Daily Archives: May 26, 2012

Demystifying German Riesling – WSJ 4 May, 2012

I know, another article, but this one is about German rieslings, and so I feel like I should share it with you.

Is it a trocken? Demystifying German Riesling

The author makes many valid points, among them the following four reasons why riesling is loved by sommeliers in the US:

1) Riesling is wonderfully capable of transmitting the character of a particular terroir of just about anywhere in the world, though arguably no more so than in its native Germany.

2) Ageability: A great German Riesling can age longer than just about any white wine in the world.

3) Affordability, especially relative to other great wines of the world.

4) The German wine-classification system can make the study of Burgundy seem like a proverbial walk in the park and that is why sommeliers seem to be necessary.

The author then goes on trying to explain that there are many German rieslings that are not as sweet as they tend to be perceived. She definitely has a point there. Another aspect she raises is that Americans talk dry, and like off-dry and semi-sweet. My experiences with American friends visiting us in Germany and going wine touring with us was usually the same: They would tell us prior that they wanted dry wines. The off-dryer and sweeter they got during the tasting, however, the more they fell in love. It is because of riesling’s natural acidity, that makes the sweetness play with it in a hugely pleasurable way.

Yet, the author also falls into the traps of German wine labeling that she tries to avoid: In the article she seems to equate kabinett (the lowest class of Praedikat wine, remember my post?) with off-dry or semisweet. That is not entirely true, though. There are many kabinetts that are dry. This problem, again, stems from the confusing German wine labelling. While Mosel riesling kabinetts are usually sweet, if the label does not denote anything you can assume that they will be on the sweeter side. The winemaker labels them “trocken” (dry) or halbtrocken or feinherb (off-dry) if they are not. In other regions, where tradition is different, a kabinett without any extra labelling can be dry…and if it was sweeter that would be put on the label. My point: Don’t assume a kabinett is off-dry or sweet just because it is a kabinett. If it is from the Mosel, you can safely assume it is on the sweeter end.

The article is still a good read.

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