With Riesling, “Trocken” means “Dry” and Dry Means Refreshing

How many of you out there think Riesling is always a sweet wine? Be honest. I hear all the time from people who think that. Certainly that is not true with German Riesling, my favorite white wine. Yes, the sweet styles are rich, luscious and for many of us captivating. But it is the dry and off-dry wines that are getting more attention these days, from winemakers and the trade … and they hope, consumers. Such wines are the subjects of this column.

 

The Rheinhessen, Germany’s largest wine region stretching south of the Rhein River, features gentle rolling hills where vines share farmland with many crops. The region’s wines have long rated behind those of other regions but with dedicated growers like the Wittmann family who have been growing grapes and producing wine since 1663; it has emerged in the forefront of the trocken (dry) movement.

Wittmann’s wines truly are outstanding. The only challenge is they are a bit pricey. The entry level 2013 “100 Hills” ($21) is all about tight and tangy lemon and orange. Its juicy acidity is matched by the 2013 Riesling Trocken ($32), which is equally tight, with steely green fruit. The 2013 Wittmann “Westhofener” ($51) is made with grapes grown around the village of Westhofen and presents more brisk green fruit along with juicy peach.

Just to the south of the Rheinhessen, the Pfalz is Germany’s second largest wine region. Growers here have been proclaiming the greatness of dry Riesling more than any other German region. In my tasting, the Pfalz was represented by Villa Wolf, an estate dating to 1753. The 2012 “Forster Pechstein” ($32), from one of the area’s finest vineyards, is representative of the area’s black basalt soils backing fruity aroma, flavors of apple, yellow plum and citrus, with herbal and spice notes.

Across the Rhein River north of Rheinhssen, the Rheingau, is one of the most distinguished wine regions of the world. And while that reputation has been built on the sweeter wines, today many fine trocken are being made – like these two from Robert Weil. The 2013 Riesling Trocken ($20) delivers a lot of wine for the money. Following pure, intense aromas of nectarine and gooseberry, an initial steely, minerally impression in the mouth is joined by juicy and a touch spicy flavors.

In the great Mosel River Valley, which begins west of the Rheingau and where winemaking dates to the Roman occupation 2000 years ago, dry wines also are getting more attention. The 200-year-old Dr. Loosen estate has, under the direction of Ernst Loosen since 1988, arguably become the most recognizable name in premium German Riesling in the U.S. The 2013 “Red Slate” ($18) is the winery’s entry-level dry wine and it is a really good value. Lively tangerine and lemon-lime aromas and flavors are delivered with a sense of creaminess and prominent spiciness likely from the red slate soils of its originating vineyards.

 

The 2012 Dr. Loosen “Erdener Treppchen” Alte Reben Grosses Gewächs ($42), except for its confusing name, is amazingly rich, elegant and quite intense, reflecting the vineyard’s 100-year-old vines. “Alte Reben” means “old vines” and “Grosses Gewächs” indicates this is considered a great vineyard. Drinking the wine I have to concur as zesty lemon, apple and tropical fruits burst from the glass, accented with minerally red slate notes.

 

For Fritz Haag in nearby Brauneberg in the heart of the central Mosel, the tradition goes back to 1605. Also an accomplished producer of sweet Rieslings, even the entry level 2013 Trocken ($22) transmits a sense of the reddish slate soil under pinning the bright green apple and honeydew.

 

German wineries are working hard these days to convince consumers that their dry Rieslings are worth more attention. They certainly have convinced me. As a bonus, these wines are most suited to drinking with myriad foods – from cheese to grilled vegetables to sausage to shellfish to Asian dishes.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.