German Riesling - Wines of Germany -31 day of Riesling 2024

German Riesling - Wines of Germany -31 day of Riesling 2024

Germany remains the leading producer of Riesling, some of the most sought-after wines on the planet are produced by the country's leading winemakers. Riesling is a firm favourite(bordering on obsessive) of the team at Fourth and Church.

If you think that all Rieslings are sweet and have bad memories of dinner parties in the 70’s and 80’s, then think again!

Riesling is an incredibly versatile grape and the wines range from lean and bone dry to luxuriously sweet and almost everything in between. They are particularly age-worthy and can continue to develop for decades thanks in part to its high acidity. However many styles are produced to be enjoyed young. Aged developed wines show such balance and complexities, with subtle oily notes that are a joy to taste.

The grape variety Riesling is late to the party when it comes to budding and is a mid to late-ripening fruit.

It loves a cool climate, where the grapes can ripen slowly and develop a wonderful complex aromatic character. Producers often plant Riesling on south-facing slopes for maximum sun exposure to achieve full ripeness. The prized vineyard sites are often where limestone and slate make up the soil composition.

Once the grapes have reached the desired ripeness, winemakers decide when to harvest, many choose a late harvest to make off-dry styles or dessert-style wines or indeed encourage the development of botrytis. Grapes that have botrytis are carefully selected in the vineyard before picking and are sometimes used in dry styles adding richness and texture, especially in the Mosel. 

However, all of the GG Grosses Gewächs/ Great Growths are always vinified as bone dry.

Characteristically Riesling wines exhibit fresh fruit flavours, peach, pear, lemon and golden apples, always an element of minerality and delicious aromatic floral notes. 

German Rieslings are split into categories depending on their quality and also a separate category based on their level of ripeness at harvest. The categories all have different characteristics and also pair with different types of food.

The most common drier styles are Kabinetts and Spatlese, look for those labelled ‘troken’. 

Kabinetts are the lightest style of German Riesling made from barely ripe grapes. They are fresh, have notes of green apple, nectarine, and pear and can be made in a dry or off-dry style. These are great wines to have as an aperitif, dry styles pair well with sushi and cold meats. 

Off dry (halbtrocken) styles are a great bedfellow with sweet and sour dishes. 

Spatlese is more concentrated and fuller-bodied than Kabinetts, the grapes are picked when they have a higher sugar content but aren’t necessarily sweet. Drier styles pair perfectly with lightly spiced dishes such as Pad Thai, whereas off-dry Spatlese can stand up to a spicier Thai green curry. Spatlese translates as ‘late picked’.

Auslese wines are only made in the best years when the weather and conditions allow the grapes to reach peak ripeness. The grapes are hand-selected (Auslese means “select”) and are usually made in a sweeter style but can also be dry. These will also pair with very spicy foods.

The term Grosses Gewächs is used to identify some of the finest white wines of Germany, and is specific to dry wines. The designation is not an official part of German wine law but was conceived by a group of top producers in the early 2000s and refined as recently as 2012 as part of a plan to identify the best vineyard sites. More than half of ‘GG’ vineyards are planted to Riesling whilst the remainder are predominantly made with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Blaufrankish.

All Grosses Gewächs comes from a Grosses Lage (‘great site’), the best vineyards according to the German VDP classification system that is overseen by a group of producers called the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP).

Like the grand crus of Burgundy, these wines take the name of the vineyard and not the village. But, the VDP is an invitation-only, industry body numbering around 200 producers and, as stated above, its rules are therefore not officially part of German wine law.

To make the GG grade, yields must not exceed 50 hectolitres per hectare, and the grapes must be physiologically, fully ripe and also hand harvested. Referred to as simply ‘GG’ on labels, these wines are released on 1 September of the year after harvest.

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