When it comes to naming a great white wine variety, the first term that comes to mind is probably "Riesling". Its infinite diversity is one of its trump cards. The flavours range from bone dry to semi-dry to sweet. There is also another important factor: Riesling can express the respective terroir as clearly and perfectly as no other variety probably can. Depending on the location and soil, the wines taste different. Where do the great Rieslings of this world come from?
Let's start in the French Alsace, which I visited last summer. A highly scenic area with a long wine-growing tradition. The Grand Cru site Rosacker is located in the dreamy village of Hunawihr. Within it lies Clos Sainte Hune, a small 1.67 hectare plot of land that belongs to the Trimbach family winery. Their dry Riesling plays in the Champions League: unsurpassed in its complexity, irresistible in its minerality, almost limitless in its ripeness. The rare Riesling Clos Sainte Hune is expensive – but worth every sip.
This is also true of the wines from the Nikolaihof estate in Austria’s Wachau region. The oldest estate in the country has been operating according to Demeter’s biodynamic guidelines for a long time and is considered a pioneer of this type of viticulture. The best crus from the highest quality vineyards are given plenty of time to mature. Some of them, such as the dry Riesling Vinothek 2002, are stored in large oak barrels for ten years or more until they are bottled. Even after all this time, this multi-layered, outstanding white wine retains its freshness – in a class of its own.
There are, of course, great wines from Riesling's homeland. Germany has made massive leaps forward in terms of quality over the last 20 years. Around one fifth of the 100,000 hectares of vineyards are planted with this variety. At the top end are well-known wineries such as Dönnhoff from the Nahe region, Keller and Battenfeld Spanier from Rheinhessen or Breuer from Rheingau. Close on their heels is the Rheingau winemaker Eva Fricke. The critics awarded the maximum score of 100 points to a Trockenbeerenauslese as well as to the dry Riesling Krone 2019. The latter comes from an extremely steep slope with slate soils. The powerful, deep and fresh white wine is extremely long-lasting – simply world class. The Krone is available exclusively via Mondovino, like all of Eva Fricke's wines.
The Riesling Mélange 2020 from Eva Fricke shines with outstanding characteristics. It presents itself with a medium yellow and reveals an intense, multi-layered bouquet of yellow fruits and smoky rock notes on the nose. On the palate, a beautiful fruit, a dense body and a well-integrated acidity are noticeable. Thanks to its minerality, the dry wine always stays on the elegant, juicy side, has a long-lasting finish and is well-balanced. It can be enjoyed already or put aside for a few more years. The Riesling, vinified in steel tanks, is a blend of sites from the Rheingau villages of Eltville and Hattenheim. The grapes come from old vines that grow on loess and clay soils. The wine is versatile, best as a food companion with fish or white meat. The excellent 2020 vintage has been highly rated: Critic James Suckling awarded the Riesling 95 out of 100 points.