Friday, August 1, 2014

Visiting the Rheingau - Part Two


 (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


This is part two of my report on my visit to the Rheingau in early July; part one dealt with Georg Breuer and Leitz. This post is about my time spent touring and tasting wines at two other celebrated estates, Weingut Robert Weil and Weingut Staatsweinguter (Eltville).


Weingut Robert Weil, located in the town of Kiedrich (very near to Eltville) is regarded not only as one of Germany's greatest wine estates, but also one of the world's. In his book Deutschlands Weine 2014, author and one of the leading authorities on German wine, Gerhard Eichelmann lists Weil as only one of four wine estates from the Rheingau as a five-star producer (his top rating). (Eichelmann also rates Leitz and Georg Breuer - two producers I profiled in my previous post - in the same category; the only other Rheingau five-star producer in Eichelmann's book is Weingut Peter Jakob Kuhn).

This was my first experience with the wines of Robert Weil and it didn't take long for me to understand the reason for the high praise. Every wine here, from the basic Riesling to the most exquisite single vineyard offering, is beautifully made with great varietal purity. There is a definite thumbprint with these wines, as they all feature bright fruit with very good acidity- these are vibrant wines. Yes, the style is quite high tone in nature, so that approach is a winning one with both consumers and many critics, but I mention this if only to explain some of the appeal of the wines.

Here are notes on some of the wines I tasted during my visit, arranged from least to most expensive (as well as in terms of large to small production numbers):

2013 Riesling Trocken - This is the entry level wine at Weil; it is categorized as a gutswein (the winery brochure lists this category as "corresponding to the domaine"). Made entirely from Riesling from a few of their best single vineyards, this has delicate peach and apricot aromas with very good acidity - a hallmark of the cool 2013 vintage, one that German winemakers are delighted with - and balance. This actually has just a slight touch of sweetness, but you'd never notice it, when paired with roast chicken or a similar dish. Very tasty and a fine introduction to the Weil style of Riesling. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years.

2013 Kiedricher Riesling Trocken - This is an ortswein, a village wine; the grapes are entirely from three of the winery's vineyards in Kiedrich. Beautiful aromas of yellow peach, kiwi and peony. Medium-full, this has beautiful varietal focus, excellent complexity and a distinct mineral note (this increases as you start to taste the more limited single vineyard wines). This is dry and will drink well for 5-7 years.




Oak casks at Weingut Robert Weil (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


2013 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken - This wine is an Erste Lage, a single vineyard that in this instance, the winery compares to a Premier cru (as in the classification of Burgundy in France). While the first two wines described above are fermented and aged in steel tanks, this wine is aged in large casks. The belief here is that this causes a bit of micro-oxygenation in the wines; this along with added texture from the addition of oak, increases the wine's complexity. Beautiful aromas of apricot, lilacs, lemon rind and chamomile. Medium-full with very good concentration; rich mid-palate and a long finish. Distinct minerality with a light nuttiness in the finish. Excellent balance of all components. Outstanding wine- enjoy now or in a decade.

2013 Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Trocken "GG" - This Grosse Lage wine is made from Weil's finest vineyard, located just behind the winery. The GG stands for Gross Gewachs, basically meaning Great Growth - think of this as a Grand Cru. GG is a relatively new descriptor for German wines to help identify the greatest vineyards in the country. 

Very enticing aromas of yellow peach, apricot and orange roses - it's difficult to take your nose out of the glass with this wine! Medium-full with excellent concentration; an explosion of fruit on the mid-palate. Outstanding persistence; long, long finish. Ideal harmony, great varietal purity, lively acidity and a light minerality. This wine was also aged in large casks. Outstanding wine - this may be a classic! Best in 7-10 years, though it may age longer.




2013 Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese - Aged in large oak casks, as are all the single vineyard wines; Aromas of tea leaf, apricot pit, yellow peach and eucalyptus. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Long, long finish with a light, pleasing touch of sweetness. Outstanding complexity; great purity. Delicious! Lovely now - this will age for 10-12 years.

