I’ve been tasting a lot of German Riesling over the last two weeks, as producers descended upon New York City to show off their wares and talk about the vintage. I must admit that these are some of my favorite tastings each year. Where most wines can be a challenge to taste and wear heavily on the palate over time, Riesling has the opposite effect of both stimulating the senses while leaving them refreshed and ready for more.
This year, it’s the 2014 vintage they are showing, which can be described as turbulent to say the least. That’s not to say that the wines aren’t worth your time. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, because what 2014 does deliver in spades is approachability. Many of these wines are so good now that you won’t be able to keep your hands off of them. What is most important, though, is to be picky, because where some producers turned out an exciting set of stunning Riesling—others fell short. One thing you won’t see a lot of from 2014 are the sweeter, Auslese and Beerenauslese-style Rieslings, as early rot prevented the region from obtaining healthy botrytis (noble rot), but I get ahead of myself.
There were two events which affected the 2014 vintage in Germany. First was an early bud break and flowering, which put the vintage three weeks ahead of expectations. However, through July the region enjoyed moderate weather with warm days, cool nights and sufficient rain fall. The result was a large crop of early, yet healthy grapes. Growers throughout the region were very positive about the vintage until the second event occurred: rain, which started in August and in some regions lasted into September. Many vineyards even began to flood. This coupled with continuous warm weather created rot.
Suddenly growers were forced to pre-harvest, dropping large portions of their fruit in an attempt to save the healthy bunches. In fact, if it wasn’t for the large crop set, many producers would have lost their entire production. The good news is that what remained on the vines were healthy grapes.
In general, the 2014s came out as more approachable and elegant than the 2013s, showing high, yet balanced acidity. In most cases, they also have high must weights and lower alcohol levels because of higher dry extract and low sugars at the time of harvest. The results are beautifully aromatic wines, which show gorgeous finesse, along with saturating fruit and minerals on the back palate—and into the finish. It’s a very attractive combination.
I found a lot to like in the category of Trocken, Feinherb and the early release Großes Gewächs. This is where those saturating fruit and mineral components are most prevalent. As for the range of Kabinett and Spatlese, I found these to be very enjoyable, yet best for early consumption. Many of the Kabinetts I tasted simply lacked depth on the palate, but not every vintage needs to be a blockbuster. I, for one, can think of no better beverage to be sipping on a warm summer night than a glass of 2014 Kabinett. As for the dry wines, Trocken and Großes Gewächs, I can assure you that I will be a buyer.
Essentially, 2014 will be the best-drinking vintage of German Riesling on the market. Below is my list of wines that made the cut. Many more were tasted, yet these were the ones that truly stood out. Some won’t be hitting our shores until the fall yet all are worth keeping an eye out for.
Explanation of Terms and Tasting Notes:
Trocken = Dry as a bone. (Reminder: dry even if Spatlese Trocken)
Großes Gewächs = The Grands Crus of Germany, and Dry as a bone.
Feinherb = Off Dry and remarkably balanced.
Kabinett = A hint of sweetness balanced by lively acidity.
Spätlese = A rich wine from extremly ripe grapes., yet perfectly balanced.
