Delicately fruity, an extraordinary finesse, a full body, the Riesling grape variety is not a copious producer but a most qualitative one. It is a noble grape, perhaps the noblest grape in the vineyard’s of Germany’s Mosel and Rhine River Valleys and it creates some of the world’s finest white wines, be they dry, semi-dry, sweet or sparkling. The grape is also widely grown from Alsace to Chile, Yugoslavia, Italy, Austria and the United States, particularly in California but, too, in the state of New York. What is astounding is how the different soils and growing conditions around the world impart their own finesse and characters onto Riesling wines made with this variety. Riesling wines are largely single grape variety wines.
The Great Southern Riesling 2020 from Robert Oatley in Australia was fresh and vibrant and had a citrus fruit bouquet to it, very unlike the peachy flavor found in German Rieslings. The grapes were selected from parcels in Frankland River and Mount Barker in southwestern Australia, now regarded as a region that produces high-quality Rieslings. Meanwhile on the other side of the world in the scenic Finger Lakes region of New York State, Trestle Thirty One has brought out a tasty Trestle Thirty One 2019 Riesling Finger Lakes from the Zugibe Vineyard which was produced using Epernay II yeast, yeast nutrients and bentonite. The grapes were hand harvested, the juice was cold settled for five days before being racked to a small stainless steel tank for fermentation. Aged sur lie for nine months, it further developed depth and complexity then was aged in the bottle for 7 months. The wine was harmonious and elegant.
A real show stealer came unsurprisingly from Alsace and was made with grapes from a special parcel. The Lieu-Dit Fels Riesling 2018 from the Domaine de Schieferkopf offered up a refined and citrus fruity flavor and had long length and texture. The plot’s vineyards are planted on the only strip of blue schist in Alsace, a unique and here shallow subsoil and its specific character is imparted by its southeast exposure and windy microclimate. The estate recommends serving it with dishes that have a touch of spice in them. Another standout was the estate bottled and grown organic Riesling from the Hermann J. Wiemer HJW Vineyard on the shores of Seneca Lake, the largest of the glacial New York Finger Lakes and in a region that is home to over 50 wineries that benefit from the unique local micro-climate with many of them being farm wineries like HJW vineyards which has a highly philosophical approach employing unique farming methods on the totality of its farm while promoting biodiversity in adjacent fields, forests and meadows. The estate’s HJW Bio Riesling was a great wine find, earthy and fruity all at once. The estate had already eliminated the use of herbicides in 2004 and the core of its soil management involves the use of organic compost and cover crops. All the estate fruits are hand-harvested and hand sorted and only indigenous yeasts are used in the fermentation process.
Another Finger Lake fine find came from the estate of Red Newt Cellar whose 2016 Riesling-The Knoll reflected all of the elegance of a five-year-old Riesling. The year 2016 was regarded as one of the driest growing seasons recorded in the Finger Lakes, a region which does not use irrigation. But here the roots run deep and the vines did not show any major signs of drought stress. The grapes emanated from the scenic Lahoma Vineyards-The Knoll. Red Newt Cellars aims to make Rieslings that are as powerful as the best that come from Germany. Austria and Alsace. We have saved the best for last, and our very favorite Reisling came from the Schätzel estate in the Rheinhessen region of Germany. The Schätzel family has been producing wine since 1350 making them the oldest winemaking family in the Rheinhessen. When Kai Schätzel took over the family estate in 2008 he transformed it to organic and biodynamic methods while re-introducing traditional winemaking methods. His style is unique and involves less alcohol and less pronounced fruit and his wines have a very distinctive profile which we appreciated upon tasting his Schätzel Riesling QBA 2018, vibrant which he suggests pairing with goat’s cheese or fresh seafood.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette