Israel Riesling Diary: Day One – UNIS Spectacular!

Last night I arrived in Israel for the first time. It’s my worst jet lag in years, perhaps because I’m used to those 6-8 hour flights back and forth across the Atlantic. Flying east for more then 10 hours threw me, and it’s a long time since I’ve been in a mediterranean-type summer. Then we headed to the local gas station in Even Yehuda, a short drive north of Tel Aviv, but not for gas, to put more air in the tires or even a car wash. No, we were there for a restaurant called UNIS, and the local food was spectacular!

The humus (the plate with the chick peas swimming in olive oil) was the most delicious that I ever had, delicate in flavor with a creamy-dreamy texture.

I feel sorry that the bread is only partially seen in this image, because it was also something special. No doubt, I ate too much of it and everything else on the table too!

Yes, these are a kind of shish kebabs, or rather several kinds of them. The one I liked best was the chicken hearts, something I’d never had cooked this way before.

And, no, yesterday I drank no wine of any kind. Two small beers plus all this food were enough to knock me out for almost 11 hours.

The wine tasting starts tomorrow, so please be patient! My apologies in advance for any names I spell incorrectly. This is bound to happen.


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 26 – FLX Top Secret

However well you think you know the wines of a region there’s always another surprise out there waiting to make you fall off your chair, and that’s the real reason that I do this strange, ridiculous, arduous and fantastic job. As those of you who follow me on twitter (@PigottRiesling) already know, last weekend I was in the Finger Lakes (FLX) on a Top Secret mission, and this involved exactly zero wine tasting. After I arrived on Friday afternoon, I had to concentrate on that mission to the exclusion of all else, and thankfully it appears to have been successful. All will be revealed when I know if that impression turns out to be correct. When I’d done all I could, I realized that there were a couple of hours “free”, so I headed out to Red Tail Ridge winery between Geneva and Penn Yan on the western bank of Seneca Lake. I’d already tasted a couple of good wines from this producer, but I hadn’t got a clear picture of the winery and its products, because the time interval between those experiences had been rather large. In my experience, this always makes it difficult to come to a conclusion, so there was no substitute for tasting a long row of the wines in all one go at some point; better sooner than later.

At 3pm on Saturday afternoon the Red Tail Ridge tasting room was hopping and I was lucky they could fit me in at one of the three tasting tables. I was already impressed by the 2013 “Sans” unoaked Chardonnay and the barrel fermented Chardonnays, which are both very honest and well made wines with far better balance than a slew of the competitors from the West Coast. Then, when I got to the Rieslings they figured out who I am and suddenly there was the winemaker Nancy Irelan (pictured above with her husband Mike). Together we tasted the 7 different (!) Rieslings ranging from properly dry up to dessert and they were all pristine, aromatic and elegant.

How many FLX winemakers are equally talented at making dry Riesling as making sweet wines from my favorite grape? Very few and Fred Merwarth of Hermann J. Wiemer heads that short list, which means that Nancy is in the very best company! How does the California native who founded this winery just a decade ago do that? Attitude and attention to detail are the answers, I think. As she told me, “drinking a glass of wine should be seamless. It shouldn’t interrupt the conversation or anything else you’re doing.” Note Nancy’s omission of the obsessive-compulsive, pseudo-science of wine pairings and her mention of that old-fashioned analog activity, conversation.

Then she poured the 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Blaufränkisch, which were two of the most expressive and polished red wines I ever tasted from the FLX. There were no green aromas in either of these wines, no edgy tannins (Blaufränkisch easily gets those in regions as cool as this), no inkiness or chewiness due to over-extraction (frequent Pinot Noir problems in this region) that distracted from the positive aromas and flavors, much less excessive oak masking those things. Red winemakers of the FLX please take note that this is your stairway to red wine heaven; forget power, go for balance and fragrance!

On top of this, Red Tail Ridge is the most energy-efficent winery I ever saw (I mean anywhere on Planet Wine), exclusively using geothermal energy. The investment in that technology was considerable, which requires a leap of faith that few are willing to make, but the payback can be enormous. This system paid for itself in just two and a half years and the monthly energy costs for the cellar are below $500. That’s something not only the local wine industry could learn from.

