Think all German Riesling is sweet? The times they are a changin’ and Karthäuserhof is helping to lead the trend of drier German wine.
Lovers Of Riesling We Be
Our love affair with Riesling had its beginning with German Riesling. Through tastings with the Les Ami du Vin group, Green Dragon and I were exposed to German Riesling and its sweet goodness. This was many moons ago.
It actually launched our love of sweet white wines and it was a number of years before our palates zeroed in on drier wines, both white and red. As our oenological journey continued, we came back to Riesling and became strong fans of dry Riesling – particularly those from the Finger Lakes.
Germany Dries Out
There’s a good reason why German wines are sweet. The country is home to some of the coldest climate vineyards in the world. The cold temperatures cause the wine to stop fermenting before the sugar has all converted to alcohol. Thus you would have a sweet German Riesling with low alcohol. For centuries this off-dry to sweet style was prized internationally.
As tastes changed in the late 20th century, German exports tumbled. The German wine industry began promoting production of dry wines.
Karthäuserhof Tradition Plays A New Tune
Karthäuserhof is no newcomer to winemaking. The historic wine estate is nestled near the confluence of the Mosel and Ruwer rivers. Recent findings reveal this location was a settlement that practiced viticulture dating back to Roman times. For 200 years it has remained in the same family. This single vineyard estate makes wines solely from the Karthäuserhofberg vineyard. Most of its production is dry.
Through the Wine Studio educational program, we had an opportunity to sample two Karthäuserhof Riesling – the first a 2015 Karthäuserhof Riesling Ruwer QbA and – a real treasure – a 2009 Karthäuserhof Riesling Grosses Gewächs.
For our meal, Green Dragon prepared a dish with chicken asiago sausage topping noodles and fried apples, onions and cabbage with caraway seasoning. Having delicious Riesling with sausage is about as German as you can get – topped only by a bratwurst and stein of beer.
I was pleased to see the eagle emblem of VDP on the bottle. This is the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates, known to friends as Verband Deutcher Prädikatsweingüter. VDP was founded in 1910 by a group of Germany’s top wine estates.
The 2015 Karthäuserhof Riesling was an instant favorite with Green Dragon. It offers a pleasant tingle on the tongue typical of Mosel Riesling. The slight sweetness is balanced with acidity. A delightful blend of citrus and honeysuckle kept us returning to this bottle throughout the evening.
The 2009 is a rare treat – aged Riesling from a top German wine estate. Karthäuserhof has achieved the highest rating in the VDP system, Grosse Lage or “great site.” Dry wines from Grosse Lage estates can earn the title of Grosse Gewächs (GG). There is a limitation on yield per hectare, the grapes must be picked by multiple runs through the vineyard and then the wine must undergo a sensory test.
Good to know that someone in Germany has our back in ensuring top quality wine.
The 2009 GG Riesling is certainly that. On the nose there are wafts of petrol (hey, it is a good thing) and on the tongue there are coating flavors of orange, smoke and honey. The finish is long and precise. This is some of the best Riesling I’ve had in the last several years.
Karthäuserhof is distributed by Massanois and is currently available in New York, New Jersey and California. Some wines are available through a leading online wine retailer. I hope to see a rapid expansion washing over the US with quality Riesling!