Riesling Masters 2016: the results
Quality across the board was encouragingly high in our latest Global Riesling Masters competition, with producers from the Old and New Worlds impressing with their sweet and dry expressions, finds Rupert Millar.
The Global Riesling Masters has established itself as one of the most popular tastings in the Masters series, not only because of the lingering affection for the variety held by most of the trade, but also because this faith is rewarded by an impressive level of quality and consistency.
“Riesling is always strong, and this was borne out again,” said Jonathan Pedley MW, while Hugo Rose MW agreed it was a “high-quality tasting overall – with few wines rejected or not being awarded a medal. I think the results will show strength at every level; there was a strong showing from countries such as Canada, the US, Australia and Austria.”
The judges were especially positive about the diversity of styles in the dry and sweet categories, the ripe character of the German and Austrian wines from the 2015 vintage, the ‘personality’ of many of the New World wines and the value of wines made at all levels with this variety. Yet, there were also concerns about the perennial problem of levels of sweetness and sulphur in certain wines.
Overall, two Masters were awarded; fittingly one went to a dry wine and one to a sweet. In the dry camp was an Austrian wine from Kremstal, a 2011 ‘Riesling Privat Senftenberger Pellingen 1 ÖTW’ from Weingut Nigl, and in the sweet corner a 2007 vendanges tardives from Domaine Charles Sparr in Alsace. Both were in their respective £20- £30 brackets.
Austria led the pack in the Gold medal leagues with five; Germany and Australia garnered four apiece, France two and there was one apiece for South Africa and New Zealand. There was a good haul of Silver medals across the board, even if it remained the highest medal colour for entries from the US, Chile and Canada.
RANGE OF STYLES
Perhaps Riesling’s greatest strength is the diverse range of styles it’s capable of producing. Naturally, therefore, it was a key talking point at the tasting, particularly as a lot of the wines didn’t always conform to classical stereotype. Rose mentioned the “old school” and “new wave” but, crucially, pointed out that, “new wave doesn’t always mean New World; there were some from Germany”.
The richer wines from Germany and Austria are a clear consequence of the warm 2015 vintage. Alcohol levels were quite high and the fruit profile was often more tropical and peachy than the citrus and lime one might expect. “Stylistically, there was a trend away from fresh green apple to tropical,” said Roberto Della Pietra.
“Germany and Austria have certainly benefitted from 2015,” said Pedley, “and because it was such a star vintage a lot of the top wines are gorgeous for drinking now – will they age though?” he pondered. Australia also performed very strongly, and there were a number of lean, rather racy wines – “with bottle age too”, noted a pleased Pedley – that stood in contrast to their riper, often younger, European cousins.
Matthew Forster MW praised the New World wines in particular for their diversity, saying it was clear that producers were “really exploiting” the potential of Riesling. He added: “The tasting showed there’s space for both styles, and I felt some of the Austrian wines were the apogée of that dry, full-on style – and the Australians were very good too.”
Austria and Australia in particular seemed to be the two countries where the judges had favourites, with the New World perhaps having the edge. Rose stated that, generally speaking, he was: “More impressed with the New World than the majority of wines I would call ‘classic’. They had more definition and personality.
“The classics had beautiful balance but perhaps not those other qualities.” Pedley noted he would have liked to have seen a few more Alsatian wines (despite one winning a Master) and Della Pietra commented on the scarcity of Chilean wines.
SWEETNESS AND SULPHUR
Clement Robert MS said he was “more impressed by the sweet wines rather than the dry and Pedley agreed that there were some “very good sweets”, but added there seemed to be something of a qualitative gap in the “medium” category – indeed, there was only one Gold in the category and the number of Bronze medals exceeded the Golds.
What made some of the ‘medium’ wines so hard to judge was the sugar levels were more uneven. Admittedly, the range of category, from 12-45 grams per litre, is broader than most, but nonetheless some seemed closer to dry wines while others might almost have deserved to be in a sweeter category.
