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The world’s best Rieslings from the Masters 2017

Riesling is beloved by the wine trade, and our latest Riesling Masters showed why. With wonderful expressions from a wide range of countries and regions, there was something to appeal to every palate and budget, writes Patrick Schmitt MW


It has been said before, but if there is one thing that marks out a wine professional, it is a love of Riesling. While consumers will often declare a preference for a particular grape, very few outside the trade tend to pick Riesling as their favourite variety – and this is something the wine industry has found puzzling for decades.

What is it that the sommelier or wine writer adores that the consumer doesn’t – or has yet to discover? Following our Riesling Masters tasting this year, this grape’s traits could be summed up by a combination of two key aspects: it has both personality and precision.

Riesling, when made well, is instantly identifiable, bursting with aromas of lime zest, white peach, sliced apple, and fresh flowers. It may be pale to look at, but it has an intense and distinct character. And it also has a sharp edge – Riesling cuts, rather than covers the palate. It provides a tangy, taut and recognisable sensation.

One wonders whether such features may be alienating consumers? Riesling may simply have too much personality and an overload of cold precision. Perhaps. But it can’t be a lack of quality that’s putting people off. Indeed, like previous Riesling Masters, this competition yielded some of the highest proportions of Gold medals – and, in this latest round, as many as five Masters (which is the very highest accolade of the series, and awarded only to truly outstanding wines).

As one judge, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, said: “Even a rather dismal, rainy day couldn’t dampen enthusiasm for an amazing group of Rieslings.” Notable is the range of sources for highquality Riesling.

Even within Germany, the number of great regions for Riesling is broad. Of course, the Mosel and Rheingau shone, but so too did warmer areas such as Pfalz and Baden. Beyond this nation’s borders, France, with samples from Alsace, showed the quality attainable elsewhere in Europe, with the biodynamic wines of Domaine Schlumberger picking up two Masters, one for a bone-dry style, and a second for a medium-dry grand cru example.

Also hailing from this French region was a Gold medal-winning Riesling from Michel Chapoutier’s Schieferkopf brand – a project started by the famous Rhône-based winemaker in 2006. Austria, as one might expect, also served up some stunning examples, in particular from legendary producer Schloss Gobelsburg, which was awarded a Master for both its dry and sweet Rieslings, proving this country’s capability to make class-leading wines at opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum.

Then there were wonderful wines in a range of sweetness levels from the US and Canada, notably samples from Washington State and Niagara in these respective countries.

However, if there was a stand-out nation in the Riesling Masters this year, it was Australia, which has managed to create wines that are for the most part bone dry, but deliver a fruity refreshment with Riesling that is rarely matched elsewhere.

A lime cordial, flint and citrus zest intensity with remarkable consistency were the hallmarks of the great Rieslings from Eden and Clare Valleys, ensuring that these places took home the highest proportion of Golds. And, standing tall among such giants was the St Hugo Riesling from Eden Valley, a wine from Pernod Ricard Australia that shows why this nation (and producer) should be just a famous for its Rieslings as its Chardonnays.

It’s important to note too that such greatness, whether from the Mosel, Pfalz, Alsace, Eden Valley or elsewhere, doesn’t come at an unpalatable cost. These great wines may not be cheap, but they are certainly affordable, leading one to safely believe that Riesling offers the most accessible fine white wine experience available today.

Not only that, but there is no white wine better suited to extended cellaring, as the grape’s low-pH brings remarkable natural stability, allowing the wine to slowly develop layers of honey and toast over time, without shedding its uplifting acidity. Also, interestingly, in the case of the sweet wines, Riesling tastes drier with age – even if the sugar content remains the same.

This ensures that fully mature wines actually take on even greater levels of freshness. And, bearing that in mind, if one is looking for the ideal apéritif, then, as those in the wine trade have done for decades, serve a well-made, old, sweet Riesling. There are few better ways to start an evening, and certainly none that offer superior value for money.

The Judges
The judges: (l-r) Patrick Schmitt MW, Alistair Cooper MW, Victoria Burt MW, Keith Isaac MW,
Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Mark Savage MW and sommelier Caroline Fridolfsson

