Riesling on a cold and dark December evening

Heymann-Lowenstein

I was reading the new wine social media portal, Bibendum Times the other day and they had a great article on bicycling through the Mosel. Sure you get your exercise but even better are the pitstops along the way to sample all those wonderful Mosel rieslings. Readers of  The Winesleuth will know that I absolutely adore riesling, especially German riesling  – pronounced REEZ-ling, that’s how I say it and that’s how my friend the wine blogger and Munich native, The Wine Rambler says it.  

So I found myself last  Sunday evening on my way to Torsten’s (the Wine Rambler)  to sample some, unavailable in the UK, German rieslings. Torsten has such great German wine connections that he doesn’t even bother with buying anything here.

I think German rieslings have a bad rep because of their startling fruitiness. Don’t be tempted to associate that fruitiness with “sweet” or call rieslings “sweet wines” even if they do have a good amoung of residual sugar. Despite that residual sugar, well made rieslings will have a fantastic streak of acidity running through them that perfectly balances the fruit, as well as a wonderful minerality, giving wines that are full of intense fruit but at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of being a cloying sugary concoction.

goldtropfchen

Goldtropchen – “little drops of gold”. From the Mosel. Piesport to be exact.  The Piesporter region is known for it’s steep slopes, good exposure to the sun and slatey soils, all of which contribute to produce these top knotch wines. The Reinhold Haart Goldtropfchen Spatlese 2007 may still be in it’s infancy but it was a delicious drop of gold. Produced by one of the oldest and most prestigious vintners, the Haart family have been making wine since 1337, are one of the oldest wine-making families and have one of the oldest private wine estates in the Mosel. Although at 7.5 acres, it’s not exactly huge. The Haart’s use minimal intervention in the vineyards and are almost entirely organic. In order to allow the pure expression of the fruit, fermentation is stopped before it’s gone to completion.

back label

 I’m skipping around and starting with the second wine we drank first. The Haart spatlese, despite it’s name, was still pale yellow in colour. A fresh, floral nose, jasmine, honeysuckle, even faint whiffs of pineapple. Torsten commented that this floral character was typical of spatlese from the Haart vineyards. The nose of this wine was just begging me to take a taste. And taste I did. Full on fruit assaulting my palate, loads of dried pineapple, passionfruit and hints of even raspberry on the palate. I would have never imagined a white wine would have some red fruit character but this one did. Very ripe raspberry, raspberry jam even?  This was a wine just bursting with sweet fruit yet still had a minerally streak and a fantastic lime finish to it all.

While the Haart wine is made by one of the oldest producers in the Mosel, the Heymann-Lowenstein Schieferterrasan 2007  is made by what some in the Mosel consider a bit of a nutter. An ex-communist who was determined to do things his way, Reinhard Lowenstein came to the Mosel in the 1980′s and was one of the first to speak of terroir, natural fermentation and prolonged skin contact. Although his wines were widely suspect by the local Mosel winemakers, Reinhard soon proved his skeptics wrong by gaining much acclaim for his wines. Nowadays he is considered one of the leading winemakers of the Mosel and one of the more controversial within the debate of german terroir.

The Heymann-Lowenstein 2007, made from vines that are at least 60 years old, was beautiful.  A lovely hay colour, passionfruit, peaches and a parrafin wax nose to wallow in before taking the first sip. Wowza! Concentrated  red, ripe apples, pineapples and chunky minerality, slate notes well defined and well integrated, made this wine live up to it’s name which translated means “Slate Terrace”. The wine was also slightly tingly in the mouth, a pleasant sensation to keep me on my toes and again that acidity I love so much.

Both wines were relatively low alcohol. The goldtropfchen clocking in at 8% and the Schieferterresan at 12%. We polished both bottles off between dinner and dessert and really, I had just a warm glow enveloping me on the walk to the Tube and no headache at all the next day. I don’t know I could say the same thing if we had been drinking  robust Italian or Spanish wines.

Thanks to the Wine Rambler. He’s promised German red wine the next time! Can’t wait.