2013 Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Auslese - Beautiful aromas of ripe apricot, yellow peach and mango. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich mid-palate, with layers of flavor. Long, long finish with great persistence; moderate sweetness. Outstanding complexity and balance; this has great finesse and elegance and great varietal character. A great dessert wine! Best in 12-15 years. 




Kloster Eberbach, Eltville (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


After seeing the glistening modern technology at Weil, it was quite a change visiting Kloster Eberbach in nearby Eltville. This site was established in 1136 by Cistercian monks, who produced wine at this facility. While there is a state of the art winery located not too far away, the barrels and press used by the monks for centuries are still present and can be seen on a tour of the Kloster.

At one end of this property, there is a tasting room where today's wine from the Staatsweinguter can be sampled. The Staatsweinguter is the state winery; this particular one is known as Hessische Staatsweinguter, as this particular state in Germany is the Hessische (there is also a state-owned winery at Assmannshausen; this known for Pinot Noir).



Detail of Steinberg Vineyard, Eltville (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


The Staatsweinguter produces wines from several excellent vineyards in the Rheingau, including Rauenthaler Baiken, Erbacher Marcobrun and Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg, but arguably the most famous is Steinberg, close to the Kloster Eberbach. To say this vineyard has a great deal of history would be an understatement - it was planted in 1239! In the 18th century, walls were built around the vineyard to protect the vines from wild boar and also to act as a wind break. It is the site of some of the greatest German wines over the centuries; this is a monopole of the Staatsweinguter, who proudly call it "Germany's Clos Vougeot!"

Adjacent to the vineyard is an architecturally stunning winery, one of the most up to date and beautiful in the country. A free tour of the winery is available and wisely, the proprietors hand you a glass of three different wines at various stops of the tour. Again, all of this is free - very nice touch!



Detail of new winery at Steinberg (Photo from Kloster Eberbach website)



Here are notes on a few of the best Staatsweinguter wines I sampled during my visit:

2013 Steinberger Riesling Trocken - Aromas of apricot, yellow peach and lilacs. Medium-bodied with very good concentration. Good length in the finish, round and clean with very good Riesling character. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years.

2013 Wiesbadener Neroberg Riesling Trocken - Beautiful aromas of yellow peach, lilacs and a hint of tropical fruit (mango). Medium-bodied with very good varietal purity; very good acidity and a light minerality. Nicely made with very good complexity. Enjoy now or over the next 5 years.

2012 Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg "GG" Trocken - Intriguing aromas of spearmint, peony and white peach. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich mid-palate, very good acidity, light minerality. Lovely varietal purity and very appealing - this is quite dry and is delicious! Excellent to outstanding quality. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years - perhaps longer. 

2011 Steinberger Riesling Spatlese - Very floral aromas with notes of yellow peach, magnolia and a hint of apricot. Medium-full with very good concentration. Light sweetness, with lovely balancing acidity and very good complexity. Lovely varietal purity as well as finesse. Excellent. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years.


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In the next post, a visit to producers in the Rheinhessen.













Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Visting the Rheingau - Part One


Vineyards along the Rhine River across from the town of Bingen (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


It had been far too long a wait, but I finally made it to Germany to visit wine regions. I had been on German soil, so to speak, dozens of times, but it was always to connect to a flight to Italy or back home to Chicago. How nice then that in early July, I was able to land at the Frankfurt airport and head to the baggage claim after having my passport stamped, instead of connecting to another flight!

I visited two regions over the course of three days, the Rheingau and the Rheinhessen, both named for their proximity to the Rhine River. This post will be part one about my time in the Rheingau; I'll write about my experience in the Rheinhessen soon.

While the Rheingau is one of the most famous and certainly one of the very best in terms of wine quality, it's also one of the smallest. The region's vineyards are situated just north of the Rhine River, taking a west to east orientation along the river. The large cities of Wiesbaden (north of the river) and Mainz (south) are at the far eastern boundaries of the region.



