July 20 Riesling Rendezvous
So this pesky Riesling-centric event is the reason that I didn’t post anything this Sunday. I also promise this is the last Riesling post for a while.
Riesling Rendezvous is an event dedicated to Riesling. It happens in Seattle once every 3 years and entails a collection of winemakers, media, wine professionals, and a few dedicated consumers descending on the city to geek out, enjoy Riesling, and try to figure out how to get more people to enjoy it more often.
After 3 days of Riesling, I have lots of thoughts, so I’m just going to give you the greatest hits:
• Riesling is incredible.
• 3 days of Riesling, including tastings more than 185 Rieslings, means your teeth hurt but you feel more enlightened.
• Australian Riesling, the more I have the more I like it. Its even better with a bit of age. I really dug the wines from Frankland Estate in Western Australia.
• Austria Riesling, just say yes! I love the wines and I love the producers. One of my favorite moments of the conference was sitting next to Heinz Frischengruber of Domaine Wachau during the Grosses Gewächs seminar and just rolling our eyes about how the Germans continue to make life harder for themselves with the various and difficult categories and systems.
• I was sad there no one from Alsace attended
• Karen MacNeil, the author of the Wine Bible, is a delightful and exceptionally knowledgeable person. I’m looking forward to the new edition of the Wine Bible.
• German Riesling, its still king and really fascinating to watch new producers and old styles coming into prominence. I got to reconnect with Clemens Busch, his wines are dope! Newly discovered producer that’s awesome – A. Christmann, particularly their single vineyard Idig, holy crap this wine is good!
• The world of Riesling is expanding and contracting – lots of new(and newish) regions were represented – New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Slovakia, Niagara and more. However during the blind tastings of 40 wines we were all surprised repeated by the quality of wines from non-traditional areas. Less and less are the traditional indicators of flavor and style applicable by region, too many great wines are coming from all sorts of places.
• I’m excited about the recently revived, historic, dry styles of German Riesling, and how the industry and consumers take to them. These were some of my favorite wines during the entire event.
• I hope the Grosses Gewächs system takes hold, ideally for all of Germany rather than region by region. The way Steffen Christmann explained it made lots of sense, essentially like the cru system in Burgundy, with optional sweetness levels. Lets see if it spreads and sticks…
• One of the most fascinating trends I saw was the Germans who are using spontaneous fermentations with indigenous yeasts to make their wines versus the manufactured yeasts being used elsewhere. The reason this is fascinating isn’t because of the natural component, but rather because the manufactured yeasts tend to produce wines that are more immediately enjoyable. The indigenous yeasts, combined with traditional practices, make wine that are less immediately enjoyable but age beautifully. I suppose it all boils down to what you’re looking for. I think both sides made strong arguments.
• I had a great time adding to my tasting and flavor knowledge really honing in on “sponti” aromas vs sulfur, as well as really honing my ability to pick up lime, mango, cantaloupe, and honeydew in Riesling in addition to the usual apples, pears, and stone fruit.
• I already knew this, but really experienced that it all about balance not just the acid or the sugar. I had plenty of wines that were high in acid and totally drinkable because of sugar and others that were just painful due to the lack of sugar. Ditto on sugar and being too cloying. Balance, its all about balance.
• Finally, after a discussion on marketing Riesling, I truly understand that Riesling attracts the nerdiest of the wine nerds. Unfortunately it doesn’t attract enough fun and gregarious folks. Everyone talks about systems, classifications, sugar levels, acid levels, fighting the good fight and all the rest. Fuck all of that, make Riesling fun. Have parties, only pour Riesling and invite rad people. Stop talking about the wine and let it just be lubricant for conversation and enjoyment of life. Riesling gets bogged down by its own fans. Kind of like parents who smother their kids with too much attention. So get out of its way and let Riesling be the star that we all know it can be.
It was fantastic watching Riesling bring lots of amazing people together. I hope it Riesling will continue to become a source of enlighten while adding vibrancy to our lives through balance.
Remember, when in doubt just pour Riesling.