Julia recommends an exemplary dry German Riesling.
From €12.90, £15.80, $19.99, CA$30.70, AU$62
Eva Fricke may not have generations of winemakers or grape-growers in her family tree – she grew up in Bremen as a child of two doctors – but she has wasted little time in establishing her reputation for making excellent German Riesling. (She is pictured here by Marcus Bassler.)
Her 11-ha (27-acre) estate is based in Eltville in the Rheingau, a traditional German wine region that is seeing a resurgence in quality. Having studied at Geisenheim and worked in France, Australia, Italy and Spain, she returned to Germany and was technical director at Leitz for seven years before making the first vintage of her own wines in 2006.
She has been working organically since that time – her vineyards now also certified – and all her wines are vegan-friendly. More recently she has started trials with biodynamic practices and is very keen to increase the biodiversity in her vineyards.
Shortly after I met her for the first time at a tasting in London just over a year ago, we exchanged emails about a Monsanto story that had been in the news. Her attitude to what she does, and her sense of responsibility, are conveyed by these comments (reminding me of Ted Lemon's address at the MW conference last June):
'From all agriculture, wine is the luxury part, we are the only ones that have managed to sell soil as a lifestyle, a fashion, or a "must have" luxury product. From all veggies and fruit, wine is something like the Chanel dress. With this to me comes the responsibility to show that agriculture is not only "a necessary base to feed us", it is our future, it is the new luxury and it has to become green and fair.' This picture shows wild strawberries in her vineyards.
This Rheingau Riesling trocken 2017, tasted in a line-up of all her 2017s, is referred to as a Gutswein, ie an 'estate wine', because the fruit comes from different vineyards in the villages of Kiedrich, Hattenheim, Eltville and Oberwalluf, 80% from her own vineyards and 20% bought from another grower she has been working with for three years (also organically certified).
It struck me immediately as a great example of a wine with a modest classification, modestly priced, and not just perfect balance between the fruit and the refreshing acidity (around 8.4 g/l and a pH of around 3) but a wine of remarkable length – the taste staying with me long after the glass was empty. It is already delicious but should age well over the next few years to gain in complexity. (Incidentally, Berry Bros Rheingau Riesling 2016, included in Jancis's festive whites, was also by Eva Fricke.)
Here's my tasting note: 'Delicate aroma of lemon and lime and a terrific counterbalance between very crisp acidity and the depth of fruit and texture. A slight smokiness on the palate to bring complexity to the crystalline fruit. Quite linear on the palate and very persistent for a Gutswein.'
2017 was a tough year in the vineyard: they were hit by both hail and frost (see Michael's report on how frost affected other parts of Germany last year) and yields were 'dramatically low'.
The wine was fermented mainly using inoculated yeast but part of the blend was fermented with ambient yeast – though this is not a wine marked by the strong herbal character that the latter method can produce in Riesling wines. The six months that it spent on the lees has definitely increased the texture of the wine to give it a real presence.
On the (back) label it's described as 'trocken' (ie dry) and it certainly tastes dry, though there's around 8 g/l residual sugar, which results in a wine of just 12% alcohol and perfect balance – the same harmony of fruit and freshness that I have found in all of Fricke's wines, be they dry to sweet or anything in between.
The wine is imported into the UK by Fields, Morris and Verdin and is available from Lay & Wheeler, Berry Bros, D Vine Cellars, The Somerset Wine Company, Fortnum & Mason, Hic! Wine Merchants and Christopher Keiller. According to Wine-Searcher, it is widely available in the US as well as in Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium and Germany.
For more information on availability, here is the list of importers provided by Eva Fricke:
Belgium: Vinikus & Lazarus bvba, www.vinikusenlazarus.be
Switzerland: Coop Genossenschaft, www.coop.ch
Austria: Rudolf Wagner KG, www.wagnerweb.at
Netherlands: Karakterwijn, www.karakterwijnimport.nl
Sweden: Johan Lidby Vinhandel, www.johanlidbyvinhandel.se
Norway: Selected Wines AS, www.selectedwines.no
Finland: Carelia Wines, www.carelia.fi
UK: Fields, Morris & Verdin, www.fmvwines.com
Japan: Racines Co Ltd, www.racines.co.jp
Australia: Bibendum Wines, www.imbibo.com.au
US/Massachusetts: Vineyard Road Inc., www.vineyardroad.net
US/California: Farm Wine Imports, www.farmwineimports.com
US/New York: Bonhomie Wine Imports, www.bonhomiewine.com
US/Colorado: Anvil Wine, www.anvilwinecompany.com
Canada/Alberta: Metrovino, www.metrovino.com
Canada/Ontario: Le Sommelier, www.lesommelier.com