A Shining German Gem – Rieslings to Sip and Savour
German wines from the ‘70s left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths and stick in their memories, spoiling the country’s wine reputation. The unfortunate consequences of the wine law of 1971 caused a lower quality of wines to come from Germany. This dip lasted roughly until 1984 when a new vineyard classification system was developed by the members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, Association of German Predicate Wine Estates). Luckily if you were born after the 1990s you might not have those bad memories about the cloying sweetness of German wines.
My hope is that you are not stuck thinking that all German wines are overly sweet like they were known to be in the past. If you are a sweet wine lover like me I am sure it wouldn’t bother you but it is worth keeping in mind that Germany produces some of the finest dry (Trocken in German) wines in the world.
Germany has a history of winemaking that dates all the way back to 50 BC; a long time before their aforementioned sour period in the 1970s. Winemaking was brought to the Mosel region, and later to the Rhine region, by the ancient Romans. Even as far back in 483 AD the steep vineyards of Mosel were mentioned by the Roman poet Decimius Magnus Ausonius. Terrasenmosel in Mosel is especially known for its steep slopes vineyards where you can find the steepest vineyard in the world, the Bremmer Calmont, which sits at a slope of 68 degrees.
If you were asked to name a wine from Germany, Riesling would more than likely be the one that came to mind. It is Germany’s most heralded grape variety and most widely planted grape (23% all grapes planted). It should come as no surprise; Germany is the largest Riesling producer in the world. Yet, beyond Riesling’s bright glare, Germany boasts a diversity of intriguing white and red wines. Yes, red wines such as Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) that is receiving a lot of attention and success in recent times.
Riesling is one of the best wines in the world and it goes without saying that best Rieslings come from Germany. To me, Riesling is exceptionally good at expressing terroir (sense of place) and is great when they are both young and aged. The Riesling grape has a fantastic ability to allow itself to be crafted into a wide range of sweetness levels. Riesling is also one of the most botrytis (aka noble rot) friendly grapes that make some of the most precious wines.
Mosel is one of 13 wine regions in Germany and takes its name from the Mosel River. Mosel is famous for its Riesling wines. The region covers the valleys of the rivers Mosel, Saar, and Ruwer. Winningen, a town in Mosel, has a very special place in my heart. I worked in Heymann Löwenstein, a well-renowned winery in Winningen, during the 2017 vintage. I remember like it was yesterday the fear I felt climbing on their very steep slope terraces for the first time. It was on these daunting slopes that I learned how much work goes into a bottle of wine. Heymann Löwenstein produces wines from Uhlen that is the largest continuous single vineyard in Germany and sits between the villages of Winningen and Kobern-Gondorf on the Mosel River.
Recently some sites of Uhlen have been classified more specifically within the VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru) classification; because different types of terroir distinguish the parcels of the Uhlen vineyard: Uhlen Blaufüsser Lay, Uhlen Laubach, and Uhlen Roth Lay. I would highly recommend visiting Winningen especially during summer and autumn where you can enjoy your Riesling while enjoying the great weather and the wine festivals while also having an opportunity to witness the hard work that goes into grape growing and harvesting.
Another special wine region for me is Rheingau where 78% of the vineyards are occupied by Riesling. The majority of the vineyards lie on the south-facing slopes near the Rhine River. Rüdesheim is a small town in the heart of Rheingau and is a popular location for tourists especially during summer and Christmas time. I promise you that the view from a cable car looking down on the vineyards covered with snow is one of the most beautiful views in the world.
Weingut Georg Breuer, Weingut Carl Ehrhard, and Sekthaus Solter are some of the great wineries in Rüdesheim. The next village in the direction of Koblenz is Lorch where Weingut Graf von Kanitz and Weingut Mohr are located. If you enjoy cooking and learning about different cuisines, joining Turkish cooking classes run by the owner of Weingut Mohr, Saynur, would be a great option where you can later pair the dishes you cooked with their wines.
Geisenheim is located just next to Rüdesheim and it is where Hochschule Geisenheim University, the world’s leading viticultural and oenological education/research centre is located. Walking through the vineyards up towards The Niederwalddenkmal or Abbey of St. Hildegard is one of the most relaxing activities to do around this area. I would also highly recommend visiting world-famous winery Schloss Johannisberg and get a glass of Riesling at their restaurant while watching the beautiful view there. Don’t miss trying an orange (amber) wine from Balthasar Ress located in Eltville, it is guaranteed that you are going to like it even if you are not a big fan of orange wines.
Riesling, in general, is a great accompaniment with a lot of food and is also great just by sipping it by itself. If you are looking for a guaranteed refresher of a wine to pair with a wide array of appetizers, Riesling is the wine for you. The sweeter styles of Riesling such as Feinherb or Spätlese make the perfect accompaniment to spicy food. Even sweeter styles such as Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein pair wonderfully with deserts or rich cheeses. If you are looking to try something different in the New Year then Riesling might be the right choice for you.
Carl Ehrhard Riesling Trocken 2017
This dry style of Riesling comes from Rheingau region of Germany. The earthy character and citrus flavours are well balanced against the acidity of this wine.
€18.00 – Available at Karwig Wines (Carrigaline), World Wide Wines (Waterford), Power and Co. Fine Wines (Lucan), Cinnamon Cottage (Rochestown, Cork).
Georg Breuer Terra Montosa 2016
Tempting intense fruitiness with lush of tart fruit aromas framed by earthiness and fineness in this well-balanced wine.
€36.00 – Available at Wicklow Wine Co., McHughs, SIYPS, Red Island Wine Company, Mitchells, Greenman Wines, Redmond’s of Ranleagh, Donnybrook Fair, Rosa Madre, Nightmarket, Ely Wine Bar.
Heymann Löwenstein Uhlen R 2011
From Uhlen’s Roth Lay, this Riesling has concentrated fruitiness with a characteristic of earthiness. It serves up a very refreshing sensation along with its richness and complexity of flavours.
€52.00 – Available at 64 Wines.
Sevgi’s passion for wine has begun while she was studying food engineering in one of the wine-producing regions of her native Turkey. Following her graduation, she chased her dreams and started to work as a winemaker in her home country.
Sevgi then moved to study for her Master’s degree in Oenology & Viticulture in France and Germany. Mosel in Germany, one of the most respected wine regions, is where she experienced how to grow grapes in the extreme steep-slope vineyards. Sevgi is currently conducting research for her postgraduate study about the Irish wine market at NUI Galway. She is also working on some projects which should come to fruition soon such as organising wine tasting sessions and wine appreciation courses.