Dry Riesling – up to 4g/l

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Results
Under £10
Badischer Winzerkeller Black Forest Riesling Baden-Württemberg Germany 2016 Silver
Weingut Lisa Bunn & Bastian Strebel Nierstein Riesling Vom Rotliegenden Rheinhessen Germany 2016 Silver
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Peter & Peter Riesling Trocken ObA Mosel Germany 2016 Silver
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Michel Schneider Riesling Trocken QbA Mosel Germany 2016 Bronze
MGWines Group Bodegas Monóvar Riesling Alicante Spain 2016 Bronze
£10-£15
Kahurangi Estate Dry Riesling Nelson New Zealand 2016 Gold
Kloster Eberbach Rauenthaler Baiken Crescentia Riesling Dry Rheingau Germany 2016 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Wakefield/Taylors Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Weingut Lisa Bunn & Bastian Strebel Nierstein Oelberg Riesling Rheinhessen Germany 2016 Silver
Pernod Ricard Winemakers Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Riesling Barossa Australia 2017 Bronze
£15-£20
Maisons Marques et Domaines Domaines Schlumberger Riesling ‘Les Princes Abbées’ Alcase France 2014 Master
Pike & Joyce Wines Pikes Traditionale Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2016 Gold
Gatt Wines High Eden Riesling Eden Valley Australia 2016 Gold
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Riesling Eden Valley Australia 2017 Gold
Weingut Sven Nieger Riesling Underdog Baden-Württemberg Germany 2016 Gold
Pernod Ricard Winemakers Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling Barossa Australia 2015 Gold
Gatt Wines High Eden Riesling Eden Valley Australia 2014 Gold
Chamlija Wines Chamlija Riesling Strandja Mountains Turkey 2016 Silver
Mentzendorff Kilikanoon Mort’s Block Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2015 Silver
Weingut Steinmühle Auf Dem Schnapp Riesling Trocken Osthofen Germany 2016 Silver
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Riesling Adelaide Australia 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg ZÖBING Kamptal DAC Langenlois Austria 2016 Master
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2013 Gold
Weingut Sven Nieger Riesling Ungezähmt Baden-Württemberg Germany 2016 Gold
Weingut Pfeffingen Herrenberg Riesling GG Pfalz Germany 2016 Gold
Langmeil Winery Wattle Brae Eden Valley Riesling Eden Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg Ried Heiligenstein 1 ÖTW Kamptal DAC Langenlois Austria 2016 Silver
Wineconsale Dreissigacker – Bechtheimer Riesling Wiesbaden Germany 2016 Bronze
£30-£50
Metzendorff Schieferkopf Riesling Lieu-dit Buehl Alsace France 2011 Gold
Wineconsale Weingut Neiss Burgweg Riesling Wiesbaden Germany 2015 Silver
Mentzendorff Schieferkopf Riesling Lieu-dit Fels Alsace France 2012 Bronze
St Hugo St Hugo Riesling Eden Valley Australia 2017 Master
£50+
Wineconsale Riesling Geyersberg Wiesbaden Germany 2013 Gold

Sparkling Riesling

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Results
£10-£15
Kessler Sekt Jägergrün Riesling Brut Baden-Württemberg Germany NV Gold

Medium Dry Riesling – 4g to 12g/l

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Results
Under £10
Weingut Christ Bornheimer Riesling Ortswein Rhineland Palatinate Germany 2016 Gold
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Johann Klauss Riesling Rheinhessen Mosel Germany 2016 Silver
Viña Cono Sur Reserva Especial Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Silver
Weingut Pfeffingen Pfeffingen Dry Riesling Pfalz Germany 2016 Silver
Reh Kendermann Riesling vom Kalkstein Pfalz Germany 2016 Silver
Weingut Bernhard Mehrlein Gentleman Riesling Trocken Rheingau Germany 2016 Silver
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Donatushof Riesling Feinherb QbA Mosel Germany 2016 Bronze
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection QbA Dry Estate bottled Trier-Saarburg Germany 2016 Bronze
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Peter & Peter Riesling Feinherb QbA Mosel Germany 2016 Bronze
Reh Kendermann Kendermanns Special Edition Riesling Pfalz Germany 2016 Bronze
Das Ulrich Langguth Weingut Terr 3 Acres Mosel Germany 2015 Bronze
£10-£15
Kahurangi Estate Mt Arthur Reserve Riesling Nelson New Zealand 2016 Gold
De Bortoli Wines Yarra Valley Single Vineyard Section A7 Yarra Valley Australia 2015 Gold
Weingut Würtzberg Rotschiefer Riesling Mosel Germany 2016 Gold
Weingut Korrell Riesling Paradies Bad Kreuznach Germany 2016 Silver
Harper’s Trail Estate Winery Pioneer Block Dry Riesling British Columbia Canada 2014 Silver
De Bortoli Wines La Boheme Riesling Yarra Valley Australia 2016 Silver
Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Okanagan Canada 2016 Silver
£15-£20
Weingut am Nil Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Rheinland-Pfalz Germany 2015 Gold
Weingut Sven Nieger Riesling Unbestechlich Baden-Württemberg Germany 2015 Gold
Wineconsale Klumpp Riesling Wiesbaden Germany 2016 Silver
Weingut am Nil Ungsteiner Herrenberg Riesling Rheinland-Pfalz Germany 2014 Silver
Weingut Sven Nieger Riesling Ungezähmt Baden-Württemberg Germany 2015 Silver
£20-£30
Maisons Marques et Domaines Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Saering Alcase France 2014 Master
Weingut Prinz Von Hessen Prinz Von Hessen Dachsfilet Darmstadt Germany 2016 Gold
Henschke Cellars Julius Riesling Adelaide Australia 2017 Silver
Wineconsale Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Alte Reben trocken Wiesbaden Germany 2016 Silver
Jackson Family Wines Galerie Terracea Spring Mountain Riesling Spring Mountain District USA 2016 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg Großes Gewächs Trocken Franken Germany 2015 Silver

