Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

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Chris Seiber
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Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#1 Post by Chris Seiber » September 19th, 2012, 4:58 pm

German riesling usually checks in at around 7-8% alcohol, whereas riesling from everywhere else, including nearby Alsace and including rieslings made in a similar general style, always checks in at 11-14% alcohol.

What is the reason for the huge difference? I've always wondered. Thanks.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#2 Post by BTraub » September 19th, 2012, 5:26 pm

Only the sweeter styles of German wine are that low in alcohol (Kabinett, Spatlese, all the way up to TBAs), mainly because they have residual sugar. Most of them have potential alcohol of 12%+, but not all of it is fermented, thus the sweeter/fruity style plus low alcohol. Most of the German dry rieslings are at 12-13% like dry rieslings from other places.

Historically potential alcohol in Germany was lower than a lot of regions because they're on the northern limits of viticulture and the grapes simply didn't get as ripe as most other wine-growing areas. With climate change, that's not as true as it used to be.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#3 Post by Berry Crawford » September 19th, 2012, 5:28 pm

Because in the fruity style pradikat wines they stop fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. Ive actually never looked but I think you would find GGs and trokens to have higher alcohol.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#4 Post by Chris Seiber » September 19th, 2012, 5:38 pm

How do they stop the fermentation? Why is this not done in Alsace and other regions?

Thanks.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#5 Post by Berry Crawford » September 19th, 2012, 5:45 pm

Chris Seiber wrote:How do they stop the fermentation?
Sulfur and filtering
Chris Seiber wrote:Why is this not done in Alsace and other regions?
Tradition, though the "fruity" style of riesling is now pretty much just for the export market. Domestic consumption in germany is pretty much all trocken now expcept for dessert wines.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#6 Post by Charlie Carnes » September 19th, 2012, 6:40 pm

Berry Crawford wrote:... though the "fruity" style of riesling is now pretty much just for the export market.

...and right to my back door... thank Goodness. I do love me some 7% Kabinet.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#7 Post by Robert Sand » September 19th, 2012, 11:19 pm

Chris Seiber wrote:German riesling usually checks in at around 7-8% alcohol, whereas riesling from everywhere else, including nearby Alsace and including rieslings made in a similar general style, always checks in at 11-14% alcohol.

What is the reason for the huge difference? I've always wondered. Thanks.
You are talking about Rieslings with residual sugar (Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese etc.) for instance from the Mosel or Rheingau. The wines usually have to have at least 85° Öchsle (17° KMW) für Spätlese, which would be app. 12 % alc. Since a part of the sugar is not fermented to alc. to produce (semi-)sweet wine the alc.level is significantly lower.
Dry Rieslings - more common in Souther regions in Germany - usially have alc levels of 13 or above, at least on the top level.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#8 Post by Chris Seiber » September 20th, 2012, 12:12 am

Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#9 Post by John Morris » September 20th, 2012, 4:54 am

Chris -- Relatively few are imported to the U.S. because it's not a well-known category and Terry Theise -- the greatest promoter of Rieslings here -- doesn't like dry ones, so he doesn't import many of those from his producers and never talks them up much.

Click here for a Wine Searcher list with a fair number from good producers at decent prices. I haven't had these, but it's hard to go wrong with Selbach-Oster, Leitz or Kuntz in my experience.

In the cheaper price ranges, you may prefer wines from along the Rhine to those from the Mosel, because the Rhine regions generally are warmer and the acid levels are a little lower. Dry Mosel wines sometimes can be rather shrill, though that is changing with riper vintages and changing winemaking styles.

The really top dry rieslings are the Grosses Gewächs bottlings -- the equivalent of First Growths -- in the Mosel and Rheingau or Erstes Gewächs from the Rheingau. These must be dry, though they typically are not labelled "Trocken." They are usually very full-bodied. They are also usually very expensive as these are now the highest status wines in Germany short of the very late harvest bottlings.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#10 Post by RyanC » September 20th, 2012, 4:59 am

Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
In the reasonably priced category a couple good ones are Lauer's Barrel X and Immich's CAI. None of these are going to be all that available, however.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#11 Post by mmarcellus » September 20th, 2012, 6:04 am

Dressner has just signed Koehler-Ruprecht, which should greatly increase their availability (which until now has been limited to a couple of regions in the West). Their 2010 trocken rieslings are amazing, keep an eye out for them in the coming months.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#12 Post by Robert Sand » September 20th, 2012, 6:13 am

Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
Chris,
I could name dozens of very good dry (= trocken) German Rieslings, but I have no idea what´s available for you.
I recommend to look for the top Riesling producers, but first try their basic Rieslings (often called Gutsriesling, without any vineyard designation) to check if you like the style. Most are available HERE below 10 €. If your budget is appropriate you can climb up the ladder step by step with time ...

