Search Results for: riesling revelation

Riesling Revelations 2015 – Die größte Riesling-Offenbarungen des Jahres von Stuart Pigott

Im vergangenen Jahr verursachte die Bekanntgabe meiner Riesling-Revelations, bzw. Offenbarungen einige Aufregung. Deshalb hatte ich keinen Zweifel, die Vergabe dieser Auszeichnungen zum selben Zeitpunkt in diesem Jahr zu wiederholen. Letztes Jahr kamen alle Gewinner aus Nordamerika, dieses Mal entschloss ich mich, einfach die aufregendsten und innovativsten Rieslinge herauszupicken, die ich im Laufe des Jahres verkostet habe. Dabei habe ich mich wieder an den vier Kategorien der International Riesling Foundation (IRF) orientiert: Dry – Trocken / Medium Dry – Feinherb / Medium Sweet – Zartsüß / Sweet – Süß. Mitunter fiel mir die Wahl sehr schwer, deshalb gibt es einen offiziellen Zweitplatzierten in der Kategorie Dry – Trocken.

Natürlich bin ich wieder sehr interessiert an Ihren Reaktionen. Leider ist es unmöglich, alle Importeure aufzulisten, die diese Weine rund um den Planeten Wein vertreiben, aber diese Informationen sind über das Internet leicht zugänglich.

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 DRY – TROCKEN:

2014 Watervale Riesling

Mitchell (Clare Valley, Südaustralien)

Nicht völlig zu Unrecht werfen Sommeliers und Konsumenten in Amerika und anderswo australischen Riesling-Erzeugern vor, extreme Weine zu produzieren. Wegen ihres besonderen Stils – knochentrocken und säurebetont, kombiniert mit intensiven Zitrusfruchtaromen – sind diese Weine in ihrer Jugend oft eine echte Herausforderung, weshalb ich diese Rieslinge oft auch als Bladerunner-Weine bezeichne. Verantwortlich für die hohe Säure wie für die spezielle Aromatik sind die intensive Sonneneinstrahlung, das enorme Tag-Nacht-Temperaturgefälle und die sehr trockenen australischen Sommer. Deshalb wird oft behauptet, diese Weine bräuchten etwas Süße, aber das erscheint mir eine allzu leichte Lösung. Dieser Wein beweist hingegen, dass höhere Eleganz auch erreicht werden kann ohne Süße oder irgendeinen anderen Trick, der die fundamentale Persönlichkeit dieses Weines verändern würde. Dieser trockene Riesling ist der beste, den die Familie Mitchell seit ihrem ersten Jahrgang 1977 erzeugte. Die Aromen von Passionsfrucht Melone und tropischen Blüten wirken in Kombination mit den leicht hefigen (meinst du das mit „funky“?) Noten der Spontanvergärung noch aufregender. Spüren Sie der komplexen Textur und Saftigkeit dieses Rieslings nach, genießen Sie das elegante, delikate mineralische Finale, um herauszufinden, warum der 2014 Watervale Riesling diese Kategorie gewinnen musste.

Etwa $ 22 in Australien, aber leider noch nicht in Deutschland erhältlich.

Direkte Kontakt: www.mitchellwines.com

Zweiter Platz RIESLING REVELATION 2015 DRY – TROCKEN:

2014 Riesling „239“

Boundary Breaks (Finger Lakes, New York)

Bis vor kurzem hatte ich immer, wenn ich trockene FLX (Finger Lakes) Rieslinge in Upstate New York probierte, das Gefühl, ihnen fehle es an Reife, um weltweit in der ersten Liga der trockenen Rieslinge mitzuspielen. Die einzige, aber häufige Ausnahme war Herrmann J. Wiemer von der Westseite des Lake Seneca. Doch mit den letzten Jahrgängen hatte eine kleine Handvoll anderer Winzer bewiesen, dass sie aufgrund hervorragender Weinbergsbewirtschaftung und später Lese ebenfalls imstande waren, diesen Kunstgriff hinzubekommen. Bruce Murrays erster Jahrgang war 2011. Dieser Wein stammt also erst aus der vierten Lese dieses Weinguts, das am Ostufer des Lake Seneca zu Hause ist. Weil Bruce die Lese bis zum 28. Oktober herauszögerte, konnte er perfekt reife, goldene Rieslingtrauben ohne jede Fäulnis lesen. Es war dann Kelby Russell von Red Newt Cellars (siehe unten), der mit seinem großen Gespür für Balance diesen bahnbrechend vollen, cremigen und würzigen trockenen FLX-Riesling vinifizierte. Das Resultat ist ein Wein so weit außerhalb aller FLX-Kategorien, dass ihm sicherlich beides widerfahren wird, wenn er am 16. März 2016 in den Verkauf kommt: Höchstes Lob und tiefste Verdammnis.

Um $19 in die USA, aber leider noch nicht in Deutschland erhältlich.

Direkte Kontakt: info@boundarybreaks.com, www.boundarybreaks.com

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 MEDIUM DRY – FEINHERB:

2014 Riesling Kabinett feinherb „Rotlack“

Schloss Johannisberg (Rheingau, Deutschland)

Wie kann ein Riesling des weltweit berühmtesten Erzeugers dieser Rebsorte eine Entdeckung/Enthüllung sein? Schloss Johannisberg ist international bestens bekannt für seine restsüßen Riesling Spätlesen, und seit Christian Witte 2005 Gutsdirektor wurde, erstrahlen die Weine dieser Kategorie in neuem Glanz (halten Sie unbedingt Ausschau nach der erstaunlichen 2013 Riesling Spätlese „Grünlack“!). In jüngster Zeit ist das Riesling Großes Gewächs (GG) „Silberblack“ in die erste Liga der trockenen Rheinweine aufgestiegen (der Jahrgang 2014 ist der vielleicht bisher beste). Weniger gesucht und bejubelt werden die „normalen“ Weine von Schloss Johannisberg wie dieses Meisterwerk, das mit seiner sehr feine Pfirsichnote und große Finesse das perfekte Getränk für eine Verführung oder eine vornehme Konversation ist. Mit gerade 10,5% Alkohol ist das ein großartiger Wein, von dem man locker eine ganze Flasche trinken kann und sich dem Verlauf einer intensiven Gesprächs oder einer Verführung gewachsen fühlen kann.

Durchschnittlicher EVP in Deutschland: Euro 22,-.