Vineyards at Johannisberg (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


The towns that give their names to the most celebrated wines of the Rheingau are quite famous in their own right, names such as Johannisberg, Eltville, Erbach and Rauenthal, to mention just a few. The primary grape here - as it is throughout much of Germany - is Riesling, though the village of Assmannshausen, near the junction of the Rhine and Nahe rivers, is well known for its Pinot Noirs. Some estates also produce smaller amounts of Grauburgunder- aka Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).

I visited four producers during my brief stay. Here are notes on two of these producers and the wines I tasted (I will profile the other two producers in my next post):

Georg Breuer (Rudesheim) - This outstanding estate, founded in 1880, has been owned by the Breuer family since the early 20th century. I met with Theresa Breuer, the granddaughter of Georg, who managed the firm for several decades. 

The wines here are very clean with admirable varietal purity; I was quite impressed with the 2009 Grauer Burgunder, which seemed much younger than five years old. This was a example of this variety with very fine texture, something not seen in most examples. The 2011 Spatburgunder is a pleasant wine with attractive wild cherry and iodine notes; though not meant for cellaring, this is a fine choice for the next 2-3 years.

Of course, it was the Rieslings that stood out here. Especially nice is the 2013 "Charm" Riesling, sourced from grapes from both Rauenthal and Rudesheim. This is a wonderful, absolutely delicious entry level Riesling with notes of white peach, lilacs and a touch of honey. There is very good acidity - a trademark of the very fine 2013 vintage, so this should retain its freshness over the next 3-5 years. It's also a wonderful value, priced at 9.50 Euro; this was a welcome sight, as quality Riesling is not inexpensive to produce, especially in this area.

One of my favorite wines at Breuer was the 2012 Rudesheim Estate Riesling with its inviting yellow peach and apricot aromas (classic Rheingau perfumes) and ripe, almost lush fruit. The wine has lovely complexity, with just a hint of sweetness and very good acidity; look for this wine to drink well for 7-10 years.



Kellerwelt (tasting room) at Breuer


Then it was on to the single vineyard Rieslings at Breuer. The top wines for me were the 2011 Rauenthaler Nonnenberg, a monopole of Breuer and the 2011 Berg Rottland Auslese. The former is designated as Trocken, meaning dry. (This descriptor has been used in conjunction with the praedikat designations of Kabinett and Spatlese, e.g., in the past, but will now be listed by itself,  if at all - see final section of this post below for further explanation).

The Nonnenberg Trocken offers the classic yellow peach and apricot aromas along with a hint of magnolia and has a very rich mid-palate and excellent complexity and a long, long finish. Here is a beautifully precise Riesling that truly speaks of the local terroir - this should age beautifully for 10-12 years.


The Berg (berg simply means "hill") Rottland Auslese has classic Rheingau aromas of apricot along with some tropical notes of mango along with flowery nuances of magnolias and lilacs. Medium-full with excellent concentration, there is also a delicate honeyed character on the palace and in the finish. This has outstanding complexity and a lengthy finish that has moderate sweetness, as there is very good acidity that cleans the palate. This is an outstanding sweet wine which can be enjoyed now, but will reveal greater complexities in 10-12 years.

I also loved their 2006 Brut, a blend of the Pinots - Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Most people don't realize that Germany is the world's leading producer of sparkling wine, known as sekt; fewer still realize that most of these wines are made from grapes imported from other countries. Of course, these sparkling wines are for supermarkets; they do not reflect much, if any, character.

Thankfully, there are producers of sparkling wine in Germany that make wine according to the classic method, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. This is an excellent sparking wine of impressive complexity, very good persistence and style. Quite dry, this is beautifully made and will be a pleasure to drink for the next 3-5 years.




I also enjoyed the wines of Leitz, a small cellar located in Rudesheim, managed by 50 year-old Johannes Leitz, who has been at the helm here since 1985. Today, the firm has 40 hectares (100 acres) of vineyards of some of the most prized sites in the Rheingau.

