September 29, 2012
September 26, 2012
The Frog Turns Into a Prince and Another Prince Keeps the Crown: More on Rheingau and Mosel Rieslings
1. Riesling contrasts: I talk about my experience with the differences between Rheingau and Mosel wines.
2. This sampling of mostly Rheingau wines really impressed me -- I talk about Domdechant Werner dry Riesling (a top shelf wine), Schloss Johannisberg Spätlese (off-dry but great with Chinese), and a loser for me -- Hans Lang dry Riesling.
3. I end on a high note, discussing one of the most awesome Rieslings for the money that I've come across -- Knebel. This is a MUST try, as some friends of mine discovered when they were shocked to discover the wine they were raving about was a German Riesling!
As a follow up to my last post on some Mosel Rieslings, I'm posting on a few more -- 3 from Rheingau and 1 from Mosel, for contrast.
This was the most surprising batch of Rieslings that I've tasted in a while (all courtesy of the Wines of Germany program, BTW). I gotta admit, I am feeling just a little guilty for being kind of bitchy about how I think Rheingau is over-rated. Maybe it's like dating. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince.
Although the results were slightly mixed, I'm happy to report that Rheingau has finally turned into a prince for me!
Two Rheingau wines below were both high quality -- and both live up to their VDP distinction. Just as a refresher (this is lifted from the Germany Primer...):
...for 150 years, the folks living [in Rheingau] have taken special pride in their knowledge. Germany has a nationwide classification system based on how ripe the grapes are, but Rheingau has its own standards for quality. Its Charta system, now taken over by the VDP, a quality assurance group that includes the top vineyards and producers in Germany, ranks the best vineyard sites.
Although I haven't always found this to be true, the theory goes -- if you want the good stuff, look for VDP on the label.
In my experience up to now, most wines from Rheingau have been light, fruity, and pleasant but nothing to get me fired up. I would never use any of the Rheingaus I've had to turn someone on to Riesling and change their attitude about it. I usually use dry Mosel Rieslings or those from Alsace, France to do that.
But these two wines...mmmmm, mmmmm:
Wine #1: 2007 Domdechant Werner Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Trocken, Erstes Gewäch (first growth, highest quality)
Color: Lighter than a lot of Rheingau Rieslings I've had, this was less golden and more like a hay color. Although color usually doesn't tell you that much about a wine, I knew there may be something different going on with this one just by its looks. And I was right!
Smell: This was super aromatic, not soft and gentle like most Rheingaus I've had. There was a big hit of peach, gardenia flower, and some lemon scents. It smelled like fresh springtime rain in a meadow. There was a LOT of character and lots of different smells of outdoors and fruit.
Taste: Damn.This wine was the perfect balance of lemon/green apple fruit and fresh rain/waterfall flavors. It was so delicious that it's hard to describe. The fruit was full and rich, but because the wine was dry, rocky-tasting, and had super-high acidity, I got the impression of fruit but none of the cloying, syrupy flavor that I sometimes find in Riesling.
Drink or Sink: Drink! This was a complex wine -- meaning you could keep describing it 100 different ways and still not be done -- and it had power but was still elegant. I know it costs bucks, but this is Riesling at its best.
My only caveat is that upon doing research on Domdechant Werner, it seems like 2007 was a really exceptional year for weather in their vineyards. What does that mean? Other vintages may not be quite as insanely good. That said, if you see a good deal on one of these, grab it...especially if it's 2007. With some pasta primavera, I was in love.
Wine 2: 2010 Schloss Johannisberg, Grünlack, Riesling Spätlese
A note on Schloss Johannisberg (whose Kabinett I reviewed in the Riesling Primer earlier this year): they are a legendary winery.
They've been making wine from about 1,200 years and were the first wine estate to grow Riesling exclusively. Spätlese, or late harvest Riesling, was invented here in the 1700s (by mistake -- they waited too long to harvest the grapes because of a late messenger...story for another time). It was a wine available only to royalty for centuries and today, 1/10 of the harvest still goes directly to the Hapsburgs in Austria.
Where it's from: From Rheingau, from the estate of Schloss Johannisberg.
The Grape: 100% Riesling. Spätlese means it's slightly sweet/off-dry.
The Alcohol: 8.5% (low alcohol means that not all the sugar was fermented... good thing to look for in German wines to indicate the sweetness level).
Color: This was like brass. It was a rich, golden yellow, which was a good tip off that I was about to taste the ripeness of the grapes at harvest and the sugar in the wine.
Smell: Much lighter than the Domechant, this was like sugary lemon, pears, peaches, and a little bit of white gardenia flowers. It wasn't overwhelming to smell, but light and sweet.
Taste: Here's the thing: this isn't a wine to drink on its own. BUT it's awesome with food. It was really fruity -- like a fruit salad with a lot of fresh peach in it. It was a little bit like sweet lemon, but the real action for me was the texture. The wine was full -- it hit every tooth, gum, and cheek surface! And it had crazy acidity. My mouth was watering long after I finished the wine. It was sweet and a little thick by itself, even with all the acid.
