Monday, March 31, 2014

Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling and Hubert Meyer Riesling: Germany vs. Alsace

When studying wine for the blind tasting portion of the Certified Exam it is essential to focus on grid wines and representatives from classic regions. For white wines this would include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio and Viognier. So, for the Certified level there is no need to focus on white wines such as Albariño, Verdelho, or Müller-Thurgau.

A classic region is one that is historically known for generally producing a wine with a distinguishable profile. For Riesling this would include regions such as Germany, Austria and Clare Valley. Although quality Riesling can be found in cooler areas of Mendocino California or Washington they have yet to establish themselves as a classic region with a distinguishable signature profile.

In preparing for the wine tasting portion of the exams, in addition to wines tasted in class and in study groups, I continuously tasted Rieslings from Germany, Austria, Alsace and a few from Clare Valley. Of course Riesling can also be produced in a number of different styles depending on the ripeness of the grape, whether it is Kabinett, Spätlese, or Auslese and whether it is from Germany or Austria or a Dry, Off-Dry to Late Harvest Riesling from Alsace or Clare Valley.

The best way to learn differences between Kabinett, Spätlese or Auslese Rieslings is to sample wines from the same vintage made by the same reputable producer in Germany. Then compare side by side (or consecutively and keeping good notes) these wines with a reputable producer in Austria, Alsace and the Clare Valley

But you can also do cross-comparisons in tasting the same varietal but from different producers of different style in different regions. The most important thing is to take good notes and maintain a   sense memory  of the wines tasted.

Needless to say, this can get quite expensive as the costs add up even if you are sampling wines only in the $20 - $30 range. So, if you are going to open representatives of all these regions and styles you might want to form or join a wine tasting study group. The following are two wines that I sampled side by side.

2012 Joh. Jos. Prüm  Graacher Himmelreich, Auslese Riesling

This is a clear white wine, lemon / light straw in color, low intensity with a watery meniscus, and low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas golden apples, lemon-lime, lemon blossoms, melon and a touch of honey. On the palate it is off-dry with mouth watering medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied with a very long finish. It retails for about $33 per bottle.

2011 Hubert Meyer Winzenberg Grand Cru, Riesling, Vin d’Alsace

This is a clear white wine, straw in color with low intensity, and low viscosity. On the nose it has subtle+ intense aromas of fresh clean white apples, a hint of melon, lemon, canned pears, a touch of minerality and subtle kerosene / petrol notes. It is dry with medium+ acidity, medium- body, medium alcohol and a medium+ length finish. It retails for about $25 per bottle.

If you compare the notes for these two wines there are some similarities and differences. They both have apple and lemon notes but the wine from Germany has some honey notes whereas the one from Alsace has some petrol notes, which are often a key indicator that the wine is a Riesling. But that characteristic tends to come from Rieslings with age or when they are from a warmer climate, such as in California or Washington. Also, one wine was dry whereas the other is off-dry. This is where comparing these two wines is somewhat of a mismatch for the Alsace Riesling is from an older vintage and that one year can make a significant difference for a Riesling. But, this tasting is only a very small part of a much larger study of Riesling so I would not make any die hard conclusions or fix in my mind a definitive profile of what to expect from this grape from either of these two regions. If you always look for any one singular characteristic (such as the petrol note) to determine the identity of the wine in a blind tasting as if to think, “If it doesn’t have a petrol note, it can’t be Riesling” you’ll be caught off guard. There is no one singular element in a grape’s profile that must be present. For example, while grapefruit and grassy-herbal notes are common in Sauvignon Blanc, I have recently tasted some 2012 Sancerre that had more stone fruit and very little (if any) grapefruit notes.

In conclusion, noting the similarities as well as differences between regions, styles and vintages of the same grape is as important as sampling wines of a similar style and of the same vintage. In the long run, keeping very good notes and comparing them over time with other tastings will be essential to developing a better sense perception and recognition of classic wines from classic regions.

No comments:

Post a Comment