Pedley added that it was a neat example of one of the reasons consumers remain so wary of Riesling as they have, “no idea if it will be sweet” – or, at least, how sweet it will be. Even though wines put into the Riesling Masters are categorised by sweetness levels (as well as price), with bands for wines under 4g/l, from 4- 12g/l and more than 45g/l, it is clear that even for the trade it’s not a simple thing to pin down exactly.
What chance then for the consumer? As Pedley summed up, sweet Rieslings are one of the variety’s greatest strengths but also, “its curse”. “Sweetness, but also the ‘egginess’ from sulphur, is what holds Riesling back from consumers,” countered Robert, for whom the issue of the (over-) use of sulphur and filtration is clearly a sore point.
Although he professed to be “impressed by cleaner, more fruit-driven wines”, he still felt quite a few showed the signs of reduction or stripped-out flavours. As he admitted: “You will always find very good Riesling with a lot of sulphur – Egon Müller for example.” Nonetheless, he continued: “It’s still difficult to appreciate sulphured wines.
A lot of winemakers still use too much sulphur and you end up with reductive wines.” There were definitely wines that were “refined and austere”, Pedley noted, but “in a good way”, and he added it was good to see producers from all countries “aiming for that leaner style”.
VALUE FOR MONEY
One aspect of the tasting that was particularly pleasing was the value for money Riesling represents – yet another reason to lament that sweetness levels mean many drinkers still steer clear of it. Forster said that while the, “quality was very high at all levels, wines under £10 show real value for the consumer”. Rose agreed: “We were pleased with many of the lower-priced wines.
They were clean and well made, giving a lot to the consumer. They are not banal wines.” With experience at several Masters tastings now, Pedley declared that the general standard was higher than for other varieties.
Like Forster, he particularly praised wines below £10. “You’ll find Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay at £10 and below that can be dilute and disappointing,” he said. Meanwhile, he added: “The price of top-quality Riesling remains very reasonable. It’s one of the great-value wines.”
|Trinchero Family Estates||Sutter Home Riesling||California||US||NV||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Schloss Wachenheim||Edition Crément Pfalz Sekt Brut||Pfalz||Germany||2014||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Thirty Bench Wine Makers||Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling||Niagara Peninsula||Canada||NV||Silver|
Dry Riesling – Under 4g/l
|Weingut Ulrich Langguth||3 Terraces Riesling Qualitätswein||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Weingut Türk||Riesling Kremser Weinzierlberg||Kremstal||Austria||2015||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Leasingham||Bin 7 Clare Valley Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2013||Gold|
|Weingut Türk||Riesling Kremser Wachtberg – Erste Lage||Kremstal||Austria||2015||Silver|
|Domaine Jean Sipp||Riesling Reserve||Alsace||France||2014||Silver|
|Weingut von Winning||Deidesheimer Mäushöhle||Pfalz||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Shortlist Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2015||Silver|
|Bird in Hand||Bird in Hand Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Domaine Michel Fonne||Domaine Michel Fonne Riesling Tradition||Alsace||France||2014||Bronze|
|Domaine Charles Sparr||Charles Sparr Riesling “Tradition”||Alsace||France||2015||Bronze|
|Bouchard Finlayson||Blanc de Mer||Western Cape||South Africa||2015||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Shortlist Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2008||Gold|
|Leasingham||Classic Clare Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2008||Gold|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Shortlist Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2010||Silver|
|Gatt Wines||Gatt High Eden Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2010||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Shortlist Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2009||Bronze|
|Jacob’s Creek||Steingarten Riesling Eden Valley||Eden Valley||Australia||2013||Bronze|
