Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wrap-Up: 4 Extraordinary Riesling Tastings at the 1. International Riesling Symposium at Schloss Rheinhartshausen in the Rheingau in Germany

Pictures: Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium

The 1st International Riesling Symposium took place at Schloss Rheinhartshausen in the Rheingau in Germany a couple of months ago. Among the highlights were 4 Riesling tastings that wonderfully showed the versatility of this exceptional grape variety. I have reported about the 4 tastings earlier. This posting provides a summary and a final assessment of the tastings.

The 1st International Riesling Symposium

Eight very interesting lectures, four outstanding wine tastings - one in the morning and one in the afternoon of each day - and a walking wine dinner provided for two fascinating and highly entertaining days around Riesling at the 1st International Riesling Symposium took place at Schloss Rheinhartshausen in the Rheingau in Germany on November 11 and 12, 2010. It was attended by attended by about 150 people, including such luminaries as Jancis Robinson from the UK, Willi Bruendlmayer from Austria, Helmut Doennhoff from the Nahe, Ernst Loosen from the Mosel and Colette Faller from Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, and many others.

The conference was organized by the VDP Rheingau. The VDP is Germany’s elite winemakers association; it has about 200 members.


Worldwide, there are about 34.000 hectares planted with Riesling. Germany – with 22.400 hectares – accounts for 2/3 of the total. The second largest Riesling producer is Australia, with 4500 hectares. But this is only about 1/10 of the total. Nevertheless, Australia was a bit underrepresented at the 1st International Riesling Symposium. Alsace follows with 3500 hectares. Austria, the US with Washington State and New York State as well as New Zealand make up the remainder. But overall Riesling is really a niche wine, accounting for only less than 1 percent of total wine production in the world - but a very special niche wine.

Picture: 1st International Riesling Symposium Participants Ernst Loosen and Christian G.E.Schiller in New York City

Wine Tasting: Aging Potential of Riesling

Jancis Robinson, Financial Times, led a fascinating tasting of 21 aged Rieslings. It was a very lively tasting with many of the winemakers present and also commenting on their wines. Jancis was assisted by John Dade Thieriot (Dee Vine Wines, San Francisco).

Picture: Ingo Swoboda, John Dade Thieriot, Jancis Robinson and Wilhelm Weil

Wine Tasting: First Class Dry Rieslings

Josef Schuller, Managing Director of the Weinakademie Oesterreich led a fascinating tasting of 21 dry Rieslings. In contrast to the other 3 tastings, it was a blind tasting with the wines only being discussed – by regions – following the tasting and the wine list only distributed after the event.

Many wine drinkers, in particular outside of Europe, when they see a Riesling in the shelves, have the association of a sweet-style wine. This is however misguided. Rieslings are as a rule are dry wines. Of course, there are the famous sugar sweet Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein and Schilfwein wines from Austria and Germany, the Sélection de Grains Nobles from France, the icewines from Canada and other Rieslings, made from botrytized, dried or frozen grapes. The grapes that go into these wines have such a high sugar content that there is nothing you can do to make dry wines out of these grapes. They inevitably produce nobly sweet wines. But apart from these exceptions, which account for only a tiny share of total production, Riesling grapes in Germany, Austria, Alsace, the US and Australia have normal sugar content at the time of fermentation and tend to produce dry wines, when fully fermented.

However, modern cellar methods allow winemakers in Germany and elsewhere to produce wines with a touch of sweetness. These were the subject of the third tasting.

Picture: Ingo Swoboda, Josef Schuller and Wilhelm Weil

Wine Tasting: Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

There are principally two methods applied for making Rieslings with a touch of sweetness. First, you do not let the fermentation run its course and stop it; as a result, you get a sweet and low alcohol wine. Second, you let the wine fully ferment to a normal alcohol level and then add Suessreserve (sterilized juice) to achieve the desired degree of sweetness. These sweet-style wines have lost some of their popularity in Germany, but there appears to be a comeback. In any case, they remain popular outside of Germany, notably in the US market. Two of the three German wines on this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 List belong into this category: St-Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett Mosel Ockfen Bockstein 2009 and Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett Rheingau 2008.

Stephane Gass is the Alsace-born Sommelier of the famous Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube Traube Tonbach in the Black Forest. He led a tasting of Rieslings with a touch of sweetness. We tasted 21 wines, of which 18 were from Germany; the three remaining were from Washington State, Alsace and Canada. There were no Austrian wines, as Austria does not produce this kind of wine.

Picture: Ingo Swoboda, Stephane Gass and Wilhelm Weil

Wine Tasting: Lusciously Sweet Rieslings

What are lusciously sweet Rieslings? I know what nobly sweet Rieslings are, but the definition of lusciously sweet is broader than that of nobly sweet, as the selected wines show. The tasting comprised a range of sweet wines, from German Spaetlese and Auslese wines to a French Selection de Grains Nobles wine and German Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein wines as well as a Canadian icewine. The factors behind the sweetness in the wines we tasted varied widely:

(1) Some wines benefited from botrytis cineria (noble rot), a fungal infection, which removes the water in the grapes, increases the sugar content and adds a unique flavor to the grape.

(2) The icewines were made from grapes harvested during the frost late in the year, which removes the water in the grapes (but does not produce the botrytis taste). In both cases, the sugar content of the grape is exceptionally high at the time of the harvest and mother nature is unable to ferment all the sugar. Thus, natural sugar remains in the wine and makes the wine sweet.

(3) Some wines possibly benefited from Suessreserve. Other wines were possibly stopped. Obviously, these were wines similar to the wines we had in the tasting of Rieslings with a touch of sweetness. But the sweetness was much more intense, resulting in lusciously sweet Rieslings.

The wine tasting was led by Caro Maurer (CM), a well-known German Wine Journalist. We tasted 21 wines, from Germany, Alsace and Canada.

Picture: Caro Maurer and Wilhelm Weil

Postings About the 1. International Riesling Symposium on schiller-wine

Here are the postings.

1.International Riesling Symposium

Aging Potential of Riesling – A Wine Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium in Germany Led by Jancis Robinson

Lusciously Sweet Rieslings - Wine Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium

First Class Dry Riesling Wine Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium

Riesling Elegance with a Touch of Sweetness – Tasting at the 1. International Riesling Symposium in Germany, led by Stephane Gass

schiller-wine - Related Postings

Visiting Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach at their Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

Visiting Weingut Josef Leitz in Ruedesheim – Johannes Leitz is Germany’s Winemaker of the Year, Gault Millau WeinGuide 2011

Impressions from the Riesling & Co World Tour 2010 in New York

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

Terry Theise's Top German Wines of the 2009 Vintage

Germany's Top 16 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2011

German Wine Society Tastes Outstanding German Wines at National Press Club in Washington DC

Impressions from the Riesling & Co World Tour 2010 in New York

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

Wine Caravan from Germany Visiting the East Coast, US: Dr. Fischer, Fitz Ritter, Bolling-Lehnert, Schneider, Dr. Thanisch

No comments:

Post a Comment