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Riesling Blindtasting Session

It was time again! After some weeks without a “major” wine-event, it was the first sunrays that reminded us that a lot of time has passed since our last true blind-tasting session. Many nice ideas for tasting-setups have arisen in my head during these last weeks which made a choice difficult, but in the end it was the sun that decided whether we’ll have a red wine or a white wine theme. And this is one I wanted to do for a long time already: a tasting of only Riesling wines. Riesling is a vast topic, especially here in Germany, but my goal was to assemble some Riesling diversity and thus the setup was as follows: 5 Riesling bottles from 2004 or 2005, with the majority being from Germany, 1 or 2 Foreign Rieslings’ might find its way into the round.
I knew already before that there would be some inequalities (compare a young Grand Cru with others for example will give a distorted verdict), some unfair or impossible comparisons, but I guess the goal here was more to try to guess the wine than to find a winner or something.

2005 Eroica, Ste-Michelle Vineyards feat. Dr.Loosen, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA

Our first bottle was already a foreigner coming from Washington State, although it was vinified with consultancy of Dr. Loosen, the famous winemaker from the Mosel. It had a light and pale but clear color. Its nose was sweet and exotic with pineapple, pear and banana as well as a touch of honey. On the palate it also appeared sweet with exotic fruit, slight minerality and very few acidity; nevertheless it had a certain freshness and some “spritz” to it. The finish was nice and long with an extreme warm feel. Generally it was a very pleasing wine but for my palate lacking a bit of acidity. Did it say semi-dry somewhere on the label? Might have missed that?!

2005 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spätlese Trocken, Markus Molitor, Mosel

Same pale but clear robe. In the nose than it was at least a little “unconventional”: At first I thought it had a sulfur fault, some kind of dense smoky smell, but in the end I wasn’t really sure. Maybe it is just a really intense slate smell which might become a strong petrol note one day, which is typical for slate soil wines from the Mosel. Maybe there is one reader who knows better and could tell me? Anyway, underneath the nose was a racy mineralic palate, with some austere spiciness and a little Riesling typical peach. Its finish was long with a relatively strong bitter-note. Was this a faulty wine, a bad wine or just a way too young wine? No clue yet.
Note: tried it again a day later and it really develops into a racy peppery Riesling; interesting style I didn’t really know before.

2004 Hochheimer Hölle Spätlese Trocken, Franz Künstler, Hocheim, Rheingau

This wine had a light colored but brilliant robe; followed then by a very intense nose of caramel with butter mixed with exotic fruit notes; A nose I could smell forever. In the mouth it was pure and fruity with a metallic, iodic touch, further I had also a mineral touch and a present acidity which was slightly too high for the wine to appear perfectly balanced. All this followed by a long finish. A beautiful wine which is obviously 2 or 3 years too young and needs some time for the single components to find together and result in a perfectly balanced experience.

2005 Mardelskopf Grosses Gewächs, Herrenberg Ungstein, Weingut Pfeffingen, Pfalz

This wine also comes from a Grand Cru vineyard located in the Pfalz. Its color was a very light yellow but with a brilliant clarity. A sniff later we identified a very sweet and intense honey and peach nose. On the palate it developed medium fruit with herbs and a rather strong acidity, higher than the last wine. It concluded then with a long finish but here again prevails the feeling that the wine needs some more years to reach maturity.

2004 Herrenweg de Turckheim, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace, France

This is the second “foreign” Riesling in this tasting. It stems from a relatively well known Alsacian Grand Cru vineyard. Alsace Riesling are known for a totally different Riesling style, much more fruity and perfumed. This wine indeed, had the darkest color of all 5 wines, which was an intense and brilliant gold. In the nose first of all we identified some obvious noble rot (botrytis) which gave a rich buttery touch, but also some fruity peaches and apricots and a peppery note. On the palate the same notes appeared but a very austere acidity takes over rapidly. Back to our old problem: at least 2 or 3 years to young to drink.

As a final word we can resume that all 5 wines were interesting wines and some definitely had their own style. Fate wanted though that most of them were young Grand Cru wines, which means that they are wines which need to mature and, depending on the Riesling style, one bottle might need 2 to 3 years, another might need 5 years and the third one ten years. The Alsacian wine for example, with its noble rot touch and high acidity would be a candidate for 10 years of ripening in my opinion. The Rheingau and Mosel bottles on the other hand might rather be ready in 2 or 3 years. Thus these 5 bottles weren’t made to compete against each other, but it was interesting to taste the different styles.
The most interesting style for me was definitely the Molitor Riesling with its racy peppery character I didn’t encounter before. The American Riesling was the bottle which most of the tasters preferred, and it was indeed a nice surprise, a good quality which none of us would have expected from an American Riesling. It also had its own style which reminded more an elegant semi-dry whine. My personal favorite though was the Künstler Hochheimer Hölle which has great potential in my opinion, but I guess I have a faible for Künstler wines anyway.

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