Direkte Kontakt:  www.schloss-johannisberg.de

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 MEDIUM SWEET – ZARTSÜß:

2014 Riesling „Circle“

Red Newt Cellars (Finger Lakes, New Yok)

Der Grund, weshalb ich diesen Wein auszeichne, liegt in der Kombination aus Weinqualität, der Produktionsmenge von 36.000 Flaschen und dem erstaunlich freundlichen Endverbraucherpreis von $13. Wie konnte der mengenmäßig größte und preiswerteste Riesling von Big Newt Cellars so gut werden? Hauptgrund ist, dass die meisten Weinberge, aus denen die Trauben stammen – das Weingut selbst besitzt selbst keine einzige Rebe – nach hohen Standards bewirtschaftet werden. Hinzu kam herausragendes Wetter im Herbst, das es Weinmacher Kelby Russell erlaubte, die Trauben für diesen „einfachen“ Wein erst Ende Oktober zu lesen. Sie gärten sehr langsam, und der fertige Wein blieb bis zum Abstich, Filtrierung und Abfüllung zehn Monate auf der Vollhefe. Dieser Riesling wird nicht vor Mai/Juni 2016 in den Handel kommen, was bedeutet, dass er seinen Weg zum Konsumenten in optimaler Form antritt. Seine Aromen reichen von Pfirsich und Aprikose bis zu Rauch und Grapefruit. Der Wein ist gerade so süß, dass er in diese Kategorie passt, verfügt aber über eine vollmundige Saftigkeit, der ein super-frische Abgang folgt. Kurz: Dieser Riesling ist wunderbar!

Etwa $13 in die USA, aber leider noch nicht in Deutschland erhältlich.

Direkte Kontakt: www.rednewt.com

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 SWEET – SÜß:

2014 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Spätlese

Daniel Vollenweider (Mosel, Deutschland)

Im Jahr 2000 wurde Daniel Vollenweider der erste nicht-deutsche Winzer an der Mosel. Ich werde nie vergessen, wie mich vor zehn Jahren ein deutscher Kollege bat, einen aufregenden neuen Winzer zu nennen und er, als ich ihm diesen jungen Schweizer empfahl, voller Verachtung fragte: „Wer ist Daniel Vollenweider?“ Aber kaum, dass er dessen Weine probiert hatte, rühmte er ihn plötzlich als neuen Star des Mosel-Rieslings. Natürlich ist er nicht mehr so neu, aber er hat seinen Weg, die Grenzen für trockenen wie restsüßen Riesling auszureizen, kontinuierlich fortgesetzt. Und dieser Wein ist eine der aufregendsten jungen Riesling Spätlesen von der Mosel, die ich je probiert habe. Er ist bis zum Rand mit Aromen aller möglichen weißen und gelben Früchte sowie mit floralen Noten vollgepackt, er bebt vor reifer Säure und saftiger Süße. Er schmeckt schlicht und ergreifend köstlich. Aber so wie Die Macht hat dieser Wein eine dunkle Seite. Die gibt ihm einen gefährlichen Kick, den andere Weine dieser Kategorie vermissen lassen.

Durchschnittlicher EVP in Deutschland: Euro 20,-.

Direkte Kontakt:  www.weingut-vollenweider.de

Posted in @deutsch | Leave a comment

Berlin Wine Diary: Day 11 – My Riesling Revelations 2015

Ein deutschsprachige Version von diesem Text wird bald folgen. Ich bitte um Geduld!

Late last year the announcement of my Riesling Revelations for the year caused quite a stir, so there was never any doubt in my mind that I would have to repeat the giving of these awards at the same time this year. The first time the winners were all North American wines, but this year I decided to simply pick the most exciting and innovative Riesling wines I encountered during the last year in each of the four categories of the IRF (International Riesling Foundation) taste profile: Dry / Medium-Dry / Medium-Sweet / Sweet.  Sometimes the choices were very difficult and that’s the reason there’s an official runner up in the Dry category. I am, of course, very interested to hear all your reactions. My apologies that it’s impossible to list all the importers for these wines around Planet Wine, but this information should be easily accessible on the Internet.

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 DRY:

2014 Watervale Riesling

from Mitchell in Clare Valley, South Australia

Not without some reason do somms and consumers in America and elsewhere sometimes accuse Australian Riesling producers of making extreme wines. Often the bone dry, high-acidity style combined with the intense lime character of these wines makes them challenging in their youth, which is why I often refer to them as Bladerunner wines. It is the intense sunlight, the enormous day-night temperature differences and very dry summers in Australia that are responsible for that acidity and that aroma. The normal suggestion is that the wines need some sweetness, but this always struck me as the easy way out. This wine proves that greater elegance can be achieved in this style without resorting to sweetness, or in any way changing the fundamental personality of these wines. This dry Riesling is the best that the Mitchell family made since the first vintage back in 1977. The aromas of lime, passion fruit, melon and citrus blossom are only made more exciting by the slightly funky note from the wild ferment. However, you have to feel the textural complexity, succulence in your mouth, then savor the elegant, delicately mineral finale in order to find out why this wine had to win in this category.

Typical retail price: AUS$22

US importer: Red Earth Wines, contact www.redearthwines.net

UK importer: Merchant Vintners, contact www.merchantvintners.co.uk 

Runner up RIESLING REVELATION 2015 DRY:

2014 Riesling “239”

from Boundary Breaks in the Finger Lakes, New York

Until recently when I tasted the dry Rieslings of the FLX (Finger Lakes) in Upstate New York I almost always felt that they lacked enough ripeness to claim a place in the global first league for wines of this category. The only frequent exceptions were the wines of Hermann J. Wiemer on the west side of Seneca Lake (who made some great wines in 2012 and 2014). With the last couple of vintages a small handful of other winemakers have proved that they too can pull this off through the combination of excellent vineyard cultivation and late-picking. Bruce Murray’s first vintage at the vineyard he planted while still a market researcher in NYC was 2011, so this wine comes from the 4th crop of his vineyard on the east side of Seneca Lake. By waiting until October 28th he picked perfectly ripe golden Riesling grapes that were entirely free of rot. Then Kelby Russell of Red Newt (see below) vinified this mold-breaking creamy and delicately spicy FLX dry Riesling with a great feeling for balance. The result is a wine so far outside the FLX box that it is sure to both praised and damned when it is released March 16th,2016.

Typical retail price: $19 (release March 16th 2016)

New York distributor: Polaner Selections, contact: www.polanerselections.com

Winery contact: info@boundarybreaks.com, www.boundarybreaks.com

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 MEDIUM-DRY:

2014 Riesling Kabinett Feinherb “Rotlack”

from Schloss Joahnnisberg in the Rheingau, Germany

How can a Riesling from the most famous producer of wines from this grape in the world be a revelation? Schloss Johannisberg is best known internationally for sweet Spätlese type wines, and since Christian Witte became the estate director back in 2005 (aged under 30!) they have once again shone very brightly in this category (look out for the amazing 2013 Riesling Spätlese “Grünlack”!) More recently, the estate’s Riesling GG “Silberlack” has moved into the first league of dry Rhine wines (the 2014 vintage is probably the best so far). Less sought after or loudly acclaimed are the “regular” wines from Schloss Johannisberg like this masterpiece of peachy filigree with a brilliance and tantalizing dry mineral finish that makes it the perfect beverage for seduction or polite conversation. With just 10.5% this is a great wine you can drink and entire bottle of and still feel up to anything that the seduction or conversation might lead to.