PS If you already found out what my FLX secret, either by chance or deduction, please don’t spread it around, but please spread the word about these joyful FLX wines!


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 22 – My Answer to Jancis Robinson’s Question, “Will Riesling ever catch on?”

Riesling grapes in Cave Spring Vineyard in Ontario, Canada. Riesling is in the process of overtaking Chardonnay to became the No. 1 white vinifera grape variety in Ontario.

Jancis Robinson’s just posted a story called ‘Riesling – will it ever catch on?’ that addresses the central theme of this blog and of my recently published book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and therefore has to be answered. From the title it’s clear that she feels deeply skeptical about our favorite grape’s chances, an impression the full text completely confirms.  Coincidentally, during the last weeks I was thinking a lot about why Riesling hasn’t been doing better recently in certain markets, so I’m glad to have been prodded into getting my thoughts out there.

It seems to me that just as Riesling is a many-sided wine in terms of its taste characteristics – from feather-light to ton-heavy, from bone-dry to honey-sweet and every conceivable combination of those things – it is also many different things to many different people in many different places. A glance at the vineyard statistics confirms this on the production side, the numbers telling a very different story in each winegrowing region and nation where Riesling plays a significant role.

In Australia, for example, in spite of all the changes in image, marketing and styles for the entire wine industry during the last decades, (which enormous fluctuations up and down), the Riesling vineyard area has remained remarkably stable for almost half a century. Bone-dry wines have also remained the dominant style for the grape. Riesling seems as firm a feature of the Australian landscape as Uluru, and no other country on Planet Wine confirms to this pattern.

The situation in the US is an utterly different one, Riesling having been completely overtaken by the explosive growth in the popularity and vineyard area of grapes like Chardonnay and Merlot during the 1970s and ‘80s. Then, largely under the radar, Riesling has grown remarkably since the turn of the century due to dramatically improved winemaking, grass roots interest (also far outside the cool East and West Coast cities) and a healthy dash of guerilla marketing. This story is all about the American spirit of innovation.

Pictured below is Mike Beneduce of Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown, New Jersey for whom 2013 was the first vintage of estate vineyard Riesling. I did his Blaufränkisch too!

Sure, there are global trends in wine consumption, but even when exactly the same wines are being drunk around the globe, they are drunk in different ways in different cultures and mean different things to those very diverse drinkers.  This strikes me as being at odds with Jancis Robinson’s conclusion that a world-wide Riesling bubble, which was only ever partially inflated has burst, because, “Riesling just has too strong a personality to appeal to enough consumers to gain global traction.” Sure, Riesling hasn’t grown in every market lately and has fallen back a bit in some places as moods and fashions have changed, but even in those places it isn’t hard to find elements of the global Riesling network. That, as much as the wines from the best white wine grape on earth, is the subject of this blog and my book.

Globalization, in the sense of truly global trade, dates back almost exactly 450 years, (see Charles C. Mann’s book 1493). However, its new instantaneous electronic form has obviously radically changed what that word means very fast. Even in the 21st century wine is a cumbersome product to transport, so it’s remarkable how it has become part of global-social-media-pop-culture. Even more extraordinary to me is how “little” Riesling (not quite 1% of the global vineyard area) has been particularly successful at this. In contrast, Cabernet Sauvignon has not done well as a social media phenomenon, rather the wines of that grape seem locked in rigid hierarchical structures that prevent them creating a viral buzz. I feel sure that the lack of a global community of Cabernet winemakers (unlike either Pinot Noir or Riesling) and the high prices and elitist image of many of the wines reinforce this effect.

My guess is, that it is precisely because Riesling is so open to different uses and interpretations that it has been able to connect with so many people in so many places. The generally modest prices and free global exchange of ideas amongst winemakers clearly encourage the feeling that Riesling is a democratic wine to spread. Only older consumers who have a fixed notion of Riesling as sweet and bland, and younger status-orientated consumers who take their cues from the older generation (in order to feel secure in their judgments, I think), seem completely unable to find a new use or positive interpretation for Riesling. As Jancis Robinson rightly notes, she and other writers can only have a rather modest influence upon these deeply-seated prejudices.