|Gatt Wines||Gatt High Eden Riesling||Eden Valley||Australia||2015||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Weingut Nigl||Riesling Privat Senftenberger Pellingen 1 ÖTW||Kremstal||Austria||2011||Master|
|Friedrich Becker||Riesling “Sonnenberg” VDP Großes Gewächs||Pfalz||Germany||2011||Gold|
|Trefethen Family Vineyards||Dry Riesling||Napa Valley||US||2015||Silver|
|Ten Miles East||Riesling||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Schloss Johannisberg||Riesling Silberlack GG||Rheingau||Germany||2014||Bronze|
|Weingut Bernhard Mehrlein||Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein Kamptal DAC Erste Lage||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Bronze|
|£30 – £50|
|Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg||Schloss Gobelsburg Ried Heiligenstein Erste Lage Kamptal DAC Riesling||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Gold|
|Weingut Bründlmayer||Riesling Zoebinger Heiligenstein 1 ÖTW Lyra, Kamptal DA||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Gold|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||St Andrews Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2014||Silver|
|Weingut Bründlmayer||Riesling Steinmassl 1 ÖTW 2015, Kamptal DAC Reserve||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||St Andrews Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2012||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||St Andrews Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2016||Bronze|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||St Andrews Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2013||Bronze|
|Gustave Lorentz||Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim ‘Addict 1.23’||Alsace||France||2010||Gold|
Medium dry Riesling – 4g/l to 12g/l
|Viña Cousiño Macul||Isidora Riesling||Maipo||Chile||2015||Silver|
|Reh Kendermann||Kendermanns Special Edition Riesling||Pfalz||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Dr. Loosen||Wachenheimer Belz Riesling Qualitätswein||Pfalz||Germany||2014||Silver|
|Reh Kendermann||Riesling Löss||Pfalz||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Weingut Ulrich Langguth||Renaissance Riesling Qualitätswein||Mosel||Germany||2014||Silver|
|Weingut Ulrich Langguth||3 Terraces Riesling Qualitätswein||Mosel||Germany||2014||Bronze|
|Zimmermann – Graeff & Muller||Michel Schneider Riesling Trocken||Pfalz||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|Cantina di La-Vis e Valle di Cembra||Cancòr Riesling CEMBRA Trentino DOC||Trento||Italy||2015||Bronze|
|Viña Cono Sur||Reserva Especial Riesling||Bio Bio||Chile||2015||Bronze|
|Cantina di La-Vis e Valle di Cembra||Simboli Riesling Trentino DOC||Trento||Italy||2015||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Weingut Leitz||Dragonstone, Rheingau Riesling||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Gold|
|Nederburg Wines||The Winemasters Riesling||Coastal||South Africa||2015||Gold|
|Trinchero Family Estates||Charles & Charles Riesling||Yakima Valley||US||2015||Silver|
|Dr. Loosen||Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Qualitätswein||Mosel||Germany||2012||Silver|
|Brotherhood Winery||Winemaker’s Private Selection Riesling||Finger Lakes||US||2014||Silver|
|Nederburg Wines||The Winemasters Riesling||Western Cape||South Africa||2016||Bronze|
|Weingut Bernhard Mehrlein||Mittelheimer Edelmann||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Hardys||Hardys HRB Riesling||Tasmania & Yarra||Australia||2014||Gold|
|Rudolf Rabl||Riesling Auslese||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Gold|
|Weingut Ludwig Neumayer||Riesling Grillenbart||Traisental||Austria||2015||Silver|
|Chateau Ste. Michelle||Dry Riesling Columbia Valley||Columbia Valley||US||2015||Silver|
|De Bortoli Wines||Yarra Valley Single Vineyard Section A7 Riesling||Yarra Valley||Australia||2015||Silver|
|Rudolf Rabl||Riesling Steinhaus Rote Erde||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Silver|
|Schloss Vollrads||Riesling Spätlese||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Breuer + Mehrlein + Lundén||Riesling Venture||Rheingau||Germany||2014||Silver|
|De Bortoli Wines||La Bohème Act One Riesling||Yarra Valley||Australia||2015||Bronze|
|Weingut Dolle||Riesling Gaisberg Kamptal DAC Qualität||Kamptal||Austria||2013||Bronze|
|Weingut Ludwig Neumayer||Riesling Rothenbart 1. Lage Reserve||Traisental||Austria||2015||Bronze|