The first wine I sampled here was the cleverly titled Eins-Zwei-Dry from the 2013 vintage. A trocken Riesling, this is a straightforward and charming wine; Letiz explained the name by telling me that he wanted his customers know that Riesling can be dry (and that he produces one). It's tasty, with simple charms and at 8.50 Euro, it's nicely priced.

The best wines here are quite rich with a distinct minerality that the finest German Rieslings are known for. A first-rate example of that at Leitz - at least for me on this occasion - was the 2013 Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling (trocken). This particular site is at the far western end of the Rheingau where the river turns north; the vineyard has a southwestern exposure and sits just a few hundred feet above the river banks.

Along with beautiful aromas of peach, there is also a strong note of flint, derived no doubt from the blue slate soil. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this has rich minerality, big persistence, very good acidity and excellent complexity; this should drink well for 7-10 years.

Even better was the 2012 Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spatlese, a wine with only 8% alcohol. Offering intriguing aromas of petrol, guava and honey, this is a bright and delicious wine with a rich mid-palate, very good acidity and a lengthy finish with just a hint of sweetness. This should be in fine shape for 10-12 years more; in my opinion, this is a classic, first-rate Spatlese.

___


One of the things I learned on this trip was the recent shift as far as labeling German wines. The trend is to move away from the Prädikat designations of the 1971 German wine law; now wines would be named by quality level - entry level, commune (town) wines and finally single vineyard wines (lage). Of this last category, the absolute best vineyards, basically the Grand Cru would be known as Grosse Lage, with a few select wines being classified as Grosses Gewächs (G.G.) - great growths.

Also the term trocken is written on some wines, while not on others; the belief here from producers is that if the wine is not a Spatlese or Auslese, it is dry. Thus in their mind, their wine would not need the term trocken. Yet some producers believe it should be written on a label. 

It's all a bit confusing, even for some Germans that closely follow their country's wines. Hopefully this will all be straightened out soon.

___

Next post on the Rheingau: Robert Weil and Staatsweinguter

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Glories of Riesling (Part Three) - The New World



In my two previous posts on Riesling (here and here), I wrote about the two most classic origins of Riesling from the Old World - Germany and Alsace. This post will deal with some favorite examples of Riesling from the New World, namely Australia, New Zealand and California.

Whenever you speak about Riesling, you think of Germany and Alsace for their beautiful expressions of this grape, whether dry or sweet. They have been producing these wines for centuries, so vine age plus knowing the best sites to plant the grape along with experience - the best teacher of all - have combined to make these two areas reference points for Riesling.

I have yet to discover a region or country that produces as many great examples of Riesling as do those two lands, but the Clare Valley in Australia comes close and in my mind, has been the home of some truly classic Rieslings. The finest example of this variety I have had outside of Germany and Alsace has been the Grosset "Polish Hill" from Clare Valley, 100 miles north of Adelaide. I've never enjoyed the good fortune of visiting there, so I have to rely on the firm's website about this wine, which describes the vineyard as having "silt and shallow shales over a thin crust of clay and gravel." Proprietor Jeffrey Grosset has been making this wine since 1981 and I recall quite well the lovely petrol and lime aromas, as well as the richness on the palate and texture of the wine. This is truly a great Riesling.

For this post, I tasted another excellent Clare Valley Riesling from Kilikanoon (review below); I also tasted Rieslings from Western Australia, namely from the Margaret River and Frankland River Regions. The wines I tasted from Leeuwin Estate and Frankland Estate were very different in style, but both excellent. I was particularly pleased with the structure and minerality of the latter's wines.

I was also delighted with another Riesling from Down Under, namely the Greywacke 2011 from the Marlborough district in New Zealand. Greywacke is the winery of Kevin Judd, who achieved fame a while back as being the winemaker at Cloudy Bay. Kevin has always made brilliant examples of Sauvignon Blanc, but his Riesling is just as memorable.





