Every great grape has a home base, a country or region considered its natural and prime habitat. The finest Pinot Noir, for example, is found in Burgundy. Nebbiolo thrives in Piedmont. And Riesling shows its best in Germany.
Because Germany’s cool northern climate is more amenable to white grapes, two-thirds of the country’s wines are white. Of them, about 20 percent are Riesling. And of the country’s 13 wine regions, the greatest Rieslings come from the Mosel and the Rheingau. They are fragrant, delicate, elegant wines made in a range of styles: dry (trocken); semi-dry (halb trocken); and Spätlese, wines made of grapes left longer on the vine that are richer and can be dry or slightly sweet. Germany’s fabled dessert wines move in their degree of sweetness from Auslese to Beerenauslese to the sweetest of all, Trockenbeerenauslese. The sweeter the wine, the more expensive. But there are lovely, drier versions of Riesling at affordable prices.
From the Rheingau, for example, there is Domdechant Werner Riesling Kabinett 2011 ($24), a beautifully balanced wine with an aroma reminiscent of a dewy garden, a focused citrusy acidity and a lingering finish. Domdechant Werner also offers Erstes Gewächs Riesling 2010 ($50) from Kirchenstück, one of the Rheingau’s great vineyards. And there is its rich 2011 Riesling Spätlese that is simply gorgeous ($35).
Weingut Georg Breuer’s Terra Montosa Riesling 2011 ($30) is pale in color and then surprises with a floral aroma of newly cut flowers. The winery’s 2011 Riesling from the vineyard Nonnenberg ($60) is also pale, almost the shade of water, but again surprises with an apple-like fragrance and fruit-rich taste.
From the Mosel, Weingut Michael Frank Riesling 2012 ($15) is equally pale in color followed by an assertively fragrant nose and sturdy fruit flavors.
Also from the Mosel, Weingut Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling Spätlese 2011 ($31) is dry, albeit rich in its aroma of green apple and melon. It has a pronounced minerality and a lingering finish.
Weingut Selbach-Oster Riesling Spätlese 2011 ($11) is dry with bright, citrusy fruit flavors, a hint of honey and excellent balance.
Enjoy Riesling with chicken salad, shrimp, other light fish, many Chinese dishes, rabbit and pork. And sip it by itself, a lovely aperitif, as aromatic as a garden of fresh flowers.
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