Some names: Wittmann, (Klaus-Peter) Keller, Kuhn, Rebholz, Christmann, Bassermann-Jordan, Leitz ....

Attention: while the basic Rieslings are oftenm dry, the more expensive products can have residual sugar, be sure to check if TROCKEN is indicated.
Wines designated GROSSES GEWÄCHS (in Rheingau ERSTES GEWÄCHS) are always dry !

BTW: great Rieslings come also from Austria (Wachau and neighbouring regions) and they are far more often dry than off-dry: Hirtzberger, Prager, F.X.Pichler, Rudi Pichler, Alzinger, Brundlmayer, Gobelsburg, Knoll, Velich, Schmelz ...
Top wines are often called SMARAGD, while FEDERSPIEL and STEINFEDER are lighter (and cheaper)

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#13 Post by Claude Kolm » September 20th, 2012, 7:30 am

Robert Sand wrote:
Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
Some names: Wittmann, (Klaus-Peter) Keller, Kuhn, Rebholz, Christmann, Bassermann-Jordan, Leitz ....

Attention: while the basic Rieslings are oftenm dry, the more expensive products can have residual sugar, be sure to check if TROCKEN is indicated.
Wines designated GROSSES GEWÄCHS (in Rheingau ERSTES GEWÄCHS) are always dry !
Just a couple of clarifications to Robert's post:

1. I presume the "Kuhn" he's mentioning is Peter-Jakob Kühn -- there are a lot of others with that name.

2. These days, you may have to check the back label to find the word "trocken," and sometimes you won't even find it there. Generally, if a wine is 13% alcohol or above, it will be trocken (some trockens will be lower, but some wines with residual sugar can get into the 12% range, too.)
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#14 Post by Robert Sand » September 20th, 2012, 9:45 am

Claude Kolm wrote: 1. I presume the "Kuhn" he's mentioning is Peter-Jakob Kühn -- there are a lot of others with that name.
Thanks for the correction - of course P J KÜHN
(I wondered if I should write KUEHN or KÜHN - and unfortunately the wrong Kuhn remained ... )
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#15 Post by Charlie Carnes » September 20th, 2012, 9:49 am

Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
There are so many awesome wines from sweet, to half dry, to 3/4 dry all the way to extra dry. Stephen Bitterolf at Crush,and ( maybe Rosemary?) at Chambers both in NYC, will send you mixed case that will surely perk your interest. For about the cost of a single bottle of highly allocated Napa Cabernet Sauvignon you could get 12 awesome bottles of riesling from all across the sweet/dry spectrum.

1 bttl 2009/2010 Immich C.A.I. $19
1 bttl 2009/2010 A.J, Adam D.H. Kab $24
1 bttl 2010 Willi Schaefer G D Spat $40
1 bttl 2010 Willi Schaefer G D kab $22
1 bttl 2009/2010 Stein Himm. Kab trocken $19
1 bttl 2010 Alzinger Hohereck $55
1 bttl 2010 Lauer Senior $25
1 bttl 2009/2010 Steinmetz Geierslay $23
1 bttl 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Spat $36
1 bttl 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Kab $27
1 bttl 2010 Clemns Busch Fahrlay GG $47
1 bttl Weiser-Kunstler Ellergrub Kab $23

$360

That's about a bottle of Harlan os Cos d'Estournel.

btw there are a ton more producers, but something like this should get you stirred up!
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#16 Post by Bill H o o p e r » September 20th, 2012, 10:15 am

Berry Crawford wrote:
Chris Seiber wrote:How do they stop the fermentation?
Sulfur and filtering
More accurately: Chilling and then sterile filtration. Fermentation is not arrested through sulfuring anymore -far too many negatives to that approach. Free sulfur needs to be a bit higher in wines with residual sugar, but in the case of your average kabinett wine, not remarkably higher. Auslese and above will have more, but the threshold for tasting free sulphur lies at about 80 mg/l. If the participants of the Amtliche Prüfung tasting can detect sulfur, they deduct points and you may end up with a declassified wine that isn't granted a Prädikat.