From America, I've been very impressed with the Rieslings from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington. There are two principal releases from this producer, one the Cold Creek Vineyard offering and second the Eroica. The Cold Creek Vineyard is planted to numerous varieties - red and white - and it is quite warm, so you might not think a site that is the source for excellent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc would be home to lovely Rieslings, but that indeed is the case. The Eroica wine is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and famed Mosel producer, Dr. Ernst Loosen. This is a beautiful wine, a Riesling of marvelous complexity and charm.

There are a few beautiful Rieslings from California as well. Mendocino County, north of Sonoma, is a cool climate ideal for this variety; especially recommended are the examples from Handley and Greenwood Ridge from Anderson Valley and Esterlina from Cole Ranch.

As for Napa Valley, Trefethen Vineyards has been producing a delicate, dry Riesling for years and then there is the legendary Stony Hill Riesling, which has become somewhat of a Holy Grail for Riesling lovers.

The Finger Lakes region of upper New York State is home to more than 60 producers of Riesling. There are all styles made here with varying quality levels, but the best are excellent. For this post, I tasted a Riesling from Ravines Wines Cellars and was quite pleased.


Tasting notes:

Australia

Leeuwin Estate Riesling "Art Series" 2013 (Margaret River) - Light yellow; aromas of peony, melon, petrol and elderflowers. Medium-full with very good concentration. Cleanly made, this has impressive persistence and varietal focus. Lengthy finish and lively acidity. This should drink well for another 3-5 years - excellent. ($16, a notable value). Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA.

Frisk "Prickly" Riesling 2013 (Victoria) - I've enjoyed this Riesling for a few years now; the name comes from the fact that the wine has a prickly sensation on your tongue. Pleasing aromas of melon, white peach and elderflowers. Medium-bodied with tasty ripe fruit and a nicely structured finish with tangy acidity. Irresistible now, best fresh, but can be enjoyed over the next 3-5 years. ($10) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars

Kilakanoon Riesling "Mort's Block" 2012 (Clare Valley, Watervale)
Straw/light yellow; delicate aromas of melon, lime and peony. Medium-full with very good concentration. Elegant wine with excellent varietal character. Very good persistence and acidity. Nice typicity - perhaps not as rich as some vintages, but a nice wine for enjoyment now and over the next 2-3 years. ($20) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.


Frankland Estate Riesling "Netley Road Vineyard" 2012 (Frankland River Riesling, Western Australia): I tasted three different offerings of Riesling from this producer. The first two, the "Poison Hill Vineyard" and the "Isolation Ridge Vineyard" are very good with excellent varietal character and persistence. The "Netley Road" is the finest of the three. Brilliant straw, aromas of petrol, lime and a hint of talc powder. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich mid-palate, elegant entry on the palate. Lengthy, well-structured finish with excellent persistence, lively acidity and a delicate streak of minerality. Wonderful complexity and varietal character. Enjoy now (I'd love this paired with crab) or wait for greater complexities to come to the front. Peak drinking in 7-10 years. ($35, only 6000 bottles produced). Imported by Quintessential, Napa, CA.


New Zealand

Greywacke 2011 (Marlborough) - Straw/light yellow; lovely aromas of lime, elderflowers and green apple. Medium-full with very good concentration. Vibrant acidity, excellent persistence and wonderful varietal purity with just a touch of minerality. This was the most delicious Riesling I tasted for this post. I opened it and enjoyed a few ounces each night for more than a week; it was as fresh and as tasty after a week open as it was when I first tasted it. Beautiful wine - well, done Kevin Judd! ($25) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.






Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling "Cold Creek Vineyard" 2012 (Columbia Valley) - Beautiful straw/light yellow with delightful aromas of white peach, apricot, lilacs and chamomile. Medium-bodied with excellent concentration. Generous mid-palate, very good acidity, impressive persistence and ideal varietal purity. Absolutely delicious with perfect balance, this has just a trace of sweetness, which is balanced by the acidity, leaving a clean, satisfying finish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years - if you can wait that long! ($18, an excellent value). (Information on the wine here).

