Dry German Riesling – word gets out in the US

GG Wiesbaden 2021 - image copyright VDP / Peter Bender

16 June 2022 Rescued from the vaults, this article about fashions in German wines 14 years ago, which is interesting to read in conjunction with Julia's report on a recent visit to the Kellers of Rheinhessen to taste their latest releases, also published today.

5 May 2008 As anyone who has been following the debate here knows, a low-key holy war has been waged on the subject of German Rieslings. Those exported to the major markets of the UK and US have traditionally been quite sweet while within Germany, the fashion for dry wines has gone from strength to strength. (See, for example, Germany's dry dictators. On my recent visit to Germany I was told that Candid Wines had had enormous success with the great wines of Keller in the US.)

This has led to the rather absurd situation of there being a huge contrast between the style of wine appreciated by Germans and the style appreciated by Germany’s chief customers abroad. (Not that this is an entirely new phenomenon. Think Liebfraumilch.)

It has taken the traditional American and British merchants specialising in German wine a very long time to get used to the idea that dry German Riesling could have any merit. Their perceptions have been clouded by the dismal quality of the first wave of dry (trocken) German wines made in the 1980s, which really were very austere and unappealing. Meanwhile, greater competence in the winery and global warming have helped to boost the quality of Germany’s dry wines, not just the Pinots (Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder) but also Rieslings. Indeed, I increasingly get the impression that many German wine producers save their best fruit for the dry wines because they know that residual sugar cannot be used to hide any defects in them.

However...it seems that my colleague Eric Asimov, wine correspondent of the New York Times, may have written a seminal article in praise of Dry German Rieslings which can be read online here. The rumours are that soon after this article appeared at the end of last month, the shelves were cleared of dry Rieslings – in New York anyway.

Furthermore, one of Britain’s leading importers of German wines Sebastian Thomas of Howard Ripley Wines has just reported that he has bought a large selection of dry 2007 German wines, as well as taking on three new estates – Robert Weil in the Rheingau, Van Volxem in the Saar and Schäfer-Fröhlich in the Nahe – all of which produce very fine dry wines, like Müller-Catoir from the Pfalz, whose wines he is once more importing after a long gap during which the new winemaker has been establishing his reputation. Other estates whose wines are already among those offered by Howard Ripley (few of them exclusively) are Dönnhoff, Maximin Grünhaus, Fritz Haag, Heymann-Löwenstein, Johannishof, Karlsmühle, Keller (Rheinhessen), Carl Loewen, Dr Loosen, Mosbacher, Schloss Lieser, Willi Schaefer, Selbach-Oster, Tesch, Vollenweider, Weiser-Künstler and Zilliken.

Iris Ellmann of The Wine Barn and David Motion of The Winery were for some time the sole champions of dry German wines in the UK so it’s good to know that they are now joined by a member of the German wine establishment. Not that I have anything remotely against the fruity wines, but as someone who has already tasted scores, if not hundreds, of wines from Germany’s very exciting 2007 vintage, I know just how good the dry wines are. (At the end of last month I also tasted the most amazing array of great wine rarities of the 20th century, proving just how well German Riesling ages – another story.)

I will of course be reporting in more detail once I have gathered all my 2007 German tasting notes together. Look out for some exceptional wines – dry, sweet and at all points in between.

Image © VDP by Peter Bender.