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Our last Riesling offer from JJ Prüm focussed on Spätlese, Auslese and Eiswein Riesling.

Today we seek Perfect Balance exploring the Trocken (Dry) vs Kabinett (sweet yet perfectly balanced) Rieslings of 3 of the great German makers.

Each pairing offers the same or adjacent fruit source made as a Dry wine with up to 9g/L sugar and a Kabinett style with up to 45g/L sugar.

Put the tech stuff aside through and focus on the old favourites to assess the wines: depth and length of flavour and aroma, balance, complexity, texture, and, freshness with good pre-bottling development. Most importantly harmony and a style that showed personality.

If you listen carefully to the glass you’ll hear them whispering ‘DRINK ME! DRINK ME!’

The Context – German Riesling

The Contrast – 2 Styles: Trocken vs Kabinett

3 Makers: Dr Loosen, Keller, and, Wagner-Stempel

2 Regions: Mosel and Rheinhessen

If you really want to get your head around these wines, taste at least 2 at a time.

The Trocken and Kabinett from a producer is a solid way to go. It makes it so much easier to find the differences and helps you to appreciate each wine’s qualities. Having a glass for each wine is the way to go!

If you’re up for it taste them all at once with some scaly mates. Don’t fear they’ll last for a couple of days open.

Watch out for offers from us giving you the opportunity to taste in Context and with Contrast.

Tips for Drinking these Wines

🌡Temp: 8-10°C. If they’re in the fridge let them warm a little. Start cold and experiment. You’ll find they become more expressive as they warm up.

De-gassing: Many Rieslings are bottled with a significant amount of dissolved CO2. It has the effect of helping protect the wine from oxygen in bottle and allowing it to stay fresher for longer. It’s a common practice world wide, typically seen in young Semillon from the Hunter too. I find it masks the aromas and flavours of wine. It’s easily removed by pouring a small glass from the bottle then replacing the screwcap or putting your hand over the top of the bottle, giving it a vigorous shake, allowing the foam to settle and then releasing the pressure by undoing the screw cap or removing your hand. Once is usually enough, go again if you think it needs it. Added bonus is the introduction of oxygen to the wine helping it open up and start to show itself in the glass a little earlier.

⏳Time: I love trying good wines stand alone, with food, and, often the next day. It gives them the chance to shine and ensures you don’t miss a good wine through impatience or fail to bring out it’s best by not marrying them to food. These young Rieslings will open up and be more expressive with a bit of time in the glass.

🕯Cellaring: Riesling, when young has a raw attractiveness to it, age it and you’ll see it go through several phases of development. After a few years the youthful primary characters subside, the wine comes together, more sophisticated aromas and flavours develop. After 10 years what we call secondary characters associated with ageing wines start to develop and layer in, creating complexity, they become adults. The good ones will continue to age beautifully for decades. Seriously, get at least 2 x 6 Packs drink one soon and put the other away. If you really want to find the true potential of these wines get 3 or more 6 packs from these 2 excellent vintages and lose one somewhere for a decade!

Food Match: These are incredibly versatile wines, in Australia we love drinking them with fresh vibrant Asian food, they great with seafood, but can easily go toe to toe with chicken, pork and mid-weight pasta. Riesling and cheese work particularly well together! The little bit of fat balanced by the acid and the salt of bringing out the flavours beautifully.

Tasting Order: Taste the Trocken(s) first then Kabinett(s).

The Styles

Look out for the balance in these Trocken vs Kabinett wine pairs. The Kabinetts have lower alcohol, higher acidity and higher sugar, the reverse for the Trocken wines, yet both are beautifully balanced. When you think about this it makes perfect sense. When you’re cooking, and, a dish is a little tart, you add a sprinkle of sugar, when, it’s too sweet perhaps a squirt of lemon juice for acid to balance it.

Add to this the depth of fruit, both are made from seriously high quality fruit, the residual sugar is not being used as a substitute for low quality fruit in the Kabinetts, simply to make a different style. I love both, which gets grabbed from the cellar just depends on what I feel like on the day.

You can read more about the different Riesling styles including sugar, Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese, from the Riesling Maestro Ernie Loosen in here.

Trocken or Dry

Alcohol: 9.5-13% Acid:  ~7g/L Sugar:  Up to 9g/L

Trocken styles can contain up to 9g/L sugar.  With the natural acidity of Riesling, particularly in the cooler climates of the Mosel and Rheinhessen the small amount of residual sugar simply, combined with the higher alcohol in the Trocken wines compared with the Kabinett balances the wine, giving it a sense of generosity and harmony. If you’re not told you probably wouldn’t even know it was there! The grapes for Trocken styles will have less influence from Botrytis or Noble Rot than the dessert styles.

