10 rea­sons to give ries­ling another look

Merced Sun-Star - - Explore - BY ERIC ASI­MOV

No other wine has been the ob­ject of such de­voted cam­paign­ing, pros­e­ly­tiz­ing and ar­dor as ries­ling.

What has been the re­sult of all that fer­vor? Yawns, mostly.

Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, re­tail sales of ries­ling in the United States have dropped over the last few years, though they shot up­ward over the first 2 1⁄2 months of the pan­demic, out­per­form­ing sales of wine as a whole dur­ing that time.

Ries­ling seems to be one of those wines, like Loire reds, that do not move con­sumers in the way wine writers as­sume and hope, no mat­ter how im­pas­sioned the prom­ise that it takes only one sip to be­come a con­vert.

Per­haps it’s con­fu­sion: Is ries­ling sweet? Is it dry? How can you tell?

The glory of ries­ling’s ver­sa­til­ity is para­dox­i­cally both a strength and a com­mer­cial weak­ness. Its ca­pac­ity to make com­plex, thrilling dry wines as well as lus­cious yet re­fresh­ing sweet wines is un­matched. But in a world that prefers sim­ple mes­sag­ing, ries­ling’s spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ties may be con­found­ing.

This is com­pounded by a gen­eral fear of sweet wines. For too long in the mid-20th cen­tury, ries­ling was as­so­ci­ated with cheap, bland Ger­man sweet wines like Blue Nun and Black Tower.

Peo­ple seem more ac­cept­ing of dry ries­ling, which is the pre­dom­i­nant style around the world, even in Ger­many.

Un­for­tu­nately, it’s not al­ways easy to dis­cern which ries­lings are dry and which have some de­gree of sweet­ness. Ger­man ries­lings marked “trocken” are al­ways dry, but not all dry Ger­man ries­lings carry the des­ig­na­tion.

Aus­tralian ries­lings tend to be dry un­less marked oth­er­wise. This is also true of U.S. ries­lings, most of the time. But oc­ca­sion­ally I am sur­prised. If you’re in doubt, it’s worth dou­blecheck­ing with a re­tailer or som­me­lier.

In the in­ter­est of cham­pi­oning the beauty of ries­ling, here are 10 mod­er­ately priced bot­tles of dry ries­ling, roughly $20 to $45, from around the world.

Her­mann J. Wiemer, Seneca Lake Ries­ling Dry 2018; $19.99: Her­mann J. Wiemer, an im­mi­grant from the Mosel Val­ley, was one of the pi­o­neer­ing mod­ern wine­mak­ers in the Fin­ger Lakes and an early pro­po­nent of ries­ling there. Wiemer sold the es­tate in 2007 to Oskar Bynke and Fred Mer­warth, who man­ages the vine­yards and makes the wine. The Wiemer ries­lings have al­ways been more flo­ral than min­eral. Breath­ing in this wine is like in­hal­ing a meadow full of flow­ers. It’s flo­ral on the palate, too, with a touch of fruit and wet stones.

Dreis­si­gacker, Rhein­hessen Ries­ling Trocken 2018; $19.99: I tried my first Dreis­si­gacker ries­ling last year and was won over im­me­di­ately. The win­ery’s ex­cel­lent high­erend ries­lings come from sev­eral lime­stone sites in Rhein­hessen. This en­trylevel bot­tle is from vines grown on loess and loam on gen­tle slopes. The wine, fer­mented and aged in stain­less steel vats, is rich, fresh and bal­anced, with great acid­ity. It’s not par­tic­u­larly com­plex, but is full of pleas­ing cit­rus and min­eral fla­vors. (Schatzi Wines, Mi­lan, New York)

Dau­tel, Würt­tem­berg Ries­ling Trocken 2017; $21.96: Chris­tian Dau­tel is part of a young van­guard that is bring­ing recog­ni­tion to the Würt­tem­berg region in south­west­ern Ger­many. Dau­tel is bet­ter known for its red wines, which pre­dom­i­nate in Würt­tem­berg, but this ries­ling is a beauty. It’s clear, pure, pre­cise and en­er­getic, with plenty of fruit and stony fla­vors. It’s made with min­i­mal ma­nip­u­la­tion, from grapes grown on steep ter­raced slopes. (Skurnik Wines, New York)