Medium Riesling – 12g to 45g/l

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Results
Under £10
Peter Mertes Blüfeld Riesling Mosel QbA Bernkastel-Wittlich Germany 2016 Gold
Reh Kendermann Weinkellerei Kendermanns Riesling Pfalz Germany 2016 Silver
Peter Mertes Landshut Riesling QbA Bernkastel-Wittlich Germany 2016 Silver
Peter Mertes Starling Castle Riesling Rheinhessen QbA Bernkastel-Wittlich Germany 2016 Silver
Peter Mertes Riesling Mosel QbA Bernkastel-Wittlich Germany 2016 Bronze
Zimmermann-Graeff & Müller Michel Schneider Riesling Lieblich QbA Mosel Germany 2016 Bronze
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection QbA Estate bottled Trier-Saarburg Germany 2016 Bronze
£10-£15
Trinchero Family Estates Charles & Charles Riesling Washington State USA 2016 Gold
Trinchero Family Estates Sutter Home Riesling California USA NV Gold
Constellation Brands Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington State USA 2016 Silver
Weingut Christ Kirchenstück Riesling Fassprobe Rhineland Palatinate Germany 2017 Silver
Weingut Würtzberg Alte Kupp Riesling Kabinett Mosel Germany 2016 Silver
Hiestand Asia de Cuba Cosmopolitan Riesling Rhein Germany 2016 Bronze
Weingut Leitz Dragonstone Rheingau Riesling Fruity Rheingau Germany 2016 Bronze
£15-£20
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Honeysuckle Riesling Adelaide Australia 2017 Silver
£20-£30
Wineconsale Axel Pauly – Steinerd Wiesbaden Germany 2016 Bronze

Sweet Riesling – +45g/l

Company Product Name Region Country Vintage Results
Under £10
Reh Kendermann Kendermanns Riesling Mosel Germany 2016 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Relax Riesling QbA Trier-Saarburg Germany 2016 Bronze
Reh Kendermann Kendermanns Riesling Spätlese Rheinhessen Germany 2016 Bronze
£10-£15
Pillitteri Estates Winery Carretto Riesling Icewine Niagara-On-The-lake Canada 2015 Gold
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Spätlese Estate bottled Trier-Saarburg Germany 2016 Silver
Das Ulrich Langguth Weingut Piesporter Goldtropfchen Mosel Germany 2015 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Kabinett Estate bottled Trier-Saarburg Germany 2016 Bronze
£15-£20
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection Auslese Estate bottled Trier-Saarburg Germany 2015 Gold
Weingut Würtzberg Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Mosel Germany 2016 Gold
Wineconsale Rerchon Filzener Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Wiesbaden Germany 2015 Silver
£20-£30
Weingut Prinz Von Hessen Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Spätlese Darmstadt Germany 2016 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut Schloss Gobelsburg Trockenbeerenauslese Riesling Langenlois Austria 2015 Master

About the competition

In a crowded wine-competition arena, the drinks business the Global Riesling Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region.

Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind-tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.

The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold, as well as Master, the ultimate accolade, given only to exceptional wines in the tasting. The wines were judged by a cherry-picked group of Masters of Wine and a sommelier on 24 January at Clarette wine bar in Marylebone, London.

This report only features the medal-winners.

Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

What I liked: Everything! Even a rather dismal, rainy day couldn’t dampen enthusiasm for an amazing group of Rieslings. It was an exquisite tasting. Whatever style, whether dry, medium-dry or sweet, these wines portray why Riesling is the ‘darling of the wine trade’.

The purity of fruit expression in the wines from Germany, the concentration of flavour in the wines from Alsace and Austria and the lemon-lime citrus character of wines from Eden and Clare valleys show a variety of styles, which were of a consistently high quality.

These are compact wines that are tightly knit. The balance between acidity and sugar seems to be nicely judged and the medium-dry wines showed particularly well.

There is plenty of value, especially in the £10-£15 bracket, and this price point is where the medium-dry and medium wines really shone.

At £15-£20 the wines are more interesting, layered with intensity of flavour most noticeable in the drier styles, especially the wines from Germany and Alsace. There were also a couple of high-priced (£20-£50) sweet wines that were spectacular, showing complexity of noble rot and a little development.

What I didn’t like: Occasionally the SO2 levels were a bit too aggressive, but for non-dry wines, protection against re-fermentation in bottle is critical. The SO2 perception should calm down over time.

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