MISE À DAY
Planted in the right place and skillfully vinified, Riesling can make stunning wines. In the opinion of many, it is one of the greatest grape varieties in the world. A look at what is also called “rock water”.
Cultivated mainly in Germany, it would have its origins in the Rhine and Moselle valleys. Even if it can give the greatest white wines on the planet – we can think of the famous Clos Ste-Hune de Trimbach or the confidential cuvées of Egon Müller – Riesling remains subject to many myths. The most tenacious is the one wanting it to give a sweet wine. Think again ! Although German Riesling production has long been dominated by wines with high residual sugar levels (partly to counter the often pronounced acidity), most are now quite dry. They can be spotted when they have the mention “trocken” on the label, which translates in French to “sec”.
However, nothing is simple in the world of wine. German law considers a wine to be dry up to a maximum residual sugar content of 9 grams per litre. It all depends on the sugar-acidity balance. Thus, some wines with more than 4 grams of residual sugar (the standard recognized elsewhere in Europe to designate a dry wine) can appear perfectly dry to the palate thanks to their pronounced acidity. Without this residual sugar, the acidity of the wine could make you wince so much that you could lose your teeth. Or almost…
Despite these subtleties, keep in mind that Riesling has an astonishing propensity to bring out the character of the terroir from which it comes, which is why it is nicknamed “rock water”. With its profile focused on freshness, it is often very digestible, whether it is vinified dry, semi-dry or sweet. Here are five that will allow you to explore some of their facets.
Rudolf Rabl, Riesling Langenlois 2021, Kamptal
★★★ | $$1⁄2 | $25.80 | Austria 12.5% | 4 g/L – Organic
SAQ code: 12776877
On the north bank of the Danube, in the Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal, Riesling is a little more solid and substantial than the average German Riesling, and also a little more accessible than Alsatian Riesling. It is very dry here and focused on the expression of the terroir. A fine and delicate nose releasing notes of chalk, orange peel and jasmine. Tight texture with a very pleasant acidity which enhances the harmony of the whole. Wine of thirst!
J.Bäumer, Riesling 2021, Vdp Rheinischer
★★1⁄2 | $1⁄2 | $15.35 | Germany 11.5% | 8.6 g/L
SAQ code: 12897994
This is the cheapest of the wines on offer this week, but not necessarily the worst. Again, forget about residual sugar levels. According to German regulations, wine is considered dry. It does indeed have fullness, even fatness, but everything is nicely balanced by a lively and well-integrated acidity, which makes the whole quite dry. Not very complex and yet very pleasant, it evokes notes of lime and lily. Served chilled, it will go wonderfully with sushi.
Schätzel, Naturweiss 2019, Vdp Rheinischer
★★★ | $$1⁄2 | $26.25 | Germany 10.5% | 1 g/L – Organic
SAQ code: 14887722
Here, the Riesling is blended with Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc, some of which are macerated on the skins, which brings the veiled and finely golden side of the wine. The estate promotes the ripening of fruits while keeping their sugar content relatively low, thus reducing the alcohol in the wines. A slightly funky nose of yeast, white flower and peach. On the palate, it is both ample and light with a very present acidity and a pleasant bitterness on the finish. For lovers of natural wines
Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Riesling 2020, Pfalz
★★★1⁄2 | $$1⁄2 | $24.15 | Germany 12% | 5.4 g/L – Organic
SAQ code: 12299821
The Palatinate region is protected from cold winds and rain from the west by the vast forest of the Pfälzer Wald. Its climate, drier and warmer than that of the Moselle, is therefore more conducive to organic farming. Sourced from grapes grown in the foothills of the Palatinate Hills in the villages of Wachenheim, Deidesheim and Ruppertsberg, all three renowned for their Rieslings, this cuvée stands out for its restrained richness, savory whole and stony, finely spiced finish. Dry and straight despite the few grams of sugar displayed.
Burg Ravensburg, Husarenkappe Riesling Grosses Gewachs 2017, Baden
★★★★ | $$$$1⁄2 | $49.00 | Germany 13% | n.d. g/L – Organic
SAQ code: 14212688
Burg Ravensburg is one of the oldest vineyards in the world, the house having been founded in 1251. Located in southern Germany, in the Baden region, adjacent to Alsace where the climate is wetter and less sunny, Riesling takes root in the plot called Husarenkappe and classified as “Grosse Gewächs”, which means “grand cru”. A full-bodied and pregnant wine that offers a complex nose of candied citrus, apricot and spices. It’s long, salty and blessed with wonderful acidity. Definite aging potential (10 years and more). The price may seem high, but it's quite low for a Riesling of this quality.
Very Good ★★★
More stars than dollars: well worth the price
As many stars only dollars: worth its price
Fewer stars than dollars: the wine is expensive