Stein, Mosel Ries­ling Kabi­nett Trocken St. Alde­gun­der Him­mel­re­ich 2016; $26: Ul­rich Stein’s wines are al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing. This one, from 75-year-old un­grafted vines, is no ex­cep­tion. It’s brisk and dry, com­plex, en­er­getic and de­li­cious, with lin­ger­ing fla­vors of lime and wet stones. Stein fa­vors steep slate vine­yards, and has fought suc­cess­fully to re­claim some that were aban­doned be­cause they were so dif­fi­cult to work, lead­ing one wine writer, David Schild­knecht, to term him “more a David than a Don Quixote.” (Vom Bo­den, Brook­lyn, New York)

Bründl­mayer, Kamp­tal Ries­ling Ter­rassen 2018; $26.99: Bründl­mayer is one of the best es­tates in the Kamp­tal region of Aus­tria, just west of Vi­enna. This en­try-level bot­tle is a blend from younger vines grown at sev­eral dif­fer­ent ter­raced sites.

It’s easy to drink, maybe a touch aus­tere in a good way, with aro­mas and fla­vors of pressed flow­ers, apri­cot and stones. (Skurnik Wines)

Hein­rich Spindler, Pfalz Ries­ling Trocken Musen­hang 2017; $28.96: Many mod­er­ately priced ries­lings can be ex­tremely pleasant, but lack depth and sub­stance. This is not one of them. It’s rich and deep, fresh and in­ci­sive, with elec­tric acid­ity. The Musen­hang vine­yard is a cool site high on a slope in the foothills of the Haardt Moun­tains of south­west­ern Ger­many, where the vines are planted on lime­stone and sand­stone. (Schatzi Wines)

Ko­erner, Clare Val­ley Water­vale Ries­ling Gul­lyview Vine­yard 2019; $29.99: Ko­erner is the vi­sion of two Aus­tralian broth­ers, Da­mon and Jono Ko­erner, whose par­ents owned an old vine­yard in Clare Val­ley, north of

Ade­laide. In­stead of sell­ing off the fruit as their par­ents had done, they used it to make wine. Now they get grapes from all over Clare and make a wide va­ri­ety of wines, in­clud­ing this ries­ling. It’s fresh, with a grav­elly tex­ture and fla­vors that of­fer, as is the case with many Aus­tralian ries­lings, the dis­tinct im­pres­sion of lime zest. (Lit­tle Pea­cock, New York)


Nahe Ries­ling Trocken Min­eral 2017; $34.99:

This wine, a midrange of­fer from one of the

Nahe region’s lead­ing es­tates, is called Min­eral for a rea­son. The aro­mas are flo­ral and herbal, but on the palate it tastes like stone and cit­rus, with an al­most salty tinge. It’s dry and lip-smack­ing, pure, clear and en­er­getic. (Pe­tit Pois/Sus­sex Wine Mer­chant, Moorestown, New Jersey)

Keller, Rhein­hessen Ries­ling von der Fels 2018; $37.99: Ju­lia and Klaus Peter Keller are among the lead­ing lights of Ger­man wine. They make G-Max, one of Ger­many’s most cov­eted ries­lings and a true cult wine, along with ex­cep­tional sin­glevine­yard ries­lings, spät­bur­gun­ders, as pinot noir is known in Ger­man, and a host of wines from other grapes. Their en­try-level ries­lings are ex­cel­lent, but for my money the best value is Von der Fels, a rich, pure wine with chalky min­er­al­ity and great clar­ity and fo­cus. It’s won­der­ful now, and will be even bet­ter with a few years of ag­ing. (Pe­tit Pois/ Sus­sex Wine Mer­chant)

Weiser-Kün­stler, Mosel Ries­ling Trocken Enkircher St­ef­fens­berg 2018; $44.99: This is a fas­ci­nat­ing and un­usual bone-dry ex­pres­sion of the Mosel Val­ley. Weis­erKün­stler is a small, rel­a­tively young es­tate es­tab­lished by Kon­stantin Weiser and Alexan­dra Kün­stler in 2005. They have sought out small lots of ries­ling on ridicu­lously steep slopes. This bot­tle, from the St­ef­fens­berg vine­yard, has an earthy breadth yet feels trans­par­ent, as if you are smelling and tast­ing the vine­yard it­self. This, too, will ben­e­fit from a few years of ag­ing. (Vom Bo­den)


Though re­tail sales of ries­ling in the United States have dropped over the last few years, they shot up­ward dur­ing the early months of the pan­demic.

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