The Keller at 9.5% Alc and 3g/L sugar, is the most elegant of the three, the Wagner-Stemple at 12.5% Alc from the warmest part of the Rheinhessen the most immediately rich. With the same 12.5% Alc, the Dr Loosen GG shows just how much difference the site makes.  The restraint of the cool, steep, slate slopes of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard shows. Look out for the serious depth of fruit just waiting to pop. With a few more years in bottle, it’ll really shine.

Kabinett or Lightly Sweet

Alcohol: ~8 % Acid:  ~8.5 g/L Sugar:  ~40-45 g/L

Of the styles including sugar, the freshest style is Kabinett with little influence from Botrytis.

The standard line for the German’s being that where the English offer tea to guests in the afternoon the German’s offer Kabinett or Spätlese wines, more akin to a table wine. That said I devoured a Wagner-Stemple Kabinett, with pasta and cheese on a 38°C day in Melbourne, perfection!

You can see the different condition of the grapes and the detailed selection process required to produce the different styles in the film below. Starts at 2mins 30sec.

The Regions

In general, you’ll find the wines from the Mosel, particularly the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard, to finer, more restrained than the wines of the Rheinhessen. The Wagner-Stemple will be the fullest of the 3 makers, a reflection of Daniel’s sites.

Map by Fernando Beteta, MS @fernandobeteta on Twitter

The Mosel

The Mosel river snakes its way between dramatically steep, slatey slopes from just south of the ancient Roman city of Trier to Koblenz to the north, where it empties into the Rhine. The valley is home to many of the world’s most famous Riesling vineyards. The wines are richly fragrant, pale to golden in colour and light-bodied with lively acidity. The slaty soil lends a distinctive taste to wines which range from fine and fruity to earthy or flinty, often with a hint of spritz.

In the video below Ernie Loosen talks about the famed Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyards. Checkout:

  • How ridiculously steep the site is!
  • Note the slate that makes up such a high percentage of the ground.
  • How much manual labour has to go into working the site.
  • How small the bunches are and how few there are per vine.
  • The grapes that look rotten, but actually, have a beautiful natural Botrytis infection or Noble Rot, that will impart so much personality & texture into the wine.
  • The natural river fogs create the perfect environment for Noble Rot, like the caves of Roquefort for its delicious blue moulds.

The Rheinhessen

Deep within a valley of gently rolling hills, bordered by the Nahe River and the Rhine rivers, lies the region of Rheinhessen. Germany’s largest wine growing region by area is a land of varying climates and geography. Many different types of grapes, both red and white, are planted, producing medium-bodied wine that is delicately fragrant. Some of the finest white wines in Germany are produced among the Rheinterrassen – the vineyards on gentle slopes directly facing the Rhine near the town of Nierstein. Celebrated Riesling author Stuart Pigott calls this “the dream factory of dry German white wine”.

The video below is in German, it’s well worth watching. Look out for:

  • The difference with the soils, red clay with little stone, compared it to the slate Mosel vineyard of Wehlener Sonnenuhr.
  • Most of the vineyards are on rolling hills rather than steep slopes.
  • The vineyards are spread across a broader area, compared with a thin strip adjacent to the river as in the Mosel.
  • You’ll see the tiny bunches of Riesling they look to be 50-100g per bunch, very small.
  • Note the berries, you’ll see small ones and big ones, known as Chicken and Hen in English and Millerendage in Frecnh. These small berries are concentrated powerhouses of juicy acid and vibrant flavours.
  • Watch Peter Keller removing individual berries from bunches by hand in the vineyard, trust me, this is not for the camera! It’s painstaking work and one of those 1 percenters that takes wine from being good to exhilerating.
A Bunch of Riesling with ‘Chicken & Hen’ Berries

The Makers

Dr Loosen

Loosen has been in the same family for more than 200 years and its present guardian, Ernst Loosen, is one of the great characters of the wine world. He assumed ownership of the estate in 1988 and immediately realised that, with ungrafted vines averaging 60 years old in some of Germany’s best-rated vineyards, he had the raw materials to create stunningly intense, world-class wines. To achieve this, Erni dramatically reduced his crop size and ceased using chemical fertilisers, preferring only moderate use of organic fertilisers. And, most importantly, he turned to gentler cellar practices that allow the wine to develop to its full potential with a minimum of handling and technological meddling.

Keller 

It’s interesting that Klaus-Peter trained with Hubert and Romain Ligner, and, Eric Rousseau in Burgundy. The parallels between the domains are worth considering. Meticulous care of the vineyards, low yields, wines of great harmony and texture. It’s the last, texture that has always fascinated me as a winemaker. It’s the one that often separates the great wines of Europe from their Australian counterparts, and, the one I was heavily focused on refining at Yarra Yering.

Keller has been in the family since 1789. Their 18ha holding consists of 15ha of Grand Cru sites. The Limestone and Von der Fels Rieslings are blessed to incorporate GG fruit!

“For me the best riesling is not supposed to be a monster riesling. The word high quality in combination with riesling is for me precision, finesse and minerality. When the glass is finished I must be eager to drink the next one- only then do I know that the wine is good.” Klaus-Peter Keller

Since taking the reigns in 2001 Klaus-Peter has gradually increased the proportion of dry Riesling produced by the estate, and, it is these wines that have brought critical acclaim. Read more about Keller here.

Wagner-Stemple 

Daniel Wagner is known in Germany as Mr Riesling. It’s a richly deserved moniker. Siefersheim is located in the extreme west of the German region known as Rheinhessen, just a few kilometres south of the town of Bad Kreuznach, amidst a landscape of steep hills of volcanic origin, interspersed with heath, untouched brooks and small streams, old stone quarries and overgrown walls built of rocks, the gateway to the region known as the “Rheinhessische Schweiz” (Switzerland of Rheinhessen).

The foundation for the Wagner estate was laid in 1845, with earlier generations shaping what was originally a classic mixed farming operation into a widely renowned wine estate, and leading the Höllberg and Heerkretz vineyard sites to supra-regional importance in the early decades of the 20th century.

The fruits of Daniel’s passion for wine are evident each year in a range of wines characterized by clarity and freshness on the one hand, challenging, complex and concentrated on the other hand. An original style, as confirmed by critics, and acceptance into the elite circle of premium wine producers in 2004, as well as the awarding “Newcomer of the Year” by Gerhard Eichelmann and the wine critics of the Gault Millau WineGuide are a clear indication that the wines made by Daniel Wagner are something special indeed.

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Finding the Perfect Balance - The Dry vs Kabinett Rieslings of Dr Loosen, Keller & Wagner-Stemple

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About the Wines

Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2016

Grape Variety: 100% Riesling

Soil Type: Blue Devonian slate

Age of Vines: 60 years average; ungrafted

Viticulture: Sustainable, according to strict German environmental regulations

Average Yield: 50 hl/ha Harvest Method: Selective hand picking

Harvest Date: October 2016

Vinification: Cool fermentation in a combination of stainless steel tanks and traditional Fuder barrels; half fermented with natural yeasts, half with cultured yeasts; fermentation stopped by chilling

Bottling date: June 2017 Alcohol: 8.0%

Residual Sweetness: 42.4 grams/liter

Total Acidity: 8.4 grams/liter

Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2015

All of these single-vineyard GG wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts in 1,000 or 3,000-liter oak casks and left on the lees for 12 months with no batonnage.

The famous “sundial” vineyard, in the village of Wehlen, produces the quintessential Mosel Riesling: delicate and refined, with racy minerality and endless charm. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr GG exhibits the delicate style and penetrating floral/citrus intensity that is typical of the blue slate soil.

NOTE: “Grosses Gewächs” (grow-sess guh-vex) simply means “great growth” in German. It is the term used for a producer’s best dry wine from a classified Grosse Lage (equivalent to “grand cru”) vineyard, indicated by the “GG” on the bottle.

Grape Variety: 100% Riesling Vineyard

Source: The very old “Laichen” parcel of Wehlener Sonnenuhr

Soil Type: Blue Devonian slate

Age of Vines: Over 100 years; on original rootstocks Vineyard

Management: Sustainable, according to strict German environmental regulations

Vinification: Fermented with indigenous yeast in a 3,000-liter, neutral oak, cask; matured on the full lees for 12 months; no bâtonnage

Alcohol: 12.5%

Total Acidity: 7.3 grams/liter

Residual Sweetness: 8.7 grams/liter

94 Points

Because Erni Loosen has been making the GGs from the Würzgarten, Treppchen and Prälat longer than this wine, it often gets ignored or underrated. The nose is like a huge bouquet of flowers, and you need some time to take them all in. The palate’s generous and juicy, but also very elegant and graceful, the very ripe gently acidity lifting the rich body. Intensely mineral finish

Stuart Pigott (JamesSuckling.com)

Keller 'Limestone' Kabinett 2016

Sourced from the younger plots of the prized ‘First Growth’ Abtserde & Kirschspiel vineyards which were deemed to be “just perfect” for Kabinett. And as with the Limestone, this is only made in exceptional years when the fruit is deemed worthy by Klaus Peter. Displaying all the hallmarks of a Keller classic, it walks the tightrope balancing sweetness and acidity with aplomb. White blossom, dried herbs, concentrated citrus, orchard fruits and a talcy minerality. Energy, power, drive and persistence.

