I have written and blogged about dry German Rieslings in the past. It’s true that these wines have come a long way from the thin, tart versions I tried in the mid-80s while living in Germany.
So what’s different now? A year. Specifically, the 2007 vintage. The combination of early flowering, a cool, wet summer and ideal fall weather resulted in the longest hang time in history across Germany’s wine-growing regions. One hundred days from flowering to harvest is average, however, in 2007, many estates experienced 130 days from flowering to harvest and 150 days was not uncommon.
As a result, the fruit flavors and grape components of acidity and tannins developed slowly. Ripening was ideal, giving wines of great clarity, complexity—and best of all—mineral character, without excessively high sugar levels. If the ripe fruit of 2005 and ample flesh of 2006 often kept the mineral flavors submerged in the young Rieslings, the 2007s expose a core of stone already, surrounded by a wide spectrum of orchard fruit and citrus notes.
I recently tasted a range of dry German Rieslings and other varietals organized by German importer Rudi Wiest and several growers he represents. What struck me was the balance and appealing fruit and mineral profiles of these young wines.
The acidity is very ripe and well-integrated with the best wines. They possess intensity, depth and length, with none of the heat on the finish that plagued some lean, high alcohol dry Rieslings of the past.
Of the Rieslings I tasted, Künstler’s Qualitätswein Trocken Gold Cap Rheingau Hochheimer Kirchenstück was round and refined, with peach and floral notes and an elegant finish. By contrast, the Qualitätswein Trocken Gold Cap Rheingau Hochheimer Hölle showed greater density, muscle, more structure and austerity at this stage.
Two estates from the Pfalz exhibited excellent Rieslings, and one showed off its specialty—Pinot Noir. The Qualitätswein Trocken Pfalz Reiterpfad GG (“Grosses Gewächs”) from Reichsrat von Buhl delivered a broad attack of concentrated fruit flavors, power and length. Its stablemate Qualitätswein Trocken Pfalz Ungeheuer GG was firmer and more austere, yet laden with spice and mineral notes.
The Ökonomierat Rebholz Qualitätswein Trocken Pfalz Muschelkalk revealed minty, high-toned aromas followed by a beam of mineral and smoke flavors. Its Qualitätswein Trocken Pfalz Kastanienbusch GG, a pungent, powerful white, was tightly wound, with a linear profile carrying concentrated mineral tones.
The Pinots from Friedrich Becker, whose vineyards are located both in Germany and France, were from the 2005 and 2006 vintages. The Qualitätswein Pfalz Kammerberg GG 2005 still showed a lot of oak, framing rich, juicy cherry notes and leaving firm tannins on the end. I preferred the Qualitätswein Pfalz St. Paul GG 2006 for its softer, fleshier style, kirsch flavor and inviting personality.
I’ve also been digging bocksbeutels, the traditional spherical-shaped bottles used in the Franken region, these past few years, especially when they are full of Riesling or Silvaner from Hans Wirsching or Rudolf Fürst. The Fürst Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Franken Bürgstadt Centgrafenberg R delivers plenty of peach, nectarine and grapefruit notes. It’s still on the austere side, but should blossom in a year or two. Wirsching’s top site is the Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg. The Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg was rich and concentrated, its peach and grapefruit flavors elevated by a tangy acidity. The Silvaner Qualitätswein Trocken Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg was broad and nutty, with citrus and stone elements in a supporting role.
Rainer Schnaitmann’s estate is in Württemberg, where he began estate bottling in 1997. The Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Württemberg Fellbacher Lämmler GG was harvested after an incredible 198 days of hang time. Schnaitmann was looking for a late harvest style, but the grapes remained healthy. Instead, he produced a rich, exotic dry Riesling, bordering on tropical fruit flavors and lush, but also pure and balanced.
You won’t find any bargains here, with prices that I approximate will range from $50 to $140 for some of the Pinot Noirs. What you will find are beautiful, pure expressions of Riesling from the 2007 vintage.
Scott Scherger — September 10, 2008 12:42am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — September 10, 2008 9:42am ET
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