Few things make me as happy as Mosel riesling from Germany. Days when both the Giants and Mets win, Messi scores more goals than Ronaldo, or a Hepburn and Tracy movie is on TMC come pretty close. But when it comes to imbibing, the Mosel region’s light-bodied, high-acid, low-alcohol, floral, minerally and fruity wines make everything seem right with the world — even if it might be falling apart right outside my window.
Prior to 2007, the Mosel was known as the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, named for three appellations, but now the former acts as an umbrella for all. While there are subtle differences, they pose a much starker contrast to the wines from other regions in Germany.
The Mosel has three distinct features. It is steep. In skiing terms, we’re talking single-black-diamond. Though lacking moguls, the vines are enough of an obstacle, making hand harvesting a necessity. The soil is largely composed of permeable blue slate. Both of these factors — plus an especially cold, continental climate — result in wines that are light, vibrant and reek of a slatelike minerality. Green apple and citrus notes are typical, though stone and tropical fruit are not uncommon. You might sniff out floral and honey notes as well.
The 2011 vintage was nearly perfect in Germany, rendering many QbA (Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete) wines, such as those mentioned below, with a very high pedigree.
Selbach Oster Riesling, 2011: Johannes Selbach’s single-vineyard spätleses are what make him a star. However, he never makes bad wine and even this introductory riesling, which is lean with kumquats and mandarin oranges, is utterly pleasant. Suggested retail: $12
Dr. F. Weins Prum Estate Riesling, 2011: Dr. F. Weins Prum was born with the marriage of two Mosel wine-growing families, Prum and Selbach. Minerally with hints of chervil and basil in the nose, grapefruit pith and an ascorbic acid quality that is reminiscent of a Flintstone vitamin, this wine is not as high on fruit as some others, but leaves a pleasant, tart impression. Suggested retail: $15
Von Hovel Riesling, 2011: Von Hovel is actually located in the Saar, the clue being its fresh, green apple skin aroma. Slate-flavored and racy, with tart green apple and pear fruit on the palate, and a long, vivacious finish, your palate will feel refreshed and ready for more. Suggested retail: $17
Meulenhof Riesling, 2011: As a rule, Meulenhof’s wines are a little bit flashier than some of its neighbors’ wines, evincing a riper and more generous fruit quality. This holds true of its 2011 wines. Fragrant with orange blossoms and jasmine, quince, tangerine and Meyer lemon on the palate, and a long, searing citrus finish, it has perfect pitch. Suggested retail: $18
Schloss Lieser Riesling, 2011: Thomas Haag learned how to make wine from one of the best: his father, Fritz Haag. In 1997, he purchased the Schloss Lieser winery, which had fallen into disarray, and brought it back to its former glory. Emanating green apples and pears in the nose, intense slate-infused minerality, citrus and apple fruit on the palate, and floral accents, this is a delicious, textbook Mosel riesling. Suggested retail: $19
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.