Best of Riesling 2008
Every two years in Bingen, Germany, The Best of Riesling competition invites a group of internationally recognized experts to choose their favorite Riesling wine. This year, more than 50 experts from a dozen countries gathered to assess over 1,800 wines from 10 countries.Prizes were awarded to three groups of wines:German Rieslings,Non-German European Rieslings, and New World Rieslings.
German Rieslings. This group was divided into four subgroups: (i) dry (up to 4 grams per liter residual sugar); (ii) off-dry (up to 12 grams); (iii) sweet (from to 12 to 90 grams) and (iv) extra sweet (more than 90 grams).
Most of the wines which were awarded prizes were from small and medium-size wineries not well known in the United States. The first prize in the dry category was awared to the: 2007 Hochheimer Kirchenstueck Spaetlese from Weingut Schaefer in the Rheingau. Hochheim is a cute little village close to Frankfurt. You can take the S-Bahn from the Central Railway Station in Frankfurtto Hochheim. Weingut Schaefer is in the center of the village, at Elisabethen Strasse 4 ( www.weingut-schaefer-hochheim.de )
Surprisingly, all three winners in the dry category were Spaetlese,. Many wine drinkers believe that German Spaetlese is always sweet,, but this is a misconception. In a country with a cool climate likeGermany, sweet wines are sweet because of three reasons: (i) the fog in the vineyard producing the noble rot and botrytised wines, (ii) the frost during the harvest resulting in ice wine or (iii) the skillfull processing of the grapes by the winemaker after the harvest in the wine cellar. Indeed, German wine makers have developed extraordinary skills in arresting the fermentation or blending the dry wine with suessreserve to produce wines that display a combination of a low level of alcohol and delicious sweetness making them unique in the world.
All winning wines in the off-dry and sweet categories were Spaetlese or Auslese wines, with one exception. A Qualitaetswein besonderer Anbaugebiete (QbA) won a medal: 2007 Laubenheimer Vogelsang, QbA, Weingut Carl Adelseck (Nahe) (www.adelseck.de). This is a wine that most likely has been chapitalized and stopped and/or enriched through suessreserve. While chapitalization of wines is allowed in neighboringFrance up to the top categories of wines, inGermany it is only allowed for grapes with a low level of ripeness, i.e. the Tafelwein and QbA categories. Though little known in theUnited States, the QbA wines can be good value for the money.
Non-German European. The Austrian: 2007 Riesling vom Urgestein, Qualitätswein, Winzerhof Stift in Roeschitz( www.winzerhof-stift.at ) was judged best wine in this category.The Austrian classification of wine is similar to that ofGermany, with two major differences. The enrichment of wine through suessreserve, a major component of German winemaking, is illegal inAustria. When wines are sweet, this reflects noble rot, frost during the harvest, arresting the fermentation and sun drying. The latter is common inAustria, while it is illegal inGermany.
New World. All of the winners in this category were from the United States. The first prize went to the 2007 Chateau Ste Michelle dry Riesling from Washington State. Winemaking of Chateau Ste. Michelle, as far as Riesling is concerned, is influenced by the famous Weingut Dr. Loosen from the Mosel region. Indeed, Chateau Ste Michelle and Dr. Loosen, in a joint venture, produce a wine called Eroica (with the name being taken from the famous van Beethoven symphony), which is an off-dry Riesling (with more than 20 grams remaining sugar per liter). But this delicious example of successful New and Old World cooperation did not enter the competition. ( www.ste-michelle.com; www.drloosen.com )
Three silver medals were also award.. One medal went to another wine of Chateau Ste Michelle: 2006 Late harvest Riesling Ethos. This is a sweet wine with 220 grams of sugar per liter and a low alcohol level (8 percent). If it were a German wine I would think the fermentation had been arrested, given the low level of alcohol, but winemakers in the United Stateshave more sophisticated technologies at their disposal. The second silver medal went to the: 2007 Jana Michigan Riesling. This is a wine from Michigan, produced by Californiawine maker Scott Harvey. He is based in Californiaand produces wine under various labels, mostly from Napavalley and Amador county ( www.scottharveywines.com). Finally, a third medal went to the New York Finger Lakes wine: 2006 Riesling dry from the White Springs Winery, south of Lake Geneva. This is evidently an area with strong German/Austrian/Swiss roots that produces excellent Rieslings. This one is a dry one. (www.whitespringswinery.com).
For more information on the Best of Riesling event go to www.best-of-riesling.de
If you have a favorite Riesling,I would be delighted to hear from you.
Dr. Christian Schiller, McLean, Virginia and Frankfurt, Germany.