Typical retail price: Euro 23 / $ 32

US importer: Mionetto USA, contact www.mwimportsusa.com

UK importer: Hallgarten Druitt, contact www.hallgartendruitt.co.uk

Winery contact: www.schloss-johannisberg.de

 RIESLING REVELATION 2015 MEDIUM-SWEET:

2014 Riesling “Circle”

from Red Newt Cellars in the Finger Lakes, New York

Let me be completely frank with you. The reasons I picked this wine for this award is the combination it’s excellent quality, the production quantity of 36,000 bottles and the astonishingly friendly $13 retail price. How could Red Newt Cellars’ biggest production and lowest-priced Riesling be this good? The fact that most of the vineyards supplying grapes to this winery that doesn’t own a single vine have a high standards of viticulture was certainly key (Harlan Fulkerson deserves a mention because he was the main supplier for this wine). Then came the excellent fall weather and winemaker Kelby Russell’s decision to delay picking until late October even for this “basic” wine. It fermented very slowly, and remained on the full fermentation lees for fully 10 months before racking, filtration and bottling. It won’t be released until about May/June 2016 and that should mean that it hits the market in optimum form. The aromas range from peach and apricot to smoke and grapefruit, the wine is only just sweet enough to demand inclusion in this category, but has a mouth-filling succulence, then a super-clean finish. In short, it is a beauty that the entire team lead by Dave Whiting must be congratulated on!

Typical retail price: $13 (release May/June 2016)

New York distributor: Verity Wine Partners, contact www.veritywines.com

Winery contact: www.rednewt.com

RIESLING REVELATION 2015 SWEET:

2014 Wolfer Goldgrube Riesling Spätlese

from Daniel Vollenweider in the Mosel, Germany

Back in 2000 Swiss Daniel Vollenweider became the first non-German winemaker in the Mosel Valley. I will never forget how a decade ago a German colleague asked me to name an exciting new Mosel winemaker to him and when I recommended this young Swiss guy he asked in a tone heavy with scorn, “who is Daniel Vollenweider?” However, when he tasted the wines he immediately praised Daniel as the new star of Mosel Riesling. Of course, he isn’t so new anymore, but he continues pushing the envelope both for dry and sweet Mosel wines, and this is one of the most exciting young Riesling Spätlese from the region I ever tasted. Packed to the brim with all manner of white and yellow fruit aromas, floral notes and bristling with both ripe acidity and juicy sweetness it is already delicious. However, just like The Force, this wine also has a dark side, and that’s what gives it a dangerous kick other wines of this category lacked.

Typical retail price: Euro 20 / $30

US importer: Vom Boden, contact www.vomboden.com

UK importer: Howard Ripley, contact www.howardripley.com

Winery contact: www.weingut-vollenweider.de

Posted in Home, STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL | 3 Comments

RIESLING REVELATIONS 2014 – Die große Riesling-Offenbarungen des Jahres von Stuart Pigott

2014 war mein persönliches Riesling-Jahr: Ich habe mein Riesling-Buch fertiggeschrieben und einer durstigen Welt vorgestellt. BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH wurde im Juni in New York von Stewart, Tabori & Chang veröffentlicht, und PLANET RIESLING, die erweiterte deutschsprachige Ausgabe erschien vor wenigen Wochen im Tre Torri Verlag, Wiesbaden. Die Resonanz war überwiegend sehr positiv, am vergangenen Freitag gab es ein dickes Lob durch die israelische Zeitung Haaretz. Aber natürlich hat das Buch auch polarisiert. Nicht jeder versteht Riesling oder wird es je schaffen.

So muss es sein!

Als mein Buch erschien, war es topaktuell, aber der PLANET RIESLING dreht sich so schnell, dass ich seither einige wichtige Entdeckungen machen konnte. Diese Weine werden als meine RIESLING REVELATIONS 2015 geehrt. Es gibt sie in fünf Kategorien, weil es fünf Riesling-Hitlisten in meinem Buch gibt: für die besten trockenen, feinherben, zartsüßen, süßen und „Bladerunner“-Rieslinge. Ein Bladerunner ist ein besonders gewagter Wein. Diese stilistische Vielfalt zählt zum wichtigen Kapital des Rieslings, obwohl es auch manche Konsumenten verwirrt.

So muss es sein!

DRY / TROCKEN:

2012 13th Street Vineyard Riesling – 13th Street in Catharines, Ontario/Canada

Die meisten Riesling-Weine von der Niagara-Halbinsel in Ontario sind feinherb oder zartsüß, weil hier die Säure in den Weinen fast immer sehr ausgeprägt ist. (Ja, Übersee-Rieslinge können noch mehr Säure besitzen als europäische Rieslinge!) Winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas ist mit diesem Wein der erste beeindruckende trockene Riesling des Gebiets gelungen. Erstmals habe ich diesen Wein September 2013 verkostet und seine überraschende Geschmeidigkeit in PLANET RIESLING gelobt. Seither hat er sich großartig entwickelt. Sein aromatischer Reichtum macht ihn jetzt zum besten trockenen kanadischen Riesling, den ich je erlebt habe. Der aus dem Burgund stammende Colas hat dieser Weinkategorie ein ganz neue Perspektive hinzugefügt. Zwar hat er darauf verzichtet, diesen Wein wie einen Chardonnay auszubauen, aber manche Ideen aus dieser ganz andere Welt des Weißweins hat er für den Riesling erfolgreich adaptiert.

Chapeau! Und der Wein ist noch für kanadische $23,95 ab Hof zu kaufen!

 

MEDIUM-DRY / FEINHERB:

2013 Riesling – Sphera in Kibbutz Gat, Judean Hills/Israel

Das Letzte, was ich in Israel erwartet habe, war ein eleganter Riesling. Denn das Klima ist „falsch” für diese Art von Weißwein. Das war meine feste Überzeugung. Dann hat mir Winemaker Doron Rav Hon von Sphera bewiesen, dass es mit der richtigen Lage (Nordhang) und einem sehr genauen Einsatz von Bewässerung möglich ist, sagenhafte Weine aus meiner Lieblingstraube zu erzeugen.  Die Aromen von weißen Blüten und nassem Laub, diese leichtfüßige und filigrane Art haben mich schwer an die Weinen aus Cool-Climate-Gebieten wie der Mosel erinnert. Als ich den Wein das erste mal im Oktober in Tel Aviv verkostete, war ich verführt, den Alkoholgehalt um mehrere Volumenprozent zu unterschätzen und die Süße des Weins genauso deutlich zu überschätzen. In der Tat hat der Wein ganze 13% Alkohol und nur etwa zehn  Gramm Restsüße/Liter. Nur ein visionärer Winzer wie Doron schafft es, solche bisher unerkannte Möglichkeiten ans Tageslicht zu bringen!

Leider war die Produktion ziemlich klein, und der Wein ist sehr schwierig aufzutreiben.

