Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My First 2011 Mosel Riesling

2011 riesling grapes await harvest in the Mosel town of Bernkastel.
The 2010 vintage in Germany's Mosel Valley is a hard one to follow. Despite a meager harvest, the wines show tremendous depth of flavors, as well as powerful minerals and (perhaps the tell-tale trait of the vintage) their consistently high acid. For those wine drinkers like myself who relish the acid in Moserl rieslings, 2010 is a stunning vintage. The wines tasted wonderful upon release but they have the staying power to last decades. (Here's a full report on the 2010 rieslings I tasted last year in the Mosel.)

So, what's on tap for 2011? Well, it seems the most noticeable difference in 2011 will be the acid, which is fresh, but not as intense as many of the 2010s.

When I visited the Mosel Valley in early October of 2011, it was sunny, warm and all-around delightful. Many Germans told me that this warm weather in September and October would allow them to delay harvest until mid-October, and many were excited about the potential of the late-harvest wines.

Importer Terry Theise referred to the 2011 vintage thusly: 2011 is a two-week trip you take with a new lover, the first such journey through the familiar crucible of 24-hours together day after day, and you can’t believe how well you got along, how un-messy it was, how good you were together. If 2010 was Yikes Mikes, 2011 is easy-peasy. This doesn’t mean the ‘11s are simple wines. They make fewer demands than did the ‘10s, but most of them are interesting and some of them are markedly complex. Their extracts are normal – not low – and their acids are often gentle. Since German Riesling often attracts drinkers who relish high acidity, some of you might find these wines gentler than you prefer. The rest of us – yes, us – will find the wines structured on the smooth side, but acids are not conspicuously absent.

When I asked some fellow wine nerds on WineBerserkers forum what they thought of the 2011 vintage, I got this creative reply: 2011 is a really good back rub, where 2010 is something al ittle more... adventurous. They each have their place.

I think that's a great metaphor, and it helps explains why I'm a huge fan of the 2010s! Still, all signs point to 2011 being a likeable, easy-drinking vintage. Here's a note on my first 2011 riesling from the Mosel.

The bountiful 2011 harvest in the village of Graach.
2011 Weingut Nonnenhof Riesling Classic (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer)
This riesling showed a delightful little spritz in the glass. Aromatically, it shows flowers, orange rind, white peach and a whiff of smoky minerals. On the palate the wine is so tangy, with lovely freshness and lots of minerals. There's a hefty dose of acid on this wine, although it's not mouthpuckering. At 14% alcohol, this wine is dry with some serious thickness and richness from the alcohol. But the acid and fruit keep it all in balance. Lovely apricot and white peach linger on the finish. My brother-from-another-mother, Fritzroy, brought this wine back from Germany and we opened it on a 105% day in DC. This wine was perfect for the occassion. I give it an admittedly biased but unabashed 90 points.

I can't wait to try some more 2011 Mosel rieslings to develop a greater understanding of the vintage. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll make it to Germany this year, so I'll have to gather up some rieslings here in the States. If you've tasted any 2011 rieslings recently, I'd love to hear your impressions.


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