|Thirty Bench Wine Makers||Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard||Beamsville Bench||Canada||2014||Bronze|
|Ste. Michelle Wine Estates||Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley||Columbia Valley||US||2014||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Rudolf Rabl||Riesling Schenkenbichl Alte Reben||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Gold|
|Domaine Jean Sipp||Grand Cru Kirchberg de Ribeauvillé||Alsace||France||2011||Gold|
|Weingut Schloss Vollrads||Weingut Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett feinherb Rheingau||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Gold|
|Weingut Dolle||Riesling Reserve Privat Qualitätswein||Kamptal||Austria||2013||Gold|
|Domaine Charles Sparr||Charles Sparr Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg||Alsace||France||2013||Silver|
|Schloss Vollrads||Weingut Schloss Vollrads Riesling Kabinett||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Weingut Leitz||Berg Schlossberg, Rüdesheimer Riesling Trocken “Ehrenfels” GG||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Friedrich Becker||Riesling “Sonnenberg” VDP Großes Gewächs||Pflaz||Germany||2009||Silver|
|Weingut Ludwig Neumayer||Riesling Der Wein vom Stein Reserve||Traisental||Austria||2015||Bronze|
|£30 – £50|
|Weingut Hans Wirsching||Iphöfer Julius Echter Berg Riesling||Franken||Germany||2014||Silver|
|Hermann Moser||Riesling Kellerterrassen Gebling 1 ÖTW Erste Lage||Kremstal||Austria||2015||Silver|
|Schloss Johannisberg||Mittelhölle Spätlese||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Weingut Schloss Vollrads||Schloss Vollrads Riesling Schlossberg VDP. Großes Gewächs||Rheingau||Germany||2014||Silver|
|Hermann Moser||Riesling Kellerterrassen Gebling 1 ÖTW Erste Lage||Kremstal||Austria||2012||Bronze|
|Weingut Sonnhof Jurtschitsch KG||Zöbinger Heiligenstein Alte Reben Kamptal DAC Erste Lage||Kamptal||Austria||2015||Bronze|
Medium Riesling – 12g/l to 45g/l
|Schmitt Söhne||Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Riesling Qualitätswein||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Zimmermann – Graeff & Muller||Peter & Peter Riesling aus der Steillage Feinherb||Mosel||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|Reh Kendermann||Kendermanns Riesling||Pfalz||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|Peter Mertes||Peter Mertes Mosel Riesling QbA||Mosel||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Schmitt Söhne||Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Kabinett||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Ribbonwood Winery||Ribbonwood Riesling||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Bronze|
|Bird in Hand||Honeysuckle Riesling||Clare Valley||Australia||2016||Bronze|
|£15 – £20|
|Thirty Bench Wine Makers||Small Lot Riesling Wood Post Vineyard||Beamsville Bench||Canada||2014||Silver|
|Trius||Trius Showcase Riesling Ghost Creek Vineyard||Four Mile Creek||Canada||2015||Bronze|
|Thirty Bench Wine Makers||Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard||Beamsville Bench||Canada||2014||Bronze|
|£20 – £30|
|Doris und Matthias Hager||Riesling Alte Reben Fruchtsüss||Kamptal||Austria||2011||Bronze|
|£30 – £50|
|Crown Range Cellar||Drowsy Fish Waipara Riesling||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Gold|
|Weingut Tegernseerhof||Kellerberg Riesling Smaragd||Wachau||Austria||2013||Silver|
|Sweet Riesling – over 45g/l|
|Reh Kendermann||Kendermanns Riesling Mosel||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Reh Kendermann||Kendermanns Riesling Spätlese||Rheinhessen||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|Peter Mertes||Peter Mertes Gold Edition Bernkasteler Graben Kabinett||Mosel||Germany||2015||Bronze|
|£10 – £15|
|Brotherhood Winery||Late Harvest Riesling||Finger Lakes||US||2014||Silver|
|Schmitt Söhne||Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Spätlese||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|Schmitt Söhne||Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Auslese||Mosel||Germany||2015||Silver|
|£20 – £30|
|Domaine Charles Sparr||Charles Sparr Riesling Vendanges Tardives||Alsace||France||2007||Master|
|£30 – £50|
|Schloss Johannisberg||Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Grünlack Spätlese||Rheingau||Germany||2015||Gold|
|Schloss Johannisberg||Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling GG||Rheingau||Germany||2014||Silver|