Riesling - From Germany With Love
Riesling - From Germany with Love
Those memories of drinking Black Tower Liebfraumilch in the late seventies have left an indelible mark on my drinking tastes that took several decades to shift. And thank goodness they did shift. For Riesling is now one of my favorite whites.
Probably because of our early drinking history, we are all pretty comfortable with the fact that the Riesling grape variety originated in the Rhine region of Germany.
And when it comes to the history of German Riesling, 900 year old Schloss Johannisberg is one of the oldest Riesling Estates in the world, with its first documented vintage dated back to 817; and since 1720, only Riesling is cultivated on its monopole vineyard. See Schloss Johannisberg 'Yellow Seal' QBA Riesling and Schloss Johannisberg 'Red Seal' Kabinett Riesling for a taste of history.
With terms like spatlese, kabinett, auslese, trocken, halbtrocken, combinations of those terms and more, there is a definite learning curve to understanding German Riesling. These terms all represent different styles of riesling. If you like riesling you have a plethora of styles to choose from. All regions that grow riesling can do different styles, but with Germany you get a consistent taxonomy to the names.
One of our favourite rieslings is the '50th Parallel' Trocken Riesling from G.H von Mumm. Being a trocken, it’s has a dry style. The 50° reference in the name of this wine comes from the location of the vineyards where the grapes for this wine are grown. It’s from the Rheingau region and the 50th degree of latitude runs through the centre of the region.
The history of the Mumm estate is also a great yarn. It goes back to the entrepreneurial wine merchant Gottlieb Mumm, who in 1811 approached the Schloss Johannisberg estate with a proposal to purchase the entire harvest – quite a risky move since there had been one poor vintage after another from 1808 to 1810. For Gottlieb Mumm, however,it proved to be a case of “fortune favours the brave”: 1811 went down in the history of the Rheingau as a “comet vintage” and Mumm acquired 60,000 litres of outstanding Riesling.
But Germans don't get it all their own way.....
Moving from their side of the world to ours, there's a place in the Marlborough sub-region of Renwick, whose terroir produces a world class Riesling as defined by its purity, elegance and age ability. Te Whare Ra (TWR) is a small 11Ha vineyard in Renwick owned by winemakers Anna & Jason Flowerday. Te Whare Ra Riesling 'D' 2014 is the result of a combination of organic and biodynamic practices with all the fruit is hand picked and hand-sorted - TWR are slowly but surely carving out a reputation for this winery as being one of New Zealand’s elite.
Back in Australia, one of my favourite riesling districts is the Great Southern Region of Western Australia. Extraordinary biodiversity and a mild Mediterranean climate make the Great Southern Wine Region of the Porongurups, Mount Barker, Albany and Denmark a veritable feast of wines, produce, wildflowers and forests. It’s the coolest of WA’s viticulture regions, making it ideal for Riesling. Trevelen Farm Great Southern Riesling comes from a family run business based on environmentally sustainable principles. Owned by John and Katie Sprig, Trevelen Farm has a family history in wine making dating back to the 1850’s. The current vineyard was established on the family farm in 1993, and it is the most northern vineyard in the great southern region of Western Australia. This protects the vineyard from diseases caused by coastal rain and reduces the use of artificial disease control substances.
The really interesting thing about Riesling it is so highly influenced by the wine's place of origin. Thats why its worth trying all the above wines. Whilst enjoying them all, you can really taste each wines different "personally", derived from its terroir.