Over the years there has been numerous movements around the globe, such as “The Summer of Riesling”, encouraging the often over looked move of ordering a glass of Riesling rather than typical “go to” white wines such as Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.
Riesling – Germany’s noble grape – has long been described as the ‘darling’ in the world of wine for its ageability with its bullish acidity, intense flavour and knack of showcasing terroir whilst maintaining its varietal characteristics. But due to Riesling’s strong personality it has struggled to achieve any sort of mass appeal. While it is true Riesling contains many of the qualities that are currently on trend – typically being dry to off-dry, light and crisp, lower in alcohol and fruit-forward – Rieslings aromatic quirks, even when young, makes it a more acquired taste with its naturally high levels of tarty acidity, powerful citrus, honeyed and floral aromas and inherent notes of kerosene intensifying with age.
Riesling is also plagued by 1970 and 80s baggage with the proliferation of large-scale exporting of cheap, sickly sweet, German “Liebfraumilch” wines – such as Black Tower and Blue Nun. Despite bearing no resemblance to the classic Riesling style with many typically using the bulk Müller-Thurgau grape and adding copious amounts of sugar before bottling, these wines ironically became synonymous with Riesling. By the 1990s the result eschewing was a hard to shake perception that Riesling wines were nothing than low quality, cheap plonk. Fifteen years on, and thankfully with these bulk wines in decline, perceptions are gradually changing for the better with classic Riesling making a comeback.
Riesling is responsible for the majority of Germany’s top wines with many critics arguing the grape finds its greatest, most delicate and raciest expression in the finest estates in the northerly Mosel region. Over the past decade, Riesling’s share of plantings in Germany continues to soar underpinned by its recent surge in popularity. Today’s new German quality standard for those producers playing in the higher priced market segment is a wine with uncompromising quality, reflecting an authenticity of terroir with minimalist intervention, and stamped with the winemakers’ unique fingerprint. Producers are also focusing on dry (trocken) expressions of the grape which inevitably appeal to the en vogue trend for drier styles of wine. With this trend towards producing dry Riesling with firmness and elegance, principally dry Spätlese (late harvest wines fermented dry with a corresponding higher level of richness of flavor and alcohol) or wines labelled Grosse Lage/Grosses Gewächs (“great site”/”great growth” denoting Germany’s very best vineyard and their corresponding top vine parcels), German Riesling wines are commanding new found respect in both Germany and abroad.
But the grape has also seen increased production in “New World” wine countries. The US, in particular, has seen astounding success with the total area of California Riesling vineyards doubling between 2003 and 2012, inspired by the success of Ernst Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle’s joint Eroica Riesling venture. But it doesn’t stop here. Upon speaking with Ernst he fondly recalls how every winemaker he has met from Australia and New Zealand has a Riesling project noting “how proud they are about the Riesling they produce” and how this has “immensely helped” to spur on Riesling’s noble image.
With that said, it is undeniable one of the more difficult facets of the Riesling grape for wine drinkers is there is no typical style making ordering a glass a bit of a gamble unless you have more information. However Ernst describes this phenomenon as one of the “strange beauties” of Riesling – “Riesling; it’s like an actor who can play a myriad of roles – it can be bone dry, medium sweet, or you can make it sweet…You can twist it so much and create many different styles. You can even create a 10 course wine dinner and offer 10 different Rieslings.”
So whether you are looking for a dry white wine with the equivalency of a great Bordeaux red, a remarkable, lusciously sweet wine, an intriguing wine of age to enjoy with food, or a easy to enjoy quaffing wine Riesling offers it all.
Reason for drinking Riesling? None needed.
Producer in the Spotlight and Recommended Wines:
Loosen is renowned for crafting some of Mosel’s finest Riesling. Unphased by “strange” trends or ratings but instead staunchly sticking to his own vision of what makes a great wine. Ernst’s Great Grandfather on his father’s side produced only dry wines. Honoring his heritage Loosen continues to craft wines exactly in the same way as his Great Grandfather once did, stamping his own unique fingerprint bound by tradition and finely balanced modernity.