Some members of the wine community think that Riesling is not only the best white wine, but also the best wine, period. There is even an International Riesling Foundation, with worldwide membership.
In his article “ The Wines of Spring” Eric Asimov wrote in The Pour “I love Austrian riesling- just last weekend we celebrated my son Jack’s 18th birthday with a bottle of 2000 Wachau Steinriegl Smaragd Riesling from Prager”.
On April 1, the Wine Media Guild held a tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant and the topic was Austrian Riesling.While I am more familiar with Riesling from Germany, France and Italy, I have tasted very few Austrian Rieslings and looked forward to the event. The speakers were Steve Miller, Director of Marketing, Lauber Imports and Jodi Stern from VinVino Imports. Jodi has a special fondness for Austrian Riesling and this came out in her presentation. There were 16 wines from the 2005, 06 & 07 Vintages. Steve Miller said that all three were great vintages but very different. The 07 was a classic vintage, bright, clean with a mineral character. In 06 the weather was warm and humid, with the result that the vintage was richer, fatter, and riper. As a result of the weather, Botrytis (Noble Rot) attacked the grapes. 05 was a perfectly balanced, high quality vintage, with a reduced crop.
Domain Wachau Riesling “Wachau” 2007 ($ 20) — citrus, fruit, peach and pear, a hint of spice and a mineral character in the aftertaste. This might be the best buy
Domail Wachau Riesling Smaragd Achleiten 2005 ($30) — undertones of peaches and apricot with a strong mineral character. Domain Wachau is the largest cooperative in the Wachau Valley.
The Prager Riesling Smaragd Wachstum Bodenstein 2007 ($65) had good fruit but also an earthy and mineral quality. I found myself drinking this wine with lunch.
Shift Gottweig Riesling Gottweiger Berg 2006 ($?) — Very good fruit flavor of citrus, peaches and apricots with a mineral quality and a pleasant finish and after taste.
Aldo Shom, the sommelier at La Bernardin, attended as a guest and spoke about some of the problems of selling Austrian Riesling in a restaurant.
Steven Miller said that Lauber does not have a problem selling these wines. These produces can sell all their wine in Europe and very few cases make it here.
It was a very informative and interesting tasting. I can now see why Riesling has such a devoted following.
I am having dinner at Corton this week with the Alsatian producer Federic Helrich and I am looking forward to tasting his Riesling.
Jodi Stern spoke about the terroir and wine making techniques. She said that the terroir is very important because the wine makers prefer to let the grapes speak for themselves and interfere with them as little as possible. The different qualities in the wine come from the place where the grapes are grown.
Both Jodi and Sreve believe that the Wachau region in the lower portion of the country, one of Austria’s smallest regions, is one of the best grape growing regions in the world. They think it is so special that they compared it to Burgundy.
Jodi also pointed out that the Wachau has its own levels of quality: Steinfeder (the name of a local grass), Federspiel (Falcon and a feather), and Smaragd (Emerald – the name of the bright green lizards that live in the vineyards) which is the highest.
Hirtzberger Riesling Federspiel Steinterrassen 2007 ($34) — Very fruity with pineapple aromas and flavors on the nose and palate as well as in the finish and aftertaste.
Hirtzberger Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel 2007 ($110) — Very well structured and elegant wine with ripe fruit, tangerine, deep rich flavors and mineral accents with a great finish and aftertaste.This wine will age very well.
Knoll Riesling Federspiel 2007 ($21) — citrus, herbs and a hint of spice and a mineral character.