|Anne Krebiehl blogs from The Riesling Summit|
|Written by Anne Krebiehl|
|Friday, 29 June 2012 09:08|
In a world of failing financial summits, Wednesday's Riesling Summit seemed like a good idea. After all, rather than trying to rescue a struggling monetary union it set out to celebrate one of the world's most scintillating grape varieties.
Easy, one should have thought, to convince a trade audience, many of whom are already worshipping at the altar of minerality and laser-like acidity. Yet, rather than talking about Riesling itself, the organisers, Wine of Germany UK, thought it was a good idea to have a panel debate on whether the UK trade was missing a trick in overlooking Germany's naturally low in alcohol wines when low-alcohol wines were a growing segment in the UK market.
While there were more Riesling-focussed master-classes in the afternoon, the main-billing was the panel debate where representatives of Wine Intelligence and AIM (Alcohol in Moderation) presented their findings, especially on two emerging categories, the first of which is immensely successful due to a tax-break: the up to .5.5% abv non-wines which experienced phenomenal year-on-year growth and lower alcohol wines up to 11% abv which don't benefit from a tax-break and showed small but steady growth - both from a low base. But does that really relate to modern Germany? Of the 49 German Rieslings presented in the free-pour tasting, only five were below 11%, namely one TBA, one Eiswein, two Spätlesen and one Auslese from the Mosel. All the remaining wines clocked up at least 12% abv with many reaching 13% or in one case even 14%.
While hardly anyone apart from Germany can naturally produce interesting, balanced and profound Rieslings at a 7 -10% alcohol level, these wines are also usually sweet and mineral - what bugs me is that there is so very much more to Riesling than its ability to make lower-alcohol wines - things like minerality, perfume, versatility, purity but above all a faithful reflection of provenance. These are the things that should be talked about. Lower natural alcohol is just one aspect of Riesling. In my opinion, Wines of Germany UK missed an opportunity here, considering its audience for the day, especially since some cracking wines were on the floor.
The wines from Generation Riesling, a group of 350 young winemakers that represent the talented, worldly and exciting face of modern Germany were thrilling to taste, pristine, pure and delicious. Eva Fricke's citrus-peel scented 2011 Rheingau Rieslings were whistle-clean, mineral and concentrated: stony saltiness mingled with luscious notes of tropical fruit, her Lorchhäuser Seligmacher from old vines has immense length and an elegance all of its own.
Jan Matthias Klein, of Staffelter Hof, whose successful UK Riesling tour organised by Meeghan Murdoch culminated at the Riesling Summit, loves to show the world "this new face of German Riesling: crisp, fresh, fruity, really animating and mouth-watering". Hailing from the steep slate sites of the Mosel village Kröv, his wines are all of that. His entry-level Paradies Riesling is the embodiment of sheer drinkability, his single site wines are zesty and incisive, like the 2011 Letterlay feinherb. His 2011 Dhron Hofberger GeGe shows a very savoury side with notes of pink grapefruit, concentration and length. He also brought along the 2001 vintage of Dhron, just to show how well these wines age: tertiary flavours of camomile and light honey dominated.
Other highlights were Weingut Bischel's Binger Scharlachberg Riesling Trocken. It really packed a punch with a muscular structure, savoury dryness and balance. Its distinctly mouth-filling mid-palate spoke of the slightly warmer origin of Rheinhessen. This is a wine looking for UK representation. Axel Pauly's Lieserer Niederberg-Helden from the Mosel was scented and light-footed - true to its region - but oh so profound.
With so many eminently drinkable, lively and above all frank and fresh-faced wines and hardly a gothic label in sight, Germany and Riesling really have turned over a new leaf. The rest of the world has taken note, hopefully the UK will, too.