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.
Dry Riesling – up to 4g/l
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Kessler Sekt||Jägergrün Riesling Brut||Baden-Württemberg||Germany||NV||Gold|
Medium Dry Riesling – 4g to 12g/l
|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|
|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|
|Weingut am Nil||Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling||Rheinland-Pfalz||Germany||2015||Gold|
|Weingut Sven Nieger||Riesling Unbestechlich||Baden-Württemberg||Germany||2015||Gold|
|Weingut am Nil||Ungsteiner Herrenberg Riesling||Rheinland-Pfalz||Germany||2014||Silver|
|Weingut Sven Nieger||Riesling Ungezähmt||Baden-Württemberg Germany||2015||Silver|
|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|
|Weingut Hans Wirsching||Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg Großes Gewächs Trocken||Franken||Germany||2015||Silver|
Medium Riesling – 12g to 45g/l
|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|
|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|
|Bird in Hand||Bird in Hand Honeysuckle Riesling||Adelaide||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Wineconsale||Axel Pauly – Steinerd||Wiesbaden||Germany||2016||Bronze|
Sweet Riesling – +45g/l
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Weingut Prinz Von Hessen||Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Spätlese||Darmstadt||Germany||2016||Silver|
|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.