20 Comments

  1. Les_Dubh /

    Hi Sleuth

    Enjoying your blog. I love Riesling.

    L

    • So glad to hear that there is a hardcore group of Riesling lovers out there. Peeps just don’t know what they’re missing!

  2. I just realised that I provided one bit of information that may not be 100% accurate – the “Alte Reben” (old vines) designation on the Heymann-Löwenstein label does not mean that the wine necessarily was made from vines older than the those used for other wine from the same winery. What the label apparently is meant to indicate is that the fermentation has stopped a little earlier than with other wines, resulting in a somewhat higher level of residual sugar than normal dry wines from the winery. So technically, “Alte Reben” should be translated to “slightly half-dry”; the term “old vines” is not legally protected in Germany, so theoretically everyone can use it for anything. This is not meant to say that the grapes that went into this wine did not come from old vines, but a higher degree of ripeness and a slightly higher level of residual sugar are the main points. From what I hear that means that “Alte Reben” from H-L are expected to reach their full potential only after 5-10 years when the wine will present itself as more dry.

    But do not be alarmed if you are sceptical about sweeter wines – this one is by no means a sugar bomb. It is just a little less dry than a “normal” H-L Schieferterrassen wine.

    • Thanks for the clarification! If anybody has any questions about the technical side of riesling, please contact the Wine Rambler :D

  3. Excellent information here on wine, all aspects off. well written. I extremely enjoyed reading this, many thanks for sharing

  4. Fabulous article and also great company – so thanks again for coming over the other night! Now it will be the difficult decisions about which German red to set aside for you. Syrah, a blend or, most likely, one of those exciting Spätburgunders…

    • Hi Rambler, thanks for the great company and insightful conversation, you definitely know your rieslings! Im sure you’ll come up with a very interesting wine, spatburgunder sounds intriguing but a syrah… the decision will be difficult! :)

  5. I am very curious to try a German Riesling, you made them sound exhilarating. Thanks for the enjoying read! :D

    • GO out and pick one up, you won’t regret it! :) They go great with spicy food and are great value for money – at least here in Europe, not sure about prices in the States.

  6. We love Riesling in all its forms, german, austrian, french, american, australian etc… Sweet, dry, we drink it all!

  7. Thank you for the advice! I’ll report back my findings.. STAT! :)

    • Excellent! I can’t wait to hear what my fellow Americans think of German (and Alsatian) riesling, certainly not what your palate is used to, I can tell you! Try with Asian food, it goes really well with anything spicy, these are very food friendly wines. :-)

  8. Great post!

    Which Riesling would you suggest people start with who are new to tasting ‘em?

    • For newbie riesling drinkers, I’d probably recommend Dr. Loosen (also known as Dr. L), Villa Wolf, JJ Prum, Josmeyer, and Wienbach (the last two are Alsatian but excellent). I think all of those wines are available in the US. I’d also recommend starting out with kabinett styles before heading into the lusher, fruitier Spatlese or Auslese. Thanks for stopping by!
      ps. if you want a real treat, try and snag a half bottle of icewien – mmmmmmm!

    • I fully agree with the Wine Sleuth’s recommendations here, especially with Dr. Loosen – it is not necessarily my favourite winery (although a really good one, it has to be said), but has the tremendous advantage of being easily available in the UK, for instance at Sainsburys, and also in the US.

  9. Lucy Richardson /

    Great article! Lets hope the riesling renaissance really kicks into gear in the UK in 2010…

  10. craigswinejourney /

    Wow. Beautifully written. You write life into thos e wines! I’ll have to seek them out, and soon! I have not had a German Reisling yet, so this will be good experience for building my palatte.

    I do believe my favorite part is the reference to parrafin wax – I’ve never spent much time distinguishing between kinds of wax, but clearly this is a new world that I must invest some timein to build my ‘nose’ memory.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks! You’ve made my day! I do hope you get to explore and enjoy the world of German Rieslings. They are underappreciated but just be prepared for some SWEET fruit balanced by that startling acidity. You might want to start out with kabinett, which is the driest, and move onto spatlese before tackling auslese. Good luck! :-)

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