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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Salil » Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:04 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:If you are looking for prominent producers from the early to middle twentieth century, I think that you probably know a lot of them already. Off the top of my head:
Basserman-Jordan, Bürklin-Wolf, Von Buhl, Schloß Johannisberg, Kloster Eberbach (State Domaine Hessen), Schloß Vollrads, Domdechant Werner, Langwerth von Simmern, Schloß Schönborn, Bürgerspital, Juliusspital, Vereingte Hospitien, Thanisch, Karthäuserhof, Grünhaus, von Kesselstatt, J.J. Prüm, Egon Müller…

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the list, though I'm still curious how many of these prominent producers made the drier styled wines I keep hearing about. I've had various aged examples from many of those estates in styles ranging from Cabinet/Spatlese Cabinet through to feinste Auslese, but every one of those wines I've had from the middle 20th C has been sweet - some modestly so (in styles comparable to modern Kabinett/Spatlese), others dessert-sweet. I'm not sure if, as David suggested, the drier wines were regarded as 'lesser' table wines and consumed young, or if there is some historical overstatement. Even with an estate like Karthauserhof that's been reputed for their trockens well before the GG trend, I haven't come across any older dry wines (though have had some magnificent Auslesen from the 1960s).
I'm not trying to be a pain in the ass here but am genuinely curious after hearing/reading a lot from various sources about how old Mosel/other German Riesling was significantly drier in style, and am interested in hunting down some old examples to see how some of them have aged... particularly as I have a handful of GGs and 'harmoniously dry' Rieslings from producers like Van Volxem and AJ Adam, and am curious about their longevity and track record for aging. It'll be nice to have some reassurance that I'm not being an idiot by stashing away my Rebholz bottles offsite for several years rather than drinking them young. (BTW, 09 Ganz Horn GG was quite wonderful a couple of weeks ago - really stellar stuff.)

PS: Wanna bet that once people start to get used to the new 2012 classification, the VDP'll find another way to change things up and annoy us further? :twisted:
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by David M. Bueker » Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:10 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:Yes. But dry Riesling is getting more popular all the time and I can't help but wonder if one of the reasons that it isn't as popular as I feel it should be, (and I think you do too), is that there has been so much confusion over what is in the bottle.


Bill,

If you had tasted some of the dry wines from the early/mid 90s that I tried to drink you would have no quesiton as to why dry wines are not more popular. You might actually be wondering why anyone would give dry German wine a second chance.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Craig Winchell » Mon Jun 18, 2012 4:19 pm

I read the original post, and couldn't help from commenting, even though it may duplicate someone else's post. But I can't help but feel that the German wine industry is very much like the Palestinians, in that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. In this case, for widespread assimilation into the American wine scene, the largest wine market in the world. When the American wine scene was going dry, Germany continued to make sweet wine. And now that the American market is going sweet in a big, big way, Germany is going dry. Now is the time they should be getting out there and pushing sweeter Qba and kabinett wines as an alternative to the fast-growing Moscato category, and promoting higher level QmP wines as higher quality examples of wines the style of which people obviously want, and instead they are going for full bodied dry whites. They are always out of synch, for some reason I have yet to fathom. Sure, Germany's best drier wines are fantastic, but they weren't always that way (I know that old Hock was a wine of note at one time, but really, I can think of few things more disgusting), but the sweet wines always had their champions, and rarely had detractors, especially at the higher quality levels.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Andrew Bair » Mon Jun 18, 2012 7:22 pm

Hi Bill -

Thank you for the interesting and provocative post.

I will certainly agree with those whose appreciate German Riesling in all its manifestations of dryness, off-dryness, and sweetness.

As far as Pfalz producers who focus on dry Rieslings, it is worth noting that many of the better ones do make some exceptions for sweeter wines. Burklin-Wolf is one of the most important pinoeers of dry Rielsing in the Pfalz, yet they do make small quantities of sweet botrytised Rieslings. Even Rebholz made a TBA in 2003. (I have also seen a TBA from Sybille Kuntz in the Mosel, who normally only makes Trockens, and has given her lineup a decidedly more contemporary presentation than many of her peers.) If global warming continues, and we get more vintages like 2003 in the future, then we can probably expect that Rebholz and other quality conscious-producers to play to the strengths of warmer vintages and make more botrytised Rieslings.

