the California and Washington examples. The first professional wine tasting I attended featured German rieslings and other German wines. One was a pinot noir rose eiswein, which even my very experienced colleague had never heard of. Ravishing.

04.13.08 at 8:58 AM

A moment of pedanticism (a moment? you ask): Kabinett, Spatlese, and Auslese have no relationship to the sweetness of the wine. ("I tend to prefer drier Rieslings -- up to about the level of Spatlese".) Those terms only indicate the sugar level in the grapes.

And now I'll add the obvious rejoinder, which is that here in the U.S., where we don't import many trockens, the terms more or less map to increasing sugar levels, as you say.

Alder wrote:
04.13.08 at 12:51 PM

Derrick,

Thanks for being a stickler for details as always. You correctly predicted my rejoinder, to which I'll add the (ungrounded) assertion that these terms also tend to align with the majority of the production in Germany (i.e. there are a lot more sweet Spatleses than dry produced). Do you agree?

Ed wrote:
04.14.08 at 2:54 AM

Derrick - Thanks for setting me straight. I can't believe I waisted thirty-five years selling German wines, and knew nothing about them. Can't wait to tell Thanish, Prumm, and Kesselstat what I have learned.

Jeff wrote:
04.14.08 at 8:13 AM

As far as US rieslings, I would recommend the finger lakes of NY. It is expensive to buy from as they do not distribute very much, but if you're in the area they are worth the stop. The dry rieslings are on par with many fine germans that i've tasted.
great post!

heidi wrote:
04.14.08 at 10:03 AM

Thank you for the nice blog.I live in germany in the sw on the swiss-french border and know my Rieslings well and like you prefer the drier ones but the alsacean ones are wonderful to.

larry-s wrote:
04.14.08 at 7:15 PM

Ed, when you say you've sold German wine for 35 years and misspell the 3 producers in your post, I have to wonder a bit. Try Thanisch, von Kesselstatt, and Prum. If you don't believe me, look at the labels.

Additionally, Derrick is correct about the QmP designations and sugar. However, he did leave out the part about the classification is based upon the percentage (degrees) of sugar in the must (must weight), also known as Oechsle. The degrees of Oechsle determine the classification (that is, Kabinett, Spatlese). If one wants to make Auslese Trocken, one can. Why is another question.

Of course, one could bring up the subject of a producer calling a wine Kabinett which is actually declassified Spatlese, but I don't even want to go there...

Alder, of course you're correct about there being many less Trocken wines imported into the US.

JR wrote:
04.20.08 at 8:45 PM

In fact, the only thing that keeps me from purchasing more German Riesling is the difficulty in discerning residual sugar level without a proper tasting. Fortunately, up to Spatlese level, most of these wines were reasonably priced (until the $ tanked) while drinking fabulously at a young age so an early tasting is not infanticide, if it is a little crimping on the pocketbook. If the Germans could find a better way to define RS (could they like, maybe put it on the damn label?), they would have more of my hard earned wine $ because I think Riesling is the greatest of white grapes (sorry you char heads).

I look forward to my first WBW posting.

Emily wrote:
04.30.08 at 5:20 PM

For all of you considering an Austrian Riesling, here's a quick lowdown skinny on the two most available types here in the U.S. coming out of Austria's Wachau region: If the label says "Federspiel", it's a medium-bodied wine. If it says "Smaragd", it's much more complex and full-bodied. In either case, the wine is dry in style.
Cheers!

James Theall wrote:
07.13.08 at 11:15 AM

Hello. I was remodeling an hisoric house in the Colorado mountains (historic here means 70-100 years old, at least to me) and hidden in a wall I found a vintage 1936, perfect condidtion unopened bottle of Chilean Riesling, cosecha ano 1936 - Ismael Porcornal. Does nanybody have an opinion on this? What shouldI do with it? What is its value? I know old world reislings get better with age ... but what about a Chilean ... before they were cool?

Alder wrote:
07.13.08 at 12:22 PM

Chill it. Open it. Drink it.

It's not a valuable collector's item.

Dick wrote:
07.30.10 at 4:20 AM

A friend found one a week ago - 500 ML, looks to be made in San Bernardino area of California - once home to 40 wineries and 13 Distilleries (bottle indicates Fred Hart Distilleries).

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