Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wine Study- "Riesling"

"To me; the Riesling grape makes the greatest white wines in the world."
- Jancis Robinson

We continue a series of sessions with the Francesca's at Sunset and Brannon's Cafe teams we are calling "Wine Study."  We are meeting every other Saturday for the purpose of expanding our knowledge and experience with wine.  Our guide is Jancis Robinson's Wine Course DVDMrs. Robinson poured depth and detail into this television series that aired in the United Kingdom in 1995 it withstands the test of time!

Episode 6- Riesling is a departure from the previous episodes where we have seen personalities of the winemakers influencing the wines and/or the terrior of different regions in comparison and contrast; in this episode we see the profound impact a countries The LAWS can have on wine making... 

Before we get to the legalities we start in the wee hours of the morning to see frozen grapes picked for ice wine! “The Riesling grape is the most misunderstood and mispronounced of all." Jancis says from her seat in a castle perched on the side of a mountain in the Mosel River Valley of Germany.  She quite wittily notes how viticulture is confused vertigo here and goes on to explain how the South and southwest facing slopes of Slate collects heat and makes all the difference in the world in the ripeness of the grapes. Helping with this illustration is Ernst Loosen, of Dr. Loosen fame, he passionately states how Riesling is un-comparable to all other grapes.  And he admits it is very difficult to produce and sell.

Then Dr. Loosen gets into the legalities and explains how the Mosel was enlarged from five-thousand hectars to thirteen-thousand hectars, and how the enlarged area is on farmland and not cliffs. Where one man can work ten hectars in comparison to the two hectares a man can work on the cliffs.  This leads to confusion because the flat land wines are bland and sticky compared to the particular vineyard sights on the cliffs where the wines are complex and wonderful.  Once so highly prized that they were sold for more than first growth Bordeaux’s!

To add to this Germany has confusing wine labels.  And every few years another group of vintners convene to solve the problem by creating a set of therms that will be clear and easy to understand.  These new terms get added to all previous existing one and only creates more confusion.  Causing Ernst Loosen to say; “It’s a disaster.”

Jancis figures that Germany needs a good scandal to get them to simplify and renew their laws for everyone's benifit. A scandal like the one Vienna, Austria had in 1985 when winemakers added Diethylene glycol (antifreeze) to make their wine taste sweeter.  Scandal caused strict purity laws and propelled the regions identity and fame to now the Wachau region is the source of some of the best Rieslings in the world.  Jancis interviews Toni Bodenstein of Weingut Prager.

The coverage of Riesling is not complete without discussion on sweet wines. Understand with counterbalancing acidity they are GREAT! Some are left on vine as long as possible, to freeze and dry.  Others are allowed to develop “Nobel Rot” = Botrytus (Botrytis cinerea; botrytis  [boh-TRI-tihs sihn-EHR-ee-uh], The fungus that causes botrytis bunch rot helping concentrate the sugars and juice. There on Lake Austria, which is very shallow, creating reliable conditions for Botrytus.  Alois Kracher depends upon it if he can keep the birds from the neighboring nature preserve from eating all the grapes. Jancis goes on to show us how in Austria they have the freedom to experiment; Willi Opitz seems like a creative genious invinting new ways to make complex and delicious sweet wines. “Invention does not happen on the green table
but in the heart.” -Willi Opitz

At the end of the of this episode Jancis alludes to the potential of the wine regions that were behind the "Iron Curtain." She seemed to think that they could take the world by storm with high quality and low prices. However that has yet to materialize and has me wondering if it will ever?

The most discouraging test of time comes in the middle of this episode where Mrs. Robinson clearly and succinctly makes the case for the Stelvin closure.  AND here we are sixteen years later discussing the same topic in the same manor.  Sure, there maybe more Stelvin closures in the world today, but by now shouldn't we have the majority of our wine closed with the screw cap?    Aren't you tired of one in twenty wines being bad?  We all need to support the wineries who use Stelvin closures better than we have.

 And please reply to this blog; is Riesling  your  favorite wine?

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