It's a Riesling Rendezvous! Why Riesling? Because it is produced all over the world, but stylistically each region can be quite different. The wines can range from dry to exceedingly sweet, from fruity to floral to petroleum-esque. Also, I happen to love Riesling, and so do my counterparts in the Tasting Group. So, without further ado, here is the tasting:
We decided to do Rieslings from some of the regions most renowned for producing quality product. Therefore, we had two German Rieslings- one from the Mosel and one from the Nahe- two Australian Rieslings- one from Clare Valley and one from Margaret River- one Washington Riesling- from Columbia Valley- and one Alsatian Riesling. These were also selected because they offer such a wide range of styles, which was essentially the point of the tasting. All the wines were tasted blind, but we knew the regions ahead of time, so Taylor and I made a game of trying to guess which region it was from. Overall, I think he did a better job of this than me. Here are the wines:
1.) Leeuwin Estate 2006 Artist Series Riesling. Margaret River. 12% alc, $17.99
Light and brilliant pale hay color. Strong petroleum aroma (bicycle tire), white flowers, stone fruit (pluot). The palate abounds with green apple flavors and a scathingly high, Warhead-like acidity. Wow. That's a tart wine right there. It's enjoyable, but I hesitate to recommend it to people because it pushes the boundaries of balance with that acid. I wish we had started the tasting with a slightly more mellow wine. I guessed Clare Valley, so at least I got the country right.
2.) Donhoff Riesling, 2007. Nahe. 10% alc, $23.99
Pale hay color, slightly on the more yellow side. The nose is richer, with distinct honeyed peaches. Taylor says anise. The nose is almost creamy with its richness. It smells of apple skins and tropical fruit. The palate is delightfully off-dry, with nice medium-plus acid. The attack is juicy, sweet and fruit-forward, showing lovely lychee flavors. It finishes in a seductively long way- 30+ seconds- and with remarkable floral qualities. I guessed Mosel, so at least I got the country right... Again...
L: 7.5 (with a smiley face)
I really thought this wine was delicious, and so I'm going to call it RECOMMENDED.
3.) Substance 2007 Columbia Valley Riesling. 13.5% alco, $17.99
Pale, watery hay color. The nose is rather muted, showing some green apple, indistinct citrus, and a rather grapey element.
The palate is also rather grapey, with a little bit of a floral aspect. I found it to be distinctly cloying. L found a kiwi flavor in it that she enjoyed. For me, the grapey bitter cloying flavor brought the score down significantly. Noone in the group thought this wine was the best of the bunch. I thought it was from either Alsace or Washington, so we'll call that a half-point.
4.) Mr. Riggs Watervale 2006 Watervale Riesling. Clare Valley. 12.5% alcohol, $11.99
Richer color, pewtery lemon, brilliant. A nose of distinct petroleum, wet stone, stone fruit and lemon drops. Floral aromas, citrus, melon. MO says oyster shells. Medium-plus acid on the attack, maybe high. It is bright, a little austere, but citrus-fruit-forward. A lingering floral finish, but not a cloying one. I rather liked this wine, but was in the minority. L enjoyed it too, calling it crowd-pleasing, with "lick-my-teeth acidity." I pegged this as Australian, but again I mixed up the appellation.
5.) Domaine Marcel Deiss 2007 Riesling. Alsace. 12% alc, $24.99.
This wine, again, has a brilliant light hay color. The nose is pretty, and very floral-driven. It's all about geraniums and a sort of potpourri. There is also an aspect of candied fruit and apricots, but I find it to be very floral. L says violets, and also finds a rising-bread yeasty component. The palate has a nice, delicate richness, with high racy acidity. It is subtly off-dry. The florality carries on here, combined with fruit elements of lychee and pineapple. Delicious. I nailed this one as Alsatian (score!)
Taylor: 5 (?!?)
Average: 5.8/10 (a travesty!)
6.) Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg 2007 Riesling Spatlese. Mosel. 8.5% alc, $34.99
Well, my notes on this one are a little bit different than everyone else's. I stuck my nose in the glass and went, "Ew! Sulphur! Wet matchstick! Gahhhhh!" Everyone else looked at me like I was crazy. So I'll offer my notes, and then the notes of others as a counterpoint, because I am distinctly in the minority here. I also broke my notes into two different categories: Pre-sulphur, and post-sulphur, because the sulphur blew off somewhat after a while. I realize that it's not perfectly fair to judge this wine on its sulfurous first impression, but I'm biased and can't help that. So...
My pre-sulphur notes:
Slightly darker color. Nose of stinking eggs. SULPHUR. Subdued flowers. Cheesy. The palate is actually quite nice, if a bit short. Distinct residual sugar and apple juice. The acid could be higher... 5/10
My post-sulphur notes:
The nose is very floral, rose petals. Green apples, tropical fruit (papaya?). The palate is essentially the same as the first time I tried it, so again, it's good but too short, and a little apple-juicy. 6.5/10
Now, as a counterpoint, Taylor's notes:
Straw-golden. Big mineral oyster - hint of petrol. Pear/apple. Honey, honeysuckle. Bit of RS with balancing acidity. Elegant. Apples, bright mineral notes. Touch of cream. Floral as it opens. Lime/citrus notes on the palate. 7.5/10
Everyone else went ga-ga over it too. L says "I lick my teeth, trying to savor it," and "light gold, like sun reflecting on water." So objectively, I have to say that this is a good wine, even if my experience with it was not the best. I am but one man!
With an average score like that, this wine has to go into the RECOMMENDED category.
I think that some of the wines that didn't score so well in this tasting- specifically the Australian ones and the Alsatian one- did so because of their style. The Australian ones had high, scathing acidity that our group found unpleasant. In other situations, when that kind of a style is anticipated and desired, these wines would likely rate much higher. But that's how it goes! There are, after all, no great wines, only great bottles and great occasions.