The Terrible Truth About Riesling

Settle down for a haul. The annual Riesling post is always wordy.

Selbach-Oster, Mosel, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 'Rotlay', Riesling Auslese, 2006

Although Germany can be just as vineyard oriented as Burgundy, some would argue that the variety of ripeness levels and style across the different pradikats obscures the character of the cru system. I'm not supporting that argument, I'm just stating it. I don't really agree with that argument because I've been able to find common themes in kabinetts, spatleses and auslese from the same vineyard. 

I'm not the one who has to set winery policy and make wines. At Selbach-Oster, Johannes Selbach does and a long time ago he decided to showcase his terroirs by harvesting select plots of his top vineyards in a single trie, in addition to his usual lineup of pradikats. Rotlay from Sonnenuhr was the first product of this experiment and the Himmelreich Anrecht and Schlossberg Schmitt followed a few vintages later. 

I forgot that the only time I drank the three side by side (the 2015 vintage), I concluded the Rotlay needed 3-4 decades to shed its sweetness. I'm not sorry I opened the 2006 so early, because the cork was wet to the point of crumbling, so I doubt this specific bottle was very fit for the long haul. Like the 2015, this is ripe and sweet, hinting at botrytis, initially without any obvious structure to provide focus and direction. But I think the structure - the acidity, basically - is all in there. You just need to spend a couple of hours with a bottle to watch the nuances unfold and gauge how the seeming lack of structure is just mass and depth of fruit. When I did that, I got notes of slate beneath the fruit. 

A great wine in need of great time. (June 8, 2018)

About 40 GBP.

Margalit, Riesling, 2016

With less than ten serious Rieslings in Israel, everyone who makes a Riesling can lay claim to being one of the top ten Israeli Riesling producers. I'm quite satisfied with having four or five good ones, and they don't even have to be great, or be a toe to toe match with the Mosel or Austria, to satisfy me, as long as they express something a little different. I'd say Margalit is a decent addition to the ranks. It's herbal and minty, with a very light touch of kerosene. The palate is quite tasty and dry for its 11% ABV. This is what I find most surprising about it. I wasn't expecting this fine a balance between extract and finesse. Final verdict: well made, but lacks a distinct character. (June 19, 2018)

About 110 NIS.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Auslese ***, 2002

It's probably the specific bottle and not the wine or vintage, but I miss acidity here. There's a complex canvas of aromas and flavors, dominated by kerosene and dill, and it's fun to drink, but without enough acidity to propel it along, I don't find the vibrancy I expect from a three star. (July 19, 2018)

Willi Schaefer, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett, 2016

There's apricots here as well, although I think that, as is often the case with young Mosels, the predominant character is green apples There is also dust and earth, on top of the more typical slate. What I really like is the shape it forms in the mouth, light and ethereal, almost water-like, its grip tightening and become more tactile and cooler at the same time, with air. (July 26, 2018)

Fat Guy, 130 NIS.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling, Auslese #14, 2006

What I consistently get from various encounters of top tier Schaefer wines is that the fruit is so multi-layered and deep that you can find profound nuances and depth at every stage of the wines' evolution. This is almost at the top of the Schaefer hierarchy (save for auction wines) and that boundless depth and complexity made it hard to nail the wine's age. The apricots, underpinned by honey and minerals, seduce effortlessly. It's very likely that this wine will survive me, never mind more recent vintages. (July 19, 2018)

It's worth remembering why we love this stuff. Not for a sense of place so much as for a sense of being. That combination of place, grape, year, winemaker. And all too rarely, a divine spark coursing through one or more of the four. The Domprobst is blessed with that spark, which I experienced on more than one occasion. Hundreds of miles away, the Nahe has a vineyard and winemaker of equally high repute. 

Dönnhoff, Nahe, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle, Riesling Spätlese, 2008

Always laced, when not packed, with minerals, at ten years of age, this is complex, detailed and subtle, the apricot and apple fruit speckled with spices that verge on the exotic. (Aug. 1, 2018)

Emrich-Schönleber, Nahe, Monzinger Halenberg, Riesling Spätlese, 2012

I've been drinking E-S for over a decade. I remember drinking the 2004 Frühlingsplätzchen Kabinett with Anat Sela when Giaconda's first batch came in. Anat later told me I was Giaconda's first private sector customer. It's a close call, but sometime I prefer Emrich to Donnhoff. The terroirs are different, but usually the Emrich-Schönleber's are clearer and more crystalline (on the other, Donnhoff's at their best have more depth). I'm down to my last bottle in the foreseeable future.

This is a great wine, with an exquisite, ethereal balance of sweetness and minerals, already showing finesse and complexity. If ever a wine carried bottomless depth on a gossamer frame, this is the one. (Aug. 23, 2018)

Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, 2007

Ausleses are always delicious. Sweetness can be such a hedonistic pleasure. But if I stop and analyze this, it really is too unctuous, without enough acidity to uplift it. Whether you examine the aromas or the palate, it is just huge gobs of baked, caramelized apples, slightly tempered by hints of petrol and botrytis-fed spices. Fans of Sauternes will love it. I like it, too, but purely as guilty pleasure. (Aug. 10, 2018)

Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Kabinett feinherb, 2015

The racy side of Mosel: lively, freshly picked granny apples, the juicy fruit propped by a vivid backdrop of acidity, the mineral veneer stretched over the surface like a taut drum skin. Still primary. (Aug. 25, 2018)

A terrific value in the US at 20 USD.