October 21st brought with it much delight for the wine trade of New York because on that same day there was held the most comprehensive Austrian Riesling tasting the city had ever seen.
The tasting, held at Le Bernardin Privee, welcomed top wine professionals from across the Eastern seaboard to join in a riveting discussion about Riesling as a grape and its place within the borders of Austria. The esteemed panel, made up of Paul Grieco of Terroir Wine Bars, Anne Kriebel MW of Wine Enthusiast, John Haeger, and Peter Moser of Falstaff, and curated by Willi Klinger, Managing Director for the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, led the group of 70+ people through current vintage wines as well as those dating all the way back to 1990!
Riesling is a wine for all seasons” – Paul Grieco
The tasting included an international flight as well and the group was asked to identify which was each from from Germany, Alsace, Austria, and the Finger Lakes. Many of the participants guessed correctly!
Austrian Riesling makes up for just 4.1% of Austria’s wine production, but is has long established itself as a prominent leader in the Riesling sector offering just the right amount of “fun and seriousness” to its taster, a perfect partner for many “impossible” food pairings, and, on most occasions, bone dry.
Alas, while many in the room were already quite familiar with Austrian Riesling, there was still much left to be discussed.
Each panel member had much to share with the group. John Haeger led us through the international flight commenting on the differences in each country and sharing deep insights he learned while researching his upcoming book Riesling Redisovered. Peter Moser provided valuable insight in Austrian Riesling over the past several years – its growth and its consistency. Anne Kriebel MW provided the group with many tidbits of information that helped to created a broader, more academic picture of Riesling as a whole, but also in the context of Austria. And, finally, Paul Grieco provided us with an empowering speech about the glories of Riesling that left the whole room buzzing with enthusiasm to spread the good word of the grape.
Facts to remember about Austrian Riesling:
- What is Austrian Riesling all about? Well, it’s all about the acid.
- When we are talking dry Riesling in the old world, Austrian Riesling tops this category
- Riesling does not have to be made in a totally reductive wine style in order to be enjoyable. A little oxygen can actually help with the aromas
- Despite the fact that lesser vintages have occurred, there do not need to be lesser wines if there are good winemakers.
- Good Riesling comes from all over Austrian including the Weinviertel and Styria where one might not expect. However, in terms of Styria, they have barely begun to reach their potential. At 100ha of possible plantings, they have 10ha and this is split between as many as 7 producers.
- In terms of Riesling, PH is an important, but complex topic that should not be ignored. However, it is hard to measure each person’s perception of PH due to the PH of our own salivas.
- Riesling was likely brought over by the German monks who resided along the Danube (where lots of Riesling is now planted!)
- Riesling needs well-drained stoney soils… places where Gruener will not grow, actually.
- Wachau vineyards, one of the top Riesling regions, are terraced and have little top soil. Riesling vines like to suffer.
- Riesling is a wine for all seasons
Paul Grieco went on to question why Riesling hasn’t been accepted as “King” in the fine dining circuit – especially in today’s whacky world – when Riesling is, in fact, one of the top pairing wines.
Despite its historically sound reputation, in the US, Riesling suffers from mistaken identity. Consumers don’t understand the faces and facets of Riesling and, unfortunately, we did not come to a conclusion as how to overtake the misconception that it’s all sweet. That, our friends, is something with which we also task you.