 

MEDIUM-SWEET  / ZARTSÜSS: 

2013 Oelsberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb – Dr. Randolf Kauer in Bacharach, Mittelrhein/Germany

Seit mehr als 20 Jahren kenne ich Randolf Kauer, Professor für Ökoweinbau an der Wein-Uni in Geisenheim/Rheingau. Wie kann es dann bei ihm etwas wirklich Neues geben? Schon damals gelangen ihm einige erstaunliche herbe Rieslinge im Mini-Weingut in Bacharach im Süden des winzigen Mittelrhein-Gebiets. In PLANET RIESLING habe ich ihn für seine aktuellen Weine sowie für seinen Einsatz bei der Rekultivierung der terrassierten Spitzenlage Oberweseler Oelsberg gelobt. Seine ersten Weine aus dieser historischen Steillage waren genau so schlank, rassig und mineralisch wie seine anderen Rieslinge. 2013 hat er diesen überraschenden, zartsüßen Wein mit großartigem Schmelz, enormer Würze und fast ewig langem Finale erzeugt. Dieser Wein zeigt in eine ganz andere Richtung als alle anderen Mittelrhein-Weine die mir bisher begegnet sind. Übrigens, er stammt von jungen Reben!

Diese RIESLING REVELATION ist noch erhältlich, für Euro 12,50 ab Hof.

 

SWEET / SÜSS:

2011 Riesling “No. 198 Reserve” – Boundary Breaks in Finger Lakes, New York/USA

Jahrelang hat die Mehrheit der Winzer im Finger Lakes-Gebiet im Norden des amerikanischen Bundesstaats New York zwanghaft versucht, staubtrockene Riesling-Weine zu erzeugen, was sehr schwierig war auf Grund des ausgeprägten Säuregehalts und des schlanken Körpers dieser Weine. Erst in den letzten Jahren haben sie begriffen, dass ein harmonischer Geschmack wichtiger ist als irgendwelche analytischen Werte. Als Bruce Murray sein Mini-Weingut Boundary Breaks in den Finger Lakes gründete, da tat er dies aus einer Konsumenten- Perspektive, weil er noch hauptberuflich in der Marktforschung gearbeitet hat. Erstaunlicherweise  stammt dieser Wein aus seinem ersten Jahrgang.  Verantwortlich für diesen Wein ist Kelby Russell, der junge Winemaker von Red Newt Cellars; er kümmert sich auch um die meisten Boundary-Breaks-Weine. Es ist vermutlich der bisher beste Wein dieses Duos, er verfügt über die Reinheit, Brillanz und Feinheit, die viele Riesling-Fans mit den Weinen von Cornelius Dönnhoff an der Nahe verbinden. Noch steht dieser Wein am Anfang eines langen Lebens, genau wie Bruce Murray’s Boundary Breaks.

Leider ist diese süße Riesling-Sünde schon ausverkauft.

 

BLADERUNNER:

2013 ‘Meskeoli’ –  Dos Cabezas in Sonoita, Arizona/USA

Was wäre wohl von einer Cuvée aus den Trauben Picpoul Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne (aus dem Rhônetal), Albarino (aus Nordwest-Spanien und Nord-Portugal), Muscat und Malvasia (aus dem östlichen Mittelmeerraum) und Riesling zu halten? Der ‘Meskeloi’ von Winemaker Todd Bostock schmeckt nicht nur einfach toll, er schmeckt als wären solche Cuvées ganz selbstverständlich. Als ich diesen Wein das erste mal im Oktober im Asylum Restaurant des Grand Hotels in Jerome, Arizona, verkostete, hat er mich richtig  umgehauen. Riesling (15%) bildet zusammen mit Albarino, Muscat und Malvasia (jeweils 3%) einen silbernen Faden von mineralischer Frische, der perfekt mit der Üppigkeit von Viognier (25%) und Roussanne (13%) verwoben ist. Picpoul Blanc (38%) wirkt wie das  Bindeglied zwischen diesen doch sehr unterschiedlichen Rebsorten. Ihre Summe führt auch zu einer beachtlichen aromatischen Komplexität. Riesling-Cuvées sind cool, wie dieser Wein beweist!

Dieser wunderbare Stück Riesling-Wahnsinn kostet US$28 ab Hof.

Posted in @deutsch | 2 Comments

New York Riesling Diary: Day 20 – RIESLING REVELATIONS 2014 in Deutsch & English

Here, alternating in Deutsch and English, are my highlights of 2014.

2014 war mein persönliches Riesling-Jahr: Ich habe mein Riesling-Buch fertiggeschrieben und einer durstigen Welt vorgestellt. BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH wurde im Juni in New York von Stewart, Tabori & Chang veröffentlicht, und PLANET RIESLING, die erweiterte deutschsprachige Ausgabe erschien vor wenigen Wochen im Tre Torri Verlag, Wiesbaden. Die Resonanz war überwiegend sehr positiv, am vergangenen Freitag gab es ein dickes Lob durch die israelische Zeitung Haaretz. Aber natürlich hat das Buch auch polarisiert. Nicht jeder versteht Riesling oder wird es je schaffen.

So muss es sein!

2014 was my Riesling year, that is the year in which I finished my Riesling book and presented it to a thirsty world. BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH was published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang in New York in June, and the German-language edition (with a greatly extended chapter on Germany) PLANET RIESLING was published by Tre Torri early this month. The response to it has  mostly been very positive – just on Friday there was a rave review in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz! – but of course it has polarized opinion. Not everybody “gets” Riesling or my book, nor will they ever do so.

So be it!

Als mein Buch erschien, war es topaktuell, aber der PLANET RIESLING dreht sich so schnell, dass ich seither einige wichtige Entdeckungen machen konnte. Diese Weine werden als meine RIESLING REVELATIONS 2015 geehrt. Es gibt sie in fünf Kategorien, weil es fünf Riesling-Hitlisten in meinem Buch gibt: für die besten trockenen, feinherben, zartsüßen, süßen und „Bladerunner“-Rieslinge. Ein Bladerunner ist ein besonders gewagter Wein. Diese stilistische Vielfalt zählt zum wichtigen Kapital des Rieslings, obwohl es auch manche Konsumenten verwirrt.

So muss es sein!

Although my book was up-to-date at the moment of publication, the world of Riesling is very dynamic and I there made some exciting new discoveries after it appeared. It is these wines my RIESLING REVELATIONS 2015 honor. There are five of them, because at the back of this book are five hit-lists of the world’s best Riesling producers grouped by the four categories of the IRF Taste Profile – dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet and sweet – plus “Bladerunners” for pioneers and the daring. Of course, this stylistic diversity is both an asset for Riesling, but also confuses some people.

So be it!

DRY / TROCKEN:

2012 13th Street Vineyard Riesling – 13th Street in Catharines, Ontario/Canada

Die meisten Riesling-Weine von der Niagara-Halbinsel in Ontario sind feinherb oder zartsüß, weil hier die Säure in den Weinen fast immer sehr ausgeprägt ist. (Ja, Übersee-Rieslinge können noch mehr Säure besitzen als europäische Rieslinge!) Winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas ist mit diesem Wein der erste beeindruckende trockene Riesling des Gebiets gelungen. Erstmals habe ich diesen Wein September 2013 verkostet und seine überraschende Geschmeidigkeit in PLANET RIESLING gelobt. Seither hat er sich großartig entwickelt. Sein aromatischer Reichtum macht ihn jetzt zum besten trockenen kanadischen Riesling, den ich je erlebt habe. Der aus dem Burgund stammende Colas hat dieser Weinkategorie ein ganz neue Perspektive hinzugefügt. Zwar hat er darauf verzichtet, diesen Wein wie einen Chardonnay auszubauen, aber manche Ideen aus dieser ganz andere Welt des Weißweins hat er für den Riesling erfolgreich adaptiert.

