Riesling–five countries, seven bottles, and three hours. We each brought a bottle, ensuring we had the major regions covered: Mosel and Franken, Germany; Eden Valley, Australia; Alsace, France; and Long Island, NY. But then Brian pulled the cork on all the wines we brought, trumping our selections with a half-bottle of TBA (Trockenbeerenauslese) Riesling produced by the Gunderloch estate from Rheinhessen, Germany. We wanted to construct an alter and sacrifice a virgin before opening this precious gem, but the best we could do was get Suzanne to don a veil.
Riesling, a grape that favors cold weather and botrytis (or noble rot), is an aromatic varietal with great range, known for its ability to reflect the region from which it comes. I’ve always been a fan of the dry, crisp, aromaticly floral kind of Riesling with sharp acidity, and not the semi-dry (or somewhat sweet). And though I’ve sipped and loved many a Riesling by the bottle or glass, tonight really opened my senses to the range that Riesling really possesses!
Wanting to ensure that we began dry, we corked a bottle of Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Dry Riesling 2008; Pewser Vale being an Australian vineyard what was established in 1847. On the nose we sensed grass and minerality and a hint of petrol. A green apple pucker dominates the palate–dry and clean with bright acidity. Clearly, we all need to work on our Australian Rieslings–because we considered this to be atypical of what we would consider a “standard” Riesling.
Paumanok Riesling 2008 Semi-Dry, a slightly effervescent wine from the North Fork, Long Island. With minerality and pear on the nose, followed by peach, which dominates the palate, the Paumanok pairs well with calamari and a spicy-sweet Thai sauce that cuts through the sweetness of the wine.
From Alsace, France, the Hugel Riesling 2006, offers lots of petrol on the nose and palate (at only 3 years old??), though a few of us detected a bit of pineapple first. It’s super dry, with little fruit left standing–lime, and oddly, from God knows where (since Riesling rarely, rarely, if ever sees oak)–a touch of coconut.
Low in alcohol, like many a Rieslings, the Von Hövel 2007, Saar, Germany, sacrifices its boozy effect for some residual sugar sweet. Most everyone voted this selection the most drinkable of the night (excluding the TBA). With minerality and pineapple on the nose, it’s slightly sprite with peach on the palate, peach and easy drinking…but not so complex.
The next selection deserves no picture; it doesn’t deserve a place in my mouth. The Dragon’s Hollow Riesling 2006, from the Eastern Foot of He Lan Mountain Appellation China, sent me running to the bathroom, so that I could spit. Nothing but plastic on the nose and in my mouth–Dragon’s Hollow got me thinking about all that tainted pet food and milk.
Franken, Germany revived us (after we rinsed our glasses), with its Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg Riesling Spätlese Trocken 1992, Weingut Hans Wirsching. With 17 years beneath its cork, the Iphöfer is gold golden in color. It shows petrol and hazelnut on the nose; and is bone dry with a stone fruit pit finish. With flavors that skip through the palate like a stone (to quote Jenn a little loose), it has a buttery texture (not flavor), rendering it a full-bodied Riesling–the most complex thus far–that left a few tartrates behind.
Until now, none of the Rieslings topped 25 bucks. But then Brian traded a print and brought us one of the greatest and rarest Rieslings of them all–a TBA–meaning that the grapes have botrytized, or shriveled by noble rot. 2003 Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling TBA Gunderloch, is a wine whose greatness and labor is reflected its price (typically over $300 for 375 ml.). Some of us contemplated bathing to cleanse our selves in preparation for this beauty, others simply sighed. This baby is deep gold in color with aromas of golden raisins, dried figs and dates, and botrytris (think “rotten grape”). It’s got the texture of strawberry honey and a floral essence. And damn, is the finish long.