A Riesling Spring

A Riesling Spring

Originally published in The Heart of Hillsborough, May 2018

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After a predictably uncertain winter, spring in Hillsborough is most appreciated – a welcomed change where we can enjoy being outside. Indeed, May is filled with outdoor gatherings creating opportunities to try new wines! Often a staple of warm evenings, lighter white wines compliment our new-found freedom to linger on the porch or at the backyard table just a bit longer, and one wine that nicely reflects the beauty of spring is German Riesling. 

The history of this wine is worth mentioning. It is believed that the Riesling grape is descended from those that the Romans brought to what is now Germany two millennia ago. Using their well-developed knowledge of viticulture, they discovered that the steep slopes of the Mosel and Rhine Valleys were ideal for growing despite a cooler climate. Over many centuries, those locations were continuously cultivated and practices refined, giving way to the Riesling grape as we know it today. 

One assumption often made about Riesling is that the wine is sweet. While there are certainly those which are, it is a lot more stylistically diverse, ranging from “very sweet” to “dry,” and within this spectrum there are even eight sub-categories. This may sound daunting, but one simple way to make a selection according to Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, authors of Wine Folly, “is if the wine is low alcohol (below 9% ABV) you can assume that it’s on the sweeter side of the spectrum.” [1]   

While there are a multitude of noteworthy Rieslings, I chose a dry style (trocken) from Hofgut Falkenstein, a small family run winery in the Mosel Valley. Having previously experienced the same style from the Rhine Valley, I was excited to try something new. Located near the village of Konz-Niedermennig, Hofgut Falkenstein winery produces traditional dry and off-dry Riesling with grapes cultivated from several vineyards - making up a total of just under 20 acres. The oldest vineyard, Niedermenniger Herrenberg, is largely slate soil and its signature found in the winery’s 2016 Trocken (priced at $22 and available at Chapel Hill Wine Company).   

Pouring the wine, its pale color, quite clear with a platinum hue, brought forth lightly fragrant aromas of minerals, slate, and citrus notes. Tasting, there was no hint whatsoever of sweetness, rather the initial acidity was quite tart, reminisce of fresh lime zest, followed by flavors of green apple and grapefruit. As the acidity faded, the wine became more nuanced and delicate, with secondary flavors of honeysuckle, apricot, and pear. I was surprised with how balanced the flavors were given the surprise Winebite from the acidity, and the finish was pleasantly crisp, with subtle apricot lingering on my palate.

The 2016 Trocken is quite versatile – and will complement a range of foods from spicier Thai through grilled chicken or seafood. It is best not to serve the wine completely ice cold to allow the full array of flavors to come through. 

Cheers, Hillsborough!

Citations and Credits:

[1] Puckette, Madeline and Hammack, Justin. “Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine,” Avery Books, 2015.

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