Why do those consumers cling to an outdated idea of what Riesling is? I think the answer is that it is often linked to a macho conviction these mostly male consumers have that they knows about wine in some decisive or even absolute sense. What they actually know is a particular conception of wine that more or less fitted reality at some now rather distant point in time, usually the late 20th century which was dominated by Chrdonnay, then big reds. All those Parker points only reinforced this, even after wine fashions and styles had begun moving in very different directions (elegant, more aromatic dry whites and fresher less inky reds). As the Canadian media philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, most of the time most of us see the world within the comforting frame of the rear-view mirror, rather than through the windshield.

Pictured right is Peter and Brigitte Pliger’s ‘Kaiton’ Riesling from the Eisaktal/Val d’Isarco in Südtirol/Alto Adige. Anyone who wants to know how minerality in wine tastes is recommended this Italian Riesling (and yes, it is a real Riesling, not a Riesling Italico). I was never able to buy a bottle of this wine from the them, because it was always sold out, so I was bowled over to find it on the list at Hearth Restaurant in New York where this picture was taken.  Seen through the bottle is Janie Brooks Heuck of Brooks Wines in Oregon, one of that state’s leading Riesling producers. The 2003 Willamette Valley dry Riesling from Brooks was one of the most exciting white wines I tasted this year!

I think there’s a logical conclusion to all this, which is that the more an individual, group or culture is open to the taste of wine (and what it can do for the drinker) the better Riesling tends to do.  The more they are ruled by ideas of status and/or ”face”, the greater the uphill struggle that the wines will have, and in extreme cases that might be like the North Face of the Eiger. Perhaps this is why, as Jancis rightly points out, Riesling does so well in Norway.

Let’s have a closer look at Norway. On the 2014 United Nations Human development index it places first (compare with the US fifth and the UK 14th). The Economist Intelligence unit produces a Democracy Index every two years and in the 2012 edition Norway was first (compare with UK 16th and US 21st). Reporters Without Border publishes a world press freedom index and Norway is 3rd in the latest edition (compare with the UK 33rd and the US 46th). When I went to Norway in 2007 I certainly didn’t like everything I found, but the openness of many, many people was remarkable. That is the kind of air which Riesling likes to breathe and in which it flourishes.

By the way, none of the world’s leading Riesling producers have much problem selling out each year and even I have to be sharp in order to buy some wine directly from German winemakers like Helmut Dönnhoff in Oberhausen, Nahe and Klaus-Peter Keller in Flörsheim-Dalsheim, Rheinhessen, or their colleagues in Australia like Jeffrey Grosset of Clare Valley and Hermann J. Wiemer of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.



New York Riesling Diary: Day 14 – Wine of the Month October 2014 is the New York Yankees Riesling

‘New York Yankees’ Dry Riesling from Anthony Road in the FLX for $24.99

Of course, as no-sports Englishman (currently) in New York I am not able to fathom all the intricacies of baseball, but then I cant do the same for cricket, the British equivalent, either.  It wasn’t difficult to get what the New York Yankees mean to the people of this fair city. That happened without me going to one of their games, or even watching a whole game on TV, so fundamental is it to what being a New Yorker means. Now the Yankees have their own Riesling, from Anthony Road in the Finger Lakes (FLX), which is literally a game changing development for my favorite grape here in New York Wine City (NYWC). When I first learnt about that my jaw literally dropped in shock: baseball and Riesling!? I thought it was baseball, hotdogs and beer.

That the Yankees have their own Riesling is a big surprise to me, but not the choice of Anthony Road. It was one of the most consistent Rieslings producers in the FLX over the decade that I have been closely following developments in the region due to the winemaking talents of Johannes Reinhardt (now of Kemmeter Wines just next door) and the successor he trained, current winemaker Peter Becraft. They are also one third of the ‘Tierce’ dry Riesling, a blend of dry Rieslings from Fox Run, Red Newt and Anthony Road, the 2010 vintage of which was served at the lunch for the 57th Presidential Inauguration (the beginning of Obama’s second term) at the Capitol in Washington DC on January 21st 2013. That and the Yankees Dry Riesling are a sure sign of mainstream acceptance and success for the FLX and the region’s Riesling wines.

