Riesling Round-Up

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Reported by Larry Woods

There is so much to love about Riesling – the range of styles from bone dry through sweet, the fruity and floral aromas and flavours, the intense minerality and naturally high acidity, and the ability to age and evolve over the years, not to mention the reasonable prices. This tasting covered a range of wines from most of the significant Riesling producing regions/countries, from 2004 through 2011 vintages. The sweetest wine had more than 50 times the sugar concentration of the driest wine. When planning this tasting, it was a challenge to choose only 14 of the many Rieslings available, including Rieslings purchased and cellared over the last several years and some recent purchases from the LCBO.

As they arrived, guests were greeted with an unusual sparkling Riesling from Dr. Loosen in Germany’s Mosel valley. This wine was light, fresh, enjoyable and reasonable value at $13.95. “Dr. Loosen produces only Riesling from traditional, slate-soil vineyards in the Mosel valley” and “owe their excellent quality to three major factors: the exceptional regional climate of the Middle Mosel area, the mineral-rich slate and volcanic soils, and the incredible age of the estate’s ungrafted Riesling vines” (Dr. Loosen web site).

In the first flight of four Rieslings, all were dry, with residual sugar of less than 8 grams/litre. The clear favorite was from Joseph Chromy in Tasmania, Australia. This was a very lovely dry wine made from hand- picked perfectly ripe fruit. It had slightly less acidity (i.e., was slightly less crisp) than the other wines in the flight and a very pleasant long finish. It was similar in style to the excellent $35 Charles Baker Riesling made at Stratus in Niagara. “Joseph Chromy fled his war-torn Czech village as a penniless 20yearold after eleven years of Nazi and Soviet occupation” (Josef Chromy web site) and immigrated to Australia. He made his fortune in the meat business and has invested heavily in Tasmania’s wine industry over the last ten years, winning many awards. He started the Josef Chromy Winery in December 2007 at the age of 76!

The second favorite of the flight, Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from upstate New York, was dry with more flinty minerality than petrol, tropical on the nose and some noted that it seemed slightly buttery. There was a guess that it could be from Cave Spring in Niagara, which is stylistically similar and geographically close. Some felt that this wine was aggressively sour. Dr. Konstantin founded his winery over 50 years ago and is a widely respected pioneer and leader in the New York wine industry.

The Austrian Undhof Kögl was described as crisp and bone dry, light and delicate, with citrus, peach and pear aromas and flavours, and it had a pleasant slight bitterness on the finish. While “The Mistress” from Kim Crawford in New Zealand had a lot of minerality and tropical fruitiness and was dry and rounder than the Undhof and the Dr. Frank, it had an unpleasant sulphur-based aroma which mercifully faded after some time in the glass.

The first and second wines in the slightly sweeter second (off dry) flight were the 2008 and 2004 vintages, respectively, of the premium CSV Riesling from Cave Spring Cellars. Both were described as very pleasant off-dry wines with lots of fruit, great aromatics and good minerality, with citrus/lime, elements of honey and a long finish. The older 2004 vintage was slightly darker and had a bit more petrol on the nose, but was amazingly crisp and fresh for a nine year old wine. The 2004 CSV Riesling was the first Canadian table wine ever to be awarded a score higher than 90 by Wine Spectator magazine.

The clear favorite of the second flight was the Genesis Riesling from the Columbia Valley in Washington State. Tasters loved the aromas and flavours of fresh fruit (tangerine, mango, lime), the pleasant floral notes, the “full throttle” body and the pronounced slate/minerality. This was a well-balanced, “yummy and juicy” wine with a pleasant long finish.

The final wine of this flight, the Ollwiller Grand Cru Alsace Riesling, had a rounder, “oily” style typical of Alsace, and was described by some as peppery or spritzy. A couple of tasters, however, did not like this wine and felt that it was unlike other Alsace Rieslings they had tasted. It was from one of the smallest wine cooperatives in Alsace—the Vieil Armand co-op has nearly 100 growers operating an area of about 140 hectares.