Chapeau! Und der Wein ist noch für kanadische $23,95 ab Hof zu kaufen!

Most of the best Riesling wines from the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario are medium-dry or seriously sweet, because these wines of this region are naturally full of acidity. Winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas has made the first great dry Riesling I encountered in Ontario. Although I first tasted the wine back in September 2013 and put it in my book, the wine has developed even better than I thought and now has an aromatic complexity that I never before found in a dry Canadian Riesling. That might not have been possible if Jean-Pierre hadn’t brought a fresh, Burgundian perspective to this challenge. However, he certainly hasn’t made this wine as if it were Burgundian Chardonnay, rather he adapted some of those techniques to this very different grape and climate.

Chapeau! This is still available from the winery for Canadian $23.95!

 

MEDIUM-DRY / FEINHERB:

2013 Riesling – Sphera in Kibbutz Gat, Judean Hills/Israel

Das Letzte, was ich in Israel erwartet habe, war ein eleganter Riesling. Denn das Klima ist „falsch” für diese Art von Weißwein. Das war meine feste Überzeugung. Dann hat mir Winemaker Doron Rav Hon von Sphera bewiesen, dass es mit der richtigen Lage (Nordhang) und einem sehr genauen Einsatz von Bewässerung möglich ist, sagenhafte Weine aus meiner Lieblingstraube zu erzeugen.  Die Aromen von weißen Blüten und nassem Laub, diese leichtfüßige und filigrane Art haben mich schwer an die Weinen aus Cool-Climate-Gebieten wie der Mosel erinnert. Als ich den Wein das erste mal im Oktober in Tel Aviv verkostete, war ich verführt, den Alkoholgehalt um mehrere Volumenprozent zu unterschätzen und die Süße des Weins genauso deutlich zu überschätzen. In der Tat hat der Wein ganze 13% Alkohol und nur etwa zehn  Gramm Restsüße/Liter. Nur ein visionärer Winzer wie Doron schafft es, solche bisher unerkannte Möglichkeiten ans Tageslicht zu bringen!

Leider war die Produktion ziemlich klein, und der Wein ist sehr schwierig aufzutreiben.

The last thing I was expecting to find in Israel was an elegant Riesling, because the climate is “wrong” for this kind of wine, or so I thought. However, with this wine Doron Rav Hon of Sphera has proven that with the right site (north-facing) and the precise use of irrigation it’s possible to achieve miracles with my favorite grape in Israel. What amazed me was that his wine has the aromas of white flowers and dripping leaves, plus the light-footedness and filigree I associate with the wines from cool climate Riesling regions like the Mosel. This lead me to underestimate the wine’s alcoholic content by several degrees and seriously overestimate its sweetness when I tasted it Tel Aviv in October. It actually has 13% of alcohol and roughly 10 grams/liter residual sweetness. It takes a visionary winegrower like Doron to uncover possibilities like these!

Sadly, this is a rather limited production wine that’s very difficult to find, even in Israel.

 

MEDIUM-SWEET  / ZARTSÜSS: 

2013 Oelsberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb – Dr. Randolf Kauer in Bacharach, Mittelrhein/Germany

Seit mehr als 20 Jahren kenne ich Randolf Kauer, Professor für Ökoweinbau an der Wein-Uni in Geisenheim/Rheingau. Wie kann es dann bei ihm etwas wirklich Neues geben? Schon damals gelangen ihm einige erstaunliche herbe Rieslinge im Mini-Weingut in Bacharach im Süden des winzigen Mittelrhein-Gebiets. In PLANET RIESLING habe ich ihn für seine aktuellen Weine sowie für seinen Einsatz bei der Rekultivierung der terrassierten Spitzenlage Oberweseler Oelsberg gelobt. Seine ersten Weine aus dieser historischen Steillage waren genau so schlank, rassig und mineralisch wie seine anderen Rieslinge. 2013 hat er diesen überraschenden, zartsüßen Wein mit großartigem Schmelz, enormer Würze und fast ewig langem Finale erzeugt. Dieser Wein zeigt in eine ganz andere Richtung als alle anderen Mittelrhein-Weine die mir bisher begegnet sind. Übrigens, er stammt von jungen Reben!

Diese RIESLING REVELATION ist noch erhältlich, für Euro 12,50 ab Hof.

I’ve known Randolf Kauer, professor of organic winegrowing at the Geisenheim wine university, for over twenty years so how could there be anything new to report? Already back then he produced some remarkable Rieslings at his mini-winery in Bacharach in the tiny Mittelrhein region. My book praises him for this and for being one of a handful of winegrowers invested a great deal of time and money in the re-cultivation of the terraced Oelsberg vineyard site of Oberwesel. His first wines from that site were impressive dry wines that were sleek, racy and mineral like his other Rieslings. However, this richly-textured and powerful wine with enormous spicy aromas, just a hint of sweetness and a finish that glides off in the direction of eternity is different from anything else I ever tasted from the Mittelrhein. By the way, it comes from young vines!

This RIESLING REVELATION is still available from the estate for just Euro 12.50!

 

SWEET / SÜSS:

2011 Riesling “No. 198 Reserve” – Boundary Breaks in Finger Lakes, New York/USA

Jahrelang hat die Mehrheit der Winzer im Finger Lakes-Gebiet im Norden des amerikanischen Bundesstaats New York zwanghaft versucht, staubtrockene Riesling-Weine zu erzeugen, was sehr schwierig war auf Grund des ausgeprägten Säuregehalts und des schlanken Körpers dieser Weine. Erst in den letzten Jahren haben sie begriffen, dass ein harmonischer Geschmack wichtiger ist als irgendwelche analytischen Werte. Als Bruce Murray sein Mini-Weingut Boundary Breaks in den Finger Lakes gründete, da tat er dies aus einer Konsumenten- Perspektive, weil er noch hauptberuflich in der Marktforschung gearbeitet hat. Erstaunlicherweise  stammt dieser Wein aus seinem ersten Jahrgang.  Verantwortlich für diesen Wein ist Kelby Russell, der junge Winemaker von Red Newt Cellars; er kümmert sich auch um die meisten Boundary-Breaks-Weine. Es ist vermutlich der bisher beste Wein dieses Duos, er verfügt über die Reinheit, Brillanz und Feinheit, die viele Riesling-Fans mit den Weinen von Cornelius Dönnhoff an der Nahe verbinden. Noch steht dieser Wein am Anfang eines langen Lebens, genau wie Bruce Murray’s Boundary Breaks.

Leider ist diese süße Riesling-Sünde schon ausverkauft.