As has been noted, most German Riesling produced these days is dry and usually contains around 12% alc. give or take. The best way to get more dry Riesling on the shelf at your local store is to ask for it. I'm not sure what is available to you, but there are probably dozens of threads here devoted to dry German Riesling.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#17 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 20th, 2012, 10:23 am

I don't know diddly squat about vinifera physiology, but they're so far north in Germany [and so far from the Gulf Stream] that it's pretty amazing they can grow vinifera in the first place.

Getting the vines to absorb & process the calories necessary for high-alcohol wines might be physiologically impossible at that latitude [unless maybe you're letting the grapes hang until frost]:
european_vinous_latitude_lines_SMALL.jpg
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#18 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 20th, 2012, 10:32 am

Note that Frankfurt, which is at roughly the same latitude as the Urzig-Erden bend in the Mosel river, is also at roughly the same latitude as lower Saskatchewan:
frankfurt_latitude_SMALL.jpg

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#19 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 20th, 2012, 10:32 am

Unless maybe they're using some weird projection of the globe which screws up latitudes...

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#20 Post by Henry Kiichli » September 20th, 2012, 10:35 am

Nathan,

Excellent. I was just going to write that we're too damn far north.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#21 Post by Berry Crawford » September 20th, 2012, 11:05 am

Does the jet stream make comparing latitudes apples and organges?

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#22 Post by John Morris » September 20th, 2012, 11:24 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:I don't know diddly squat about vinifera physiology, but they're so far north in Germany [and so far from the Gulf Stream] that it's pretty amazing they can grow vinifera in the first place.

Getting the vines to absorb & process the calories necessary for high-alcohol wines might be physiologically impossible at that latitude [unless maybe you're letting the grapes hang until frost]:
That's why the steep slopes in so much of Germany -- more rays fall on each cluster when they're better oriented toward the sun. It's an approximation to having the sun overhead, though with weaker rays and shorter days. In the most northerly serious wine area, the Ahr, it's hard to see how they pick. It looks like you'd just slide down the mountainside.

In the warmer zones of the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Baden, there are decent vineyards on much less steep slopes.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#23 Post by Chris Seiber » September 20th, 2012, 11:28 am

Climates vary considerably at a given latitude (depending most of all on how far east vs.west you are within a landmass, which is why Napa Valley has such a different climate than St. Louis, or why France has such a different climate than Kazakhstan and Mongolia), but latitude does play a big role, and it is pretty uniform in terms of how much sunlight you get.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#24 Post by Doug Schulman » September 20th, 2012, 11:30 am

Claude Kolm wrote: 2. These days, you may have to check the back label to find the word "trocken," and sometimes you won't even find it there. Generally, if a wine is 13% alcohol or above, it will be trocken (some trockens will be lower, but some wines with residual sugar can get into the 12% range, too.)
Claude, I believe (pretty sure) I heard Terry Theise say a couple of years ago that the term was required for wines that qualify. Is this no longer the case, or did I not hear correctly? I have never seen a dry wine from Germany that didn't have it, but I know you have more experience with the wines than I do.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#25 Post by Claude Kolm » September 20th, 2012, 11:39 am

Doug Schulman wrote:
Claude Kolm wrote: 2. These days, you may have to check the back label to find the word "trocken," and sometimes you won't even find it there. Generally, if a wine is 13% alcohol or above, it will be trocken (some trockens will be lower, but some wines with residual sugar can get into the 12% range, too.)
Claude, I believe (pretty sure) I heard Terry Theise say a couple of years ago that the term was required for wines that qualify. Is this no longer the case, or did I not hear correctly? I have never seen a dry wine from Germany that didn't have it, but I know you have more experience with the wines than I do.
I don't know what Terry told you, Doug, but I have bottles that I've sampled recently that are dry and it doesn't say so on the label. But the rules are constantly changing (with the VDP about to introduce a disastrous new rule for its members next year [some are threatening to quit over it], but that's another story).
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#26 Post by Doug Schulman » September 20th, 2012, 11:45 am

