Table of Contents
- The World’s Most Wanted Rieslings
- 15 German Rieslings to Pair with Your Thanksgiving Turkey
- Faintly Off-Dry
- Lightly Sweet
The World’s Most Wanted Rieslings
Move over Chardonnay, it is Riesling’s time to shine.
Considered by many as the world’s finest white wine grape variety, it does divide many wine lovers into one of two categories – either love or hate. But the Riesling grape is still widely misunderstood. Mistakenly pushed aside as a sweet wine, it is actually a very versatile grape produced in a variety of styles from dry, to medium dry, medium sweet and sweet.
Riesling: The Minority Report
Germany and Alsace’s Battle of the Rieslings
A Sweet Lament: The Riesling Backlash Begins
Originally from the vineyards of Germany, Riesling still holds a stronghold in the wine regions of Mosel, Rheinhessen, Rheingau, Pfalz and Nahe, not forgetting France’s neighboring region of Alsace.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it’s a familiar case of France vs Germany in the most searched-for Rieslings. It is France, however, that triumphs over Germany to claim first place by a staggering margin – with the winning wine receiving double the search counts of its second place German rival.
Interestingly, just outside the top 10 searches at #11 is a New World usurper from the US, the Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Columbia Valley. Washington State has become one of several New World enclaves for the Riesling grape variety, so there is definite potential here for a shake-up of the top 10 most wanted Rieslings in the future.
This time around, however, the top 10 is composed of highly acclaimed Riesling wines, with average point scores of 92 and above. Prices are another story and range from a minimum of $55 to a maximum of $8486. The majority of the Prädikatswein German quality levels are also represented and Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese and Trockenbeerenauslese all make an appearance, along with a single Grosses Gewächs wine. It’s all about quality in Alsace too, with the prestigious Clos Sainte Hune walled vineyard featuring at #1.
So here you have it, the top 10 Rieslings from the year-to-date:
1. F E Trimbach Riesling Clos Sainte Hune, Alsace, France
The Clos Sainte Hune Riesling is the Trimbach family’s crowning glory. Situated in the Rosacker Alsace Grand Cru vineyard, the Clos Sainte Hune parcel of vines extends over approximately 2 hectares (5 acres) of limestone-rich soils. The walled vineyard has been cultivated by the Trimbach family for more 200 years and boasts Riesling vines averaging 50 years old, planted with south/southeast-facing exposures. This exceptional terroir produces equally exceptional Riesling wines renowned for their fruit concentration, minerality and aging potential, but only in very limited production volumes ‒ just 8000 bottles per year.
Unusually, this Riesling does not carry a reference to its grand cru heritage, with no mention being made of the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard on the wine’s label. This has not damaged its fame, however, and has consistently scored more than 90 points since the 1971 vintage and averages 94 points over all vintages to date. The highest price demanded by this Riesling is $614 for the 1978 vintage, but on average a bottle of this wine will set you back $179. Achieving 18,368 searches over the last year, it is also the most searched-for wine from Alsace.
2. Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany
While only coming in at number two here with 9223 searches (roughly half the number of searches of its predecessor), this Riesling is actually the most searched-for wine from all of Germany. This perhaps comes as no surprise as Joh. Jos. Prüm is one of the country’s most renowned wine producers and has been producing the Auslese style of wine since 1920. This particular expression comes from the Grosse Lage Sonnenuhr (sundial) vineyard in Wehlen, a region revered for its high-quality Riesling wines. Scoring an average of 93 points and retailing at $55, this Riesling offers extremely good value-for-money.
3. F E Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Alsace, France
The second (and final) Alsatian Riesling in our top 10, and the second offering from Maison Trimbach, is a cuvée originating from the grand cru vineyards of Osterberg and Geisberg. The vines average 45 years old and are planted on south- and southeast-facing slopes that run down towards the Trimbach winery below.
Only released in the best vintage years, this Riesling wine has won numerous accolades including Gold at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards. It is named after Frédéric Emile, who was responsible for expanding the family business in the late 19th Century and the person for which the estate takes its name. This dry and powerful Riesling has great aging potential and can be aged for 20 years and more. At $55 and boasting an average 93 points with the critics, it offers an excellent quality price ratio.