For many years the majority of the winemakers of the beautiful Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York struggled to make good bone dry wines although the Rieslings of this region naturally have a ton of acidity. Only recently did they being to realize that harmony of flavor was more important than analytical figures. Bruce Murray saw wine from a consumer’s perspective when he started his small winery in the region, because he was then still working full-time in market research in New York City. Amazingly, this wine comes from his first vintage. It was made by Kelby Russell, the young winemaker of Red Newt Cellars and a Harvard graduate, who now makes most of the Boundary Breaks wines. It is the best of many excellent wines this unlikely duo have made, a super-elegant naturally sweet Riesling that has a purity, brilliance and delicacy of flavor many Riesling fans associate with top Nahe/Germany winemaker Cornelius Dönnhoff.  It is still at the beginning of what will be a long life, just like Bruce Murray’s Boundary Breaks winery.

Sadly, this sinfully delicious sweet Riesling is already sold out.

 

BLADERUNNER:

2013 ‘Meskeoli’ –  Dos Cabezas in Sonoita, Arizona/USA

Was wäre wohl von einer Cuvée aus den Trauben Picpoul Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne (aus dem Rhônetal), Albarino (aus Nordwest-Spanien und Nord-Portugal), Muscat und Malvasia (aus dem östlichen Mittelmeerraum) und Riesling zu halten? Der ‘Meskeloi’ von Winemaker Todd Bostock schmeckt nicht nur einfach toll, er schmeckt als wären solche Cuvées ganz selbstverständlich. Als ich diesen Wein das erste mal im Oktober im Asylum Restaurant des Grand Hotels in Jerome, Arizona, verkostete, hat er mich richtig  umgehauen. Riesling (15%) bildet zusammen mit Albarino, Muscat und Malvasia (jeweils 3%) einen silbernen Faden von mineralischer Frische, der perfekt mit der Üppigkeit von Viognier (25%) und Roussanne (13%) verwoben ist. Picpoul Blanc (38%) wirkt wie das  Bindeglied zwischen diesen doch sehr unterschiedlichen Rebsorten. Ihre Summe führt auch zu einer beachtlichen aromatischen Komplexität. Riesling-Cuvées sind cool, wie dieser Wein beweist!

Dieser wunderbare Stück Riesling-Wahnsinn kostet US$28 ab Hof.

How could a blend of Picpoul Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Albarino, Muscat, Malvasia and Riesling from Arizona taste any good? Winemaker Todd Bostock’s ‘Meskeoli’ not only taste great, but it also tastes as if blending this seriously weird mix of grape varieties was the most natural thing on earth to do. When I first tasted it in the appropriately named Asylum Restaurant of the Grand Hotel of Jerome, Arizona this October the earth moved. It took some time from me to move from a state of wonder to thinking more logically about this wine. Then it struck me that together the Riesling (15%), Albarino, Muscat and Malvasia (3% each) formed a silver thread of mineral freshness that was perfectly interwoven with the richness of the Viognier (25%) and the Roussane (13%), the Picpoul Blanc (38%) filling out the middle. Somehow this mad melee of grapes also results in a serious complexity of aroma. Riesling blends are seriously cool and this wine shows why!

This magnificent piece of Riesling madness costs just $28 direct from Dos Cabezas.

 

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 12 – Bald folgen / Coming Soon: RIESLING REVELATIONS 2014

WEINHIER schläft nicht! Bald folgen an dieser Stelle meine RIESLING REVELATIONS (bzw. Offenbarungen) 2014. Die fünf Kategorien – trocken / feinherb / zartsüß / süß und Bladerunner lehnen sich an den Hitlisten in meinem neuen Buch PLANET RIESLING (Tre Torri Verlag) und sind als Ergänzungen dazu gedacht. Es sind einige große Überraschungen dabei. Sonntag, den 21.12 ist nicht nur der kürzeste Tag des Jahres, sondern auch der große Riesling-Tag! Etwa um 16 Uhr deutsche Zeit wird es so weit sein.

Coming soon HERE are my RIESLING REVELATIONS 2014. The four categories dry / medium-dry / medium-sweet / sweet derive from the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) taste profile. The fifth, Bladerunner, for wines that dare to stand on a knife-edge is my own invention. Global Riesling hit lists with those five names can be found at the back of my book BEST WHITE WINE ON EARTH – The Riesling Story. This year’s five prize-winners will be announced here on the morning of December 21st. The shortest day of the   year is now also Riesling Day!

For further information about the IRF Riesling Taste Profile go to: drinkriesling.com/tastescale

 

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Israel Riesling Diary: Day 10 – Revelation in Tel Aviv

Many apologies for the long radio silence, which was not planned. Unfortunately there were internet problems at my hotels in Jerusalem and on the Dead Sea. Then I got back to this internet paradise in Even Yehuda too late last night to put this posting online. 

During my ten days in Israel there have been many surprises, the great majority of which were positive or at least amusing, and there were also some unexpected Israel Riesling Moments (IRMs). However, none of these came close to the moment of revelation yesterday in the Tel Aviv restaurant Hashulhan at the global Riesling tasting organized by Eldad Levy of Boutique de Champagnes. I always enjoy sharing good and great Riesling with a group of interested wine drinkers, but this was just one aspect of the evening. The 2013 Riesling which winemaker Doron Rav Hon, pictured above, brought with him from his Sphera winery was nothing short of mind-blowing and third Ultimate IRM made my entire trip to Israel worth while.

If you had told me before I tasted this wine that it would be possible to produce a delicately aromatic Riesling with enormous freshness and a Mosel-like balance of juicy sweetness and racy acidity in the Mediterranean climate of Israel I would have told you that this must be completely impossible. However, Doron Rav Hon has succeeded in doing exactly this by finding a really cool site, precise use of irrigation water to encourage aroma formation, and picking early enough to have a ton of natural acidity. This wine, which is the first vintage of Riesling, from his all white wine winery (in Israel!), has notes of floral and dripping leaves, which for me are amongst the most noble Riesling aromas. It is so delicate and filigree in flavor, the balance of sweetness, acidity and those great aromatics so expertly judged that I guessed its alcoholic content to be 10% or below, although it is actually 13%.    I can’t wait to taste his other white wines. A star is born!

 

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Berlin Riesling Diary: Day 11 – Horst Hummel’s Hungarian Red Wine Revelations from the “ignoble” Portugieser Grape

One of the most fundamental aspects of the way we think about wine is the division of grape varieties into two groups, the “noble” wine grapes and all the other wine grapes which are considered more or less “ignoble”. For insiders the “noble” wine grapes are those from which a significant number of highly-regarded wines are produced, but the average consumer’s perspective is always behind the times, shaped primarily by the wines produced 20 years to 50 years ago. For them, the list of “noble” wine grapes  is much shorter, because back then many fewer exciting wines with a high international reputation were only being produced. However, whichever list it is the red Portugieser grape is not on there! Then it takes a daring pioneer like Horst Hummel, pictured above, to show that the Portugieser grape ending up in the “ignoble” corner is far too simplistic.

