Last week our bottle supplier OI hosted their annual Bob Campbell MW tasting. This year we were looking at Alsace and Mosel Rieslings from the 2012 vintage, a low-yielding, generally wet year “saved” by better conditions in the latter part of the season. Variable quality is the norm for wetter seasons with better sites and producers generally to the fore and so it proved for this tasting. The flights were as follows:
Flight One – Alsace
Gustave Lorenz Reserve
Albert Boxler Grand Cru Sommerberg
Flight Two – Mosel Kabinett
Bischofliche Piesporter Goldtropfchen
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Goldtropfchen VDP Gross Lage
Maximim Grunhauser Herrenberg
Maximim Grunhauser Abstberg
Flight Three – Mosel Spatlese
Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr
Kees-Kieren Graacher Himmelreich
One of the challenges, and delights, of Riesling is that it is capable of producing ravishing wines from bone-dry through to the most luscious of dessert wines. This versatility was on display in this tasting. Excluding late-harvest and botrytis styles, the Rieslings of Alsace are generally drier with higher alcohols than Mosel and, in my view, more suitable for enjoying with food. The Alsace wines in this tasting were all dry or off-dry and with one exception, a touch disjointed, reflecting the challenges of the season and perhaps their youth. The Albert Boxler Grand Cru Sommerberg was the exception, ripe, good concentration, phenolics in balance with the fruit and honeyed notes to complement the primary citrus flavours – a real food wine.
German Riesling is generally sweeter and lower in alcohol than Alsace with higher acids to balance the sweetness. The wines are not normally regarded as food wines but rather as aperitifs. Sugars were not available but the alcohols ranged from 7.5% – 9%. The wines showed greater consistency than the Alsace flight but although sugar is capable of masking minor flaws, some greenness was present in many of the wines, more evidence of the challenging growing conditions. Of the wines we tasted, the two which stood out to me for ripeness and balance were the Bischofliche Piesporter and the Kees-Kieren Graacher, both beautiful pure expressions of Riesling.
A discussion followed the tasting on which style New Zealand might be most suited to. The general consensus was in favour of the Mosel style but my own view is that Riesling in New Zealand is capable of delivering compelling wines of all styles and that trying to identify a preferred direction is counter-productive. In the end it is a question of consumer preference and intended use, food being better served by drier, more structured styles and the lower alcohol sweeter styles working best as an aperitif on their own. Thanks to OI and Bob Campbell MW for an interesting and enjoyable tasting plus a special mention to Marg Coney and her restaurant crew at Coney Wines for the delicious food that accompanied the post-tasting dinner.
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