© Wikimedia Commons | The steep banks of the Mosel provide many of the wines on the list.
4. Weingut Keller G-Max Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany
After a brief foray with the Rieslings of Alsace, we head back to Germany once again, but this time to the vineyards of Rheinhessen. Indeed, this Riesling is the most searched-for wine from the region and commands prices averaging $1357, making it the second most expensive Rheinhessen wine. The Keller family has a winemaking history dating back to 1789 and their G-Max Trocken (dry) Riesling is produced from some of the estate’s oldest Riesling vines. The name “G-Max” is a combination of two Keller family members past and present, Georg and Maximilian Keller (the owner’s youngest son).
5. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese, Mosel, Germany
At $8486, this is the most expensive Riesling in our top 10 search rankings. The Riesling-focused Egon Müller estate dates from 1797 and is particularly renowned for its Scharzhofberger wines. These wines are produced from just over 8 hectares (20 acres) of south-facing vines planted in the prestigious Scharzhofberg vineyard in Wiltingen. This rare, sweet Trockenbeerenauslese wine is made solely in excellent vintages and has an average score of 95 points.
6. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany
Auslese is widely considered the archetypal Saar wine. Typically, Auslese wines are made from grapes harvested at ripeness levels between 83 and 100 Oechsle. In Saar, an 88 Oechsle level is usually observed, while Egon Müller’s Ausleses often exceed 100. Critics regularly score this wine highly, with the 2014 vintage awarded 19/20 by Jancis Robinson. On average a bottle of this Riesling will set you back $332.
7. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany
The popularity of Egon Müller’s Rieslings is evidently hard to match, with this being the third outing in a row for the historic producer and its legendary Scharzhofberger wines. The Kabinett is the lightest style of Riesling in the estate’s portfolio of wines from the vineyard. Feather light and elegant are the words often used to describe this Riesling and the price per bottle has been steadily increasing over the last few years. Retailing at $74 and averaging 91 points, it has the lowest price and score of all the Egon Müller Rieslings in this list.
8. Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
Not content with three mentions in the top 10 most wanted Riesling wines, Egon Müller makes its fourth appearance with its Scharzhofberger Riesling Spätlese. The Wine Advocate awarded the 2014 vintage a score of 95, and across all vintages this wine scores an average of 93. This success is mirrored in its search counts, never dropping out of the top four most sought-after wines from Wiltingen over the last five years. This popularity can be seen in its $132 price tag, which has steadily risen from an average of $89 in May 2012.
9. Weingut Dönnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Nahe, Germany
The Hermannshöhle vineyard is widely regarded as being the Nahe region’s finest sites, sitting among the four Grosse Lage-classified vineyards in Niederhausen. The mineral-rich soils here are characterized by the presence of black slate, igneous rock and limestone, giving Hermannshöhle Rieslings their distinctive deep minerality. The Rieslings produced here are also sought after for their intensity and elegance.
One of Weingut Dönnhoff’s main claims to fame is that the estate is only one of three German producers to ever receive a 100-point score from Robert Parker. Furthermore, this particular expression of Hermannshöhle Riesling holds the top spot as Nahe’s most popular wine on Wine-Searcher and scores an average of 93 points with the critics. The grapes for this wine are hand-harvested from vines that reach up to 60 years old, they are then fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel vats and oak barrels before bottling.
10. Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
The last on the list is also the cheapest – coming in at $42. Considering its 92-point score, this wine offers exceptional value, too. The Spätlese is another example from the Prüm family’s portfolio of Wehlener Sonnenuhr wines and, like the others, displays the mineral/slate characteristics for which the estate’s wines are known.
15 German Rieslings to Pair with Your Thanksgiving Turkey
Riesling is both blessed and cursed. The blessing is that it is truly one of the world’s greatest food wines—bright and zesty, able to pair with almost anything. The curse is that everyone thinks it’s sweet.