Well, that's good to know. I've been telling people that the dry wines will always say "trocken". I'll have to stop. At least I know all of the ones we carry say it. I wonder why anyone wouldn't put it on the label? It seems awfully confusing to me.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#27 Post by John Morris » September 20th, 2012, 11:45 am

Berry Crawford wrote:Does the jet stream make comparing latitudes apples and organges?
Yes and no. New York is roughly on the latitude of Madrid and Rome but the climates are quite different, particularly in winter. The Okanagan Valley wine area of British Columbia is on the same latitude as the Mosel, but it's a much more extreme climate with very hot, dry summers.

But, as Chris alluded to, hours of daylight are crucial to ripening as well as warmth, and that's a function of latitude. So, while global warming is making Southern England more hospital to winemaking, there are limits, and Kent, Sussex and Dorset are only a little further north than Germany's Ahr Valley. That's really the upper limit for quality wine.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#28 Post by Chris Seiber » September 20th, 2012, 12:00 pm

And, for all the odd exceptions there are out there, I'm sure everyone has noticed that most of the world's wine regions fall within a pretty narrow band of latitude. Something roughly like 35-50 degrees latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The wine regions of Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand are all at about the same latitude as Napa, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Rioja, Douro, etc.

And the best ones that are on large and wide landmasses are found on or near the west side of it (California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, France, Spain, Italy, Germany).

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#29 Post by Matthew Brown » September 20th, 2012, 12:28 pm

John Morris wrote:
Nathan Smyth wrote:I don't know diddly squat about vinifera physiology, but they're so far north in Germany [and so far from the Gulf Stream] that it's pretty amazing they can grow vinifera in the first place.

Getting the vines to absorb & process the calories necessary for high-alcohol wines might be physiologically impossible at that latitude [unless maybe you're letting the grapes hang until frost]:
That's why the steep slopes in so much of Germany -- more rays fall on each cluster when they're better oriented toward the sun. It's an approximation to having the sun overhead, though with weaker rays and shorter days. In the most northerly serious wine area, the Ahr, it's hard to see how they pick. It looks like you'd just slide down the mountainside.

In the warmer zones of the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Baden, there are decent vineyards on much less steep slopes.
Being on the riverbanks also helps to protect the vines from frost/freeze because the water's flow keeps the air warmer and moving, in sort of the same way the vines are protected on the banks of the Finger Lakes in NY and some of the other colder areas of the US.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#30 Post by Claude Kolm » September 20th, 2012, 12:51 pm

Doug Schulman wrote:Well, that's good to know. I've been telling people that the dry wines will always say "trocken". I'll have to stop. At least I know all of the ones we carry say it. I wonder why anyone wouldn't put it on the label? It seems awfully confusing to me.
Doug -- I would expect that US importers are going to insist that their dry wines say "trocken" or "dry" somewhere. In Germany, it's different -- many people there don't even know that sweet wines below Auslese exist, and so putting "trocken" on the label is for them redundant.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#31 Post by Jay Miller » September 20th, 2012, 2:04 pm

Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
I like Kunstler's Stielweg bottling. As good or better than many twice the price IMO. I haven't tried the 2010 but it's on deck.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#32 Post by Robert Panzer » September 20th, 2012, 7:45 pm

2011 Wagner Stempel Vom Porphyr
2011 Schafer Frohlich Vulkangestein
both are as good as it gets at the price point to my taste....
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#33 Post by Tran Bronstein » September 21st, 2012, 12:11 pm

Guys, please correct me if I am wrong but... I always understood that the unique German Riesling sweet wines are sweeter and lower in alcohol due to the use of Sussreserve, the techique of adding a certain amount of the original ripe unfermented pressed grape juice that has also been filtered and clarified and set aside to the finished fermented wine. I had this explained to me by several Niagara wineries who offer their own version of a Sussreserve wine.

