Lovely summer sippers
Back in the 1970s when I first became involved with the wine trade it was dominated by French, Italian and German selections.
Southern hemisphere or North American wines were unheard of; German Bernkasteler, Liebfraumilch, Piesporter and Niersteiner were all the rage. “Er” on the end means “from”, so Piesporter is from the town of Piesport and so on.
Liebfraumilch, that translates as “blessed mother's milk”, deserves an explanation. Hundreds of years ago, weary travellers knew that if they stopped by a monastery or convent they would receive water and bread to sustain them. In the town of Worms, however, the nuns at one convent offered a glass or two of the wine that they produced from their own vineyard; it became known as Liebfraumilch.
Possibly the best known family name is Loosen and their estate on the Mosel River has been in the family for more than 200 years. Today, Dr Loosen is run by Ernst Loosen who took over from his father in 1988. In 2001 he was named Germany's winemaker of the year by Weinguide Deutschland and in 2005 British Decanter magazine picked him as their man of the year.
Dr Loosen makes quite a range as riesling can span from bone dry to lusciously sweet. I know that “trocken”, or dry styles, are popular but I am still sold on what I refer to as the “good, old-fashioned, slightly sweet versions”.
We have just imported the 2014 Dr Loosen Riesling “Dr L”, which at $16.65 is an entry- level introduction to this historic estate. It embodies the elegant and racy characteristics of steep, slate-soil Mosel vineyards and it opens up with a fragrant lime and tangerine bouquet that is very bracing. It was made in stainless steel tanks and during fermentation, when the alcohol content reached 8.5 per cent, the juice was cooled and this stopped fermentation and left some natural, residual sugar. It is slightly sweet but the bright, cleansing acidity makes it very refreshing and a perfect pour at lunch, also with Asian and curry dishes. Riesling is on the way back!
I believe that much of the demise of German wines over the past couple of decades has been the complexity of the categories and labels. For instance one vineyard can produce a whole series of wines based on the amount of sugar in the must (juice). The price increases as we move from Qualitatswein to Spatlese (late picked) to Auslese (late picked selected bunches) to Beerenauslese (late picked selected berries) to finally the rather tongue-twisting Trockenbeerenauslese (late picked selected dried berries).
The last category is a gorgeously sweet and very expensive dessert wine. Wine can be from a subregion called a Bereich, or a group of similar vineyards called a Grosslage, or even a single vineyard site called an Einzellagen.
Some wineries have adopted the KISS principle of “keep it simple stupid” and Schloss (castle) Vollrads is one of them with their Schloss Vollrads Riesling 2014. They do offer every quality level and, as they have been cultivating the riesling grape since 1211, they are one of the world's oldest wineries. It is said that their Graue Haus (grey house), built in 1097, is the oldest stone house in Germany. It is also considered to be one of the top 100 wineries in existence on our planet.
Peach, pink-grapefruit, tangerine and a lip-smacking touch of sugar all add up to a wine that, they say at this winery, is designed to make you happy. Add to this happiness the fact that the weaker euro has just allowed us to reduce the price from $25.10 to $22.90.
As we expand more into the homeland of Riesling, we now carry the St Urbans-Hof Riesling Old Vines 2014 and this particular wine has had the rare honour of appearing on the annual Wine Spectator magazine “Top 100 Wines in the World” list five times. Wine & Spirits Magazine gives it a 90/100 and writes: “Spicy acidity gives this rich, fruity wine an elegant line wending through peach, mango and pineapple flavours with persistence and drive.” $21.75.
• This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm