Riesling is a grape of the ancients, dating back to Roman times, but why has its universal appeal continued? I imagine what it must have been like to sit at a fine table five hundred years ago and why riesling was so attractive. I suspect the high-toned floral component and spice aromas, along with a sweet muskiness, must have been welcome amongst the other less savory smells that must have all around in those days. The onslaught of too-ripe meats and too-ripe people must have been pretty overwhelming, so a fragrant white wine would have been a fine thing to bury ones nose in to get away from it all.
Another miracle within the Riesling vine is the ability to grow in the harshest of winter climates. Riesling is grown in most northerly region that fine wine grapes can grow, which fosters great acidity. All the best grapes are grown on a south facing slope to suck in every last ray of sunshine. Terry Theise describes the slopes of Domprobst as impossibly steep. In fact, some vineyards are so steep they need small monorail trams to help workers move grapes down the hillside to the sorting table.
Picking German Wine
I'm the first to admit that picking a great German wine is pretty daunting. For me, I find the vineyard names difficult to memorize and like a lot of fine wines, the devils and the angels are in the details --in those vineyard names. A lot of producers make thousands of bottles of their lesser table wines and only a few hundred cases of their special small vineyard designates. To make matters worse, even the most famous of German vineyards, Piesporter and Bernkastel for instance, were synonymous with both greatness and cheap plonk for many years, especially the wines exported to the U.S. so it was only those in the know who were the dependable producers. Fortunately, quality has improved greatly in the export market and we're now able to get even more spectacular wines from Germany.
If you're new to German wines, I recommend highly the section in the Karen MacNeil's Wine Bible on all things German. According to Karen MacNeil, the new stars of Germany include: Müller-Catoir, Fritz Haag, Willi Schafer, Lingenfelder, Gunderloch, Karlsmühle, and Dönnhoff. Certainly don't overlook Dr. Loosen, Egon Müller, Joh. Jos. Prüm, and Selbach-Oster.
On to Tasting Notes: 2006 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Kabinett Riesling
Extravagant nose with lots of earthy honey, challah/brioche, orange blossom and a touch of petrol. Perhaps a bit of green mint. The quivering acidity makes your tongue come alive and then it's soothed by the off-dry luscious coating. This is a wine that you can drink all night, and at 8.5 % alcohol, you might as well. Absolutely recommended. I immediately bought more of this, and the Auslese #14 after tasting this.
How to Read This German Wine Label:
2. Producer: In this case, one of the best producers in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
3. Year: 2006 was a difficult year for weather in Mosel, but in the hands of a good producer, results were excellent
4. Vineyard designation: In this case, the Graacher Domprobst is the main vineyard holdings of Willi Schaefer estate.
5. Sweetness level: Kabinett is the next to driest level of sweetness, so expect off-dry but not sweet.
6. Grape: Riesling
7. QmP designation showing this is a "quality wine with special attributes."
8. Alcohol: in this case, 8.5% which is 50% of the strength of that Paso zinfandel, and the equivelant of 2 strong Belgian beers.