Mosel Saar Ruwer
2014 A.J. Adam Riesling in der Sängerei Feinherb – The A.J. Adam Im der Sängerei Feinherb was one of the highlights of the tasting. It’s sourced from a small section of the Hofberg vineyard, and it’s easy to see why Adam has bottled it separately. The nose was highly expressive with an intensity of airy herbs, ripe citrus, flowers and crushed stone. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with veins of tongue-curling acidity throughout, ushering in notes of ripe peach, grapefruit and saline-minerals. The finish was long and mouthwatering, displaying ripe citrus contrasted by tart grapefruit. (94 points) @Morrell
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben – This was amazingly complex with a deep and ripe bouquet of tropical fruits, smoke, yellow flowers and a hint of cheese rind. On the palate, I found soft textures with flavors of ripe pear and spiced apple, hints of lemon zest and young red berries. There was a great balance of acidity which kept the mouth watering and fresh. The finish was long with ripe fruits slowly melting away to reveal minerals and slight sear of cleansing acidity. (94 points) @Morrell
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Trocken – The nose showed peach and rich spices with hints of smoke and crushed stone. On the palate, I found tremendous depth with weighty yet balanced textures giving way to flavors of ripe apricot, spice and young strawberry. The finish turned to tart citrus. (92 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spatlese – The nose was rich and intense with ripe peach, minerals and gravel dust. On the palate, it was vibrant with gorgeous ripe tropical fruits, spiced apple and smoke. It finished long on tart citrus and juicy acidity, providing a very pleasurable finale. This was one of the most successful Kabinetts I tasted from the 2014 vintage. (92 points) @Morrell
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling feinherb – The nose showed herbal tones with a zest of lime and crushed stone. On the palate, concentrated citrus notes seemed to coat the senses, along with a wave of sharp acidity, which provided bite. It finished on minerality with remnants of fruit tingling on the senses. (90 points)
2014 A.J. Adam Hofberg “Pfarrgarten” Riesling feinherb – The nose was spicy with an airy-herbal quality, along with sharp notes of tropical citrus. On the palate, I found soft textures with flavors of ripe apricot, herbs and citrus rind. It finished with lingering tart citrus and spice, yet with a ripe tropical note which provided a satisfying finale. (90 points)
2014 Dr. F. Weins-Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett feinherb – The nose showed pretty lemon floral tones with notes of spiced peach. On the palate, it showed silky textures which were accentuated through a wave of brisk acidity with flavors of ripe apple and peach. The finish was refreshing and balanced with lingering notes of ripe apple. This was a pleasure to drink. (90 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling Dry – The nose showed green herbs with hints of citrus and stone. On the palate, it was finessed with notes of mineral and wet stone, green apple and hints of citrus. It finished with hints of lemon rind and minerals. (89 points)
2014 Schloss Lieser Riesling Spätlese trocken – The nose showed tart citrus and green herbs with hints of wet stone. It was richer on the palate than expected with saline-minerals, citrus and green apple acidity. It finished clean and mouthwatering. (89 points)
2014 A.J. Adam Riesling trocken – The nose was quite closed with an herbal, almost skunky aroma before airing out to reveal a zest of lemon. On the palate, it was juicy and clean with citrus rind tartness and lingering minerality. I was hoping for more here, yet this may have performed better if allowed to breathe. (87 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Bockenauer Riesling Vulkangestein Riesling trocken – The nose was savory and mineral-driven with smoke, crushed stone and cheese rind. On the palate, it was focused and intense, showing lemon-tinged apple and minerals with masses of inner floral tones. Long and saturating on the finish with tingling acidity, which seemed to touch upon all the senses. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Großes Gewächs – This showed a gorgeous nose of ripe citrus and pit fruits with mineral-stone and hints of herbs. On the palate, it provided smooth textures with veins of brisk acidity giving lift to its ripe citrus tones. Minerals coated the senses throughout the finish with citrus rind bitterness lingering on the palate. This was tremendously balanced for young GG. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling trocken MAGNUS – This was just gorgeous and a tremendous value. The nose showed peach and spice along with lemon, crushed stone and pretty floral tones. On the palate, ripe stone fruit and citrus was kept in check by brisk, tongue-curling acidity. A note of bittersweet grapefruit and minerals lingered on the finish. (93 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Kertz Riesling feinherb – The nose was rich, almost savory, with notes of wool and crushed stone up front turning to citrus and floral tones. On the palate, it was clean and incredibly refreshing yet packed with intense citrus fruit. The finish was long with a staying note of lemon-tinged apple lasting on the back of the palate. (92 points)
2014 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Kahlenberg Riesling trocken – The nose showed sweet, spiced peach along with yellow floral tones. On the palate, I found silky textures with juicy underlying acidity providing excellent contrasts, as notes of bitter citrus turned sweeter while gliding across the senses. Tongue-curling acidity gave way to minerals and sweet citrus on the finish. (92 points) @Morrell
2014 Dönnhoff Roxheimer Höllenpfad Riesling trocken – This showed tremendous intensity with wet stone, minerals and young tropical notes on the nose. On the palate, I found lime and stone with wave of mouthwatering acidity biting at the senses. It finished long with bitter citrus and saline minerality. (91 points)
2014 Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling trocken – The nose was intense, showing crush stone, tart lemon, cheese rind, and saline-minerals. The palate displayed a rush of minerality up front followed by tart citrus, green apple and herbs. The finish showed intense tart citrus with gum-searing acidity, yet in the best possible way. (89 points)
2014 von Winning Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Großes Gewächs – The nose showed intense saline-minerality along with wet stone and hints of lime zest. It was vibrant and driven on the palate with a wave of brisk acidity giving way to minerals and green apple which lasted into the finish with a bite of tart citrus. (92 points)
2014 von Winning Deidesheimer Langenmorgen Riesling Großes Gewächs – The bouquet on the Deidesheimer Langenmorgen was like stepping through a waterfall into a wet cave with all the moist minerality and hints of undergrowth you’d expect to find. Only a hint of young peach seemed out of place in this cave, yet it was perfectly matched for the wine. On the palate, notes of lemon, lime, minerals and herbs were ushered along by tongue-curling acidity. It finished long on intense minerality. (91 points) @Morrell
2014 Weingut Pfeffingen Terra Rossa Riesling Spätlese trocken – This showed wonderful depth with its sweet and savory bouquet displaying peach skins, mineral-stone, citrus zest and notes of ripe cheese. On the palate, I found tart pineapple, herbs and minerals with a thrust of vibrant acidity. It was intense and mouthwatering on the finish with lingering notes of tart citrus. (91 points)
2014 von Winning Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker Riesling Trocken Erste Lage – The nose showed intense crushed stone with hints of citrus. The palate continued where the nose left off, as saline-minerals coated the senses along with floral and lemon tones. It finished on bitter citrus, inner florals and palate-cleansing acidity. (90 points)
2014 von Winning Riesling ‘Winnings’ – The Winnings Riesling represents great value and an excellent gateway to this producer’s style. Here I found a nose of ash and minerals with hints of citrus rind and young strawberry. It turned to ripe lemon and lime with a hint of salinity on the palate and finished refreshing and clean. (90 points)
2014 Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz Riesling Estate Dry – The nose showed pecorino cheese, apple, peach skins and crushed stone. On the palate, it was light with acid-driven textures delivering tart citrus and herbs. It finished clean and refreshing. (88 points)
2014 Weingut Keller Riesling Limestone (Feinherb) – What an incredibly intense and interesting nose, like walking through a moist cave, lined with mineral-laden rock and tropical flowers, while peeling a fresh lime. On the palate, this was buzzing with acidity, yet perfectly balance by a noticeable hint of residual sugar. Ripe peach, lime, minerals and inner floral tones lasted long into the finish. This is a dangerously delicious and very drinkable Riesling. (91 points) @Morrell
2014 Florian Weingart Bopparder Hamm Ohlenberg Riesling trocken – The nose showed minerals and ash up front with crushed stone and lime. On the palate, I found zesty acid-driven notes of citrus and peach with a coating of minerals that lasted into the finish. Lemon rind and floral tones lingered long with a crushed flower petal feel on the palate. (90 points)
In A Catagory All Its Own
2014 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling ‘Schmitt’ (Mosel Saar Ruwer) – Sweet, dry, or somewhere in between, the nose here was very closed at this youthful stage. On the palate, I found weighty and rich textures with tropical fruits and a ripeness that was virtually canceled out by balanced acidity. I can imagine what this wine will open up into over time, but at the moment I can only judge it on its balance and focus of fruit, which this has in spades. (94 points) @Morrell
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido