Riesling: icons and new horizons

This was a really good tasting of 14 different Rieslings held at the Institute of Masters of Wine conference in Wiesbaden yesterday. Moderated by Jancis Robinson, it included input from each of the winemakers, most in person but some remotely.

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett Alte Reben 2015 Mosel
8.5% alcohol, pH 2.9, 27 g/l rs. The Saar has a difficult climate, says Egon. There are years like 2016 where the harvest depends on doing the right thing at the right time, and this is why he doesn’t want to certify. Hot summer, but cold and rainy in September keeping the acidity levels high. Beautiful aromatics: fresh, vital, lemony, floral, with a hint of honey. The palate is so intense with high acidity. It’s linear, mouthwatering and juicy with a hint of melony richness. Incisive and direct with amazing precision and laser sharp focus. 94/100

Egon Müller Scharzhoberger Riesling Auslese 2005 Mosel
7% alcohol, pH 3, 165 g/l rs. This is the kind of wine you have to wrestle from nature, says Egon. Powerful, lively and intense with lovely sweetness, combined with high acidity that perfectly balances the wine. Apricot, marmalade and table grapes with nice intensity here, showing lime and spice on the finish. So powerful, pure and balanced. Such precision allied to richness. 97/100

Willems & Hofmann Huntertgulden 2020 Rheinhessen, German
12.5% alcohol, pH 3.2, 2.5 g/l rs. Jürgen Hofmann presented this wine. The vineyard was established on an ancient forest in the 14th century, and it’s pure limestone. This site almost became abandoned in the 1960s. It’s 26 hectare site, and they started making a single vineyard bottling in 2005. 240 m, which is high for the region. Taut, mineral and lean with some mineral notes, high acidity and powerful lime fruit. Salty and lean with a nice acid line. Such precision. 93/100

Trimbach Clos Sainte Hune Riesling 2016 Alsace
13% alcohol, pH 3.1, 4 g/l rs. Julien Trimbach presented this wine. 1.67 hectares on limestone soil. Very old vines, with the youngest 55 years old. Bottled in the spring following the vintage then aged in bottle (same is true for FE). This is intriguing, with a stony, mineral core to the lime and pear fruit, as well as a touch of green apple. It’s dry and quite compact, showing a little development, but also a core of dense citrus fruit. Nice weight and depth: refined, showing some ripeness, but also nice precision. This is a little shy right now, but finishes lively and mineral. 93/100

Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1998 Alsace (magnum)
13% alcohol, pH 2.9, 6 g/l rs. Gaisberg and Osterberg Grand Crus go into this, which are right next to each other. Now called just FE without the Cuvée (since 2013). A small hint of botrytis here. Honey, nuts and spice on the nose, with some apple and lime. Powerful palate with nice spicy depth and rich honey, apricot and lemon notes. Good structure here, with really appealing development. 94/100

Julien Schaal Riesling Grand Cru Rangen 2021 Alsace
12.8% alcohol, 5.8 g/l rs. Julien presented this wine. He’s the first generation, entering the wine world as a sommelier. This is from volcanic soils on a steep slope, facing south. This is sunny, so the skins turn an almost orange colour and are really thick. This was quite a cool vintage, and they had time to pick when they wanted. Powerful, dense and quite structured with a flinty, smoky edge to the lively limey fruit. Dry and intense with a fine spiciness and nice intensity. Has nice acidity, too. Substantial and delicious. 94/100

Knoll Ried Shütt Smaragd 2016 Wachau, Austria
13.5% alcohol, pH 3.2, 6.9 g/l rs. At the end of a valley, with warm days and cold nights. Complex, layered, quite dry but rich, with lemon, lime and spice, as well as a touch of pear and peach. A bold, rich expression of Riesling with lovely intensity, showing a fine, mineral, slightly chalky finish with good acidity. Lovely complexity here. 95/100

Knoll Ried Shütt Smaragd 2018 Wachau, Austria
13.5% alcohol, pH 3.2, 4.6 g/l rs. This is the hottest year ever, with a very early harvest on 2 September. Supple, fine and expressive with ripe pear, green apple and a touch of lime. There’s some depth and nice texture, with some honey and spice, and a touch of mandarin. Nice fruit here. 93/100

Grabenwerskstatt Linke & Hofbauer Riesling Ried Trenning 2021 Wachau, Austria
13% alcohol, pH 3.28. Started in 2014, now have 4.5 hectares. At the end of the valley, going up to 550 m. South facing. Distinctive, with lively citrus fruit, some pear, and a nice mineral twist. Very keen and expressive with plenty of acidity and some bright lemony fruit on the finish. Such a linear, incisive Riesling. A touch of honeyed richness, too. 93/100

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2022 Clare Valley, Australia
12.9% alcohol. Lovely intensity, purity and precision with a lovely fine grained, savoury, mineral finish. Has texture, perfume and detail. A hint of rose. Lovely texture to this wine with no harshness, but lots of presence. Some salinity on the finish. So youthful but so fine. 95/100

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2022 Clare Valley, Australia
12.9% alcohol. Delicate, bright and lemony with some fresh fruity character, and a sense of sharpness and purity. Supple and fine showing lovely purity. I love the acid line and delicacy here, with nice brightness. So primary and direct, showing nice intensity and lots of potential. 94/100

Rieslingfreak No 5 Off Dry Riesling 2017 Clare Valley, Australia
10% alcohol, pH 2.8, 14.9 g/l rs. No pressing: just free-run juice, rotating it and not pressing, because they don’t want TDN from the skins, giving a yield of around 500 litres a ton. This is laser-sharp and precise, with very high acidity, and also some ripe pear and peach as well as vivid limey fruit. The acidity means that it tastes more-or-less dry. So linear and focused, with a hint of honey and wet stone. Remarkable stuff in a very distinctive style, with very high acidity and a bit of structure, and showing a bit of development. 93/100

Chateau Ste Michelle Loosen Eroica Riesling 2021 Columbia Valley, Washington State
12% alcohol, pH 3.17, 17.9 g/l rs. Erni Loosen introduced this wine, which was a project that started in 1999 when Alan Shoup was the boss at Ste Michelle. Riesling wasn’t fashionable then and the prices had been low. They agreed to do something together, and Erni was surpised to find out that the Columbia Valley which was a hot desert! ‘They treated Riesling like their red wines,’ he says, with deficit irrigation and exposing grapes to the sun. Now the wine is made from Ancient Lakes, further north and at higher elevation at 300-400 m, giving them more hang time, and more irrigation and shading. The idea was to slow down ripeness and get a longer hang time, which is more aroma ripeness. Bold, intense and just off dry with lively citrus and lime fruit. Nice acidity and a sort of crystalline quality with a bit of spice. Juicy and linear with nice precision, good acidity and a long, tapering finish. Really impressive. 94/100

Red Newt Cellars The Knoll Riesling Lahoma Vineyard 2019 Finger Lakes
12.6% alcohol, pH 3.1, 4 g/l rs. Kelby Russell introduced this wine, which is a few years away from release. This is a 1 hectare sandstone vineyard. Stony, mineral, linear and intense with a lovely core of citrus fruit, as well as some red apple and a fine-grained structure with lovely acidity that integrates perfectly with the fruit. Very fine, in a dry style, showing lovely precision. 94/100