Wine professionals have touted the virtues of riesling for decades. But sales data show it is an afterthought for wine consumers.
Riesling is special, with an ability to balance luscious fruit with succulent acidity, delicacy with full flavor into a restorative elixir.
Part of the problem is the misconception that riesling is always sweet. The labels also can be an obstacle.
Here are some tips: First, look for “Qualiätswein” (quality wine). Another key indicator is membership with VDP (an association of quality-minded wineries); look for its eagle logo on the bottle.
The traditional “fruity” style is my favorite. Look for Prädikatswein on the label, indicating a wine made from grapes harvested at legally determined ripeness levels. There are six levels; three are reviewed here.
• Kabinett: Fine, light wines from ripe grapes usually slightly sweet. These include Dr. Loosen Blue Slate ($22), fresh, juicy, stony; Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer ($26), fine, delicate, lush, bracing; Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten ($28), spicy, earthy, juicy, zesty; Maximin Grünhäus Bruderberg ($38), elegant, lush, intense; and Schloss Johannisberg Rotlack ($42), rich, expressive, graceful.
• Spätlese: Very ripe, late-harvested grapes, more intense, usually sweeter. These include Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen ($34), well-built, mineral; Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer ($34), concentrated, mineral, sleek, firm; Maximin Grünhäus Herrenberg ($50), dense, racy, plush; and Schloss Johannisberg Grunlack ($60), bright, delicate, spicy, lush.
• Auslese: Exceptional sweet wines from fully ripe, botrytis (known as noble rot) affected grapes. These include Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr ($56), luscious, structured, luxurious; Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten (2017, $64), rich, spicy, succulent, mineral, elegant; Robert Weil Kiedrich Gräfenberg ($164), exuberant, concentrated, spicy, mineral, lavish, detailed, amazing.
I love Prädikats, but dry (“trocken”) wines are creating the most attention these days. At the peak of quality are the Grosses Gewächs, wines from the best sites. An important feature of GGs is naturally high acidity that provides a foundation for remarkable aging potential. These wines are bracing, fruitful and firm with dramatic impact: Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr “Alte Reben” (2017, $54), old vines, focused, refined; Maximin Grünhäus Abtsberg ($70), vibrant, delicate, generous; and Schloss Johannisberg Silberlack ($90), powerful, concentrated, refined.
The following trocken wines are more friendly and approachable, displaying vibrant structure balanced with elegance: Dr. Loosen Red Slate ($18), floral, spicy; Fritz Haag ($20), brisk, delicate; Robert Weil ($20), intense, tangy, stony; Wittmann Estate ($20), bright, forceful, mineral; Wittmann Niersteiner ($34), vibrant, deep, lithe; and Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg ($55), stony, spicy, refined, definitive.
These wines (all 2018 vintage, except where noted) are so good the challenges shouldn’t keep you from enjoying them.