The modern story of Riesling: a tasting at the FLXcursion

This was a great chance to try some serious Riesling wines in a masterclass setting, led by Paula Sidore of Trink Wine, as part of the FLXcursion in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York. She set the scene by giving some perspective. Worldwide there are 55 000 hectares of Riesling, and Germany has 24 000 of these. So it’s not surprising that discussions of Riesling centre on Germany, where the grape originated. Alsace has 3000 hectares, the USA 2500 hectares (many in the Finger Lakes region), then Australia, and then Austria with 1900 hectares. Not mentioned, but significant, is the 1000 hectares of Riesling in Canada’s Niagara region.

Evan Spingarn has sold Riesling in the USA for 30 years, and he gave an interesting take on how German Riesling has evolved, with particular reference to the US market. It used to be old school, powerhouse wineries, he says. The story of German wine in the USA had started in the late 1960s and 1970s, and the importers were paying a lot of attention to tradition. But it later became clear people weren’t interested in this any more: there was no excitement, growth or innovation. When the kids of these famous wineries began working in the family business, things began to get interesting. They worked abroad, and then came back. Their parents hadn’t really travelled. They came back with new ideas and they weaned their estates off what their parents had told them to do. The importers evolved, too, and it has been amazing to watch this evolution, he says. Now we have a new chapter led by climate crisis. While this climate change represents a grave danger to much of humanity, iIt has been fabulous for Germany and a new age of evolution has resulted, including some really good red wines.

There was a lot of discussion about selling Rieslings in the USA (summary: it’s difficult, but it’s not so difficult if you have the right wines and the right customer base), about sweetness levels, about why Alsace has struggled with its Riesling identity, and whether some people in the USA still have issues with Germany that affects the sale of its wine. Meghan Frank also told the story of how Riesling found its way to the Finger Lakes, largely through the work of her grandfather Konstantin Frank and Charles Fournier. But the main thing here was the chance to taste some excellent wines across a range of styles.


Flight 1

Carl Loewen Longuicher Maximin Herrenberg Riesling GG 2020 Mosel, Germany
Concentrated and powerful with an intense lime and lemon streak. There’s a beautiful mineral streak here and a beautiful sense of balance: fully ripe, with amazing precision and a long lemony, mineral finish. There’s such energy to this wine, as well as concentration. 95/100

Georg Bruer Lorch Riesling Trocken 2020 Rheinhgau, Germany
This has a vivid line of acidity that holds everything in tension: so chiselled and mineral, and properly dry, with a hint of grip as well as pure lemon and lime fruit. Real density here with a touch of sourness on the finish that’s mouthwatering, and a great concentration of pure citrus fruit. There’s also a slight stoniness. 93/100

Dönhoff Niederhauser Klamm Riesling Kabinett 2022 Nahe, Germany
This is beautiful. Concentrated and mineral with lovely sweetness acting as a foil to the high acidity. There’s a juiciness here with some pure lemon, a touch of ripe pear and sweet melon, but the main core is pure citrus. Such wonderful volume and balance here, showing high dynamic range, and some chalkiness. 94/100

Koehler-Ruprecht Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2021 Pfalz, Germany
This is a seamless wine with sweet citrus and some fine minerality, as well as a slight dusty structure, as well as some subtle nuttiness. Has a slight hint of aniseed, and a long, stony finish. Nice poise here but quite compact and conservative. 91/100

Kühling Gillor Nierstein Riesling Trocken 2021 Rheinhessen, Germany
Juicy and lively with some lemon and pear fruit and good acidity. Stony and mineral with some aniseed and a touch of graoefruit. Lime with some pithy notes. Nice concentration here, although it’s a little restrained. 92/100

