Assessing non-dry styles of German Riesling

If you are confronted with a Prädikat Riesling from Germany, you may be asked to identify where it comes from specifically.  Here’s a way to approach the process of narrowing down your options.

While Rheinhessen does produce plenty of off dry/medium sweet wines, they are less regularly seen than those from other regions.  In general terms, Rheinhessen is warmer than Rheingau, Nahe or Mosel so more Trocken is produced here.  As such, I would probably discount Rheinhessen from the conversation if you have a Prädikat wine.

That leaves the big three: Mosel (including the subregions of Saar and Ruwer), Nahe and Rheingau.  Let’s look at the identifiers for each when it comes to Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese.

  • Mosel: featherweight wines which walk the tightrope balancing sweetness and acidity.  Delicate and even ethereal at times, particularly from the cooler Ruwer and Saar tributaries.  

  • Nahe: everyone forgets about Nahe, but there are some exceptional Prädikat wines from here (Dönnhoff, Diel etc).  It’s a slightly more powerful style than Mosel, and while it does enjoy plenty of tension and slatey minerality, it’s not quite as poised or nervy as Mosel - it’s just a touch riper and rounder.

  • Rheingau: more powerful than either Mosel or Nahe.  The wines are broad shouldered, full of fruit and richness and may be a degree or two higher in alcohol.  These are not wines of tension but instead of breadth and concentration.

Australian Riesling: regional styles

This is a short post on identifying regional styles for Riesling from Australia.  I’m focusing solely on the two most important regions - Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia - and the Rieslings from Western Australia, around Margaret River and elsewhere.

Worth noting for the whole country: look out for low pH in Australian Riesling.  Low pH (which is different from high acidity) gives a hard mouthfeel which can resemble phenolic grip (but note most Australian Riesling does not undergo skin contact).  The petrol note (TDN) is common across all regions and the standard is for the wines to be fully dry, unless a deliberate choice has been made otherwise.  This is in contrast to New Zealand.

Clare Valley: the classic source of Aussie Riesling.  Intense limey citrus, a powerful, vertical structure, very brisk and clean.  Detailed and intense.

Eden Valley: a bit softer, with slightly higher pH and lower acidity than Clare.  More floral and less limey.  Some wines (e.g. Pewsey Vale) can have a jasmine scent and more minerality than Clare.

Western Australia: riper and more fleshy and generous than Clare/Eden with more weight and dimension of flavour, including stone fruit.  Lacks the intensity of Clare and can also show less mid palate focus and concentration.