I recently took part in a Terroirs of Riesling #winechat about three distinctive Rieslings: German, Austrian and French. Already a Riesling enthusiast but with nowhere near the knowledge to be familiar with the tendencies and terroirs of the Rieslings from these regions, I primed myself on the regions with the help of the book The Best White Wine on Earth by Stuart Pigott, which is a great resource for any lover of this versatile grape.
The #winechat itself was lively, with tweets flying fast and free, enough so that it was for a time atop the trending list on Twitter. We went in order from Germany to Austria to France.
This Riesling comes from the oldest estate in Germany under continuous family ownership: 27 generations spanning over 670 years. Most of their vineyards have been in the family’s care since 1349, which in itself is astounding. The grand cru Erbacher Marcobrunn vineyard where this Riesling comes from was added to the estate sometime in the 17th or 18th century. It lies between the towns of Erbach and Hattenheim on a south-facing slope, and the vineyard name refers to a “Brunnen,” (spring) on the “Marke” (border) between these two towns. The soils are medium deep, marked by mica-veined Tertiary marl, and Riesling is the only grape grown in the vineyard.
This Riesling is full of honey, sweet summer flowers and ripe stone fruits accented by a soft spiciness that adds complexity, and enough acidity to keep the sweetness in check. It clocks in at a low 9.5% alcohol.
My personal recommendation is to pair with spicy dishes: curry, tacos, and the like but would also go well with fish.
True to the typical Riesling from the famous Zöbinger Heiligenstein vineyard, this 2011 Brandl displays a distinctive minerality originating from the volcanic rock and desert sandstone under the vines.
We tasted this Riesling at a young age, but the ageability of Heiligenstein Rieslings is legendary so it would be interesting to see the results a half a decade from now. Right now it’s all chalk and minerals with green apple, with what I would best call clean acidity. We’re worlds away from the Kabinett at 14% with this full-bodied Austrian Riesling.
A good pairing true to the region would be a goose, duck or another bird and up here in the Pacific Northwest, I can see a sockey salmon or sushi playing nicely with this boney dry Riesling.
At 80 hectares, Schlossberg is the largest of Alsace’s Grands Cru vineyards. It was the first vineyard in Alsace to be classified a Grand Cru in 1975. The vineyard lies on mineral-rich alluvial clay, with sand topsoil, and a bedrock of granite. “The Rieslings from the top of the hill [where the soil is shallow] are testy and as the French might say nerveux“.
Apparently a prized vineyard since Roman times, history is still at work among the vines as horses are required to tend the vines in the Schlossberg vineyard due to the terrain.
According to Stuart Pigott, probably the most famous of Riesling afficianados, Paul Blanck makes some of the best Rieslings from this site that has been the source of some uneven results over the years, though this shouldn’t be a shock as it is a large piece of land that leaves room for variation from one area of the vineyard to another.
The 2010 Paul Blanck is just marvelous, full of honey, honey dew, jammy fruit and hints of prickly spice wrapped around vibrant acidity. The finish was endless, leaving you feeling as if a streak of the most exotic honey was lingering somewhere in the back of your mouth.
This Riesling would pair well with food with some spicy kick to it, and it should be said here that after we wrapped up the #winechat, I felt like Miles (the Paul Gamatti character) from Sideways as I sat down with a taco and a glass of this Alsace Grand Cru. And you know what, it really worked – sometimes it’s not the exquisitely prepared food and meticulous planning, it’s just the moment you’re in and the joy of comforting food and a glass of spectacular wine that soothes the soul.
All in all, these three Rieslings displayed great variation in this grape that can show so many sides depending on where it grown and how it is shepherded from vine to bottle.