Is this incorrect or is it merely that the technique is now simply outdated and savvier German winemakers simply stop the fermentation with chilling and filtering?
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#34 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 12:39 am

Doug: The term trocken isn't required on the label. For example, some Mosel wine producers feel that it's a straitjacket, as the wine then has to be under 9 g/l RS (though 10 g/l RS is now tolerated with the corresponding acidity). They want to be flexible, for in some vintages the wine might ferment through to 4 g/l RS and in other vintages only to 15 g/l RS or so. Moreover, they don't have to constantly change the labels. Immich-Batterieberg does this, for instance.

Claude: What is the new VDP rule for next year?

Tran: Süssreserve is rarely used by the top German Riesling producers for making sweet wines. In fact, many of them dissaprove of this practice, which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#35 Post by Gerhard P. » September 22nd, 2012, 4:52 am

Tran Bronstein wrote:Guys, please correct me if I am wrong but... I always understood that the unique German Riesling sweet wines are sweeter and lower in alcohol due to the use of Sussreserve, the techique of adding a certain amount of the original ripe unfermented pressed grape juice that has also been filtered and clarified and set aside to the finished fermented wine. I had this explained to me by several Niagara wineries who offer their own version of a Sussreserve wine.

Is this incorrect or is it merely that the technique is now simply outdated and savvier German winemakers simply stop the fermentation with chilling and filtering?


This is a practice used heavily in the past - and still is for the easier wines (for instance made by cooperatives), but the top producers have - fortunately - abandoned with it ...

Drinking a wine with Süßreserve means you are drinking partially wine, partially grape juice - and there is rarely a real harmony
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#36 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 5:42 am

Gerhard P.: You're right. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, Hanno Zilliken of Geltz-Zilliken does use in certain instances -- and with great skill -- a little sweet reserve for an Auslese.

That's one of the main issues: wines made with sweet reserve have higher amounts of glucose and taste noticeably sweetened.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#37 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 7:42 am

Ryan Caughey wrote:
Chris Seiber wrote:Thanks for the info, everyone.

What are some good examples of dry German riesling that are reasonably priced and reasonably available in the US?
In the reasonably priced category a couple good ones are Lauer's Barrel X and Immich's CAI. None of these are going to be all that available, however.
Ryan: Those are two selections with a great quality-price rapport that should be well distributed. In addition, Peter Lauer and Immich-Batterieberg produced more wine in the 2011 vintage.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#38 Post by Claude Kolm » September 22nd, 2012, 8:42 am

Lars Carlberg wrote: Claude: What is the new VDP rule for next year?
Lars -- This is what I've been told by various producers (more or less, there wasn't 100% consistency):

1. All dry (and I think feinherb) wines must be QbA; no more Kabinett trocken, Spätlese trocken.

2. Only one dry wine can bear the designation of a particular vineyard; i.e., you can have only one dry wine from Kirchenstück, but you can have dry wines (one of each) from Kirchenstück, Jesuitengarten, Ungeheuer, etc.

3. For fruity wines, Kabinett cannot bear the name of a vineyard, QbA can't bear the name of a vineyard or a village; not sure whether Spätlese can bear the name of a "grand cru" vineyard or whether it will be reserved for so-called "premiers crus."

4. The rules may be somewhat different for the Mosel from that stated above -- I'm not sure about that.

Exemptions have been granted to some producers, but those producers say that after two years those exemptions will disappear.

This is a very big problem for producers who have large holdings in vineyards from which they make a GG; they will not longer be able to make less expensive dry wines labelled as coming from the same vineyard.

I spent about about half an hour discussing this with Stefan Christmann, president of the VDP, and he is adamant about these rules. When I asked how other producers were harmed if a particular producer found it better for his marketing strategy to have a Kabinett trocken, he was unable to give me an answer other than uniformity and the possibility of exemptions. But (1) that uniformity is broken by the exemptions, and (2) I doubt that most customers focus on whether a producer is in the VDP or not, so when Weingut X offers a Kabinett trocken, customers are going to expect VDP producer Weingut Y to offer one, too.

The VDP is trying to mitigate the rule somewhat by allowing use of the pre-1971 names on the labels, so perhaps the GG bears the name of the pre-1971 vineyard and other bottlings bear the post-1971 name (or vice-versa).

More than one producer told me that this rule, if it goes into effect, may cause them to leave the VDP. It seems to me that it will also present a potential barrier to those considering joining the VDP.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#39 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 9:25 am

Thanks for the rundown, Claude. I can understand the points and Stefan Christmann's opinions (he and I discussed them too), but there are many issues that need to be ironed out still.

