The wine lover seeking something new should keep an eye out for Lembergerby Barry Smith / May 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
©Ah_fotobox/Shutterstock When did German wines become cool? Many will remember the damage done to the reputation of German wines in the 1970s by the glut of mass market Liebfraumilch and Piesporter. Those in the know recognised the existence of fine German wines from Mosel and Rheingau: Rieslings that perfectly balanced sweetness with lime-edged acidity. Those who needed persuading were told of the great value of these underrated wines. That’s no longer the story. A young generation of German winemakers are challenging the stereotype. And it’s not all about white wines. Germany is making fine wines across the range: from sparkling wines to reds. This cool climate viticulture is producing wines with the right ratio of price to quality. In many ways, they look like the wines of the future. The beauty is that this new wave of winemakers have inherited old world vines: combining tradition with innovation. A big revelation is what Anne Krebiehl, has called the joy of Sekts. No longer dull, these sparkling Rieslings have complex flavour profiles that take them beyond a mere aperitif. Many German families contributed to the reputation of the Champagne region, and the know-how behind the méthode Champenoise is now making its way back to Germany. The 2014 Reichsrat von Buhl Sekt is made by the ex-chef de cave of Bollinger and is a dry-style wine with a fine, gentle mousse. The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships awarded a gold medal to the 2009 Solter Rheingau Riesling Sekt, a wine of great richness, and if the 2005 is anything to go by, a wine with the potential for ageing. It is also surprising to find good quality German rosé. Perhaps the best example comes from the Meyer-Näkel estate. Already recognised for the power and elegance of their Spätbugunder wines, here we find them making a rosé from the same grape. Without increasing the colour, the pressed juice has had just enough skin contact to give the wine satisfying bite. For those who like the rosé of Bandol, here is a suitable alternative. Reds are not just confined to wines made from Spätbugunder, although this variety is seeing nuanced and subtle variations. To seek out ripeness in such cool growing conditions there is a need to pick at the last possible moment, though sometimes this can be overdone, giving rise to a note of cooked berry fruit. Not ripe enough and there can be a vegetal edge. So there is a need for balance. The wine lover seeking something new should keep an eye out for Lemberger, better known as Blaufränkisch: a thick-skinned grape variety that used to produce rustic wines. Increased knowledge among winemakers has led to better handling of this grape, and well-made Lemberger has that tell-tale white pepper note on the nose, like Syrah, and can produce spicy wines to accompany hearty foods. A fine example is the 2012 Schnaitmann Simonroth Lemberger, which wears its 13 per cent alcohol lightly. Alongside the new discoveries you still find old favourites: those characteristic Rieslings with aromas of diesel and lime. It is possible to ascend through the categories from the dry Trockens, with six grams of residual sugar, to Kabinetts with anything up to 18 grams. And remember, each gram of residual sugar is not being fermented to drive up the alcohol content. What matters, of course, is the level of balancing acidity, for it is this that will ensure longevity for the sublime Ausleses. Traditional masters like the winemakers at JJ Prüm are creating wines for the future. Their Wehlener Sonnenhur vineyard produces sublime Rieslings. Auslese of this quality demands time as it develops ethereal, almost mentholated notes. You might need to wait for these wines to reach perfection, but what the new generations of German enthusiasts know is that they won’t have to leave the country to taste a large range of satisfying wines.