The way the wine tastes is the final confirmation of the rightness of all this. Although 2013 is a less consistent vintage than 2012 and the ripeness was sometimes clearly less than ideal this wine has generous apple and lemon aromas, lively rather than dominant acidity and great balance. And if you want to have a similar taste experience without the Yankees label for slightly less money, the regular 2013 Dry Riesling from Anthony Road is $16.99.

2013 ‘New York Yankees’ Dry Riesling is $24.99 from

Anthony Road at their FLX tasting room at 1020 Anthony Road in Penn Yan/NY

or at their stand on Saturdays at the Green Market in Union Square/NYWC

or by going to:

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 12 – The Last Summer of Riesling Ends, but Riesling’s Sparkle Lives On & A Last Word on the New York Wine Riot

All good things must come to an end…

Yesterday evening was almost the end of the 7th Summer of Riesling festival in America. The self-proclaimed Riesling Overlord Paul Grieco did not pose in front of a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished”, in fact there was no photo opportunity at all and I had to furtively snap the picture of him below with Irene Vagianos (left) of Wines of Germany USA. The central points of themodest celebration at Terroir Murray Hill, were the first NYWC screening of my WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie (Part 1) and a magnum of the 35oth anniversary bottling of 2011 Berncasteler Doctor Spätlese from the Dr. Thanisch (VDP). The audience included several Finger Lakes winemakers, German wine importer Andrew Rich from Boston, MA and Mani de Osu of the Neodandi fashion label, now based in NYC.

On the one hand there was the sense of an era ending. When I began work on my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) on February 1st 2012 the idea of the Summer of Riesling ending two and half years later seemed so absurd that I never even considered it. However, during the summer of 2012 I got to see a variety of problems with this project as it broadened its appeal and started to get watered down by half-hearted participants who just wanted to ride a wave. There were also “musical differences” between members of the “band” running it. On the other hand, yesterday evening there was also a strong sense that the cards are being reshuffled, and something new is already taking shape that will pick up where the Summer of Riesling leaves off. The Riesling Invasion in Portland, OR and the City of Riesling in Traverse City, MI both of which I was lucky to be part of showed how events tailored made to locations are the way forward.

I have been requested to provide the text of the 60 second Riesling Slam which I delivered at the beginning of each of my 12 Riesling Crash Courses during the New York Wine Riot. Here it is as:

It’s RiEsling not RIesling, the correct pronunciation of German-Born grape variety that gives the BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH!!! Riesling is unique amongst all wines, white or red, in being everything from featherlight to ton heavy, from bone-dry to honey-sweet, and every conceivable combination of those things. Every good Riesling tastes of where it grew, the season which ripened the grapes and the people who made it. Seductive aromas and dazzling freshness are what give this enormous diversity of wines a family resemblance. Riesling Fan Numero Uno, Paul Grieco, says that DRINKING RIESLING MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON. I say MAYBE. But if you drink Riesling then some of it’s sparkle will surely rub off on you. MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!!

Racing against the clock here in my sun room here on West 16th Street I certainly can say all that in 60 seconds. However, I never managed it at the New York Wine Riot. Thanks to everyone who endured my attempts to do so!

For the final blast of the final Summer of Riesling in America head to any Terroir wine bar tonight, Monday, September 22nd where all by the glass Rieslings are $8 per glass during happy hour and $10 per glass for the rest of the evening. See the following link for the final thoughts of the Riesling Overlord:


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 11: Riesling Fans of New York unite at Wine Riot! / See you Tonight art the New York Premier of WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie

My strong belief in the power of the new generation of Riesling fans was enormously strengthened by those I met at the New York Wine Riot yesterday and the day before. I don’t know the names of any of these people, but I do know that even if they didn’t all yet love Riesling when they walked into the New York Wine Riot they certainly all do now!

Sometimes people called me the “Pope of Riesling”, the “Emperor of Riesling” and similar stuff, but all I’m really doing is being a catalyst that brings these people together in a peaceful and, hopefully, exciting way. Maybe, sometimes, I give them some nugget of information that helps to stimulate their interest and curiosity. If so then that’s great.