People particularly think that about German Riesling, which would come as a surprise to most Germans, who actually drink more dry Riesling than sweet styles by a resounding margin. And when I was traveling recently in Germany’s Mosel Valley, arguably its most famous wine region (and certainly one of its most beautiful), I drank plenty of dry Riesling: intense, vivid whites that seemed to distill the essence of the cracked slate that carpets the region’s crazily steep vineyards.
And now, with Thanksgiving approaching, I’m thinking, could there be a better roast turkey wine (or mashed-potato-plus-stuffing-plus-green-beans-plus-creamed-onions wine)? If your tastes run toward whites, I honestly don’t think so. Riesling even goes with cranberry sauce, which lands on your table with a contract out on most other wines. Here are 15 great Mosel Rieslings, both dry versions and (lightly) sweet ones, too. Now, bring on the bird.
Hate sweetness in your wines? These six Rieslings are as dry as they come.
2017 Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling ($18)
The slate soils of the Mosel River region fall into two types: blue and red. “Riesling on blue slate tends to be more green apple and white peach; red slate is more mineral-driven,” Ernst Loosen says. This stony, orange-zesty wine bears that out.
2018 Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling ($18)
The unstoppably energetic Nik Weis makes excellent wines at all price levels, but the quality of his affordable bottlings is so high, it’s hard to pass them up. Witness this thrillingly brisk, green-appley white.
2018 Franzen Quarzit Schiefer Riesling ($20)
Kilian and Angelina Franzen farm 5 hectares in the fearsomely steep Bremmer Calmont vineyard, producing intensely focused Rieslings. This wine, with its lime peel and dusty mineral character, directly expresses their elegant style.
2018 Stein Blauschiefer Riesling Trocken ($22)
Blauschiefer literally translates to “blue slate,” making this wine, with its high-toned quince and grapefruit notes, an excellent counterpart for the Loosen wine above.
2017 Carl Loewen Alte Reben Riesling ($23)
In German, alte reben means “old vines,” in this case at least 50 years old, on some of the steepest slopes in Germany. The wine they produce is vividly aromatic, with dry spice and quince notes.
2016 Selbach-Oster Bömer Riesling ($26)
Johannes Selbach is one of the great names of Mosel Riesling, and his family has been in the wine trade for more than 400 years. This intensely dry bottling, from behind the village of Zeltingen, is savory and almost oily in texture, a great main-course white.
Image zoom Victor Protasio
The feinherb category in German Rieslings denotes wines with a touch of sweetness—enough to amplify the fruitiness of the wine but (typically) not so much as to come off distinctly sweet.
2017 Saarstein Riesling ($18)
Grapefruit peel and golden apple flavors define this bright Riesling from vineyards overlooking the Saar River. A light touch of residual sugar on the finish amplifies its fruitiness, but the wine doesn’t come off as sweet.
2018 Fritz Haag Estate Riesling ($20)
Fritz Haag is renowned for its Brauneberger Juffer vineyard Grosses Gewächs wines (the Mosel term for grand cru); this estate bottling offers some of the elegance of the top wines for a more modest price.
2018 Schloss Lieser Estate Riesling ($20)
Founded by a baron, who also built the gorgeous castle in front of the winery, today Schloss Lieser is owned by the talented winemaker Thomas Haag. Lightly off-dry, this estate bottling is full of ripe peach notes.
2018 Maximin Grünhaus Monopol Riesling ($22)
This property dates back to the seventh century, when King Dagobert of Franconia gave the lands to Benedictine monks. Today, the Von Schubert family owns it and makes wines like this bright, almost tingly bottling.
2018 Lauer “Senior” Fass 6 Riesling ($30)
Rising star Florian Lauer works in the Saar River valley (an offshoot of the Mosel), where he makes alluring Rieslings that balance precision and power. His “senior” bottling, barely off-dry, is polished and smoky.
Modest levels of residual sugars are present but in perfect balance; dessert wines these are not.
