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WBW 45: Old World Riesling

WBW 45: Old World Riesling

by Tim Elliott on May 7, 2008

The Mosel was the first wine region I toured. It was back in the summer of 1971 when I was almost 11, so I was not tasting any wines. But the impact of that visit stuck with me when a decade later I first got into wine. The black cat label of Zeller Schwartz Katz became more common on the dinner table after this trip and when wine was present in my formative years, Riesling was more often than not the variety enjoyed.

But it probably wasn’t just this early exposure to the grape that compelled me to drink more Riesling; it was the complexity and potential for aging of the wines that make this my favorite white variety.

Like my second favorite white Roussanne, Riesling shows well in youth but takes on more complexity with age. I’ve tasted dry Rieslings almost 30 years old that still have youthful bouquet and flavors despite their tawny color. The wines seem to go through some sort of metamorphosis of fruit and floral to fruit, mineral and gasoline, noted by most wine lovers as “petrol.” In the best Rieslings, the wine is supported by a backbone of acidity that can make even a 9% alcohol wine hold up for decades.

Riesling travels but not as well as other noble whites such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. While those varieties can grow and produce good wines almost anywhere, Riesling is fickle and only shows it’s magic in specific microclimates.

That’s why I chose the Old World of Northern Europe as the place for this Wine Blogging Wednesday devoted to Riesling. It just seems that Rieslings of every price point are so much better there. I know that the variety can be great in Australia, Washington State, and parts of California, but to truly enjoy the essence of the grape you have to go to Europe.

My WBW 45 SelectionsMy two selections tonight are from the Mosel region of Germany. I thought it would be interesting to compare what age does to the variety so each wine is similar in style but 5 years different in age.

Tasting Notes:

Max Ferdinand Richter, Riesling, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2006 ($14) – Pale straw-green in color with aromas of green apple, wet stone and lime. In the mouth, green apple and citrus flavors give way to a nice mineral note and good acidity. Although dry, the finish gives the impression of slight sweetness due to the vibrant fruit. A nicely done young Mosel Riesling that should improve with some bottle age.

10% ABV
Stelvin closure
Score: 89
Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy this wine at domaine 547

Weingut Wwe. Dr. H. Thanisch, Bernkasteler Badstube, Riesling, Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer 2001 ($25) – Light straw color with a bouquet of baked apples, stone and petrol. Bright and fresh with green apple and mineral flavors finishing with bracing acidity. A solid aged Riesling with years ahead of it. Good thing I still have some more bottles in the cellar to taste down the road.

9% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 89
Rating: ★★★½☆

So a draw in the scoring but two really nice Rieslings that demonstrate why I love this variety so much. As I post this, nearly 50 other bloggers have responded to my call and have posted some great wines. Once all the entries have been blogged I will write a summary that will hopefully document all the many faces of Riesling. Stay tuned.

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