In fact, this time they all did me a great service, because they forced me to fill the space that was provided and gave me the energy to do so. I used to laugh when people talked about “Rock Star Wine Guys”, but now I’m beginning to see that it’s literally possible. Why did I make this discovery at Wine Riot? Because the average age of those who took part was just under 30!

What the Wine Riot convinced me of is that it may “only” be wine and “only” Riesling at that, but if you do it right you can crank up the volume and turn that into a rock culture phenomenon, and those rock culture things all grow the largest size in America! You can be sure that I intend to part of this thing whatever it gets called.

That all seems to me to be some kind of omen of things to come, although what they might be I certainly can’t tell you know. Tonight at 10pm at Terroir Murray Hill (439 Third Avenue, between 30th and 31st Streets) when my WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie receives its NYWC premier. Below is a picture of the amazing daredevil Riesling Road Trip driver Devin (left) and my cameraman Marcarthur Baralla setting up one of the shots for the movie’s final scene. Hope to see you there.

PS If anyone decides they don’t like appearing on my blog just let me know which image you’d like to remove and I will do so.


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 10 – WINE RIOT, I wanna a Riot, WINE RIOT, a Riesling Riot of my own!

This T-shirt said almost everything about the New York WINE RIOT, the third and final session commences at 7pm this evening. Anyone who attends has the chance to experience one or more of the four Riesling Crash Courses I will give then, just as I have during the first session yesterday evening and the second session this afternoon. But, as I say this image doesn’t say everything, for which reason I need to show you the following series of revealing images.

The picture above gives you some kind of general idea of the scenery, but you need to get in close as in the following picture of the Loosen Bros. USA team (thank you Ian on the left and Kirk on the right, also for the wines for my German-themed Crash Courses) to really get how unhinged the Wine Riot really is.

It is great to see local produce, that means wines from New York State wineries so well represented. There was a slew of good Finger Lakes (FLX) wines, most prominently the Rieslings and it was buzzing around those stands, as you can see from the picture of John Iszard of Fulkerson winery below.

Sometimes wine industry people here in the city and elsewhere in US go on to me about how women play to  small a role in the wine scene, well my observation at the New York Wine Riot was that both behind and in front of the stands there were at least as many women as many. As an example I present the image below of the two FLX Katies (Katie Roller of Wagner on the left and Katie Roisen of Hosmer on the right).

I would love to write more and more perceptively, but I must grab something to eat and head back for the final session. As I bellow into the mike before each of my Riesling Crash Courses, “NEW YORK WINE CITY THE RIESLING CLOCK IS TICKING!” Also for me!

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 10 – WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie (Part 1) & New York WINE RIOT

Honestly, when I wrote yesterday’s posting I didn’t sit down to write a lecture on very cool climate viticulture, or to brag about having planted a small, but daring vineyard in an edgy location, but I guess I ended up doing exactly those things. Sorry! What I should have done was concentrate upon my appearance this evening and tomorrow afternoon & evening at the NEW YORK WINE RIOT (at the 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Ave) and the screening of my film WATCH YOUR BACK – The Riesling Movie (Part 1) at Terroir Murray Hill in New York Wine City (NYWC)  at 10pm on Sunday. Admission is free as long as you drink Riesling. As you can see from the picture above, during the two years I was working on this 50 minute mockumentary – a documentary style movie in which fact and fiction are blurred in order to make reality clearer and more entertaining – I got used to watching my back. I’m not sure I can or should stop doing that either.

I would never have been able to make this movie without the help of my producer, editor and cutter Klaus Lüttmer of Dolce Vista film production in Berlin. I also have to acknowledge the vital assistance of Marcarthur Baralla of Defendschee Productions in Brooklyn who shot all the interviews with winemakers and somms and the concluding scene of the movie. Then there are the important people in NYWC like Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin (pictured with me above at his wonderful new Aldo Sohm Wine Bar) and Paul Grieco of Hearth and the Terroir wine bars and Chris Miller of Harlan Estate in Napa (then of Spago Beverley Hills) who all threw themselves at my project with great energy and enthusiasm, just as I will throw myself at the Wine Riot from 7pm this evening!

