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September 25, 2017

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Queen of white grapes: The joy of German riesling

The eminent British wine writer Jancis Robinson has described riesling as the "queen of white grapes." About 60 percent of all the world's riesling comes from Germany, and two recent tastings of German rieslings demonstrated the wisdom of Robinson's assessment.

The grape variety needs special conditions of climate and terroir to express its majesty, and these are found across Germany.

Warm days during the ripening period plus cool nights produce deep and long flavors, especially in the premier regions of the Rhine river valley, Rheingau, and the Mosel valley.

One of the best producers in Mosel is Clemens Busch. Winemaker Busch said the vineyard operates on bio-dynamic principles. This produces fruit that has a purity and pedigree that makes one's mouth water in anticipation.

The 2010 Clemens Busch "vom rotten schiefer" is made from vines that range from 20 to 30 years of age. The name translates "from red slate" and the rock gives a mineral edge to the wine, as well as a slightly salty flavor.

It smells of gooseberries and grapefruit and the acid-fruit balance is superb, offering tropical fruit flavors and a penetrating acid that would be perfect with fried fish or dumplings.

Busch said that after gentle de-stemming and crushing, the free-run juice is fermented with natural yeast before being stored in large wooden casks and stainless steel tanks. "Long contact with the yeast ensures intense flavors," he said.

Writing in Decanter magazine, eminent critic Stephen Brook said Busch's site was perfect for riesling and his wines showed "remarkable power." This wine is drinking well now but would be better in five years.

The 2010 Clemens Busch Pundericher Marienburg tastes of lemon and limes and has a similar acid zing. The nose suggests a touch of honey. The fermentation process is similar to the previous wine, though this one has a slightly creamy texture meaning it would pair well with chicken or drunken crab.

The vineyard is located on the Mosel river opposite the town of Punderich. Brook described Pundericher Marienburg as one of Mosel's great vineyard sites. The river moderates the summer heat and yet keeps the vineyard warm in spring and autumn.

The 2009 edition of this wine was less expressive, like a shy bride, but eventually offered flavors of honey, peach and candied fruit, and had an oily richness that was most appealing. It would match well with noodles and dried shrimp or white-meat stirfry, or perhaps a Thai green papaya and pomelo salad.

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