Riesling is one of those varieties that can produce beautiful wines in a number of different styles, defined by a number of factors, such as terroir. But of course the amount of sweetness that is experienced while drinking the wine is, for many people, the critical defining quality of a fine Riesling. Accordingly, we carry outstanding German Rieslings at all levels of sweetness, and it’s a delight to explore these wonderful wines.
We know that many people reject wines with any level of sweetness whatsoever. We won’t attempt to change their minds here, we’ll simply note that Germany makes many brilliant dry Rieslings, one of which we featured last month—the excellent 2010 Pfeffingen “Dry” Riesling, still available for $15.99. But for those of you who appreciate the exquisite flavors and complexity of Germany’s best fruity/sweet wines, below are four wines that demonstrate both the range and quality of Germany’s great off-dry and sweet Rieslings.
2009 Schafer-Frohlich Riesling Medium-Dry, Nahe
In a few short years young Tim Schafer has vaulted over much more established vintners to become one of the brightest talents in all of Germany. He uses natural yeasts and his non-interventionist, natural winemaking style has made him the darling of wine critics and collectors alike. I recently had the opportunity to sample his current off-dry release and found it wonderfully fresh and pure. With great Riesling flavors and expertly balanced acidity, the fruit is firm and the journey from fruity to dry in the mouth is seamless. A terrific wine with anything smoked or cured, and a really delicious aperitif as well.$17.99 per bottle
2010 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett, Saar
For years Hanno Zilliken has been among top tier of German winemakers, and the wines of his estate have been benchmarks of quality in the beautiful region of the Saar. For years the wines have been undervalued, and although his increasing fame in recent years has put pressure on his prices, they still represent some of the best “QPR’s” (quality-price ratio) in all of Germany. Zilliken succeeded brilliantly in 2010, making wines of exquisite clarity, depth and beauty. This Kabinett has amazing concentration after achieving just ½ of normal yield, yet it retains the textbook acidity and perfect balance of sweetness to create an off-dry wine of exceptional quality. Fruity, full of minerality, and ramrod firm. As too-many Kabinetts ramp up the sweetness to get more attention, this is a true Kabinett that proves just how delicious this lightly sweet style of Riesling can be. Wonderful stuff!$32.99 per bottle
2010 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, Nahe
What can we say? This wine is simply a beauty from one of the greatest wine estates on the planet. Dönnhoff has been producing impressive Rieslings for so long it seems the estate can do no wrong. But it takes great care in the vineyards and impeccable skill in the winery to make Riesling this good, year after year. The 2010 vintage allowed Donnhoff to make wines that stand out for their balance and depth, with neither excessive acidity nor heavy-handed weight. Generous sweetness balanced with firm acidity, but it’s the great depth of flavor that impresses me the most. This is a brilliant wine of remarkable depth, one that is delicious now but can probably age effortlessly for decades. A stunning achievement. A Terry Theise selection.$49.99 per bottle
2010 Jakoby-Mathy Kinheimer Rosenberg "Eulenlay" Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Here is a respected Auslese priced like a Spätlese. Full in the mouth, with generous sweetness, it is balanced by a fair amount of refreshing acidity. Erich Jakoby-Mathy was the cellar master of Selbach-Oster until his father’s illness called him home to take over winemaking duties. Kinheim is near Erden in the middle Mosel. “This is excellent, even exciting wine, a ton of botrytis but tied to a ripe lavish fruit; roasted pineapple and candied lemon and an underlying jacket of mineral,” writes Terry Theise. We agree, and this is one of the best—and best value—Rieslings we’ve tried in quite some time.$32.99 per bottle