There I will be conducting a program of four Riesling Crash Courses per session. The timings are as follows:

Riesling Boot Camp (Aromas) on Friday @ 8pm, and on Saturday @ 2pm & 8pm

Riesling Boot Camp (Acidity) on Friday @ 8:30pm, and on Saturday @ 2:30pm & 8:30pm

Riesling Deep End (America) on Friday @ 9pm, and on Saturday @ 3pm & 9pm

Riesling Deep End (Germany) on Friday @ 9:30pm and on Saturday @ 3:30pm & 9:30pm

To book tickets for the New York WINE RIOT go to:


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New York Riesling Diary: Day 9 – What do You do if You are a Riesling Against the Stream WINE RIOT?

Come and find out at the NYC WINE RIOT this weekend!

Having come out about being a WINE RIOT I’ve been asked what someone who’s like that actually does. In my case all of this is colored by Riesling, which my new book (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang) declares to be the BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH. In America nobody has questioned that title, instead either they cheer me on, launch, smile or give me an ironic wink. However, back in my country of birth England this title is treated with scorn and derision. It has even been suggested to me by someone in the British wine industry that, “you can’t do that!” Of course, the fact is that I just did and I’m not retracting it. However, let’s get back to that question.

Of course, one of the things that you do if you a Riesling Against the Stream Wine Riot is go to the NYC WINE RIOT this Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon and evening and hold a series of a dozen 20 minute Riesling Crash Courses. Against the advice of  friends and colleagues I will begin each Crash Course with a 60 second Riesling Slam into which I will try to pack all the Riesling essentials into that single minute. This will require some practice, for which there is too little time, and probably puts me under too much pressure, so I won’t be telling my therapist about this until I’ve done it and its too late.

To book tickets for the New York WINE RIOT go to:

The other thing which a Riesling Against the Stream Wine Riot does is to plant a vineyard just outside Berlin/Germany on the SW side at roughly 52° 30′ North. Back in 2012 the Klosterhof Töplitz wine estate with just under 5 acres of vines on a hillside site just outside Töplitz/Brandenburg came under the direction of the multi-talented Ludolf Artymowytsch. Together with Ludolf I developed plans to plant  a total of just shy of one thousand vines in two corners of the vineyard where the existing planting was struggling for inexplicable reasons. Finally on May, 3rd 2013 a group of friends and I got those vines in the soil and from the above picture you can see how they’ve flourished. Something like 600 of them should bear a small crop next year, which would give us enough wine to fill one (used) barrique, and enable us to begin production of the Wine with the Secret Name.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking: Stuart has planted Riesling. However, I didn’t do that, because I’ve yet to see any evidence that Riesling can be persuaded to ripen with any regularity around 52° 30′ North, and a human Wine Riot couldn’t do something as dumb as planting his favorite grape somewhere that it wouldn’t stand a chance of succeeding. That would be Riesling Fetishism rather than Riesling Love. So I studied the existing local plantings, experimental and commercial and drew up a short list of candidate grape varieties, then whittled that down to just one variety which seems almost ideally adapted to the growing conditions in the Very Cool Climate northeast of Germany.

As you can see from this photograph taken on September 7th this year, that is roughly three weeks prior to the harvest, Grauburgunder (aka Pinot Gris) ripens very well in the climate of the Berlin-Brandenburg area. For those interested in the numbers they had 10% potential alcohol, so ought to come in at 12% – 13%. The 2012 and 2013 dry Grauburgunders from Klosterhof Töplitz are good wines with delicate apple blossom and melon aromas and enough ripe flavors to balance the relatively high acidity for this grape. These were both average vintages and 2014 looks much more promising, also because during the last two years Ludolf and vineyard manager Andreas Schultze have enormously improved the vitality of this organic property. If you think the idea of growing red wine in such a cool location (the summers are actually rather warm, but spring often comes late to this part of Germany) then take a look at these St. Laurent grapes also photographed on September 7th. Here too they had at least weeks of further ripening ahead of them, but were already close to 11% potential alcohol. I’d say that this makes 13% – 13.5% a realistic possibility.

As with the Grauburgunder that means full technical ripeness (sometimes called physiological ripeness, a misleadingly simplistic term), although I don’t think it means that wines like the high end Pinot Gris from Alsace/France or the top St. Laurent from Burgenland/Austria are possible in the Berlin-Brandenburg area. The wines from 52° 30′ N are always going to be lighter in body and structure (I’m talking particularly about tannins) than those of the same grape varieties from warmer climates in more southerly locations where the intensity of solar radiation is higher. Climate change hasn’t abolished those differences any more than it has removed vintage variation.