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling "Eroica" 2012 (Columbia Valley) - The grapes for this wine are sourced from eight different vineyards in Washington, including Horse Heaven (Columbia Valley) and Viewcrest (Yakima Valley). Straw; lovely aromas of lime, white peach and a hint of pineapple. Lovely mid-palate and balance - very exquisite - with lovely varietal purity. Very impressive Mosel-styled Riesling with very good acidity and a nice touch of finesse. This is slightly drier than the Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Riesling. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ($20, a fine value). (Information on the wine here).


California

Handley Cellars Riesling 2012 (Anderson Valley) - Straw/light yellow; attractive aromas of yellow peach, Anjou pear and magnolias. Medium-bodied, this has good varietal character, good persistence and a lightly sweet, but not cloying finish. A delicate, uncomplicated style of Riesling meant for consumption over the next 1-2 years. ($22) 


New York State

Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling "Argetsinger Vineyard" 2010 (Finger Lakes) - This vineyard was planted 25 years ago and is comprised of limestone soil. Floral aromas - peony and lilacs with a note of honey. Very good concentration and freshness. Very good acidity; off-dry finish. Elegant with a nice sense of finesse. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. ($25)





Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Notes on 2010 Barolo - more than 110 wines


Barolo landscape, early May morning (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


I recently tasted more than 125 examples of Barolo from the 2010 vintage at the Nebbiolo Prima event in Alba, Piemonte. This event is held each year for a select few dozen journalists (about 70) from around the world, who taste the wines blind over the course of several days. This was the tenth year in the last twelve I have participated in this event and it's one I look forward to each year with great anticipation.
This was a year in which the majority - a great majority - of producers made excellent to outstanding Barolo. Believe me, this does not happen every vintage (for proof of that, one only needs to look back to last year when the 2009 Barolos were released).



 
I have put together a 20-page pdf document with my tasting notes on the 2010 Barolos, reviewing exactly 118 wines. My highest rating is 5 stars - outstanding. In this report, I have given this highest rating to 31 wines (26.2%). Yes, the 2010 vintage is that good! Among the finest were the Renato Ratti "Rocche dell'Annunziata", the Vietti "Rocche di Castiglione", the Paolo Scavino "Bric del Fiasc", Bartolo Mascarello and many others. These are truly classic examples of Barolo, so you might expect these wines to rise to the occasion in a great year such as 2010 and they most certainly did! These are wines that will peak in 35-50 years. I know I won't be around to see these wines at that stage, but it's nice to know they will last that long (it's also quite a pleasure and blessing to know I can at least try them now!). These wines will cost you upwards of $100 a bottle, but if you are a Barolo lover, you need to find a few of these wines! (Incidentally, the great examples of Barolo are priced much more reasonably than the finest Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa or examples of Bordeaux or Burgundy of similar quality. This is something that is rarely discussed, but it is a fact and it's something I need to point out; the best Barolo are under valued.)


If you would like to receive a copy of this 20-page pdf report (it was sent to contributors of my upcoming book "The Wines and Foods of Piemonte"), the cost is $10, a very reasonable price for this overview of these great wines. Payment is by PayPal - use my email of thomas2022@comcast.net (If you choose not to use PayPal, you can send along a check to me in the mail - email me for information).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Glories of Riesling (Part Two) - Alsace



Photo ©Tom Hyland


Continuing with my series of posts on Riesling (click here for the last post on Germany), this article will deal solely with Riesling from Alsace. Tucked in a far northeastern corner of France, not far from the border with Germany, Alsace is one of the most northern wine regions in the world, making this an ideal home for most white varieties, especially Riesling.

Alsatian Riesling always displays healthy acidity (even in a warm year such as 2011) along with beautiful varietal purity. Aromas and flavors tend to be of apricot, yellow peach and yellow flowers; these perfumes are a bit more intense in Riesling from Grand Cru vineyards.

