Understanding Riesling – Part 2

Part two of a two part series on Riesling.

2008, Rebenhoff, Urziger Wurzgarten, “Von alten Reben”, Riesling: Spatlese, Mosel, Germany


Ripe on the nose; round tree fruits, such as apple and pear, a bit of citrus and chalk, with a pleasing balance of acidity and sweetness. My go-to pairing for this style of wine is spicy Thai food with some sort of lightly salted protein such as shrimp, chicken or beef. The residual sugar within the wine actually counter balances the spice, allowing for the acidity in the wine to match well with the acidity in the food [ie: especially the fresh squeezed lemon I like to top mine with] as well as whatever soy and salty protein remains within the dish.

Now to my favorite part.. Dry Riesling. And this, my friends, is where it’s at. Sometimes it keeps me up at night- just laying there, thinking about all those compact clusters of speckled pale-yellowish-golden berries sitting on the vine, slowly ripening in a cool climate, struggling to attain as much nourishment as possible from a deep, well drained patch of slate or sandy loam.. if I could just..

OK, that’s enough drinking for me right now. Sorry, I’ll just go ahead and put this bottle away until this blog is finished up, we probably don’t want things to get any more awkward then they already have..

Where was I. Oh yeah, Dry Riesling. OK, so if you did’t know, regions such as Alsace, Austria, and Australia are very well known for producing some of the most fantastic renditions of drier styles of Riesling that are available on the market today. Though, this isn’t to say that these regions do not produce those which are off-dry to sweet. For example, Alsace has a category of quality wines which are categorized as ‘stylistic AOC’s’, one which is designated for fruit that has been effected by ‘pourriture noble’, or noble rot [that Botrytis stuff we talked about earlier] known as ‘Alsace Selection de Grains Nobles AOC’. As well as ‘Vendage Tardives’ which are wines made from late harvest-select fruit. The good thing here is that when you see either of these designations on a label, you know right off the bat what you’re dealing with. That wasn’t completely necessary to include here, but I know more than one of you started reading this entry and, rightfully so, wanted to argue right away that grouping these regions as I did, as well as choosing to only associate sweet styles coming from Germany and dry hailing from Alsace, Austria, and Australia, wouldn’t be completely truthful. After all, dry wine can come from anywhere, as can off dry and sweet wine- depending on the producer. But, I think that it would be safe to say that as an overall generalization based off of what regions are more specifically well known for what style is more so important than getting into the nitty gritty and arguing over a generalized statement right now. For myself, I particularly found this to be a good starting point for memorization purposes and getting a grasp on traditional vinification practices according to region.

For these I choose three wines. One from each region, and brought them home to do a bit of in depth tasting ‘research.’ Let’s go in store order from left to right, starting with the Australia.

Fine examples of quality South Australian Riesling can be found at reasonable prices due to several reasons. Two of which are, they don’t typically require costly vinification techniques such as new, expensive oak barrels to age in- which keeps production costs down. As well as the fact that the high production of Chardonnay out of Australia has completely dominated the market, leaving Riesling trailing slowly behind [but becoming increasingly popular over the last several years]. The warmer climate of Australia suggests that aromatic varietals such as Riesling can’t really mature slowly on the vine in a way which leads the varietal to really express its true colors. A warmer climate means faster phenolic and physiological ripening, which when seen in excess, just isn’t something Riesling benefits from. Knowing this, growers have learned to both search out cooler climates, such as higher elevated vineyards like Eden Valley- where warmer days, followed by cooler nights [which help retain acidity within the fruit], helps to produce a more elegant and crisp style, boasting hallmark qualities of citrus, floral and lengthy acidity. As well as producing a style which just screams ‘I’m coming from a warmer area, take me as I am!’ like those from the Barossa Valley, which is located in a warmer, low lying area- producing qualities of richer, more robust fruits such as developed citrus, and tree fruits, with a rounder mouthfeel, as we see in this wine:

2009, Chateau Tanunda, ‘Grand Barossa’, South Australia


Dry. Robust with lots of bright, developed citrus fruits, passion fruit, and some sort of blossoms and/or florals that I just can’t quite put my finger on. As expected, a very nice acidity, and more so of a round mouth feel than one coming from a cooler climate. For this guy I would say french fries. But, not just any fry.. McDonalds french fries.. with extra salt. Seriously, go now.. hurry, before they.. run out?

Next is Alsace. Alsace is located within France- squished in between the Vosges Mountains, which provides a rain shadow from the west, and the Rhine River, which offers greatly appreciated coastal- cooling effects,.. benefiting early budding and late ripening, aromatic varietals [*Cough*, Riesling]. Riesling in Alsace is the most widely planted varietal, and by far the most highly regarded. These renditions are steely, minerally, and boast complex scents of citrus such as lemon and lime, as well as tree fruits like apple and peach. You might be thinking ‘Hey, this description looks familiar, didn’t he say that about the Australian Riesling?’ You’re definitely right, I did. But, remember, we’re still dealing with the same varietal here.. just grown in a different climate and in different types of soil. The anchoring flavor components for varietals are generally going to stay the same [remember: generally] though, their prominence within the structure of the wine will be -in or -de creased depending on where you are.

Is it just me or are my paragraphs slowly diminishing in length. Come on though, can you blame me? These four open bottles have been starring me in the face for over an hour and a half now..

The wine:

2009 Hugel, Alsace, France


Dry. Bright and youthful, showing hints of green apple skins, grapefruits, lemon juice, white peaches, some chalk and maybe even a bit of gun smoke. Vibrant acidity, with a medium minus to medium body. This wine would work great as an aperitif, or with smoked fish, oysters on the half, summer salads with citrus vinaigrettes, and or ceviche.

Alright, here we are: Austria.

First cut around the front, second cut around the back, removes foil, half a screw in, hold to steady, twist down, first rung and lift, second rung and lift, pulls cork out, sniff, pour, sip.

The Wachau, Austria is, according to Robert Park is “Home to some of the finest white wines made.” The terroir that these wines express- most specifically the primeval stone which they grow within- makes these wines… rich, complex, and mouth-filling with a ravishing acidity and crazy-long finish that continued throughout the entire time it took me to write these last two sentences.. alright, I’m done. Sorry, I can’t go on any longer.

The wine:

2008, Knoll Federspiel, Wachau, Austria


Coolest, most complex out of the bunch. Showing not hints, but kicks of round stone fruits, peaches of all different sorts, beautiful minerality, and even a bit of.. is that pumpkin spice? The body is rich in flavors which the nose came about, the acidity is ravishing, and the finish is Loooooooooong. Enjoy this on its own or pair with -any and -every thing from charcuterie and strong cheeses, olive oil poached salmon topped with a dollop of garlic and herb infused butter,.. or how about braised rabbit served over a semi-sweet reduction sauce with a side of crusted polenta.

Mmmmm, Riesling.

– GM

About The Woodward Spine

The Woodward Spine was the brainchild of Michael Fossano and Jeffrey Buck, two Royal Oak, Mich. natives who met nearly 10 years ago while attending the now-defunct George A. Dondero High School. It seemed fitting for the two Wayne State University alums to craft an outlet to help continually refine their writing skills, while also serving as a trusted source of information for the metro Detroit community. The Woodward Spine aims to inform its readers about relevant news and events through creative and informative posts not only by Mike and Jeff, but other upstanding citizens as well who are driven and proficient in these core areas: news, opinion, entertainment, history, sports and development. The Woodward Spine serves the tri-county metro Detroit area, however concentrating mainly on the communities that lie along the Woodward corridor.
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