Balance+

This is a demonstration of how to make sweet / off dry white wine. The incredible acidity that the Rheinhessen is capable of producing is the perfect base to work with to make pure off-dry Riesling. Keller have got this bang on. The right amount of vinosity to taste like proper wine and not grape juice, with a level of complexity that is a sign of the quality GG vineyards from which the fruit is sourced. It’s a fun, vibrant and refreshing drink. Lovely citrus and floral notes.

Paul Kaan - Chief Wine Hacker, Wine Decoded

95 Points

Keller ist Keller. Amazing producer. Beautiful talc perfume, and maybe something like guava, ripe lime, rocks and candles, and, well, just other delightful Riesling stuff. Intense lime and green apple, chalky and slaty, good punch of crystalline acidity tussling with juicy sweetness, and an uplifting finish of perfume, precision and lip-smacking satisfaction. This is how you do a pow pow powerful off-dry Riesling.

Gary Walsh

Keller 'Limestone' 2016

Sourced from the same younger plots of the prized ‘First Growth’ Abtserde & Kirschspiel vineyards as the Limestone Kabinett.

Pure

It's great to see this Trocken (dry) side by side with the Kabinett (off-dry), from the same fruit source. Wick opportunity, to see both styles, how good they both can be. This dry version can still have up to 9g/L sugar. At the end of the day it’s not about the numbers. The big question is, have they made a beautifully balanced, delicious wine. The answer, definitively yes. The juicy acid, has the depth of fruit to back.otes.

Paul Kaan - Chief Wine Hacker, Wine Decoded

94 Points

Not to be confused with the Keller Riesling Limestone Kabinett. That tension between sweetness and acidity always seems to be so nicely judged in this wine, and no change here. Perfumed, juicy stonefruit and sweet green apple, light chalkiness, refreshing ‘just so’ acidity, with a subtle quinine bitterness on the finish providing a fond tweak of farewell. Hard not to race through a glass, and would be great with the right kind of Asian food.

Gary Walsh

Wagner-Stemple Riesling Kabinett 2016

A Kabinett style that shows candied notes and prominent sweetness, not as light-footed as similar wines from the Mosel region, but which nevertheless presses all the right buttons one expects from a Kabinett Riesling. The wine is simply bursting with juicy aromas such as peaches, yellow plums, melon, pineapple, candied ginger and violets. In addition there is just a hint of petrol, which blends in very well with the nose. On the palate, there is an appealing, playful, lively and refreshing balance of fresh acidity, prominent sweetness and fruit extract. In addition, there are smoky and salty aromas on a long finish. A lively, playful Kabinett that weaves a cocoon of elegant sweetness like cotton candy around the ripe fruit.

Wagner-Stemple Riesling Porphyr 2015

The most complex Riesling in the communal wine series is that from Siefersheim, sourced mainly from the HEERKRETZ site. The wine has a tremendous array of aromas, and is the communal wine that is most expressive and powerful on the palate. Part of the reason for this complexity lies in the excellent vineyard sites, but also in the fact that the wine is a blend of batches fermented in stainless steel tanks and 600 litre barrels, with some batches using cultured yeasts and other wild yeasts. The „Porphyr“is always the herbaceous representative among the communal wines. Aromas of linden flowers, camomile and sage define the nose, as well as notes of yellow and exotic fruit. This year, the acid bite is
much less evident. On the palate you can expect to find the mineral notes, reminiscent of sea salt, typical of the ‘Porphyr’.

Raises the Bar

An absolute power house, such intrigue, texture and flavour! The Porphyr is a fuller style Riesling with insane depth. The texture teases, the complex perfume carrying through to the palate. Chalky acid giving it a lovely clean finish. The flavours lingering. Dissecting it a bit you could see some detail from skin contact and barrel work that just added to the fun! If the Riesling Trocken is an aperitif, the Porphyr’s got you set for a Raclette!

Paul Kaan - Chief Wine Hacker, Wine Decoded

95 Points

Medium to light straw yellow colour. The bouquet is attractively floral, with dried wildflower traces and rocky mineral traces. The palate is intense and crisp, with some raciness. The acidity is brisk and the palate and finished are well-balanced and long. There’s a juiciness in the mid-palate, which enriches the flavour and carries it long through the finish. Excellent wine.

Huon Hooke, The Real Review

Fascinating

From Heerkretz and Holberg vineyards. Middle age vines, that is, not old vines or young vines. Porphyr seems to tick a lot of boxes, year in-year out. Steel and wet slate scents. Austere perfume. Some greenery, herbs, briar, then green citrus and lime juice. Understated and appealing. Steely in palate. Rapier thrust of glass shard-like acidity with a splash of juiciness around it. Set in the tonic water vein. Ultra quinine. Fascinating.

Mike Bennie, winefront.com.au