Yes, I’m going to tell you once again just how great Riesling is and that if you are not on board you are missing out.
What sparked this column was a Zoom tasting to mark the arrival of some new German wines into Dunnes Stores under the Weinhaus label. I recommend two here and there is an excellent Pinot Noir Rosé due later in May and a berry-fruited elegant Pinot Noir later in the year.
What struck me most is what good value these wines are for the quality with all of them costing less than €12. There was a time in the 19th and early 20th century when the better German wines cost more than Cru Classé Bordeaux.
After the war, however, German producers needed a quick fix to stop going bankrupt and oceans of sickly liebfraumilch flooded the market. Yes, some producers made money but they wrecked the image of German wine — hence the value that Germany often represents today.
I’m just old enough to remember Liebfraumilch which thankfully began to disappear in the 1980s. Liebfraumilch was a thin low-alcohol wine usually made from Müller-Thurgau (a generally dull Riesling-Sylvaner cross) which by law had to contain 18g of residual sugar.
This sweetness was achieved by adding süssreserve (unfermented grape must), not necessarily a bad thing if done in moderation, but a disaster if the wine does not have the acidity to cope, leaving the wines flabby and cloying. Once Aussie Chardonnay and Chilean Sauvignon arrived here the market disappeared.
Germans still like that off-dry style and, if done well, it is delicious with wines from the steep sloped vineyards of the Mosel offering the best examples. German vineyards are at the extreme climatic edge for quality grape growing, but global warming has been kind and Rieslings from the Pfalz, Nahe, and the Rheingau all have significantly more fruit and poise than they did 20 years ago.
Wine selections this week are half from Germany and half from their main Riesling rivals. I’ve included a couple of off-dry wines for you to try as they really are delicious when made well with sweetness and acidity in balance so they can be drunk on their own in warm weather in the garden or with barbecues.
Wed. May 13 — 6-Week Wine Appreciation Course presented (virtually) by Sommelier, Bridget O’Hora, best known as @brideys_wine_chats on Instagram.
- Cost: €300, includes delivery of wines and notes. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Sauvignon Blanc is now common in German vineyards as it suits the climate and the world can’t seem to get enough of the grape. From a cool climate limestone (kalkstein) vineyard where grapes are picked early in the morning and dry ice is used to keep them cool until they arrive at the winery — gooseberry, citrus and green pepper aromas, fruity but crisp with creamy ripe apple fruits and a lime and lemon zingy finish.
Stockist: Dunnes Stores
Schiefer Steillage means ‘Steep Slate Slope’ which is what you want in the northerly Mosel — the slates acting as a storage heater and steep slopes allowing maximum sunlight. As is often the case in the Mosel this is off-dry (‘feinherb’) with residual sugar balanced by high acidity. Smoky bacon and apple pie aromas, creamy almost luscious apple fruits hit the palate first followed by zippy green apple acidity on the finish.
After Germany and Alsace, the next best place to look for reliable Riesling is the Clare Valley in Australia which is almost always dry in style and consistently well-made — one of the most reliable of all wine regions. This is fairly typical of Clare with tropical-tinged green apple, flint and chalky gooseberry aromas, bone-dry Granny Smith acidity, and lingering lemon and lime freshness.
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls
Yalumba is a long-established (1849) family-run company that makes consistently good wines across their range. Grapes for this were night-harvested to preserve acidity which is just under 7g with residual sugar at 3.6 grams per litre. Floral orange blossom and lemon on the nose, textured ripe apple fruits with tropical touches on the palate, clean and pure crisp acidity on the finish.
Domaine Eugène Meyer Riesling, Alsace, France — €24.99
Stockists: Bubble Bros, JJ O’Driscolls
From a long-established organic Alsace producer (since 1620) that also farms their vineyards biodynamically. This is classic dry Alsace Riesling (2g rs) with lemon, honeysuckle, and stone fruit aromas — weight and ripeness on the palate but bone-dry in character with a pleasing zingy kick of acidity on the finish. Perfect lunch wine or maybe with some grilled pork chops in the garden.
I recommended the Robert Weil Riesling Trocken a few weeks ago but for a few euro more you should also try their Kabinett which is 9.5% and has that classic sweet-dry ‘feinherb’ character that is neither dry nor sweet. Exotic tropical and floral aromas mixed with unripe apple, fruity and richly textured but with balanced crisp lime and lemon freshness with a bonus salty tang.
Stockists: Roughty Foods English Mkt, Stuffed Olive Bantry, Ardkeen, McCambridges, Selected SuperValu, and in independent shops.
I rarely feature non-alcoholic drinks (they usually taste awful), but these Kefir are something very special. Just 7 calories and a proper grown-up drink made from fruit juices and stevia and fermented with live kefir cultures which eat the natural sugar but leave a light fizz.
Of the four varieties, the Lemongrass & Ginger was my favourite for its zingy, tangy freshness but I also loved the Hopped Culture for its hint of Amarillo and Cascade hops. The Cucumber & Mint has a delicious cleanness and a herbal kick from thyme and the Chilli-Ginger a pleasing bang of heat. Wonderful.