1. There is no historical basis -- as some in the VDP like to argue -- for keeping the 1971 Prädikat designations, especially the term Kabinett, for only sweet German Rieslings. Nonetheless, it makes it easier for consumers who know less about German wines. I'm just wondering how a producer will then be able to designate a lighter style of dry or off-dry Riesling. Moreover, how can they indicate that their wine is unchaptalized and from a specific place? In addition, Spätlese and Auslese had different meanings in the late 19th century, when German Riesling was at its height.

2. See point one. It should be possible for the producer to designate more than one dry or off-dry wine per site. This actually goes against the notion of terroir.

3. I cannot understand why a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA shouldn't bear the name of a vineyard. In fact, a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA can often show its place better than a higher Prädikat.

4. I'm sure the rules will be slightly different for the Mosel.

It's already a problem that producers who have large holdings in Erste Lage (or, better in Grosse Lage) vineyards (Achim-Magin, for example) are forced to make either GGs or create fantasy names, because only one dry wine can bear the site name. The non-VDP producers will still use the terms, such as "Kabinett trocken," although many are switching to the VDP model.
Last edited by Lars Carlberg on October 5th, 2012, 9:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#40 Post by Claude Kolm » September 22nd, 2012, 9:51 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:Thanks for the rundown, Claude. I can understand the points and Stefan Christmann's opinions (he and I discussed them too), but there are many issues that need to be ironed out still.

1. There is no historical basis -- as some in the VDP like to argue -- for keeping the Prädikat designations, especially the term Kabinett, for only sweet German Rieslings. Nonetheless, it makes it easier for consumers who know less about German wines. I'm just wondering how a producer will then be able to designate a lighter style of dry or off-dry Riesling. Moreover, how can they indicate that their wine is unchaptalized and from a specific place? In addition, Spätlese and Auslese had different meanings in the late 19th century, when German Riesling was at its height.

2. See point one. It should be possible for the producer to designate more than one dry or off-dry wine per site. This actually goes against the notion of terroir.

3. I cannot understand why a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA shouldn't bear the name of a vineyard. In fact, a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA can often show its place better than a higher Prädikat.

4. I'm sure the rules will be slightly different for the Mosel.

It's already a problem that producers who have large holdings in Erste Lage (or, better in Grosse Lage) vineyards (Achim-Magin, for example) are forced to make either GGs or create fantasy names, because only one dry wine can bear the site name. The non-VDP producers will still use the terms, such as "Kabinett trocken," although many are switching to the VDP model.
I agree with all your points completely, Lars. And so do most of the producers with whom I've spoken about the matter; a few seem relatively indifferent (i.e., it doesn't affect them much and/or they're already more or less conforming to the new rules). Only Stefan Christmann and Armin Diel, of those with whom the new rules came up, seemed really gung-ho about the changes, but I guess those two and a few more are the ones who wield the real power.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#41 Post by Cliff Rosenberg » September 22nd, 2012, 10:06 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:Gerhard P.: You're right. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, Hanno Zilliken of Geltz-Zilliken does use in certain instances -- and with great skill -- a little sweet reserve for an Auslese.

That's one of the main issues: wines made with sweet reserve have higher amounts of glucose and taste noticeably sweetened.
Didn't (doesn't?) Leitz do this?

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#42 Post by Charlie Carnes » September 22nd, 2012, 10:12 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:Thanks for the rundown, Claude. I can understand the points and Stefan Christmann's opinions (he and I discussed them too), but there are many issues that need to be ironed out still.

1. There is no historical basis -- as some in the VDP like to argue -- for keeping the Prädikat designations, especially the term Kabinett, for only sweet German Rieslings. Nonetheless, it makes it easier for consumers who know less about German wines. I'm just wondering how a producer will then be able to designate a lighter style of dry or off-dry Riesling. Moreover, how can they indicate that their wine is unchaptalized and from a specific place? In addition, Spätlese and Auslese had different meanings in the late 19th century, when German Riesling was at its height.

2. See point one. It should be possible for the producer to designate more than one dry or off-dry wine per site. This actually goes against the notion of terroir.

3. I cannot understand why a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA shouldn't bear the name of a vineyard. In fact, a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA can often show its place better than a higher Prädikat.

