German Riesling: a refreshing change

20 June 2014
German Riesling: a refreshing change

The often-neglected German Riesling deserves its place in the sun, says Harrow at Little Bedwyn owner Roger Jones, who has rounded up the best examples of this crisp, fresh style

German Riesling has certainly become drier and much more approachable in recent years. Of all the grapes in the country, it is the most noble and important - over 57.8% of the world's Riesling vineyards are located in Germany. The majority of Riesling made in Germany is dry, although some are not quite in the bone-dry style of Australia.

Riesling offers elegance and amazing fragrance. It has so many pleasurable attributes, from enticing peaches on the palate to dry, crisp apples in younger wines. Rieslings can be sublime and majestically dry, packed with layers of fruit and white flowers, an amazing rich and oily texture, and a crisp, precise finish. These wines can age for decades and, importantly, many are low in alcohol - some as low as seven or eight per cent.

You could compare a Riesling to an apple. At its best, an apple is crisp and fresh and that comes from its acidity; likewise, a Riesling has fresh, ripe fruit and its natural high acidity gives it freshness.

Wine lovers looking for something clean and refreshing with zippy fruit flavours that goes hand in hand with modern, lighter food are rediscovering Riesling. It is instantly pleasing on the palate: pure, fresh, no oak, lower alcohol and no tannin. The bright, fresh fruit aromas jump out of the glass, and on the palate an explosion of complex flavours is followed by a citrus taste and a palate-cleansing finish.

Having recently judged for Wines of Germany's Top 50 wines, I was very impressed with the following Rieslings. All these would drink well by the glass, as an aperitif or as a wine-bar 'glugging' wine, and offer a better option than some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Prices are per bottle, and exclude VAT.

â- Kendermanns Special Edition Riesling, Pfalz 2013 (£6). Zingy and fresh, clean
and linear with hints of apple and pear.
â- Devil's Rock Riesling, Pfalz 2013 (£5.25). Vivid, concentrated and focused with real Riesling definition - and it's just over £5.
â- Peter & Peter Riesling aus der Steillage, Mosel 2013 (£6). So refreshing, it's like the first few strokes in a cool swimming pool.
â- Walter Riesling Trocken, Mosel 2012 (£8). Clean, modern, lively and vibrant with great fruit and balance.

For more on regions and suppliers, check out

Winemaker Profile: Dr Ernst Loosen
Known to everyone as Ernie, Ernst Loosen is one of the world's most charismatic winemakers - a pioneer with a global reputation.

He took over his father's ailing winery in 1987, gave up his studies in archaeology and took up the study of winemaking instead. He immediately realised the huge task in front of him when he discovered that his vines were spread over numerous vineyards, in small batches, and he had no idea which vines were his. He allowed all the other winemakers to pick first, and then guessed that what was left belonged to him. This proved fortunate, as by the time he started to pick the weather had changed and the sun shone, making for a great first vintage.

Ernie has spread his wings since his early days in the Mosel district, first taking over JL Wolfe in the Pfalz in 1996 and then making Eroica Riesling in 1999 with Chateau Ste Michelle in Washington State in the USA. This last venture combines New and Old World, producing a world-class wine.

Ernie's enthusiasm and passion has without question helped the German wine industry to modernise and revitalise and elevate the Riesling grape back to its noble status.

Vineyard Profile A Christmann, Pfalz, Germany
Steffen Christmann is part of the ninth generation to run this 16-hectare estate, making beautiful, dry Rieslings. The estate is farmed biodynamically, manual techniques are used, and Christmann works with the lunar cycle. Gentle pressing is followed by slow wild-yeast fermentation and ageing is a combination of stainless steel vats and traditional large, old oak barrels. These Rieslings show great purity and minerality with crisp acidity on a long finish.

Ruppertsberg Riesling Trocken VDP Ortswein 2013, £11.66 Clean precision on the palate. Delicate white floral and tropical sweet pear evolve in the mouth. Good zippy flavours and a dry finish.

IDIG Riesling Troken GG, VDP 2008, £29
This has a lovely deep nose and a yellow straw colour. It is rich and full-flavoured with luscious fruit and complex layers. A top-class Riesling.
Both wines available from Charles Taylor Wines.

Regional Riesling styles
Mosel Crisp, fresh and pure and low in alcohol (JJ PrÁ¼m, Dr Loosen).
Pfalz (Rheinpfalz) Great intensity, purity and finesse (Von Buhl, Christmann).
Rheingau Rich and full-bodied (Schloss Johannisberg).
Nahe Spicy with rich tropical fruits (Hermann Dönnhoff).

Food and wine matching
Drier Rieslings from Grand Cru single vineyard sites are the best match with food as they are so diverse. German wine isn't just a foil for spiced food or desserts - it works fabulously well with meat as well as seafood such as sashimi and lobster.

At Harrow at Little Bedwyn we pair seared tuna, Exmoor caviar and Isle of Wight tomatoes with a dry German Riesling. The minerality and fruit of the wine
enhances the tomatoes and is balanced by the salty caviar.

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