Aside from Chardonnay, of all the white grape varieties I’ve had Riesling nearly the most. Oddly, I’ve never blogged about it. It is light, refreshing, usually low alcohol, and very food friendly. It goes wonderfully with spicy food as the sweetness balances out the heat. I’m not a big fan of sweet wines but I do like Riesling when there is a tart acidity to contrast and balance. Too sweet and it is cloying.
The mark of a great Riesling is this balance and finesse. Germany is one of the most famous regions for the grape but also intimidating. The language and quality labelling system can get rather complicated. I just think of it as ripeness categories as opposed to a quality system and this generally gets me by. The longer the grapes are on the vine the riper they become, leaving more residual sugar after fermentation. It is this leftover sugar that you taste as sweetness.
Around here I mostly find Pradikatswein, translated as “quality wine with specific attributes”. This comes in different levels of ripeness. The lightest and least sweet is Kabinett “cabinet” (or reserved), then Spätlese “late harvest”, and Auslese “select harvest”. Then there are the rarer sweet dessert wines like Beerenauslese “select berry harvest”, Eiswein “ice wine”, and finally Trockenbeerenauslese “select dry berry harvest” made from overripe shriveled grapes with the maximum amount of sweetness. On top of this you also get additional labels of trocken “dry”, halbtrocken “half dry”, feinherb “off-dry”, lieblich “semi-sweet”, and süß or edelsüß “sweet”.
So once we’re through all those you might be thinking about skipping out on this one but wading into the classifications are definitely worth it to find the exact type you like. There truly is something for everyone when it comes to Riesling. Today’s is a Kabinett, the lightest and least sweet of the categories, right where I like it.
Look: The mark of a really great German Riesling is a very clear translucency, almost like water. This one comes close with a light straw yellow colour and green hues.
Smell: At first lightly aromatic but as the chilled wine warms lime, grapefruit, and green apple aromas become more apparent. There is a notion of white flowers and gentle aroma of wet stone minerality. Then there is the oddest aroma commonly found in Riesling, a petrol or gasoline like smell. More commonly found in high end examples that have been aged properly, I’ve been finding it in cheaper bottles lately. Too much and it is off-putting, the right amount and it adds some complexity. There definitely was less the second night after the wine had sat in the fridge.
Taste: This wine is light to medium bodied with tangy acidity and is on the slightly sweeter side of the off-dry category. Lots of pink grapefruit and apple flavours make it tart, especially into the finish. Contradicting itself, the finish begins on the sweeter side with flavours of dried apricot, turning puckery with the acidity, then petering out to a aromatic honey flavour.
Conclusion: The petrol notes in this wine can be a bit off-putting at first. It does burn off eventually but makes the wine smell a bit rubbery to begin with. I would have liked to see more minerality and a bit more complexity but overall it tastes reasonable. The acidity really lifts it up, helping to cut the sweetness and balance out the wine. Better than some I’ve had before, I give this a 8.0+/10 a bit average, nothing outstanding but still drinkable. I’d really like to sample is a dry Riesling some time, so I shall keep on with my quest to find exactly which German example I like best.
- Riesling (Kabinett)
- Nahe, Germany, Pradikatswein
- 2014 – 9% ABV
- Kruger-Rumpf, Munsterer Kapellenberg
- $20.75 at Chateau Wine & Spirits (Lacombe)
- Screw cap