And Now a Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

by Chuck Hayward

And Now a Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Programing

Post by David Derby| April 20th, 2011

David entertains other riesling fans

Spring is in the air and come early April, it seems that all attention turns to Bordeaux. This year the majority of the sales team covered the latest vintage with a deeper analysis than ever before. But not this assistant wine buyer. It’s been said, on occasion, that I march to the beat of a different drummer. So instead of heading towards France, I made tracks to Germany, in pursuit of understanding the noble riesling.

My goal was to explore the land, meet the people, experience the culture and, of course, taste the wines. For many wine aficionados, riesling holds a special place in our hearts. For some, it was our first love. For others, the gateway to other wines from so many different places. But with all the wines in the world, some are best recognized when coming from their iconic homeland. Take sparkling wine and Champagne, sangiovese and Italy, riesling and Germany. While Germany certainly makes wines in addition to riesling, that is the grape most people associate with the country.

Lots of German wines, none plonk

This wasn’t always the case, though. Following World War II, many servicemen came home with a thirst for this newly discovered beverage, German wine. For a nation raised on well-chilled Coco-Cola, it was an easy transition to the often overly sweet white. Plus, no need to worry about staining the carpet in that new suburban home! Unfortunately, there wasn’t much discretion when it came to the quality of many of these imports, and soon the floodgates released a sea of inexpensive plonk, much of it labeled Liebfrauenmilch, which loosely translates to “mother’s milk”. That was the beginning of a long identity crisis for German wines, especially in the U.S., which continues today.

What started as a unique wine from a single Lagen (vineyard) in Worms sadly slipped into a style associated with the likes of Blue Nun…much like many sodas are called "Coke". While a small niche of connoisseurs dedicated themselves to seeking the finest, rarest specialty dessert wines of Germany, such as Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and true eiswein, which have been savored, collected and auctioned for centuries, today, it is common for people to dismiss an incredibly vast range of styles from the different regions of Germany. Which means they are missing out on Kabinett (about which some sommeliers shout from the mountain tops) or halb-trocken (half dry) riesling that goes perfectly with many foods, so much more than just Asian cuisine…

One way to get me into church...

In an effort to bring things into perspective, the Valkenberg family went back to the beginning and made a wine solely from the original vineyard named Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstuck. Kirchenstuck is the name of the village which surrounds the old church, depicted on the Valkenberg label.

I was lucky enough to taste these wines right next door to the church:

2009 Wormser Riesling Trocken  Dry wine from the town of Worms, a floral nose of white peach with fresh apple flavors are backed with acidity. 88 points

2009 Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstuck  Mix of slate and a touch of petrol emerge on the nose. Finely focused flavors of Asian pear lead to a long finish. A fine wine. 91 points

2009 Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstuck Kabinett  Ripe peach and apricot aromas lead to a rich entry, followed by a second layer of creamsicle flavors and a nice finish. 91+ points.

For a special treat, we ended with a blind tasting. It was youthful looking, all white with barely a glow of green, leading to steely dry palate and quick finish. It was a 1982 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett by J.J. Prum, and it was a great way to conclude the day.