While European leaders gathered during the second weekend of May to rescue the Euro, six Binny’s “rangers” were bailing out their palates in Germany, exploring the pure taste of Mosel and Rheingau Riesling.
Although domestic Riesling is on the rise in the US, its German counterpart still remains greatly misunderstood.
It is true that many German wines are insipid, tasting more like hard lemonade, a kind of sweet and sour alcoholic drink with the personality of 7 UP. Light, unpretentious sippers, which can offer a notion of wine drinking. Liquid relaxation available in blue glass, which may turn any blue afternoon into a party.
Ironically, some of these wines, “Spatlese” and “Auslese” with no grape indicated on the label, contain little (if any) Riesling, and are composed of less distinctive grapes like Muller-Thurgau or Sylvaner. Deeply filtered, drained of flavor and coated with an extra dose of sugar, they abuse the name of a white wine with a great past, the noble German Riesling.
The only way to understand why German Riesling in the 19th century was fetching the same prices as the greatest crus of Bordeaux and Burgundy is to visit Germany. It takes a walk on the slate hills of the Mosel Valley, where the steepest slopes are at an 80% gradient. They are worked by hand, the pickers risking their lives harvesting the fruit. Then, it takes a sip of a dry (Trocken) Riesling to get it, to catch up with the Germans.
Unfortunately, for many US consumers their experience with German Riesling is based on mediocre, semi-sweet wines, which almost don’t exist on the domestic German market. Persuading the importers that a sweet alley has no outlet is a job for the wine pros, and all Binny’s staff take it seriously. Trocken and Semi-Trocken Rieslings have already reached the US and we are excited to offer them to our customers.
Drinking a pure, virgin version of dry German Riesling can be a truly aesthetic experience. The wine stands naked in your glass, it is crisp and fresh like a summer breeze and keeps promising much more than a Friday night’s fun. This is wine that cries for a table cloth, proper glassware and a slowly cooked dish.
For us, the American wine pros who go easy on sugar, think green and hope to eat organic, it was a remarkable experience. Katrin, our friendly host at Weingut Markus Molitor, and Kevin, a wine broker who organized the trip, could hardly hide a smile when six American wine specialists suddenly discovered the true face of German Riesling. It was the sort of discovery which burns the mind; the same as when a toddler who uncritically believes in the power of a Thomas the Train toy sees for the first time a real locomotive with a series of railroad cars attached to it – in comparison to its replica, the real one is not only huge, but makes a lot of noise and moves mysteriously forward.
German Riesling, in its best drier version, is not a toy. It is true, it is moving and it is a very serious glass of wine. Ask for it during your next visit to Binny’s.
Ein trocken bitte!
- Jarek Lewandowski is a wine manager at the Niles Binny’s.