It’s hard to believe that September is already here, particularly with temps breaking records all over the Bay Area. What do you do when it’s 85 at 7am in a city that rarely reaches 80 in general? You reach for some fun white wines! One of my favorite white wines that often gets a bad rap is Riesling. With the diversity of styles from bone dry to sticky sweet, and price points from $10 to $100, there is a Riesling for everyone. As we approach the holiday season, think Riesling for Thanksgiving, brunch and all of your family get togethers. From sweet to searingly dry, spicy and intriguing, Riesling is the perfect wine for any time, given it’s wide variety of styles, regions, and – sweetness. If you’re not sure how to pick your Riesling, check out my previous post on the German Wine Classification system here. Today, I have two great examples of affordable, fun, sassy, sexy German Riesling. Today, I bring you the Weingut Heitlinger Schellenbrunnen 2014 Riesling, from Tiefenbacher, Schellenbrunnen. This Troken (dry) white wine is just as luscious as they come, with ripe pear, a nutty note that hides the classic diesel / petrol notes, tropical flavors of quince and guava. The rich toasty marshmallow envelops spicy ginger and tickles your taste buds. With a budget friendly price tag of under $15, this is perfect for fruit salad or lighter dishes. Stay tuned for more Wines of Germany to come! Cheers! Thanks to the Wines of Germany and RF Binder for sharing this delightful representation of the diversity of Riesling!
When I was studying for my Certified Specialist of Wine credential, one of the most challenging regions for me was Germany. Not because of the wines specifically, as while there are some unusual varietals, most German wines are fairly well known, but for the simple reason that deciphering a German wine labels is an exercise in linguistics, frustration, and a pyramid that would make Giza look simple. The Rise of Riesling One of the most classic German wines is Riesling. Riesling is one of the most complex, diverse, and wondrous wines in the world, and I often want to say “taste the rainbow” when I think of Riesling. From bone dry, to sticky sweet, oily and petrol driven, to chalk and shale, Riesling is produced in a wide variety of styles. Understanding how to find the specific style you are looking for is part of the mystery and fascination of German wine. Cracking the Code Varietal The grape variety is clearly marked, so that’s easy. We have Riesling Must Weight Next, to determine the level of ripeness – or more technically the must weight of the harvested grapes (which really does not have any impact no sweetness of the finished wine), we look at the Prädikat level. For example, a Riesling picked at it’s fullest potential ripeness, or just a hare’s breath past late harvest, is known as Spätlese. If you’re looking for something that is picked below full ripeness, go for a Kabinett. For the sweet sticky beauty of a dessert wine, you want a wine that is at least Auslese, which is late harvest, but true stickies are Beerenauslese or Trokenbeerenauslese. Confusingly, Troken is also the word for “dry”. For this wine, it’s marked Spätlese, next to Riesling. Are you with me? How Sweet It Is Here we get to the tricky part. Since you need to determine the level of sweetness separately from the must weight, you need to classify the taste of the sugar content, using Troken (dry) or Feinherb (off-dry). This wine is dry, or Trocken. The relatively new Riesling Scale can help us Americans with these things. While some people disparage the International Riesling Foundation’s dumbing down of Riesling, at a simple level, it’s helpful. That said, remember that Riesling is a high acid grape. Acid balances sweetness, so that even a Medium Sweet Riesling may not play that tune when you are drinking it with maple smoked salmon. Are You A Good Witch, or a Bad Witch? Now that we understand what the flavor profile might be in the glass, we need to look at where it is from. The Qualitätswein (QbA) and Prädikatswein (QmP) designations denote quality wine and quality wine from a specific region, and table wine (Taflewein) and bulk wine (Landwein) are the lower brow everyday wines. This wine is Prädikatswein, a quality wine from a specific region The Mosel Right. So really, there are many layers of classification but once you understand the basis for categorization, you can generally interpret what to expect from the wine. […]