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Finding the Great Wines of the World

Riesling - Deutschland über alles

By Shannon Noble

About 12 years ago someone proclaimed to me that, “..white wines do not age, only red wines can age and are worthy of cellaring”. It was a few years later I came to learn that this statement was complete nonsense and held no weight what so ever. Then about 7 years ago, I had one of the most profound and memorable wine experiences of my life. Whilst at an estate sale, I happened to come across a worn suitcase filled with old bottles of German Riesling. While there was some that had been leaking, there were others probably as full as the day they were bottled. Each one branded with a classic 1970’s German label, a Reichstag Eagle complete with long tongue twisting names, that at the time I could hardly pronounce let alone know what they meant. I purchased the entire suitcase and its contents for a song, more out of curiosity then true vinous passion at the time.

It was some of the Auslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Beerenauslese and Spatlese wines contained in this suitcase that, when opened, left me almost speechless as to how profound, complex and glug ably good these 30yr old German Rieslings were. Armed with the knowledge of these incredible experiences I threw the notion of “white wines don’t age” out the window and began what has become a vinous love affair with the incredible age worthy Riesling wines of Germany. So began my quest: to search, to collect, to consume and to share the incredible charms of these heavily underrated grand white wines. From the rich dense wines of the gentle Rheingau plateau’s and slopes to the mineral driven wines of the steep Mosel Saar Ruwer cliffs and hill sides German Rieslings’ all have their own unique signature.

One of the most amazing things I have learnt is how well and how long these wines can actually age, and how large a transformation they can make over 20, 30, 40 or 50 years plus. These are the chameleon of wines. From the acidic, spritzy, sweet, tightly wound, dry and impeccably balanced wines upon bottling to the deep gloriously rich and profoundly complex wines they become after many years of bottle age. At 30+ years in the bottle these wines can be bright yellow or amber to dark caramel in colour showing everything from a melange of tropical fruits to citrus marmalades, botrytis spices and ginger, smoke and herbs, caramel, butterscotch and molasses, green tea, minerals, hay and a myriad of floras all drenched in the wonderful honey of bottle age. All this held together by a soft, fine acid line that underlines everything in amazing, gun barrel straight balance, keeping the wines fresh and vibrant.

As with all things wine, vintage can make a tremendous difference in the ability of these Rieslings to age. There are the great years or almost perfect vintages such as 1949, 1953, 1959, 1971 and 1976. Importantly a near perfect vintage is not always the perfect combination for an age worthy German Riesling. Cooler vintages, which can result in grapes at vintage with higher levels of acidity, will often cellar longer and keep better due to the preserving quality of the acids. Let’s also not forget the very cold years where the grapes freeze on the vine giving rise to the wonderfully intense natural Eisweins or Ice wines which can be made in a number of styles depending on the level of grape maturity or ripeness when they freeze.

Either way if you find yourself confronted with the opportunity to try one of these great old wines I would suggest you seize the moment with both hands grasped firmly, and if need be, fight for it! Like mine, it could be one of the greatest wine experiences you will ever encounter.

Copyright ©2012 Shannon Noble, All Rights Reserved.

About the Author
Shannon Noble is a Sydney based wine enthusiast who loves to share his love of wines with others. He organises wine dinners to experience wines that people rarely have the opportunity to experience. See his Rare Wine Dinners website for more information.

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