So… we were talking about Riesling Rendezvous 2016, before we were so rudely interrupted by about a week of “real life.”
RR 2016 provides some concurrent sessions, during which you can listen about and, usually, taste wines from particular Riesling-producing regions. I happened to get signed up for what was called “Rocks & Riesling: Exploring Alsace’s Diverse Terroirs” with the entertaining and informative Thierry Fritsch, head oenologist and chief wine educator with Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vines d’Alsace (or CIVA).
Courtesy of Wines of Alsace
Fritsch walked us through twelve wines from across most of the narrow expanse of Alsace, and did so expertly and humorously. I found his slide attempting to match Riesling wine attributes with particular Alsatian soils quite useful (see inset pic).
But I’m not here to talk about any of that, because this is, well, me. I’m only going to focus on one of Alsace’s Grand Cru terroirs, and only two wines. Because those two wines convinced me that when it comes to Alsatian Riesling, I don’t know what the hell I am doing; I am a mere babe crawling his way out of Rangen Riesling-soaked diapers, my friends…
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Seaside rendezvous, anyone?
I, along with three or four other people (ok, it’s not that bad, it just feels that bad), profess to love Riesling, so much so that I actually purchase it with my own hard-earned cash. So I’m not the kind of wine writer to turn down a media invite to the Seattle-hosted Riesling Rendezvous event when it rotates back stateside (alternating in other years with Europe and Australia).
This is my second stint attending RR, and between the 2013 incarnation and this one, held in mid-July 2016, I can give you a rough idea of what positive and negative trends have emerged in Riesling-world.
- The state of Riesling, in general. The quality of Riesling fine wines, overall, has rarely been as high as it is right now. Emerging Riesling regions, such as Canada and the U.S. Midwest, are really starting to hold their own with the likes Austria, the Finger Lakes, and even Germany.
- The standard-bearers. Alsace, Germany, and Austria – probably the holy trinity of Riesling in terms of what we consider as fine wine standards – showed up and showed off big time at RR 2016. More to come on Alsace in particular in a separate post.
- Terroir. Seriously. RR 2016 repeated the panel format of RR 2013, when several dry Rieslings were tasted blind by a panel of experts, as well as a room full of wine media, producers, industry folk, and avid consumers. This format was then repeated for off-dry/sweet Rieslings from around the globe. There were many excellent wines in the lineups, but the trouble came whenever the expert panelists (and the the very knowledgeable audience members) attempted to guess where each wine originated.Our success rates? Maybe 30%. And that’s being generous. The majority of the time, winemakers couldn’t successfully identify their own wines.To me, that suggests that a) several dozen people who do wine (and in some cases, Riesling) for a living don’t know what they’re doing, which seems incredibly unlikely, or b) the quality of Riesling winemaking in general is one the rise, causing a bit of non-threatening conformity, which does seem extremely likely, and c) the common notion among wine peeps that Riesling is a lightning rod grape for the expression of terroir has been significantly overstated. Discuss among yourselves…
Following are what I considered several highlights (about 15 wines, if I’m still able to count correctly) from those panel tastings, so start paying close attention, you Riesling warrior acid-freaks…
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