German riesling: a wine with staying power


Rows of riesling grapes surround the Rheingau region of Germany.
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I made a bet with myself: If Argentina won the World Cup, I’d write about malbec this week; If the Germans were the victors, I’d write about riesling. Germany won. And, since it is summer, riesling is actually more appropriate, though, those who live in the outer reaches of the southern hemisphere might not agree. Nonetheless, since we are in San Francisco and I lost-won this bet, riesling it is.

Riesling, which was first discovered in the Rheingau region of Germany in the 15th century, is one of the best aging grapes in the world. It is often vinified on the sweet side, with sugar acting as a preservative in addition to its acidity. I’ve had 20-year-old dry, aka “trocken,” riesling that has been outstanding. World-class riesling is also made in Austria and the Alsace region of France, which can develop for long periods as well. But at the end of the day, or century, German riesling has staying power that is only matched by Vouvray and Savennières.

So, in honor of riesling and Germany’s soccer glory, here are some rieslings from 2006 that you might be able to find that are not only delicious but also great values. All are kabinett, meaning that they are from the highest class of German wines but the earliest picked. While 2006 had its issues, the wines are holding up and many are now in full bloom:

Dr. Fischer Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, 2006

German wines are often labeled as Dr. something or other, meaning that the proprietor has a PhD. In 1950, Dr. H.H. Fischer, a surgeon, inherited the estate from his father. Located in the Saar region, which is known for its especially steely wines, Bockstein is a very old vineyard. Floral and slately, with green apples and honey, this riesling has a drop of sweetness at first giving way to a pleasantly tart finish. It should hold up for at least another five years. Suggested Retail — $19

Weingut Kurt Darting Dürkheimer Fronhof Riesling Kabinett Trocken, 2006

Located in the Pfalz, which compared to other German wine regions makes more flamboyant wines, Darting’s wines always have restraint although this wine has a pretty big nose. Loaded with tropical fruit, it has a firm minerality and superb acidity, which keeps the wine in check on the palate and leaves you with a long, quenching finish. Drink through 2020. Suggested Retail — $19

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett Halbtrocken, 2006

The Selbach family can trace its lineage in the Mosel wine region to the mid 1600’s but Johannes Selbach, the current patriarch and winemaker, has not let it rest on its laurels. It has holdings in some of the best sites in the region, including this one, making half of the work done. But even in the most difficult vintages, you can count on this estate to make good juice. With this riesling having citrus, green apples, a hint of pineapple and delicate minerality, it is easy to overlook the exquisite balance here as it tastes so incredibly delicious. I’d be shocked if this wine was not still alive in seven years. Suggested Retail — $24

Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.

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