4. I'm sure the rules will be slightly different for the Mosel.

It's already a problem that producers who have large holdings in Erste Lage (or, better in Grosse Lage) vineyards (Achim-Magin, for example) are forced to make either GGs or create fantasy names, because only one dry wine can bear the site name. The non-VDP producers will still use the terms, such as "Kabinett trocken," although many are switching to the VDP model.
This really affects some of the producers I buy. For instance what would 2009 Stein Riesling St. Aldegunder Himmelreich Kabinett trocken be called under the new rules (assume they are members ). Or would Stein not join or leave the VDP. I am not a fan of the VDP or any such organizations.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#43 Post by John Morris » September 22nd, 2012, 10:23 am

Chris Seiber wrote: And the best [wine growing regions] that are on large and wide landmasses are found on or near the west side of it (California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, France, Spain, Italy, Germany).
Interesting thought but, I'm not sure it really holds up on examination. What about Argentina? Or the Hunter Valley (east coast) or Barossa (middle south)?

In North America, the best growing areas are on the West Coast generally because it has a far more mild climate than the rest of the Continent.

Elsewhere there are plausible social explanations. In Europe, the grape plantings largely reflect where the Romans got (the Rhine and the Danube marked the end of the empire), and not just the fact that it's more mild along the Atlantic coast than inland to the east. I guess if you look at all of Eurasia, the German wine regions look like they're on the west, but it's quite a distance from the Rhine wine areas -- not to mention the Wachau or Hungary -- to the Atlantic.

Moreover, further east, the Crimea made sweet wines that were very highly valued a century ago, and the Turks, Armenians and Georgians all take wine serious, not to mention the Lebanese. Islam and Communism didn't help the cause of fine wine, though.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#44 Post by John Morris » September 22nd, 2012, 10:26 am

Lars and Claude --

Thanks for the info, though it's depressing to see the relentless pointless fiddling with the German label rules -- a ritual of commercial masochism.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#45 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 10:29 am

Cliff: I don't know about Leitz. My last visit was in the nineties. Otherwise, I've only tasted some bottles here and there in recent years.

Charlie: You needn't worry about Ulli Stein. He's neither a VDP member nor would he want to join. Ulli wants affordable pricing and unpretentious packaging. Moreover, he disagrees with Stefan Christmann's stance. They, however, have talked about Grosses Gewächs and other VDP measures in the past. A.J. Adam and Immich-Batterieberg are non-VDP members, but they both avoid Prädikat designations for their dry and off-dry wines. Peter Lauer will be a VDP member by this time next year.
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#46 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 10:43 am

John Morris wrote:Lars and Claude --

Thanks for the info, though it's depressing to see the relentless pointless fiddling with the German label rules -- a ritual of commercial masochism.
Hey John, you're welcome. The VDP is a private organization, but many of their new (internal) rules are based on the recent EU wine-labeling laws. Despite all the complications over the years, changes are needed in Germany, and the VDP is at least making an effort. Although I can understand your sentiment. In fact, many VDP members feel the same way.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#47 Post by Charlie Carnes » September 22nd, 2012, 11:03 am

Lars Carlberg wrote:Cliff: I don't know about Leitz. My last visit was in the nineties. Otherwise, I've only tasted some bottles here and there in recent years.

Charlie: You needn't worry about Ulli Stein. He's neither a VDP member nor would he want to join. Ulli's not one for elitism. He wants affordable pricing and unpretentious packaging. Moreover, he disagrees with Stefan Christmann's stance. They, however, have talked about Grosses Gewächs in other VDP measures in the past. A.J. Adam and Immich-Batterieberg are non-VDP members, but they both avoid Prädikat designations for their dry and off-dry wines. Peter Lauer will be a VDP member by this time next year.
Great news about Ulli
Too bad about Lauer. I ask this as a student: what will he be able to call Senior, for instance?
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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#48 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 11:12 am

Claude Kolm wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:Thanks for the rundown, Claude. I can understand the points and Stefan Christmann's opinions (he and I discussed them too), but there are many issues that need to be ironed out still.

