Dueling Rieslings

Last weekend, I tweaked my drinking homework a little bit. Instead of blind tasting a single bottle, I tasted 2 wines side by side. The idea was to train myself on differences and help calibrate my “sensors”. It’s easier to say that a wine has medium + acidity when you can compare it with a wine that has medium – acidity. I did that sort of thing before, in a much less structured way with a couple of red burgundies.

The wines were both from the same grape, Riesling. One came from Australia and the other one from Germany, both can be found in retail for between $15 and $20. Those are the common points, now we need to taste the difference

The wines :

  • Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley Dry Resling 2014
  • Nahe, Kreuznacher Knonenberg Auslese Riesling 2013

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Appearance

  • Pewsey Vale : clear, medium lemon with legs
  • Nahe : clear, medium lemon with thicker legs

Similar in color and intensity, the Nahe’s higher sugar shows more legs

Nose

  • Pewsey Vale : clean, medium intensity. Notes of citrus (lemon), vegetal, green fruit (pear), white flowers and mineral (rock, with faint petrol notes). The wine is young but developing.
  • Nahe : clean, medium + intensity. Notes of tropical fruit (mango), flowers (elderflower), stone fruit (yellow peach). The wine is developing

First big gap here, with the Nahe showing a very different set of aromas, much riper and exotic compared to the greener, citrusy Pewsey Vale

Palate

  • Pewsey Vale : dry, medium + acidity, medium – alcohol, medium body, medium flavor intensity, medium – finish.
  • Nahe : medium sweet, medium + acidity, medium – alcohol, medium + body, medium + flavor intensity, medium + finish.
  • Pewsey Vale : notes of citrus (lime), mineral (rock, oil), green fruit (apple)
  • Nahe : notes of tropical fruit (pineapple), stone fruit (yellow peach), flowers (elderflower)
Delicious homework

Delicious homework

Conclusion

  • Both wines are good. I would give a slight edge to the Nahe but not enough to move it to very good.
  • Both wines can be drunk now but they have potential for ageing

After doing some research, I think I did ok, one big mistake on the alcohol level however because the Nahe is only at 9% ! That’s definitely a low, not a medium -. The whole exercise was fun, I’ll definitely try it again.

 

Thai food, Game of Thrones and Riesling

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was special to me. As you probably know, I self-identify as a nerd and this series, both books and TV show, have been at the top of my love list for a few years. I went through the books like Leo Di Caprio going through fashion models, and, ever since the TV show started, I have been waiting for the adaptation of one particular scene. And they adapted the hell out of that scene last night.

House-Martell

I knew it was happening, the title of the episode left no doubt about that, so last night, I took steps to ensure I would be ready. Thai food, spicy Thai food, and a glass of Riesling were needed, with them I knew I could face what was coming. And see, that’s the thing, I knew it was coming; I read about it years ago, I talked about it, I re-read it, and still I was emotionally invested in it. Part of me is angry at myself for caring about things that are not real, and part of me just wants to applaud what is, ultimately, great storytelling. Storytelling so good it sucks you in when you already know how it ends.

Glass of German Riesling in hand, I watched one of my favorite fictional characters do what he does best. I watched him channel Inigo Montoya, Casanova and Bruce Lee at the same time and I felt like a little kid being able to enjoy something so much. Why do I like Oberyn Martell? He’s everything I’m not; he’s cool, suave, agile, a real ladykiller… He even has a widow’s peak when I just have a plain boring receding hairline, the dude has everything.

One thing I do have though is my glass of Riesling. I’ll stop pestering you with inane thoughts about a TV show and talk about the wine.

Loosen Bros. “Dr L” Riesling, 2013

Region: Mosel, Germany

Grape: 100% Riesling

Price: around $10

Loosen Dr L

Loosen Bros. is a fairly renowned German winery and they specialize in producing Rieslings. The Riesling grape is extremely versatile and can be made in a variety of styles, for instance by varying the level of sweetness. Of course, besides styles, you can also produce Riesling from different areas, vineyards and parcels. Basically you have two whole set of variables to play with.

That explains why, while they focus on the Riesling grape, Loosen Bros can still have a huge list of different wines.

