In this first article in the blog, I have decided to write about Germany because Riesling wines elaborated in Moselle region are one of the most interesting discoveries in the Advanced Course for Sommeliers provided in Ingavi. Those lessons were revealing: I have discovered the way forward to streamline the work in our winery to search Excellency and value the characteristics of each variety.
Then, I will draw up a report about the varietal characteristics grown in this prime area of Germany. It is really worthwhile. I invite you to taste a Riesling wine (I found vintage 2008 especially interesting). This wine paired with matured cheese from my region, Asturias, “afuega el pitu” (drown the chicken)And I can assure you that it will be sublime.
WINE CONTEXT IN MOSELA ZONE
The heart and soul of German wine are in Moselle Valley. The Moselle is a tributary of Rhin River and it flows along the South of Germany. The Ruwer and the Sarre are, at the same time, tributaries of the Moselle.
A sundial faced towards the sun. According to Oz Clarke, the region is “an amphitheatre of vines with golden leaves, a quiet river and a small nice village on its riverbanks. The vines in sloping areas belong to the great Piesporter Goldtropfchen vineyards, located in Moselle Valley. The sundials (Sonnenuhren in German), common in the best vineyards, are faced South to make the most of the light”.
Germany is a country with many wine treasures that need care. Their ability to excite is subject to annual work that is always very hard, taking more risks than any other wine region in the world.
The vineyards must be carefully selected to achieve maximum sun exposure and minimum contact with wind, frost and rain.
The Moselle-Sarre-Ruwer vineyards are located in the Southwest of Germany. The genius of the Riesling grape, if climatic conditions permit the grape to mature slowly during the long and warm summer season and a mild autumn, is able to offer a sublime balance of the acidity and the sweetness of a unique fruit in the world. It evolves over the years by the “reducing” action in the bottle. Exquisite wines that take us to the Moselle´s landscape of slate.
The German slopes are faced South, East and West. The reason is clear: To make the best use of low sunlight and the warm temperature in Central Europe. The best slopes are the one along the sides of the River Valleys because they avoid strong winds and allow microclimates that retain heat. Without these climate sanctuaries created by the rivers, the wine growing in Germany will be impossible. Therefore, we can see all the German vineyards following the courses of the rivers Moselle, Rhin, Main, Neckar and, to a lesser extent, the Elba, the Saale, and the Unstrut.In Moselle region the average temperature is 9.8ºC. The mild temperature, the sunlight and the slate soil - Different slate types are usual in all the areas, with the exception of high Moselle, composed mostly by limestone – make white Riesling wines to be lean and delicate. This ripe highly complex grape is resistant to cold weather conditions and, what is extraordinary, produces low maturity level wines or it can even reach a satisfactory degree of ripeness so that the grapes become brown and raisin.
The Moselle course. The key in the Mid Moselle is not only in the warm climate and the sunlight: The sun matures the grapes but the soil gives the flavour. The soil in the Mid Moselle is composed by dark and dry slate with an effective drainage. This slate provides the smoky taste typical of Riesling grapes.
The Erdener Pralat vineyards, in Mid Moselle, are located between the Moselle River and the high hills on both sides on the banks. The location is ideal for growing the Riesling grapes. It became an individual vineyard at the end of 19th Century. It broke away Treppschen because the extremely warm climate produced grapes at a more ripened stage, different from the high areas of this valley where the temperature is colder, losing the hygrometric influence of the river.
It has a perfect sun exposure, facing south, red slate soil, rich in iron with a high content of stone that keeps the heat – due to the inertia of this material – and this is reflected to the vines. Some of the oldest vines are grown in this area and it is, undoubtedly, one of the best German vineyards.The extraordinary Moselle wines made with Riesling grapes are very mineral and a lively acidity. They are expressive wines and long flavour, vibrant palate and very deep, achieving a place of honour among the most elegant white wines in the world.
Wine slopes, Riesling wine from Moselle. The harvest usually starts in mid-October and the healthy grapes provide Kabinet wine that can be elaborated as dry (trocken) or sweet. Weeks later, the harvesters come to the vineyard to pick up the grapes to elaborate Spätlese (late harvest) wines with a characteristic intense flavour. At the same time, they harvest the grapes attacked by noble rot, a kind of fungus that destroys naturally the early morning mist from the river and dries the grapes with a greater concentration of flavours.
On the first pass it is common to find grapes affected about 30%. These grapes are used to produce an oily, full-bodied palate wine called Goldkapsel because of its golden capsule, although this denomination is not official so far. Six weeks after the harvest start, the last harvest of the healthy grape is made. A high concentration wine and lively apple and honey aromas: the Auslese. In this very moment, the attack of the noble rot is high and with the affected bunches the spectacular Beerenauslese (grape selection) is made. By having a sugar concentration, the must ferment slowly and can even take up to one year to achieve a minimum strength of 5.5º
At a higher level, in this continuous grape selection, we find the limited and expensive Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA), wines made from raisined grapes due to botrytis. Sweet, with a great acidity, those wines are considered to be the best white sweet wines in the world. Finally, some wine makers risk to leave a small amount of bunches in the vines during the winter season with the intention to make the lusty Eiswein time after.
Golden leaves on the river, Riesling wine from Moselle is characterized by its balance among acidity and residual sugar. They are wines with low alcoholic strength that evolve and mature in the bottle without aging in oak barrels.
On the nose they are long-life wines, with ripe fruit aroma, dried fruit hints and smoky scent which are typical from this region. They are oily wines, full-bodied in the mouth, smoothness, lively and with acidity. Long-ageing wines with a final mineral and persistence end.
They are probably among the best white wines in the world.
You are invited to taste them!