So which grape variety did I choose? Well, the soils of Brandenburg are primarily sandy and Töplitz is no exception to that rule, in fact the south-facing hillside on which “my” vines are planted is literally a sand dune. This means that drought stress is almost certain in summer at some point. The young vines were lucky in both 2013 and 2014 that these periods were short, but in the future there will also be vintages with longer periods of drought stress. At the Geisenheim wine school which I attended as a guest student in 2008-9 I learnt that while drought stress can be positive for red wines (since it forces the vines to producer more tannins, thereby giving the wine more structure) it can be very negative for white wine grapes. I then searched for an early-ripening red wine grape that grows and ripens well in the Berlin-Brandenburg area.

Dr. Manfred Lindicke of the Wachtelberg site and winery in Werder/Brandenburg proved to me that VB 91-26-19, or Pinotin, pictured above, is such a variety. I had already come across it during my time at the Geisenheim wine school where I learnt that it is a so-called “PiWi”, which means pilzwiederstandsfähige Rebsorte, or fungal resistant grape variety (it is very resistant to powdery mildew and botrytis, and also has good resistance to downy mildew).  As the experienced amongst you will immediately note from the photograph, although the name says that this is a cross between Pinot Noir and another grape it doesn’t look much like Pinot Noir. The wine doesn’t taste much like Pinot Noir, largely because of the berries thick skins, nor do I want it to do so either. The whole point is to make a red wine with very distinctive aromas and flavors, almost none of that coming from the oak barrel(s) it matures in; a wine that will excite a Riesling against the Stream Wine Riot like me!

Now I have to go and practice that 60 second Riesling Slam for tomorrow night and Saturday! See you at the NYC WINE RIOT!



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New York Riesling Diary: Day 7 – Not only will I be at the NYC Wine Riot, I AM A WINE RIOT!

One of my favorite slogans of the German artist Joseph Beuys, and he was a man of slogans (and in this case perhaps anti-slogans), was “show your wound”. In this spirit, I point out that not only will I be at the NYC Wine Riot on this coming Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evenings, but I AM A WINE RIOT. Please accept the above photo (by Bettina Keller in Berlin/Germany) as the first piece of evidence to this effect, then come along to the NYC Wine Riot for conclusive proof at one or more of my Riesling Crash Courses. There are four each session, in the following order: Riesling Boot Camp (Aromas), Riesling Boot Camp (Acidity), Riesling Deep End (America), Riesling Deep End (Germany). At any time you will also be able to purchase a signed bargain price ($20) copy of my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story, which gives you all the essentials you need to understand the wines of my favorite grape, wine in general, life, New York City, the universe and (almost) everything else. You will also know what I am wearing at that time and on that day – people are already asking me what I’ll wear!

My approach has always been to try and do two things simultaneously that may seem to be hopelessly incompatible: to understand the Riesling in my glass as well as I possibly can from a science-based perspective; to see the same Riesling in the largest and most open possible context, which is as what one literally and metaphorically sober wine scientist recently described to me as, “a really amazing show!” I know a bunch of people in New York Wine City (NYWC) and beyond who do one or other of those things, but I can count the number of people who can do both simultaneously – with Riesling or any other wine – on the fingers of one hand. Of course, I’m also some kind of critic and this is another entire way of looking at wine. The picture below (by Sorin Dragoi of Munich/Germany) captures this aspect of my work best and makes at least three balls that I have to try and keep in the air at once.

Yes, if you are open to Riesling, then it can be a life-changing force that causes a lot of creative chaos and even positively influences you after you sober up. I sometimes feel so inspired when under the influence of Riesling that I started frantically scribbling notes, but more important is how it helps loosen up my mind in all manner of other situations and states when there’s no more ethanol in my bloodstream. Then all kinds of amazing things can happen, unexpected connections are made and I have no doubt that Riesling is a force for good. Come to see me at the New York Wine Riot and until then May The Force by With You!

To book tickets for the New York WINE RIOT go to:


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