2018 Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett ($24)
Rising steeply above the quaint (and loved by tourists) town of Bernkastel-Kues, the Bernkasteler Badstube vineyard grows assertive Rieslings with golden apple and spice notes—this bottling, from a benchmark producer, is spot-on.
2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett ($25)
Originally a Jesuit college in Trier, F.W.G. acquired most of its vineyards in the late 1500s; the wines—like this modestly sweet kabinett bottling—are still made in the ancient cellars under old-town Trier.
2018 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett ($35)
The wines of this tiny estate are sought after for their effortlessly complex, almost crystalline expressiveness. Even in the ripe 2018 vintage, that purity is evident, as in this tart, lightly herbal white.
2017 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett ($52)
One of the greatest estates of the middle Mosel, J. J. Prüm produces only sweet wines. But what wines! This kabinett is mouthwatering, smoky-stony, and filled with citrus and white peach fruit.
For the wine enthusiast, nothing satisfies like a lovely glass of wine straight from the heart of the vineyard. Riesling wine is known for its light-bodied, airy qualities and is considered to be the top of the line. If you’ve ever asked the question, “What are the best Riesling wine brands?” you’ve definitely come to the right place! It seems that there’s no other beverage on earth that can capture the romantic euphoria of a wedding ceremony quite like a bottle of Riesling wine can; the seal is broken, the cork pops, and your mouth instantly starts to water as the glass is being poured, as if you’ve been invited to celebrate all night. Riesling wine is exactly that: a big bottle of celebration! Whether it’s a graduation party, classy birthday night or a bridal drink for pre-wedding jitters, Riesling wine is just as classic as champagne is. This list discusses the top brands of Riesling wine that range in price and variety, including: Flying Fish, Chateau Ste. Michelle, J. Lohr, Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, Yalumba, Shannon Ridge, Cave Springs, Smith Madrone and Washington Hills . If you have ever sipped on a glass of Riesling wine please vote for your favorite today!
Those of you who are on Twitter will be familiar with how a Twitterstorm can blow up at the slightest provocation, a recent example from the wine world being a slightly tetchy debate as to why riesling is not stocked more widely. The wine-writing fraternity, who tend to be enthusiastic riesling advocates, argue that retailers, particularly supermarkets, should do more to promote its charms. Those in the trade, however, say it’s not the supermarkets’ job to shape consumer taste, merely to stock bottles for which there is a proven demand.
So why don’t more consumers want riesling? Well, it carries a lot of baggage: the long, unwieldy names; the fact that even the variety is easy to mispronounce (reece-ling, not ry-sling); the perception that it’s generally German and sweet (neither of which is true). No wonder many people give up and drink sauvignon blanc instead.
But according to the independent wine merchants I’ve spoken to, it’s more a question of giving customers the chance to try it. “It’s rare, but not unheard of, for someone to come in and ask for it off their own bat” says riesling enthusiast Mike Boyne of Bin Two in Padstow, Cornwall. “But having it on by the glass helps. Conversations often start with: ‘Do you mind if I have a little taste of…’ and end with: ‘A glass of that, please.’”
It certainly helps to kick off in the new world, especially Australia’s Clare Valley, which makes lusciously limey rieslings that are easy to love. You also find deliciously fragrant rieslings from New York State and Washington State in the US and from New Zealand. Closer to home, Alsace and Austria produce drier, steelier styles than Germany, although even in Germany you can find a huge range, from the off-dry wines of the Mosel to the richer, more tropical styles of the Rheingau. Confusingly, a wine with “kabinett” on the label, generally taken to mean a dry wine, can be moderately sweet, especially if aligned to a low ABV; instead, look for the word “trocken” and a higher alcohol content.
Much is made of riesling’s longevity, but I wonder how helpful that is, because only true enthusiasts get off on the slightly oily aromas and flavours that emanate from a mature bottle. For riesling virgins, fresh fruitiness is much more likely to appeal, so look for vintages from 2016-2018. There should be plenty of opportunity to experiment over the annual 31 Days of German Riesling promotion next month. I’m sure the Germans would like you to drink nothing else, but frankly, any riesling is better than no riesling.