Recent research suggests Portugieser a native grape of Austria, and the story of it having been brought to Austria from Portugal by an aristocrat during the 18th century seems to be as much a fairy tale as the Shiraz grape (the Australian synonym for Syrah, recently adopted by various other winegrowing nations) coming from the Persian city of that name.  Today, Portugieser is only widely cultivated in Austria, Germany and Hungary, but in all those places it is renowned as a grape variety for the mass-production of pale, insipid reds. The reason for that it its ability to regularly give crops of 120 hectoliters per hectare or 8 tons per acre without any trouble, and more is possible with the help of generous additions of nitrogen fertilizer to the soil. Grapes grown that way give red wines with weak color and a low tannin content. The genetic make-up of Portugieser is far removed from that of say Cabernet Sauvignon and the family grape varieties related to it, all of which still give wines with plenty of color and tannin even when over-cropped.  (Those tannins don’t taste as good as those from low-cropped vines, but that’s another story). When Portugieser is cropped heavily the acidity content also shoots up and can make it taste seriously tart. Then winemakers can be tempted to add sweetness in the form of grape juice or grape concentrate to “balance” it. My first ever Portugieser was consumed in a apartment block in the industrial town of Ludwigshafen am Rhein/Germany back in the spring of 1975. It called itself a red wine, but was more like a rosé. It tasted thin, cold (although it was served at room temperature) and sweet-sour. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

It took me a long time to realize that, along with Pinot Noir, Portugieser belongs to the group of grape varieties which give light red wines (i.e. with weak color and low tannin-content) when heavily cropped, but respond to drastic yield-reduction by giving much more color and tannin. For that reason the vertical tasting of Portugieser red wines which Berlin lawyer Horst Hummel gave at the Weinstein wine bar in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg the other evening was not fundamentally surprising to me. He has been making wine in the Hungarian region of Villány since 1998 and the first wine he ever made was a Portugieser red. For most of the somms and wine lovers that attended the Weinstein tasting it was a total revelation. Many of them said things like, “how can this 15 year old Portugieser have such a deep color and still be so vivid and powerful?” And I have to admit that even I was stunned by Horst Hummel’s 1999 Portugieser “Reserve”, because I’d never experienced a mature wine from this grape which had aged so well.

This photo looking directly down into the glass gives an idea of how the wine looked (although the color at the rim of the glass didn’t look quite that amber in Weinstein). The current vintage of Horst Hummel’s top Portugieser, the 2011 Jammertal, is far deeper in color, has really polished supple tannins and a pronounced mineral note at the long filigree finish. It costs about 20 Euros, which is quite something for a wine from this grape variety, but in absolute terms that is still moderate. What red wines can you get from Burgundy for this price? Nothing that comes close to the sophistication of this wine from one of those “ignoble” grapes! Hats off to Horst Hummel!

PS Almost every wine in this vertical tasting was at least impressive (although the 1996 had an acetone problem – one of the dangers of “wild ferments” without any added yeast), and to describe them all would require another two postings of this length.

 

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On the Riesling Trail: Day 1 – Finger Lakes Revelation

In England where I grew up and was raised we say, “the proof is in the pudding”, meaning that theories are fine, but the crucial test is how things function in the real world. Last night Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point Vineyards here on Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York  and I undertook such a “pudding” test took place on the dinner table. Bob pulled out of his cellar two mature vintages of Sheldrake Point’s ‘Reserve’ dry Riesling, 2003 (the first vintage) and 2006. The point was not to prove that these wines can keep for that length of time, rather to show that dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes with a high natural acidity content which taste austere (but not unripe) as young wines can develop very positively in the bottle. The 2006 was always a sleek wine with a pronounced acidity, but it has gained a lot of elegance since I first tasted it in its youthful. The patina of mature aromas was delicate rather than dominant, in no way masking a lemony freshness that keeps the wine very lively. And it was that balance of fresh and mellow which made me linger long enough to find many subtle herbal and rooty (for example celery and parsley root) nuances in the wine. In my book that adds up to dry Riesling greatness, and I’ve tasted a bunch of dry Rieslings of this vintage from various part of Europe which were not as impressive as this wine.

In contrast, the 2003 was bone dry and had a slight bitterness in the back of the mouth. At first it seemed very mature, but, as so often happens with mature Rieslings, after leaving it some 20 minutes in the glass it became more lively (although this counter-inuitive, since contact with the air means oxidation and that ought to make the wine seem older/more tired). It was a good first shot at what the 2006 does so well, and has become the house style here. I can’t wait to taste the 2012 ‘Reserve’ dry Riesling again, which passed the “pudding” test with flying colors the first time I encountered it back in March. These are wines which show what this region can really do with dry Riesling, and as Bob Madill said last night, “we’re just scratching the surface”. More about the enormous potential of this region tomorrow.

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New York Riesling Diary: Day 18 – My Moment of Global Revelation (thank you Paul Grieco!)

Last night at Freeman’s restaurant in Freeman Alley on the Lower East Side (see www.freemansrestaurant.com) it suddenly struck me that so far I’ve avoided telling the story of how STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL came into existence. That’s a serious mistake, because it is as much the reason that I’m here in New York until the end of January as wanting to have fun. So here is the story of my moment of Global Riesling Revelation:

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 12th in Queenstown/Central Otago in New Zealand I was struck by lightning. It was half way through a 49 day long round-the-world trip which a conference in Sydney had justified (thank you Frankland Estate of Western Australia for organizing it!) Cornelius Dönnhoff of the famous Dönnhoff wine estate in Germany’s Nahe region had also attended that conference and four days later we met up again at Queenstown airport to spend several days together tasting NZ wines. Like me he’d been to the Land of the White Cloud several times before – “the first time I was here I tried all the extreme sports,” he told me – and we both felt sure that we knew what NZ wine was all about.  How wrong we were!

We checked into our hotel and set off straight away for the tasting rooms of the local wineries, deciding on route to play at being normal tourists. I would justify my note-taking by saying that I was a wine geek; a role I’m rather good at playing. We also decided to stop at the very first winery we came to, which shall remain nameless since the wines there were all as correct as they were mediocre. In the tasting room we were first surprised to find a handful of Rieslings on offer – we both had a figure of about 400 hectares for the area planted with Riesling in NZ in our heads – then it hit us. Everywhere were posters and shelf-talkers promoting the Summer of Riesling. During our short stay we found them all over the place, also in Queenstown as the above picture shows. In Central Otago, one of the most remote regions on Planet Wine!

By this I don’t mean that the Summer of Riesling which Paul Grieco’s Terroir wine bars have been celebrating in New York since 2008 and which went Coast to Coast in 2011 or the Summer of Riesling in Sydney/Australia which is currently happening for the third time had reached NZ. The NZ Summer of Riesling not only had a very different approach (more educational) than either of them, but the promotional material Cornelius Dönnhoff and I saw also had a very different look. For example, the T-shirts were black with white logos; the colors of the national rugby team, the All Blacks. In the US and in Sydney/Australia the Summer of Riesling is mainly for restaurants and bars, whereas in NZ it is primarily for wine producers and wine merchants.