The strong favorite of the third (sweet) flight was the fabulous 2005 Piesporter Goldtröpchen Riesling Kabinett from Weingut St. Urbans- Hof in Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany. This same wine (same vintage) was included in the last Guild Riesling tasting in June 2009. Tasters loved the sweetness and delicious apricot fruitiness of this wine. The Piesporter Goldtröpchen vineyard is considered to be one of the very best vineyards in Germany. When this wine was released by the LCBO in 2007, it received an outstanding “two-glasses” rating (“We both agree – a brilliant wine”) from winecurrent.com. Guild Governor and Past President Vic Harradine of winecurrent.com wrote, “Purchase and drink this to become a life-long convert to German Rieslings. The nose is delicate with peach, mineral and floral notes to the fore. You’ll begin your tasting experience with a creamy texture and a mélange of fruit flavours, including sweet pineapple, zesty citrus and juicy, ripe peach. The finish layers on more sweet fruit flavours, magically balanced with bracing acidity” (winecurrent.com, June 9th, 2007 Vintages Release).

The much younger 2011 Spatlese was from the same Piesporter Goldtröpchen vineyard, but from a different producer, Hoffmann-Simon. Most tasters agreed that this was another excellent wine, with more lime flavours and acidity than the third wine. One taster thought that it tasted somewhat like a Gewurtztraminer, with a soapy, spice element. Another taster detected a “maudite” note of something like rotting fig.

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Mosel, Germany was owned by the Hermann Weiss family. In the 1970’s, Hermann bought land in the Niagara and planted his Weiss 21 clone Riesling. The Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling was made using grapes from the Weiss 21 clone, from vines planted in 1978. Tasters loved this “zippy” (very crisp) wine, which had great minerality, citrus/lime/apple/floral aromas and flavours and a long dry crisp finish. It was elegant and well- balanced. The “Black Sheep” name comes from the sheep that are used in the vineyard to keep the leaves on the vines trimmed, allowing the sunlight to reach the grapes and help them to ripen properly.

The Seaglass Riesling from Monterey County in California was considered to be good value at $13.95. It had a very fresh nose with pleasant floral notes and light, fresh citrus/lime flavours, a slightly creamy mouth feel and a reasonable balance between sweetness and acidity. One taster said that it had a certain “je ne sais quoi” that made it attractive and very drinkable, although perhaps too light to have with food.

The final wine of the evening was the fabulous Henry of Pelham 2008 Riesling Icewine. It was delightfully rich, lovely and sweet, but with good acidity to balance the intense sweetness. It had some interesting sweet spice notes and a lovely long finish. Tasters commented that it was the perfect end to a wonderful tasting of Rieslings.

Opening Wine

  • “Dr. L” Sparkling Riesling, Germany, NV”Loosen Bros., 12.5% ABV, #296095, $13.95

First Flight

  • Undhof Kögl Riesling, Krems Stein, Austria, 2007, Saloman Undhof, 12.5% ABV, #598540, $19.00
  • Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, New York State, USA, 2011, Vinifera Wine Cellars, 12.0%ABV, $15.00
  • “The Mistress” Small Parcel Waipara, Wairapara, New Zealand, 2006, Kim Crawford, 13.0% ABV, 90134, $24.95
  • Joseph Chromy Riesling, Tasmania, Australia, 2008, Josef Chromy, 13.5% ABV, 162966, $20.60

Second Flight

  • CSV Riesling, Beamsville Bench VQA, Ontario, 2008, Cave Spring, 11.5% ABV, 566026, $29.95
  • CSV Riesling, Niagara Pensinsula VQA, Ontario, 2004, Cave Spring, 12.0% ABV, 566026, $30.00
  • Genesis Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA, 2010, Hogue, 12.1% ABV, 309666, $18.95
  • Ollwiller Grand Cru Alsace Riesling, Alsace, France, 2009, Vieil Armand, 12.0% ABV, 315135, $20.95

Third Flight

  • Seaglass Riesling, Monterey County, California, USA, 2011, Seaglass, 12.8% ABV, 237743, $13.95
  • Black Sheep Riesling, Niagara Pensinsula VQA, Ontario, 2011, Featherstone, 10.0% ABV, 80234, $16.95
  • Piesporter Goldtröpchen Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany, 2005, Weingut St. Urbans-Hof, 9.5% ABV, 955328, $20.95
  • Piesporter Goldtröpchen Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, Germany, 2011, Hoffmann-Simon, 9.0% ABV, 216499, $21.95

Final Wine

  • Riesling Icewine, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario, 2008, Henry of Pelham, 9.0% ABV, 430561, $49.95 (375 ml)