1. There is no historical basis -- as some in the VDP like to argue -- for keeping the Prädikat designations, especially the term Kabinett, for only sweet German Rieslings. Nonetheless, it makes it easier for consumers who know less about German wines. I'm just wondering how a producer will then be able to designate a lighter style of dry or off-dry Riesling. Moreover, how can they indicate that their wine is unchaptalized and from a specific place? In addition, Spätlese and Auslese had different meanings in the late 19th century, when German Riesling was at its height.

2. See point one. It should be possible for the producer to designate more than one dry or off-dry wine per site. This actually goes against the notion of terroir.

3. I cannot understand why a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA shouldn't bear the name of a vineyard. In fact, a fruity Riesling Kabinett/QbA can often show its place better than a higher Prädikat.

4. I'm sure the rules will be slightly different for the Mosel.

It's already a problem that producers who have large holdings in Erste Lage (or, better in Grosse Lage) vineyards (Achim-Magin, for example) are forced to make either GGs or create fantasy names, because only one dry wine can bear the site name. The non-VDP producers will still use the terms, such as "Kabinett trocken," although many are switching to the VDP model.
I agree with all your points completely, Lars. And so do most of the producers with whom I've spoken about the matter; a few seem relatively indifferent (i.e., it doesn't affect them much and/or they're already more or less conforming to the new rules). Only Stefan Christmann and Armin Diel, of those with whom the new rules came up, seemed really gung-ho about the changes, but I guess those two and a few more are the ones who wield the real power.
That's the vibe that I'm getting from the VDP producers, too, Claude. Some are backing the measures more than others. Each has their own point of view or lack thereof. I do like Stefan Christmann and his wines. He's a gentleman and smart, too. I just hope he sees some of these issues. Armin Diel, on the other hand, has been one of the early power brokers in pushing through the concept of GG and all. I sometimes get the feeling that the VDP doesn't think this fully through with all parties (including non-VDP members) in mind. Initially, their classification model was more like Bordeaux's, now they're fixated on Burgundy. For instance, Erste Lage becomes Grosse Lage, but Grosslage also exists in books and maps.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#49 Post by Lars Carlberg » September 22nd, 2012, 11:16 am

Charlie Carnes wrote:
Lars Carlberg wrote:Cliff: I don't know about Leitz. My last visit was in the nineties. Otherwise, I've only tasted some bottles here and there in recent years.

Charlie: You needn't worry about Ulli Stein. He's neither a VDP member nor would he want to join. Ulli's not one for elitism. He wants affordable pricing and unpretentious packaging. Moreover, he disagrees with Stefan Christmann's stance. They, however, have talked about Grosses Gewächs in other VDP measures in the past. A.J. Adam and Immich-Batterieberg are non-VDP members, but they both avoid Prädikat designations for their dry and off-dry wines. Peter Lauer will be a VDP member by this time next year.
Great news about Ulli
Too bad about Lauer. I ask this as a student: what will he be able to call Senior, for instance?
Charlie, you needn't worry about Peter Lauer. Florian will change little. His Schonfels, Kupp 56, and a small portion of Saarfeilser will be GGs, as all three sites are "Grosse Lage." Senior will stay the same, as far as I know. It has no Prädikat.

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Re: Why is German riesling so much lower alcohol than all other riesling?

#50 Post by Chris Seiber » September 22nd, 2012, 12:08 pm

John Morris wrote:
Chris Seiber wrote: And the best [wine growing regions] that are on large and wide landmasses are found on or near the west side of it (California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, France, Spain, Italy, Germany).
Interesting thought but, I'm not sure it really holds up on examination. What about Argentina? Or the Hunter Valley (east coast) or Barossa (middle south)?

In North America, the best growing areas are on the West Coast generally because it has a far more mild climate than the rest of the Continent.
You've come up with three fairly minor exceptions that aren't even actually exceptions. Mendoza, Argentina, is less than 100 miles east of the west coast of South America, and South America, particularly that part of it, is not at all a "large and wide landmass." Hunter Valley is in the southeastern corner of Australia but not too far across from Adelaide.

Image

There is a reason why the west coast has milder climate on every large continent, which is my point. Because of the direction the Earth rotates, the wind generally tends to blow from the west, and wind off an ocean produces milder climates than wind off the land. Which is why Kazakhstan and Iowa have extreme heat and cold, whereas western France and California have mild weather.

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