Drink or Sink: Drink! I broke this out with some very spicy Chinese food and it was luscious. It offset all the 5 alarm spice from the chili and everything seemed to taste more mellow and fruity. My mouth was thankful for the break so I was sipping lots of wine in between bites. It calmed down the fire in my mouth like no other wine could!
The wine is unbelievable quality with great acid and fruit, but at this sweetness level I don't think it's a sipping wine, so just keep that in mind if you buy this one.
A great gift for someone who loves Asian food, BTW.
Wine 3: 2009 Hans Lang Rheingau Charta Riesling
Hans Lang is a much newer producer than the previous two -- having only started after WWII. The Weingut (winery in German) is also a member of the VDP.
Where it's from: Rheingau.
The Grape: 100% Riesling.
Color: Like the others, it was a brassy, golden color and a little spritzy -- something common in German Rieslings.
Smell: Not a whole heck of a lot going on here. Slightly like a floral perfume (like at the end of the night after it has worn off), a little bit of honey, and then a hot rock smell, but not much to speak of. This is what I usually find in Rheingau Rieslings.
Taste: To quote my notes: "Not good." This wine seemed out of balance. There was no fruit flavor -- just a little bit of honey or sugar taste and it was bitter. After it left my mouth I tasted something like a mothball. It had way too much acid with no fruit to balance it. A very harsh flavor.
Drink or Sink: Sink. This is the worst wine I've had from the Wines of Germany program. I'm not sure if it was the bottle, the vintage, or just the wine but I wouldn't recommend getting this one when there are so many better Rieslings for the price. Not good.
And one from Mosel...
I'll end on a high note. This will solidify the style contrast too.
I cracked open a Mosel Riesling with friends earlier in the week and it was really impressive.
When I served it to my friends I didn't tell them what it was. They RAVED about it and when I did the reveal they said they'd never pick up a Riesling on their own because they assumed the wines were all sweet. The pairings with EVERY cheese I served -- from cracked pepper Parmesan to Gruyere to aged Gouda -- were perfection and my wine loving friends marveled at how versatile the wine was. This is a TOTAL winner.
This is a relatively new wine estate, started in the 1990s after the family vineyard, producing wine since 1604, was carved up and given to various family member.
It is small and, by all accounts, in an area that is so steep that it requires back-breaking labor to harvest. Reinhard and Beate Knebel -- husband and wife (the formal name of the winery is Weingut Reinhard und Beate Knebel) have an undying devotion to organic farming, traditional winemaking methods, and allowing the grape to shine. All this shows in the wine.
I will most definitely be buying this wine again and will be seeking out their other selections -- they are top notch.
Price: $17 (but is more like $30 to taste)
Where it's from: Very steep slopes in the Mosel -- you really need to rely on nature to bring good grapes to fruitition. This is a gambler's area in which to grow grapes.
The Grape: 100% Riesling
The Alcohol: 11.5%
Color: In contrast to Rheingau, the dry Rieslings of Mosel are generally lighter in color -- more like a pale yellow or straw color. This was no different.
Smell: Again, as a contrast to most Rheingau which are generally low in aroma, I find that the Rieslings of the Mosel are super aromatic -- they are bursting with fruit and earth smells. This wine had the typical peachy, nectarine, lime character and was also very floral. After it warmed up just a little bit I also smelled a waterfall and then black tea and jasmine tea -- brought me back to when my dad used to take me and my sister to Chinatown (in NYC) for our monthly dose of hiding under the table after eating only white rice and sipping tea.
Taste: WOW! This was an unbelievable wine, especially for the price. It tasted a lot like jasmine or green tea. After it went down I thought it was little like a fresh raspberry too. I loved the acid against the floral and fruity smells and flavors. M.C. Ice was in heaven. He doesn't like Rieslings that are oily or full-feeling in your mouth and this was crisp yet still flavorful. What a great wine for sipping and for cheese, appetizers, or lighter pastas!
Drink or Sink: Drink. I highly recommend this wine. I've had a lot of Riesling and for the price, this is one of the best.
So that's the Riesling round-up for this time. We're going to do a podcast very soon on this amazing grape, so stay tuned!
September 20, 2012
Following a catch up on shout-outs (thank you so much for the comments!) and a listener question about "bottleshock" and transport of wine, we hit the main topic, given to us by Paula Kidwell, a great podcast fan!
Her question: What are the wines that I need to seek out to get an idea of the 10 classic, benchmark styles of major grapes?
We're a listener-driven show, so you're comments are our bidding!
I hit a few more than 10, but the main ones were:
- Bordeaux -- red, white, and sweet
- Syrah from the Northern Rhône
- Burgundy -- White and Red
- German Riesling
- Chianti Classico
September 19, 2012
In this month's feature with the fabulous Travel Belles, I sound off on the silly wine gadgets on which you should never waste time or money.