Wittman Riesling Westerhofener Trocken Ortswein 2014 Rheinhessen, Germany
This is powerful, concentrated and full flavoured with a subtle creamy undercurrent to the sweet pear, peach, apple and melon fruit, as well as a hint of cabbage (in a nice way). Such depth of fruit here with a fine, tapering mineral and citrus finish. Showing some development and drinking very well now, with the high acidity integrated beautifully into the rich fruit. 94/100

Flight 2

Leiner Riesling Handwerk Trocken 2021 Pfalz, Germany
Powerful, fresh and linear with lovely chiselled citrus fruit, with a vivid lemony finish. So tart and vivid, bone dry and nicely spicy. There’s some grapefruit, and a pithy, stony note on the finish. Such energy here. Compact, with a slightly abrupt finish, but really energetic. 93/100

Fio Socalos Riesling Trocken 2019 Mosel, Germany
Nice concentration here with some vivid citrus fruit as well as green apple and pear. There’s concentration and depth with lovely mineral hints around the edge of the bold fruit. It’s so well balanced with good energy. 94/100

JJ Prüm Riesling Kabinett 2005 Mosel, Germany
Lively and juicy with sweet apple, lemon and melon fruit, supported by some creamy characters and a twist of cabbage. Nice concentration, with lovely tension between the sweetness and the acidity. Shows some development in a nice way, but I’m not hugely keen on the creaminess/dairy character. 92/100

Maximin Grünhaus Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett 2021 Mosel, Germany
This is juicy, stony and linear with nice intensity. Such precision with delicacy and focus, with bright lemony acidity. There’s a nice transparency to this wine, and the high acidity puts everything clearly in place. Stony finish. 94/100

Flight 3

Hugel Riesling Classic 2021 Alsace, Germany
Taut and compact with nice acidity. It’s dry with some lovely citrus and a touch of green apple. There’s a slight salinity on the finish. This is quite taut and primary and has lovely energy and focus. Lots of potential. 92/100

Bründlmayer Reid Zöbinger Heilgenstein Alte Reben 1 ÖTW 2014 Kamptal, Austria
Powerful aromatics here with a waxy edge to the powerful lime and marmalade notes, as well as some chalkiness. The palate has concentration and energy with minerals, apricot, lemons, wax and some subtle spiciness, as well as a slight cabbage and mint note in the background. Such precision and energy to this wine, and it’s developing beautifully. 95/100

Von der Vogelweide Tandarai Riesling 2019 Wachau, Austria
A new domaine, fist vintage 2019. Daniel Von der Vogelweide has 2.5 hectares. Great concentration and balance here with direct citrus fruit as well as some pear and aniseed, and nice fine spiciness. Lovely depth here with a slight salinity. There’s a harmony: there’s some ripeness, but also good acidity. Nicely textural. 93/100

Vineland Riesling St Urban Vineyard 2022 Niagara Escarpment, Canada
Vineyard planted in 1979. Lively aromatics: zesty, lemony, some grapiness, a touch of chalkiness. Very fruity on the palate with mandarin and lemon, with good acidity. Light, expressive and bright, and mouthwatering. 91/100

Flight 4

Dr Konstantin Frank Eugenia Dry Riesling 2021 Finger Lakes
Very lively and tart with keen acidity. A linear, bright lemony wine showing high acidity and chiselled fruit. Pure and linear. 91/100

Hosmer Winery Dry Riesling 2019 Cayuga Lake, Finger Lakes
There’s some waxiness here with nice fresh pear and citrus fruit, as well as green apple notes. Nice complexity on the palate, finishing dry and with some stony notes. 91/100

Fox Run Vineyards Silvan Riesling 2020 Finger Lakes
Fruity, lemony and bright with nice purity. Compact, with some stony character. This has nice texture and some crystalline citrus on the finish. Attractive. 90/100

Barnstormer Semi-Dry Riesling Lahoma Vineyard 2022 Finger Lakes
This is fine and pure with nice pear and apple, showing some melony richness. Off dry with a crystalline quality and good balance between the sweetness and acidity. Shows brightness, balance and some complexity. 92/100