Photo courtesy Tom Maack via Wikimedia Commons
With apologies in advance to women of the cloth, it’s difficult to dispute that many San Antonians of a certain age and upbringing were terrorized by nuns. But I submit here that many more innocents around the world have been traumatized by a different order, that of the ubiquitous and sadistically saccharine Blue Nun. Since its emergence in 1927, the cheap, sweet and featureless wine bearing this label has been sold in almost every wine market, creating the false impression that German wines were schlocky and sanctimonious.
But with its sale about a decade ago, the Blue Nun label has been reborn, and it has come to riesling, Germany’s noble grape, in a way it was never required to do before under the blanket liebfraumilch label. If the German wine marketing board’s slogan “If you think you know German wine — drink again” is appropriate to the rededicated religious, then it is equally applicable to the industry as a whole, and so the Omniboire asked San Antonio’s Mr. Riesling, Republic Beverage’s Fernando (Woody) de Luna, to put together a tasting.
With Silo on Austin Highway as our host, De Luna accordingly assembled four dry rieslings and four fruitier Kabinett-designated wines. Among these were some from “four single vineyards which number among the greatest in Germany,” according to Woody. “It would be hard to imagine choosing four great vineyards from Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Napa and being able to stay at these prices `$14-$39`.”
Aiding and abetting were Silo Executive Chef Mark Bliss, wine marketer Cecil Flentge (Wine2you.com), and vascular surgeon and wine connoisseur David Mozersky.
The 2005 Von Hövel Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett-Saar was cast as “a ballerina, a gymnast” by DeLuna and deemed “a pleasure to drink” by Mozersky. Flentge felt that it “gained a couple of points just sitting there `in the glass`” — a sentiment, seconded by Bliss that was to hold throughout the tasting. These wines deserve decanting and drinking at cool (but not chilled) temperatures.
The Stelvin-sealed 2005 Mönchhof Riesling Kabinett Urziger Würzgarten-Mosel, grown on volcanic soil mixed with sandstone, has spice in its name and on the palate; I even found ginger in this one, while Mozersky noted a “tropical nose” and Flentge found “slatiness.” “If you
didn’t have the slate, this would be a fruit smoothie,” added De Luna, with candor rare for a wine rep.
No candor was required to appreciate the wine with the signature chicken-fried oysters Bliss produced at this point; the combination was captivating.
Grown in a warm micro-climate on loam with limestone, the 2005 Franz Kunstler Riesling Kabinett Hochheimer Reichstall-Rhinegau would be “excellent with after-dinner cheese” said Bliss, and Flentje found it to have a “honeysuckle finish.” The essential point was this: Fruitiness and sweetness balanced with minerality and a tenacious acidity that is the product of the vineyards’ northern latitudes.
Not that the drier wines aren’t complex as well. “I thought it was killer,” said Bliss of the 2005 Gunderloch Dry Riesling-Rheinhessen — who also assumed it would be much more expensive than its $18 retail tag. All agreed that it was a wine that needed more time in the glass.
“You can taste the minerals” in the 2005 Robert Weil Trocken-Rheingau claimed Dr. M. of this sleek, Sancerre-like wine that Bliss believed great for a picnic. The 2005 Pfeffingen Dry Riesling-Pfalz (as usual, the last word is the region in which the grapes are grown) was “the first one that spoke to me on the nose” according to Flentge, but “didn’t have staying power” in Mozersky’s estimation.
The only non-German ringer of the tasting, unique also for its 2004 vintage, was the Josmeyer Riesling Le Dragon, an organic wine sporting a simple name, a snappy label, and the petroleum essence on the nose that sounds funky but really works. Of course “chemical” was another way of looking at this — at least by Dr. Mozersky. It, too, improved with more time in the glass. Moral: Don’t rush rieslings — but do rush into a new appreciation of these elegant and food-friendly wines.
Most wines are available, though not all in any one place, at Saglimbeni Fine Wines, Central Market, and Wine’s Best Buy.
Kabinett Hochheimer Reichestal-Rheingau, $25
Apricot and pineapple with lime on finish
Great mouth feel with white peach and minerals
Tangy, gingery with apricot aspects and an elegant finish
Petroleum and apple orchard essence on nose, opulent and complex
Slight funk at first, followed by rose and mineral notes
2005 Robert Weil Riesling Trocken-Rheingau, $23
Gunpowder nose with a crisp, lean intensity
2004 Josmeyer Riesling Le Dragon-Alsace, $39
Petrol and mineral on nose, less to offer on palate
|= Exceptional, snap it up
|= Extremely good, seek it out
|= Good, some outstanding qualities
|= Good, but consider price