Although the oldest dry Riesling was a 1990 from Burklin-Wolf last year, I did see an offer from Crush in NYC earlier this year for several pre-1971 pradikat-less Naturreins from Kloster Eberbach, among others. That said, it is extremely rare to see dry Rieslings from the 1950s and 1960s in the US. Frederik is lucky to have tried many of these, which were sold out long before I was born. Honestly, I wouldn't have a clue if any vintage before the 1970s was considered particularly successful for dry Rieslings, especially if it were not as strong of a year for sweeter styles.

Finally, I am interested if you can give me a brief description of the Hallgarten book that you have. Last year, I found a Hallgarten book from the 1970s at my local used book store. It is essentially a guide to the 1971 German Wine Law for members of the British wine trade, although it also contains a comprehensive list of officially recognized einzellagen, and statistics on the size and composition of many sites. I also liked seeing the pictures of many older wine labels. Do you have any plans to resuscitate the Mussbacher Eselshaut labels with the mule skinner?
I was quite struck by the attention that Hallgarten gave to Grosslagen (probably the worst invention of the 1971 Law in my opinion), and how many of the Grosslagen evolved out of brands, so to speak, that were established as popular wines in the same vain as Liebfraumilch was at that time. Apparently, Hallgarten also marketed a blend of Riesling and strawberry juice under his label.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:47 am

Just to add that I think this a very good thread with much thought. I have been away for five weeks with little access to German Riesling so will pull a trocken (!) as fast as I can. Don`t want that sweet stuff, LOL.
I liked Salil`s comment......in the good ole days, "old Mosel/other German Riesling was significantly drier in style". Spot on!
I know that I rave on here about Canadian Rieslings from time to time but they all appear to be in the drier style (licking my lips). How about those from Finger Lakes?

Craig writes....When the American wine scene was going dry, Germany continued to make sweet wine. And now that the American market is going sweet in a big, big way, Germany is going dry. Now is the time they should be getting out there and pushing sweeter Qba and kabinett wines as an alternative to the fast-growing Moscato category,

Surely they do just this Craig already, the sweeter Kabinett wines?
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Tim York » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:38 am

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:I liked Salil`s comment......in the good ole days, "old Mosel/other German Riesling was significantly drier in style". Spot on!


Bob, those "good ole days" were not in my lifetime. I've only known really dry German Riesling in the last 15 or so years and some of the first ones were pretty astringent.

My main beef with Riesling from almost any country is not knowing in advance what I getting in terms of sweetness/dryness :evil: .

In Germany, VDP does help with this to the extent that all the wines with their label are supposed to be dry although I've had some which I would hardly call dry. There are wines out there like Maximin Grünhaus Superior and some from Heyman-Löwenstein without the VDP label which don't provide any help about sweetness/dryness and are far from bone-dry. Of course, the standard definition of "trocken" does allow up to 9g/l of RS but I have usually found those so labelled acceptably dry because of the acidity stipulations.

Alsace is even worse. A few producers only, e.g. Zind-Humbrecht, provide help to the consumer, but there is no standard method.

Austrian Riesling provides no guidance but is, I think, invariably dry. Its sins are often excessive alcohol and insufficiently lively acidity.

Why can't the European producers use the method proposed by the International Riesling body :? ? It seems to me to answer most of my complaints. It would help to distinguish between real Kabinett and downgraded Spätlese or Auslese and would give confidence to those who, like me, hesitate to order, say, an Alsace Riesling without prior tasting or advice from a trustworthy person.

This sweetness/dryness complaint also applies to a lot of Loire Chenin. Huet and Foreau do indicate "sec", "demi-sec", etc. but others, like Chidaine, do not. Huet allows itself a lot of latitude in its definition of "sec" (often >10g/l RS) but deliciously mouth-watering acidity allows them to get away with it. (There is an intriguing comment from Bill above to the effect that the appearance of demi-sec in the Loire valley is probably as recent as RS in German wine. We need a Loire historian to help us with this one.)
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Rahsaan » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:27 am

Tim York wrote:This sweetness/dryness complaint also applies to a lot of Loire Chenin.


Although Bill's claim that Loire chenin is also drifting dry doesn't necessarily coincide with my experience? Certainly the big name - Huet - is drifting away from dry and the difficulty of making Vouvray sec was one of the issues cited behind the Pinguet departure.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Salil » Tue Jun 19, 2012 8:39 am

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:I liked Salil`s comment......in the good ole days, "old Mosel/other German Riesling was significantly drier in style".

