Posted December 20, 2012 This features ripe lime and slate notes on an elegant frame, with lively hints of white chocolate and vanilla. The rich finish of peaches and cream is accented by light, smoky notes.
Here’s a great end-of-the-year benchmark test of your wine knowledge, as we’re presented with a list of some of the wine world’s most popular white grapes.
For starters, we have an elegant wine, so we can cherry pick some of our heavy hitters and cross them off the list. Gewürztraminer is a prime example, with its often oily frame and typical notes of lychee and rose. Viognier, which can be peachy, is also out as it tends to make for rich, round whites that are typically marked with a distinct floral note.
Chardonnay comes in a wide range of styles and can at times be very elegant, but its flavor profile is anchored in more lemon, apple and pineapple flavors. Sauvignon Blanc is yet a step closer; it’s citrusy and light-bodied. But our wine is missing Sauvignon’s signature herbaceous undertones, such as chive, grass or split pea.
Riesling is our ringer and features signature flavors of lime and peach.
This is a Riesling.
While Riesling is an Old World grape, not all Old World countries have widespread success with it. Spain, for example, tends to stick with local varieties and does not produce any significant quantity of Riesling. And while Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy may dabble with the grape—particularly in northeastern Italy—it’s not produced in any significant quantity.
France, on the other hand, has a long history with Riesling, but the country’s versions tend to be richer, sporting riper fruit flavor, as well as notes of baking spice and honey.
Germany is Riesling’s homeland. The country’s long, cool growing season promotes racy citrus and peach flavors, vibrant acidity and lighter structure.
This Riesling is from Germany.
Riesling, with intense acidity that’s often counterbalanced by varying degrees of residual sugar, makes for some of the world’s most ageworthy wines. And as it ages, it develops a distinct petrol note, usually accompanied by undertones of spice, earth and mushroom.
Our wine, however, does not display any of these mature characteristics. Rather, it features more primary flavors of lime and peach, indicating that it’s very young and most likely from the currently released vintage, in this case, 2011.
This Riesling is one year old.
Germany has more than a half-dozen major wine producing regions, each expressing unique style and character. We have two to consider.
The Mosel region may be Germany’s most well-known and produces some of the country’s, if not world’s, most elegant Rieslings. Compared to the neighboring regions, the Mosel is situated slightly to the north and receives additional cooling influence from the Mosel river and its tributaries. Additionally, the famously steep, riverside vineyards often feature a topsoil of broken slate.
The sunny Pfalz region is located further to the south, where warmer temperatures and loam-based vineyards yield richer wines, with lower acidity levels. Many of the best wines from this region are fermented dry, sporting assertive spice notes such as anise or ginger.
This is the Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2011 from Joh. Jos. Prüm, which was rated 90 points in the Dec. 31 issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $24. For more information about wines from Germany look for reviews in upcoming issues leading to managing editor Kim Marcus' tasting report on the region in our April 30, 2013, issue.
—Nathan Wesley, tasting coordinator
Test your knowledge with our fun, biweekly quiz.New: Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards, Part 3, July 10, 2014
We randomly select four wines and mix up their tasting notes—you find the matches.
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