When the French release a wine there's fan fair and dancing, price wars and road trips. Take Bordeaux's annual en primeur campaign and Beaujolais Nouveau. Other wine producing countries have similar wine occasions too but often they go under the radar for their more modest approach. Take the Germans for example. Good at football, making cars and general efficiency but when it comes to wine they've struggled to reclaim the hearts of this nation that once couldn't get enough of their wines and frequently fail to get the attention they deserve amongst the wine drinking masses.
On the 1st of September every year the Germans release the Erstes Gewächs or Grand Cru equivalent of the previous year’s vintage. On the 6th of September this year they bought their 2011 Rheingau Riesling Erstes Gewächs to London to showcase their wares. There was no flag waving or fancy dinners, just a modest and matter of fact introduction to the 'ultimate quality dry Riesling in the world today.'
Riesling as a grape is exactly what the UK palate should lap up, it's white, aromatic, unoaked, fresh and fruity and comes in a range of finishes from bone dry, off dry and so on up to super sweet. Some can be truely wunderbar and it has long been the 'next big wine thing' but its true renaissance has yet to blossom. There are loads of attractively priced Rieslings from around the world, a great one if you like it dry is Cono Sur’s Reserva Riesling 2011 from the Bio Bio Valley in Chile, £8.99, it won a Regional Trophy for dry Riesling at last weeks Decanter World Wine Awards and is available at Tesco.
Back to Germany and we have a different story. Of the fifteen wineries on show at the Rheingau Riesling tasting only seven have UK representation and none are widely available. A sign of wineries keeping the best for their domestic customers? The sign of a disinterested market? Or are the wines just too difficult to spend the time trying to understand? Hmmmm. It's no wonder examples like these make new world wine producers look so good.
A couple of the wines I tasted included the tongue-twistingly named Weingut Prinz von Hessen 2011 Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Erstes Gewächs and Weingut Künstler 2011 Hochheim Kirchenstück Riesling Erstes Gewächs trocken. Some old codger at the masterclass I went to advised the wineries there that the region should stop considering trying to make the wine names easier to understand or interpret for the public, that such a move would ruin the historical identity of the wines. Once I checked my time-travel machine I realised we were still in 2012 and could only hope that this 'advice' was falling on deaf ears. German wine having seen a 14.4% volume decline in sales in the last year in the UK rediculous suggestions like this from people completely out of touch with a wine producers need to actually sell wine can only make me assume that this chap's time machine had got well and truely stuck in wunderland....