You're misinterpreting. Read the full statement; I'm not stating that but asking for more evidence.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Craig Winchell » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:42 am

Bob Parsons, they are not doing that already. German wine has never really taken off in the USA the way it should. Blue Nun was the last best hope. And no, I don't see the German industry getting together to promote German wine in the USA, the way Australia did in the '90s.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bill Hooper » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:48 am

Salil wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:If you are looking for prominent producers from the early to middle twentieth century, I think that you probably know a lot of them already. Off the top of my head:
Basserman-Jordan, Bürklin-Wolf, Von Buhl, Schloß Johannisberg, Kloster Eberbach (State Domaine Hessen), Schloß Vollrads, Domdechant Werner, Langwerth von Simmern, Schloß Schönborn, Bürgerspital, Juliusspital, Vereingte Hospitien, Thanisch, Karthäuserhof, Grünhaus, von Kesselstatt, J.J. Prüm, Egon Müller…

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the list, though I'm still curious how many of these prominent producers made the drier styled wines I keep hearing about. I've had various aged examples from many of those estates in styles ranging from Cabinet/Spatlese Cabinet through to feinste Auslese, but every one of those wines I've had from the middle 20th C has been sweet - some modestly so (in styles comparable to modern Kabinett/Spatlese), others dessert-sweet. I'm not sure if, as David suggested, the drier wines were regarded as 'lesser' table wines and consumed young, or if there is some historical overstatement. Even with an estate like Karthauserhof that's been reputed for their trockens well before the GG trend, I haven't come across any older dry wines (though have had some magnificent Auslesen from the 1960s).
I'm not trying to be a pain in the ass here but am genuinely curious after hearing/reading a lot from various sources about how old Mosel/other German Riesling was significantly drier in style, and am interested in hunting down some old examples to see how some of them have aged... particularly as I have a handful of GGs and 'harmoniously dry' Rieslings from producers like Van Volxem and AJ Adam, and am curious about their longevity and track record for aging. It'll be nice to have some reassurance that I'm not being an idiot by stashing away my Rebholz bottles offsite for several years rather than drinking them young. (BTW, 09 Ganz Horn GG was quite wonderful a couple of weeks ago - really stellar stuff.)

PS: Wanna bet that once people start to get used to the new 2012 classification, the VDP'll find another way to change things up and annoy us further? :twisted:


Hi Salil,

Like Rahsaan said above, I'm not sure that one can readily locate very old dry white wines from anywhere (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sancerre, Savennieres, Alsace...) You might be able to find some older Koehler-Ruprecht wines somewhere, or go off of the list from Georg Breuer that I posted above. Sometimes an estate with a long history will open older Bottles to taste at an event, but entrance is very expensive.

Furthermore, to compare how wines in the past will age compared to their modern counterparts is difficult, no? Does a 1930s Chambertin give us a good sense of how a 2005 will age? I'm not so sure it will.

Plus, based on the notes of yours that I've read, it is clear to me that you have a lot of experience in wine tasting and should probably trust your instincts and judgement. If you've tasted many 1980s Alsace Rieslinge, you should have a pretty good Idea of how a Rebholz will hold up in a similar time-frame -I'm glad to hear that the 2009 GH was coming around. It was really closed-up when I tasted it in Nov. or Dec. I had a good talk with Hans-Jörg Rebholz a few weeks ago and he was really happy about his visit to the US this year. I guess people were pretty enthusiastic about his 2011s (the 6-7 that I've tried have been excellent.)

I don't know what the next move for the VDP will be. They've been trying to get this classification done for almost 30 years. To not include Prädikats for dry wines was interesting. I talked to Dom Sona at Koehler-Ruprecht about that last week (as you know they only make dry wines and almost all of them have a Prädikat attached.) He flat out said that they weren't going to change their system and if the VDP kicks them out, so be it. We'll have to see how that progresses. BTW, 2010 was an amazing vintage at K-R. If you can imagine: retro-styled dry Riesling (made pretty much like those Rieslings of old) with 2010 acidity and weight and NO MLF for a change (pH too low in 2010.) Wow!

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bill Hooper » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:49 am

Craig Winchell wrote: I don't see the German industry getting together to promote German wine in the USA, the way Australia did in the '90s.


And a good thing, that. Look where Australia is now!

Cheers,
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bill Hooper » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:54 am

David M. Bueker wrote:Bill,

If you had tasted some of the dry wines from the early/mid 90s that I tried to drink you would have no quesiton as to why dry wines are not more popular. You might actually be wondering why anyone would give dry German wine a second chance.