The “Dr L” is their non-vineyard Riesling line; they describe it as “introductory” which I guess is a good way to call it a gateway-Riesling.

Eye: clear, pale lemon

Nose: clean, medium minus intensity, notes of lime, mango and pear

Palate: off-dry, medium plus acidity, medium body, medium length finish

Notes of apple, candied limes and lemons along with something definitely more tropical, like pineapple. The finish is nice with lingering candied citrus notes.

Food pairings: Spicy food (Thai, Indian), rich fish dishes (try saying this fast 5 times), desserts

Overall opinion: good value for money, nice off-dry Riesling with a very aromatic character and nice acidity. If you’re like me and you love Thai food, it’s a great wine to pair with larb salad or basil fried rice.

Grade: 7/10

Versatile and aromatic : Riesling

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah… Most of the international grape varieties originally came from France. I can think of only a couple that are from other countries, Grenache from Spain (Garnacha) and Riesling from Germany. Since I’m all for reconciliation, and because I had a very good one last weekend, let’s take a look at Riesling.

Riesling is from Germany, from the Rhine region to be more precise and it’s been there for a while with first records of the grape dating back to the 15th century. It’s a pretty easy going grape as far as growing it goes and, most importantly, it’s more than capable of surviving long and cold winters thanks to the fact that it ripens late. And a good thing that is because German and Alsatian winters are indeed long and cold. Ironically, Riesling doesn’t do as well in warmer climates where it tends to produce flat wines without much interest.

riesling

Like Chardonnay, Riesling is known to be a grape that reflects the terroir in which it is planted, with different aromas and characteristics depending on where the wine comes from. We’ll go through those in a minute but let’s first see what the common characteristic of most Rieslings is. At the core of Riesling, you’ll find a high acidity that gives it both a refreshing feeling and the ability to age long and well, especially for a white wine. To preserve that freshness, Riesling producers rarely use oak or malolactic fermentation and tend to favor a “clean” style to better express the characteristics of the grape.

Riesling aromas can vary a lot depending on the terroir. It is a fairly aromatic variety that gives off strong aromas that can range from tree fruits notes, like apples, in colder climates whereas Rieslings from warmer regions can summon peach, or even tropical fruit flavors. Depending on the ripeness of the grapes when harvested, the level of residual sugar in the wine will vary.

Another factor in the wide variety of Rieslings is that several winemaking techniques can be used. Riesling can be made as a dry white wine or as a very sweet dessert wine, and also as pretty much any style in between. Various levels of residual sugars can be achieved through various techniques, late harvesting, noble rot, ice wine, which gives even more potential style for Riesling. The Germans have a classification system for the sweetness of the wine, it starts with the dry Kabinett and then in increasing order of grape ripeness (and by consequence, residual sugar) Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese.

I don’t think this variety is used in blends; it is mostly made as a varietal. Germany is the main home of Riesling, especially in the Mosel and Rhine regions. Riesling is also the main grape in the German sparkling wine Sekt. Across the French border, Alsace is definitely the second home of the grape. Alsace Rieslings are usually more acidic than the German ones and have longer life expectancies. Outside of Europe, Riesling is a grape growing in popularity in regions like Australia, New-Zealand and especially Washington State in the United-States.

To sum up, Riesling, is versatile and has high acidity like Chenin Blanc, reflects the characteristics of its terroir like Chardonnay, thrives in cold to moderate climates, can age beautifully and has a wide range of possible aromas.

There is such a thing as too old wine

Did you know…that the oldest bottle of wine in the world is almost 1700 years old ?

The Speyer 1700 year old bottle

The Speyer 1700 year old bottle

A bottle found in 1867 in a Roman tomb near the city of Speyer in Germany was scientifically dated to 325 AD. It’s now on display in a museum in that city. According to scientists, the content of the bottle is still liquid. The bottle was sealed with olive oil to isolate the wine and wax to close the bottle. However they are concerned that it could not stand the shock of contact with the air and that “it would probably not bring joy to the palate”.

A reminder to drink your wines before they age beyond the point of enjoyment. I’ve seen that happen, it’s terribly sad.