By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 24 October 2020
Neglected for so many years, dry German Riesling is now enjoying something of a renaissance as wine lovers realise what incredible value they can offer.
One of UK’s leading specialists, Justerini & Brooks, who stocks over 530 German wines, has reported a record-breaking German wine 2019 en-primeur campaign this year.
“There is definitely a buzz around them, having been niche for decades”, says Julian Campbell J&B’s German wine buyer. “People are realising they can buy expressive site-specific dry Rieslings from a great producer at a good value price under £20”.
“Modest alcohol levels, potential longevity, transparency to site, sheer drinkability and food friendliness are all key defining features - and together make something unique”, he says.
Winemaker Katharina Prum of JJ Prum in Mosel (pictured above with her father Manfred) agrees: “Riesling is one of the most versatile styles which works well with different types of food: I like serving our Auslese with dim sum”.
One particular reason for German Riesling’s current success is that wine lovers have two great vintages to choose from. All of Germany’s diverse widespread regions from cooler Mosel to warmer Pfalz produced superb Rieslings in both 2018 and 2019.
“2018 was a gift vintage with over 90 summer days giving rich styles”, says Max von Schubert of Maximin Grunhaus in Mosel’s Ruwer Valley. “In contrast, 2019 had just 50 summer days, but with extreme heat peaks, giving lighter classier delicate styles – but both are very good vintages”.
Mosel and Nahe are two regions which were particularly successful in 2019. Winemaker Christophe Schaefer of Willi Schaefer comments that 2019 had great minerality & acid structure with small berries and ripe acidity – “a charm without any hardness”. “In contrast, in 2018 acidity is lower and alcohol higher, but there is still lots of intensity”, believes Thomas Haag of Schloss Lieser.
Both vintages can be enjoyed in many stages – whilst young (for example, 2018 Mosel Kabinetts are particularly good now) and also in decades to come. A new generation is redefining each region after Germany’s difficult past.
For example Christopher Loewen (pictured) of Weingut Carl Loewen in Mosel and Tim Frohlich of Weingut Schafer-Frohlich in Nahe are reviving steep old vineyard sites abandoned by forefathers – making the German wine community one of the most vibrant and creative in the world today.
Added to this, there are more dry German Rieslings (labelled as Trocken) being produced than ever before and they have never been better. Climate change is helping, with cooler Mosel benefitting most and some growers even protecting vines in the afternoon sun against sunburn, something we would never have heard two decades ago.
In the past dry Mosel Rieslings were edgy and austere, but now have nervy definition and slatey minerality alongside superb elegance, power and more ripeness. However, one disadvantage of a warming climate is that the beautiful approachable Kabinett style will become rarer, as this style is all about balance between acidity and sweetness, not just about sweetness.
It is time to snap up these dry Rieslings now – as these wines will undoubtedly creep up in price as more people across the world discover these gems. Other good wine merchants stocking German wines include: Howard Ripley, The Winery, The Wine Barn, Raeburn Wines and L’Art du Vin.
Rheinhessen: MOLSHEIM RIESLING TROCKEN 2017 Battenfeld-Spanier (12.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£20.28 Justerini & Brooks www.justerinis.com
A real find from a little-known estate in Molsheim in much-improved Rheinhessen. Olivier and Carolin are an inspiring couple focusing on dry wines on limestone soils with minimum intervention fermented in large old foudre. Full ripe peachy style, quite leesy, rich texture with perfectly pitched acidity and superb balance; intense concentrated example from challenging frost-prone 2017. Serve with chicken stir-fry or Asian salmon.
Pfalz: RIESLING VOM ROTLIEGENDEN TROCKEN 2017 Okonomierat Rebholz (11.5%)
£24.68 Justerini & Brooks www.justerinis.com
Precise pure dry Riesling with zesty citric fruit, fine spicy notes, slatey flavours, earthy minerally with mouthwatering juicy freshness and silky texture. Winemaker Hansjorg Rebholz makes crisper sleeker styles than often found in Pfalz – deriving from his great Kastanianbusch vineyard with red slate soils. Rich enough to pair with roast pork or duck.
Nahe: RIESLING TROCKEN 2018 Schafer-Frohlich (12%)
£17.55 L’Art du Vin www.aduv.co.uk
Lemony freshness, flinty bouquet, snappy acidity, so sleek and slender with juicy ripe peach & lemon pip on the palate. Tim Frohlich is one of Germany’s top Riesling winemakers who has amassed an enviable collection of steep slopes around Bochenau (having sold off his flat land). Frohlich produces very pure slender dry Rieslings using late harvest and spontaneous ferment techniques – a name to watch.
Mosel: VARIDOR RIESLING TROCKEN ‘MASSALE SELECTION’ 2015 Weingut Carl Loewen (12.5%) ***GOOD VALUE***
£14.99 Raeburn Fine Wines www.raeburnfinewines.com
Absolute bargain at this price, quality and maturity. Floral bouquet, limey, appley, minerally – beautifully crisp flinty bone-dry Mosel Riesling made by talented young winemaker Christopher Loewen from Leiwen village near Trier in southern Mosel – showing how good German dry Rieslings can be with bottle age.
Mosel: GOLDSTUCK RIESLING TROCKEN 2018 Schloss Lieser (12%)
£17.08 Justerini & Brooks
The most piquant dry Riesling in our tasting from Niederberg Helden vineyard near Piesport made by Thomas Haag. With a tight-rope act between acid and fruit, it has classy nervy tension, slight prickle on the palate, sappy, grapefruit pith and peel notes, all in a very dry linear style – more aperitif in style ideal with canapes or smoked salmon. Another producer to watch.
Mosel: GRAACHER HIMMELREICH RIESLING KABINETT 2018 JJ Prum (9%)
£19.68 Justerini & Brooks
Winemaker Katharina Prum recommends drinking her 2018 Kabinetts now, as they are so approachable and more open than her 2019s. Meadow flower bouquet with fabulous gentle delicacy on the palate, a rare trait these days. Yellow fruits, low alcohol, fresh acidity, mouthwatering with some sweetness - fermented in stainless steel with little sulphur used and released later than most; from Middle Mosel’s revered Himmelreich vineyard near Wehlen from a true traditionalist.
Join Rose’s Meet the Winemakers virtual tastings (Vignai da Duline & Le Soula) with Raeburn Wines Fri 30 Oct & Sat 7 Nov www.rosemurraybrown.com