Here are some notes on the two Riesling master classes which we held on 17 May 2017, presented by Anne Krebiehl MW who we flew over for the day from London.
Germany’s wine regions cover 4 degrees of latitude from 51 to 48 degrees north and wine production is strongly influenced by and would be impossible without rivers. Riesling as a late ripening variety is highly suited to the northerly climate with harvests extending into October and beyond. It is light and not heat that is more important for ripening grapes and with its long daylight hours and long growing season Germany has this in abundance.
Anne reminded us of some of the benefits but also the difficulties of the Pradikat system where for example Kabinett has no maximum sugar level. Hence you can have wines of Spatlese level being marketed as Kabinett. However it is meaningless to talk about sugar unless we also talk about acidity and it is also questionable how helpful is it to focus on analytical data. As Catarina Prum of JJ Prum says you can know all my vital statistics but that does not mean that you know me! While the numbers may help understand the wine to some extent, it is only by tasting and focusing on interplay of acidity and sugar in Riesling that we can form our own view. It is confounding how two wines with very similar analytical data can taste very different.
The master class on how Riesling ages was perhaps the most challenging but also the most interesting. A conclusion that can be taken from the tasting is that cooler vintages are slower to come out of their shell e.g. the 2008 were noticeably more shy and fresher than 2007. 2013 and 2008 may appeal more to those who like higher acidity whereas the riper fleshier 2012 and 2007 will appeal to others. We also got into some of the science with a discussion on TDN – the smell of petrol which is often associated with older vintages of Riesling and younger Riesling from New world countries such as Australia. Studies have linked TDN to exposure to high levels of sunshine which act on the terpenes (which Riesling as a grape has in abundance). Studies on German Riesling in the period from 1959 to 2010 showed the highest level of 19mg/l in this period in the warm 2005 vintage, compared to high levels of TDN which have been seen, over 255mg/l, in Australian Riesling. Tasters often identify TDN even when there is no TDN in the wine ! How can that be, it is perhaps the smell of aged Riesling that people have come to associate with TDN or is it that aged characteristics are also similar in some ways to TDN? A complex subject that would take another master class and much more reading to understand.
The following are notes on each of the wines tasted
2015 VINTAGE MASTER CLASS
Riesling Trocken S Bechteimer 2015, Weingut Geil
Ripe apricot and very fine acidity, drinking well now. Rounder and smoother texture may be attributable to the calcerous marl soils.
Siefersheim Riesling vom Porphyr 2015, Wagner Stempel
Knock out, complex and fascinating, spicy, apple, melon, clean cut acidity, the wine tastes stony and nervy, not surprising with 9g/l of acidity. Higher yields at 50hl/ha than the Heerkretz GG and Hollberg GG to follow, the grapes are harvested from these two sites.
Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinett 2015 and Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Spatlese 2015, Max Ferd Richter
Too young to assess, the Spatlese was a little more open and less reduced. Delicate floral and just a classic expression of Mosel.
Hollberg Riesling GG 2015 and Heerkretz Riesling GG 2015, Wagner Stempel
Heerkretz cooler site seen in leaner acidity, citrus lime flavours, ripe fruit balanced by incredible acidity. Pronounced notes of pepper and apricot on the nose, pure and fresh, youthful with noticeable acidity and concentration. Hollberg is a warm site with more open palate, peach, very fine and elegant. Heerkretz being the cooler site and typically more nervy performs very well in warm vintages.
Fruhlingsplatzen Riesling GG 2015 and Halenberg Riesling GG 2015, Emrich Schonleber
Nahe in general is cooler, alcohol levels typically 1% less the Rheinhessen wines above even and with lower residual sugar. The Fruhlingsplatzen had a later harvest than usual in 2015, very fine lanolin and a little bit funky (reduction), pithy and earthy. The Halenberg is particularly inviting, perfumed aromas, delicate, floral, bitter palate with green plum and some peachiness, chalky and the acidity comes through keenly.
HOW RIESLING AGES MASTER CLASS
Berg Roseneck 2012 and Berg Roseneck 2008, Georg Breuer
On the 2012 there may be a tiny hint of TDN. It is ripe with pronounced lime and smoke aromas, citrus and grapefruit flavours. 2008 is aromatically more expressive it is also honied and candied with keen citrus on the palate, preserved lemons compared to the fresh lemon of 2012. The pureness of the acidity of 2008 makes it feel younger than its years, it is taut, complex and has some salted almond notes which are very appealing.
Heerkretz Riesling GG 2013 and Heerkretz Riesling GG 2007, Wagner Stempel
The 2013 is fresh and lively, accessible and quirky, but less intense in all respects than the 2007. The acidity is less noticeable which is to say that it is keen but very well integrated. Ripe orchard fruit nose and some hay and ginger on the palate, it finishes very dry.. The 2007, at 10 years of age, it is evolving but only just beginning its journey. Honied, with a rounded texture and balm like. It does show the warmth of the year in its development and in this respects appears to be further along the path than for example the 2008 from G Breuer (a much cooler year).
Mulheimer Sonnenlay Spatlese 2007, Max Ferd Richter
Extraordinary how much younger this appears than the other 2007 in the flight. It is pure drinking pleasure and the fruitiness that the residual sugar conveys that keeps it lemony and fresh.
Wehlener Sonnenhur Riesling Spatlese 2012 and Wehlener Sonnenhur Riesling Spatlese 2004, JJ Prum
The 2012 icy and pristine, concentrated and fresh, lime like acidity. The 2004 definitely floral, very pure fruit, striking acidity, racy and refreshing, marries intensity with delicacy. At a perfect point of drinking.
2009 GEORG BREUER
Berg Rottland 2009, Nonnenberg 2009 and Berg Schlossberg 2009, Georg Breuer
Nonnenberg peachier and rounder, Rottland with some savoury notes, Berg Schlossberg the freshest and more intense of all three wines. The first two at a perfect stage of drinking with fleshy fruit, complex honey, candy peel and a piercing streak of acidity running through all three wines.
The 2015 are obviously very young but all got to show some of their promise. The Wagner Stempel wines showed exceptionally well at this tasting. 2012 charms and 2013 can surprise. Of the older vintages, my tastes lean towards the cooler vintages of 2004 and 2008. However having initially been less wowed by the 2009 they are now compelling drinking.