That's probably mostly true, but I've liked the stuff I've tasted from Bassermann-Jordan and especially Bürklin-Wolf from that era, or should say that at least they are tasting great now.

Cheers,
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Craig Winchell » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:09 am

Bill. Australia is not where it is now because of the success of their marketing, Australia is where it is now because of the greed of the producers. Although, one might point out, the mandate promoting an "Australian style" was probably misplaced, it nevertheless kicked sales of expensive Australian wine into high gear. Later, overproduction and complacency on the part of the Aussy producers in differentiating their individual brands (as opposed to Brand Australia) brought on today's problems. Germany is very individualistic and different, yet the wines are often bound by a similarity of character, without marching in lock step now with one another.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Kelly Young » Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:36 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:
I am actually kind of surprised about all of this inquiry. Let me ask anyone out there: If you wanted to produce an off-dry or sweet Riesling using only a wooden-press, a 1200 liter wooden vat, without sterile filtration and temperature control how would you do it?



I'm curious about this too. Cave aging?

For the record I like dry, off dry, and sweet, though I do think the sweets occupy a really special place in the world of wine.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Tim York » Wed Jun 20, 2012 5:51 am

I have a question, mainly for Bill. Many apologies if it has already been dealt with above but I haven't re-read every word.

Does the increasing emphasis on "dry" wines disadvantage Mosel region (and especially Saar/Ruwer) in the German market?

For me, it seems to more difficult there than in warmer regions to achieve a satisfactory balance at less than 9g/l RS, or even 20g. Of course, the greater frequency of ripe vintages like 2005 and 2009, where the Kabinett tends to be too heavy for me, may allow balanced "trocken". But what about the more traditionally typical vintages....? I have had a Grünhaus Abtsberg Alte Reben Spältese trocken 2008, which worked very well as a bone-dry oyster wine, but I don't think that sort of wine is a crowd pleaser.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:28 am

Bill Hooper wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Bill,

If you had tasted some of the dry wines from the early/mid 90s that I tried to drink you would have no quesiton as to why dry wines are not more popular. You might actually be wondering why anyone would give dry German wine a second chance.


That's probably mostly true, but I've liked the stuff I've tasted from Bassermann-Jordan and especially Bürklin-Wolf from that era, or should say that at least they are tasting great now.

Cheers,
Bill


I have no doubt. They were at the vanguard of making top quality dry wines. There really was some evil, stomach destroying stuff out there in the past though.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bill Hooper » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:30 am

Tim York wrote:I have a question, mainly for Bill. Many apologies if it has already been dealt with above but I haven't re-read every word.

Does the increasing emphasis on "dry" wines disadvantage Mosel region (and especially Saar/Ruwer) in the German market?

For me, it seems to more difficult there than in warmer regions to achieve a satisfactory balance at less than 9g/l RS, or even 20g. Of course, the greater frequency of ripe vintages like 2005 and 2009, where the Kabinett tends to be too heavy for me, may allow balanced "trocken". But what about the more traditionally typical vintages....? I have had a Grünhaus Abtsberg Alte Reben Spältese trocken 2008, which worked very well as a bone-dry oyster wine, but I don't think that sort of wine is a crowd pleaser.


Hi Tim,

The Mosel is mainly seen as an ‘old-fashioned’ region by most of the German market. It has a reputation among the younger generation of producing mainly sweet wines. Germany is still rather provincial when it comes to wine consumption, so if you live in or near a wein region, you normally drink wines from it. In the north (Köln, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin…) most of the wine they drink comes from the Pfalz, Rheinhessen or Baden and Württemberg for some varieties.

That said, the Lower Mosel (the stretch of river nearest Koblenz) is generally warmer than the rest of the region and produces wines that tend to be drier –especially from top sites like the Uhlen. Global warming and better vineyard management (and also Mechanization –even plowing) has made it possible to get a riper crop just about anywhere.

But really, it comes down to preference. Van Volxem is probably the leading example of a very successful weingut that produces wines that lean drier than what most of the Mosel producers are famous for (and I really like Selbach-Oster and increasingly Adam for that style), but just about everyone makes dry wines to satisfy the demand for them while the sweeter wines get exported to a larger degree than the dry ones. I like dry Mosel Riesling too, but I wouldn’t want to give up that unique play of steely, slate mineral, acidity, and delicate fruit that we (mostly) all know and love.

