Peter Keller Rieslings, Rheinhessen, Germany

14th Jul 2013

I always find that Rieslings are a very undersubscribed wine. They lack the fame and fortune of the mighty Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, and they are not trendy like the quirky Chenin Blanc or Voignier. And yet they offer some of the most expressive and satisfying wines you will ever taste. They range from the bone dry to the lusciously sweet and can, in the very best examples, age for decades. I will never turn my nose up at the opportunity to taste Rieslings and still remember a tasting in London 2 years ago where we were lucky enough to taste Australian Rieslings going back to 1976 from the Clare and Eden Valley. Tasting this grape with 35 years of age took me to another dimension and truly made you appreciate just how noble this grape is.

I will say though, that the greatest Rieslings I have tasted all come from Germany and Austria. The cool climate suits this little grape, but you have to be careful of its tiny berries, which are susceptible to rot (good rot is Botrytis and makes the best sweet wines, and bad rot will destroy a crop). But they ripen late for Germany allowing them to resist the spring frosts. It is very expressive and is considered a “terroir” grape, one that can inherently illustrate exactly where it came from, just like many consider wines from Burgundy also do. Whilst the nuances are subtle, there are differences between Rieslings from different regions in Germany. Wines from the south like Pfalz and Baden are noticeably weightier and drier, but often with a more intense fruit extract. Further north, the already trademark searing acidity becomes more prominent as the fruit softens and offers a more delicate version of this wine. Rieslings from Rheingau, situated at the northernmost edge of wine growing are considered the best from Germany, both dry and sweet, and not only fetch astonishing prices, but will last some people longer than their marriage.

So when I tell you that, for me, my recent tasting of German Rieslings offered me value for money, probably the nicest Rieslings from Germany, I am sure you will be impressed. But these wines weren’t found in the aristocratic Rheingau country, but in the Rheinhessen. Well that’s okay I hear you say, as there has been know some lovely examples on the famous Rote Hang (Red  slop) which is on the “Rheinfront” or “red hill” near Neirstein, where you will find some of Germany’s most impressive steep slops and brick red soil, its clay slate is 250 million years old offering a unique geology.

Actually, Keller’s estate is based in Flörsheim-Dalsheim, in Southern Rheinhessen and they have been making wine here in an unbroken male tradition since 1789. This area is not that famous for making exceptional wines. In an area situated between Alzey and Worms it is it’s reputation as the city that declared Martin Luther a heretic and home to that wonderful little wine, Liebfrauenmilch, that brings it’s fame. So, by their own admission, Keller’s wines are as much about meticulous work in the vineyards and winery as of their terroir. It wasnt until the 1990′s that the world was introduced to the serious potential of wines from this estate and since then they have been lauded with an impressive array of awards particularly by the leading German Wine Buying guide Gaul Millau  including “Producer of the Year”, “Collection of the Year” and “Dry Riesling of the Year, 2007″. Jancis Robinson called Keller’s wines “German Montrachets” and they shot to international fame when a double magnum of G-Max 2009 was sold at auction for nearly €4000 making it the most expensive bottle of German dry Riesling sold at auction.

They were also served at the Queens Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It seems that whilst we are only just in the past decade finding the true quality of Rieslings from the Rheinhessen, the Queen was drinking wine from this region 60 years ago at her Coronation. The wine made from the “Hipping” vineyard which made the wine back then was tracked down and now owned by the Keller’s and so 2/3 of their 2012 stock from this vineyard was shipped off to London to be drunk by Royalty, no less.

But are these wines really THAT good? We got in their Riesling Trocken and the Riesling “Von de fels” to try them for ourselves.

Riesling, Trocken, 2010

Offering the distinctive pale lemon green colour and its colourless rim, this wine still bursts with aromas of youthful green skinned apples, peaches, lime skins and pears. As expected, it packed a lovely punch of acidity balanced exceedingly well against concentrated sweet flavours of lemons, pears and pink lady apples. Subtle secondary flavours of citrus finishes with lemon sherbet. For an “entry” level wine, but still not cheap, this was a really positive start. It had dimension, concentration and complexity. Its tropical, sweet fruit flavours were very well balanced against its high acidity and yet its alcohol at only 12% never felt overwhelmed.

Riesling “Von de Fels” 2010

Still showing the trademark clean pale colour, its primary aromas were of youthful peaches, pears and fresh lemons. There was some undertones of more tropical fruit with baked lemons, grapefruit, a hint of banana and some poached pear. It also offered an elegant mineral edge, a hint of wet slate. Its palate was just as complex with a more developed but fresh pear and peach with some lemon zest. There was a “fatness” to the secondary fruit but not weight with a balanced, defined citrus zest and green skinned apples. This is a beautiful wine, significant in its complex fruit aromas, high acidity and mellow alcohol. It is fast being considered a “Iconic Cult wine” and it is easy to see why. A remarkable wine that I would say will last until the end of the decade.

Both wines are available by the glass at the restaurant throughout the month of July, as part of 31 Days of Riesling promotion. 

Loves Restaurant, The Glasshouse, Browning Street, Birmingham, B16 8FL       Tel: 0121 454 5151


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