From crazy (and a little obscene) decanters to wine aerators, I give you the scoop on why I think these gadgets are total losers!
Check out the article:
September 10, 2012
I've done a ton of posts on Rieslings from Mosel, from Rheingau, from Austria, from Alsace...there's lots of info on the blog about these wines, their origins, and how they differ.
So this post is a straight up review of two wines I recently tasted from Mosel. One good, one blah, both sent from the the Wines of Germany program, of which I'm grateful and lucky to be a part.
These wines are interesting to me because they are off-dry/semi-sweet. Lots of people have the perception that Rieslings are sweet and so they steer clear of them...M.C. Ice (my husband/co-podcaster, if you're a new blog reader) is one of them. And you know what? I would too if all I'd ever had was nasty, cheap plonk. Bad, sweet Riesling really does suck.
But when you get a good one with a little sweetness, like
one of the wines mentioned below (I'm not telling you which one now -- I don't want to steal my own fire), pair that stuff up with some salty cheese or Asian and fireworks go off. Wine isn't just for sipping and sometimes the best pairings are the things that on their own aren't that great.
So here you go...
Johannes Selbach, the winemaker and director for the Selbach-Oster Estate, a fabulous Mosel producer, made this wine to compete with the other kind of sweet, kind of inexpensive wines out there (Schmitt-Söhne's Relax, Gallo's Pölka Dot). Although it has the "commercial appeal," this is far from this prestigious producer's best wine.
The Incline they are talking about is the super steep slopes of the Mosel, which require extensive hand harvesting and manual care.They've got great raw material to work with
The Alcohol: Low, 10.5%
Color: Sort of greenish and spritzy -- with little bubbles. The wine was very bright and looked like liquid glycerin.
Smell: Really nice -- lime, nectarines, and red apple fruit aromas. There was a stony smell (like a waterfall) and then something fresh, like flowers and laundry drying outside.
Taste: This was slightly sweet for sure. It was super acidic and a little bitter too -- it reminded me of limeade. Sadly it didn't taste like it smelled at all. It was kind of blah. A little lemon, a touch of lime but nothing big. Even some hard, salty Piave cheese couldn't save it. It was boring all the way.
Drink or Sink?: I'm a little ambivalent but leaning towards sink. It lacked the flavor, finesse, and acid that most Mosel Rieslings have. It was a shadow of what this wine could be. Nothing exciting and not worth it for a sweeter style Riesling.
Vineyard: Wehlener Sonnenuhr (pronounced, VAY-len-er ZON-en-ooer. The Sonnenuhr vineyard is in the town of Wehlen -- the "er" is kind of like an "s" in English), in the Mosel region.
The Alcohol: Low, 8%
Color: Similar to the Selbach Incline, this was golden with a little green tint and spritzy bubbles.
Smell: More like a traditional Mosel Riesling than the Incline (and at more than double the price it should be), it smelled like peaches, limes, and fresh green herbs with lots of chalky, stone smells and a strong hit of petrol/gasoline, which sounds gross but which I love in a Riesling. It was a perfect blend of fruit and earth.
Taste: Like the Incline, this was an off-dry style but unlike the Incline, it had a LOT of great stuff going on. The wine was like a cup of lemon tea with honey. It tasted like peaches, limes, and, I mean this in the most positive way possible, a little like a honey glazed donut. The medium-weight from all that sugar and fruit was brightened by strong, mouthwatering acidity. It was a tad sweet to sip on it's own, but with salty, aged Gouda with protein crystals it was delicious.
Drink or Sink: Definitely drink, especially if you've got Asian food or salty cheese. With something salty, damn! it's good and kind of transformative.
I know sweet wines aren't everyone's favorite, but it pays to try them every now and again for their pairing qualities. Get on the Max Ferd. Richter wine. I promise that with something salty, you'll thank me for it!
September 6, 2012
September 4, 2012
Color: Golden and a little brassy, the darker color is from the grape not from any oak aging -- this is made in 100% stainless steel.
Smell: So fresh! Jasmine tea and white flowers, lemons, grapefruit, minerals, and wet rocks or a waterfall came to mind.
Taste: Much more than meets the nose, this wine was medium to full bodied and was like liquid silk the way it kind of rolled around my mouth. There was a touch of bitterness, like from the skin of an almond (taste it next time you pop an almond and you'll know what I'm talking about). With a reasonable but not overpowering amount of acid, this wine was like a silky Sauvignon Blanc with a little more floral and mineral flavor.
Food Pairing: Bring on the light fish, tortilla Española (a Spanish omelet), and light pasta dishes. This could stand up to chicken in an herb rub and could even be a contender for Thanksgiving wine -- it would be great with turkey, potatoes, and even green beans.
Drink or Sink: Drink! The texture of this wine makes it outstanding. I love this wine. So high quality and I just wanted to keep drinking it. Even writing about it has me dying for a sip now (no cracks inside your head about how I'm an alcoholic, I always wait until noon!).