Cheers,
Bill
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jun 20, 2012 10:56 am

I had a couple of interesting conversations with Mosel vintners yesterday who were more than a little dismissive of dry Riesling in their area. One of them was a very young (mid-20s) guy. The other was my age (40s). The younger guy makes a feinherb style wine (and tasty it was!), but still mostly focuses on sweeter styles.

More details on yesterday's tastings coming soon when I have some time to type some copious notes. FYI - 2011 is a very nice drier style vintage. I enjoyed many trocken, halbtrocken and feinherb wines. Sweet wines are not dead, and not just in the Mosel. Kabinett is dead though IMO. It's pretty much impossible to make the stuff anymore.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:38 am

WTN: 2010 Joachim Flick Hochheimer Holle Ries Spat Trocken, Rheingau.

Amazing lobster dinner tonite put on by one of the owners of my local winestore. Serious wine here, lime citrus. The purity of the fruit amazed me, nice mineral notes here too. The other German white was the `10 Hexamer Riesling Spatlese Schlossbochelheimer in den Felsen which was equally amazing but sweeter of course.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Andrew Bair » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:44 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:WTN: 2010 Joachim Flick Hochheimer Holle Ries Spat Trocken, Rheingau.

Amazing lobster dinner tonite put on by one of the owners of my local winestore. Serious wine here, lime citrus. The purity of the fruit amazed me, nice mineral notes here too. The other German white was the `10 Hexamer Riesling Spatlese Schlossbochelheimer in den Felsen which was equally amazing but sweeter of course.


Hi Bob -

Thank you for the fascinating note. I've heard quite positive things about Flick, but have never encountered any of their wines. Let us know if you have a chance to try any of their Rieslings from the once-renowned Hochheimer Königin Victoriaberg site, which they have been recently leasing from the Hupfeld estate.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Tom N. » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:46 pm

David M. Bueker wrote: Sweet wines are not dead, and not just in the Mosel. Kabinett is dead though IMO. It's pretty much impossible to make the stuff anymore.


David,

I think you have a valid point here. We just had a 2008 Mosel riesling kabinett made by Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt (Ockfener Bockstein) tonight that was at least Spatlese in RS and border line Auslese. It was a delicious wine and quite a nice sipper, but definitely not kabinett style IMO. More and more kabinetts seem to have this higher RS than you would normally expect.

By the way, this riesling thread is absolutely fascinating. One of the few threads where I have read virtually every post. Thanks, Bill.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Tue Jul 17, 2012 11:27 pm

Tom, I agree with you, I have tried to imput here but my knowledge does not compare with many here. I am a keen enthusiast but $$$$, and sometimes lack of, dictate which wines I buy.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:12 am

Tom N. wrote:We just had a 2008 Mosel riesling kabinett made by Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt (Ockfener Bockstein) tonight that was at least Spatlese in RS and border line Auslese. It was a delicious wine and quite a nice sipper, but definitely not kabinett style IMO. More and more kabinetts seem to have this higher RS than you would normally expect.


It's much like a pendulum. If you go back to a year such as 1990, the sweet wines were generally drier than today. Unfortunatley that has meant that some (small) percentage of them pretty much dried out before they should have. A huge percentage are delicious, but I lament those we lost.

Today the wines are riper, bigger and thus end up having to be sweeter to stay balanced. Kabinett is now a 30 year wine, that requires at least 10 in the cellar. Of course that's not what we use it for, so we end up with over-sweet spatlese/auslese instead of what was intended.

A few brave souls are making kabinett and sometimes spatlese halbtrocken or feinherb. That's where I go when trying to find the more quaffable style these days.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Sweet Riesling

by Tim York » Wed Jul 18, 2012 10:01 am

David M. Bueker wrote:
Tom N. wrote:A few brave souls are making kabinett and sometimes spatlese halbtrocken or feinherb. That's where I go when trying to find the more quaffable style these days.


Thanks for that tip, David.

Jean Fisch and David Rayer make some interesting points about the decline of "real" Kabinett and Spätlese in the latest number of their Mosel Fine Wine newsletter. In particular they suggest that, in present day conditions, making such wines, particularly in a year like 2011, demands special efforts which could arguably justify a price premium over run-of-the-mill Auslese.

Unfortunately my efforts to copy and paste part of this interesting article have been frustrated, which suggests that the authors only want their words to be read by subscribers.

Much as I would love to see a resurrection of "real" Kabinett and Spätlese, I want it hard to see many people being prepared to accept a price premium. This is not helped by the sweeter Prädikat categories appearing to enjoy on average much higher critics' scores than the less sweet, which is something that I have always questioned.
Tim York
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