We quickly learnt the reason for this was the rapid growth of the area planted with Riesling in NZ to around 1,000 hectares. So the Summer of Riesling had not only gone viral, but also mutated to adapt to local conditions. I was in a state of delighted shock so the significance of all this didn’t hit me until I reached New York two weeks later (via San Francisco, Monterey and LA in California, Washington DC, then Middleburg and Richmond in Virginia). On the afternoon of Monday, February 27th at a tasting of Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in New York State at Hearth Restaurant on 12th Street at 1st Avenue, it suddenly hit me: Riesling is now a global phenomenon and New York is the place I can best get a grip on it. 

As soon as I got home I commissioned the masthead at the top of this site, and began planning its complete overhaul. I was in a hurry, because I felt that I had been too slow to pick up on this. I am now in the process of turning this into both a book and a movie. Any help, advice or information you can give me is much appreciated. WATCH THIS SPACE!

 

 

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Berlin Wine Diary: Day 4 – Kelby Russell of Red Newt Cellars in the FLX is My Riesling Hero 2015

How quickly do things really change on Planet Wine? Often if you look past the headlines that try keep trying to persuade us the winemaking wheel has just been reinvented again, then take a thoughtful and probing look at history you find that many of those supposed game-changing innovations are not really that new. However, every now and again a young wine region really does take a massive leap forward within the space of a few years, and sometimes that leap is in good part the result of one person’s remarkable efforts. The FLX (Finger Lakes) of Upstate New York is a young region with just over 50 vintages with vinifera grape varieties behind it, and currently it is being shaken up by a group of dynamic and often young winemakers. One of them stands out for what he has done with Riesling during just the last couple of years. Kelby Russell (right in the above photo) will be 28 years old on December 19th this year and he began his winemaking career only six years ago, but what he has achieved in that time is truly revolutionary for the FLX and for the world of Riesling.

Kelby became the winemaker of Red Newt Cellars of Hector on the eastern bank of Seneca Lake at the end of the 2012 vintage. The wines he made that year are all nice stuff, but many of them are rather cautious and few of them are really exciting. However, with his 2013 and 2014 vintage Rieslings he has done things I never expected from this region, and he has taken Red Newt high into the FLX first league. Much as I appreciate the recent leap in quality at Red Newt, particularly for the winery’s larger production wines like the medium-sweet Circle Riesling (scroll down to my Riesling Revelations 2015 for more about the latter wine), the radical stylistic innovations strike me as being even more important. They are most clear in the new high-end wines that Kelby has created with the considerable encouragement and support of winery owner Dave Whiting (left in the above photo).

I never came across FLX Rieslings before with the striking nose of yellow grapefruit and smoke that the 2013 and 2014 vintages of the Red Newt Dry Riesling have. They also have a racy energy that reminds me of James Joyce’s observation that, “white wine is electricity,” and we are talking about a wine that costs just under $20! They do the kind of things most somms will tell you only top quality European Rieslings can do, and it is surely significant that Kelby has studied those wines very intensively and tried to learn everything he could from them. The grapes for this wine came from Harlan Fulkerson’s Lahoma Vineyard on the western bank of Seneca Lake, a new fruit source for Red Newt. The winery’s new top dry Riesling The Knoll comes from one particular block – it is indeed a knoll – in that vineyard and debuts with the recently released 2013 vintage. It has even more of the smoke aroma than the 2013 Dry Riesling, and this is combined with a fresh pineapple note. On the palate there’s great concentration for this generally rather wishy-washy vintage (due to high crop levels that winemakers didn’t see coming until it was too late) and it lacks the Botrytis note that slightly mars many 2013 FLX Rieslings. The even drier 2014 The Knoll is still science fiction, by which I mean that it will be almost a year before it reaches the market, however, it is surely one of star wines of this often great vintage in the region. For all its intensity and despite having some serious tannins (yes, tannin can be positive in Riesling!) this is a very elegant wine with flavors of way too complex to be adequately described with a few standard winetasting terms. So let me stick my neck out and say that it’s an intricately patterned tapestry of acidity, fruit, spice and minerals.

There is also medium-dry pendant to this with the working name of The Big H (as the photo right shows Harlan Fulkerson is a big guy in every sense). It has more exotic aromas, is more succulent and weighty, but is also graceful and subtle. With just 18 grams of residual sweetness in the 2014 vintage, this too is very much a gastronomic wine. Kelby is also responsible for making the excellent Dry Riesling for Boundary Breaks winery (again see my Riesling Revelations 2015 below) and almost equally striking Empire Estate Dry Riesling launched with the 2014 vintage by the Nomad Hotel group. These are also both stylistic innovations for the FLX. Then there are the wines that he makes under his own Kelby James Russell label, but they deserve separate description at a later date so they don’t get lost in the crowd of all these other wines.

Given all this you are probably wondering why you haven’t heard Kelby Russell’s name before. Winemakers who don’t continually blow their own horn are often overlooked and underrated, and Kelby is anything but a loud mouth or  24/7 self-publicist. Of course, he hasn’t been up at full speed for very long, and this is also a reason for the modest crop of high praise he has gathered to date. However, it’s a journalist’s job to see what’s going on, and regions where so much is moving so fast (many more stories on the young winemaker of FLX will follow and ROCK STARS OF WINE AMERICA #3 will be devoted to them) ought to excite journalists. Dear colleagues, it is high time that you woke up to what this young man is doing, because he is changing an entire region!

Of course, that statement prompts the question how it is possible for someone so young to get so far in such a short period of time. Part of the answer is the way that Dave Whiting spotted his talent and almost immediately gave Kelby the freedom he needed to turn his vision into such exciting wines. However, you have to have a vision and the necessary knowledge to be implement it before that kind of mentorship will work. Kelby graduated from Harvard in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in government and a minor in economics, both subjects enormously far removed from wine. He had been planning to go into orchestra or choir management, but a little taste of winemaking in Italy in 2008 made him change his mind. On the first day of the 2009 harvest he turned up at Fox Run Vineyards and became one of the “students” at the “school” of winemaker Peter Bell. Many other young FLX winemaker have done the same, and Peter helped any number of them thoroughly grasp the foundations of their craft. Somebody should give Peter a medal for what he has done for the entire FLX wine industry!

In 2010, ’11 and ’12 Kelby worked two harvests per year by going to the Southern Hemisphere in the Northern Hemisphere spring, working at Whitehaven in Marlborough, NZ, then Piper’s Brook in Tasmania, before finally graduating to Nightshift Red Winemaker at Yalumba in South Australia. Not surprisingly, he’s also doing exciting things with the Cabernet Franc reds at Red Newt. From the 2014 vintage there’s a joyful, fragrant fruity tank-aged Cab Franc and the 2013 Glacier Ridge single vineyard bottling is the best Cab Franc the winery has made to date with a floral elegance that puts it in the first league of FLX reds. Other remarkable and sometimes daring new creations are about to emerge from Red Newt Cellars! These exciting other wines show that this year’s Riesling Hero is by no means limited to his and my favorite grape variety!

Anyone who regularly reads this blog will already know that Kelby is also a good friend of mine and that I have been his house guest several times. That closeness has enabled this young winemaker to have a mind-expanding effect upon my awareness of Riesling in the FLX and beyond. Only a couple of other winemakers of his generation did that for me, and they are world-famous names. READ MY LIPS: TASTE THESE WINES!

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