The Grand Cru vineyards by the way are quite special, as they are generally situated at a slightly higher elevation than other vineyards and also must be farmed to smaller yields. These sites have a great deal of vine age, as many Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace are 30-40 years of age. There are currently a total of 51 Grand Cru vineyards in Alsace, although not all of them are planted to Riesling.

As you might imagine, the wines from the Grand Cru vineyards are not inexpensive; for a Riesling, $70-85 is not uncommon. These wines can be incredible (see the review of the Josmeyer below), so if you are a lover of Riesling, you owe it to yourself to try a Grand Cru bottling at least once in your life.



Vineyard near Ribeauvillé (Photo from Jean Sipp website)



The nice thing about the Alsatian Rieslings that are not from Grand Cru vineyards is that they are good values; there are many excellent Alsatian Rieslings available at retail in the US at $16-$20. They are not as rich as the Grand Cru offerings, of course, but they still age well. Aging potential is a strength of Riesling, so look for these wines in even average vintages to drink well for 3-5 years, while in excellent vintages such as 2009, 2010 or 2012, that can be anywhere from 5-10 years, with the Grand Cru wines having the potential of 12-15 years of drinking pleasure. (There are other Rieslings made in Alsace, rare wines such as vendage tardive (late harvested grapes) and sélection de grains nobles, made from berries that have been infected with botrytis, the noble rot, that are quite lush and very sweet; these are extremely limited wines and are rather expensive. I'm not writing about these wines for now; perhaps down the road, if I'm fortunate enough to try a few of these wines!)


Tasting notes

2012 Albert Seltz Riesling - Straw color; appealing aromas of white flowers, white peach and a delicate hint of ginger. Medium-bodied with very good concentration. Lovely texture, very good acidity and excellent varietal character. A lovely introduction to Alsatian Riesling - 2012 is an excellent vintage. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years.  $17, a very good value. (Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates)

2012 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling "Herrenweg" - Bright yellow; aromas of yellow peach, apricot and a note of liniment. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich mid-palate, very good ripeness, balancing acidity and very good persistence. Fine now, but will improve with a few years as it rounds out; best in 3-5 years. $25 (Robert Kacher Selections )

2011 Muré Riesling "Signature" - Light yellow; aromas of yellow peach and apricot. Medium-bodied, this is dry with tart acidity and good persistence. Lighter than the first two wines above, so drink over the next 1-2 years, but nicely balanced with good varietal character. $25 (Robert Kacher Selections)

2011 Marcel Deiss Riesling - Deep yellow; aromas of apricot, almond and dried yellow flowers (magnolia). Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Good acidity, impressive varietal focus, excellent persistence. Earthy, lightly herbal finish. Quite distinctive, this is powerful and lacks a bit of finesse (due in some part to the warm 2011 vintage), but this is quite stylish and should improve with time. $30





2010 Paul Blanck Riesling Gran Cru "Schlossberg" - Light yellow; aromas of white peach, melon and Bosc pear. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Lovely balance and structure. Beautifully made with great varietal purity, this is perfectly balanced and delicious. This is not as powerful as some Grand Cru Rieslings from Alsace, but this is a lovely wine! Enjoy over the next 5-7 years, perhaps longer. $40, which represents an excellent value. (Michael Skurnik Selections)





2009 Josmeyer Riesling Grand Cru "Hengst" - Straw/light yellow; beautiful aromas of dried pear, apricot and hibiscus. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Excellent persistence, very good acidity and outstanding complexity with textbook varietal character. Just a classic style of Alsatian Riesling with a delicate minerality; vibrant with great focus, this is an outstanding wine! Enjoy now, but better in 7-10 years. $88 (Imported by Domaine Select Wine Estates) - note: the word Hengst in French means "stallion." This is definitely a stallion of a wine and one of the most memorable Rieslings I have ever tasted!