Best of Mosel Rieslings

December 7, 2007

I have not posted for a couple of weeks as I was just on a trip around Morocco and the Iberian peninsula. We were flying to Marrakesh from Germany and took the opportunity to spend some time in the Mosel wine region to taste some local wines. The Mosel (formerly named Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) is one of Germany’s premium wine regions, probably the best known along with the adjacent Rheingau. The Mosel is most famous for its Riesling, but they also produce other white varietals here and lately even some reds, such as Spätburgunder. To maximize sun exposure on the grapes, they tend to plant vines on extremely steep south facing slopes in this wine region. In fact most of the world’s steepest vineyards, some reaching a 65 degree incline, are located right here. If you have a chance to drive or bike along the curvy Mosel river, I highly recommend it not just for the fantastic wines, but also for the natural beauty of the land.

We stayed in the village of Reil, right on the bank of the Mosel river. Reil is in the Mittelmosel district, where much of the best Mosel wines come from. One up and coming winery of the Mittelmosel is Melsheimer, which in 2007 the prestigious Vinum magazine rated as the best Riesling producer in Germany. We were fortunate enough to visit this winery and meet the winemaker, Thorsten Melsheimer, a young, energetic very talented person who tasted 6 or 7 of his wines with us. While I must say all of Melsheimer’s wines were fantastic, and good value, two stood out to me the most:

The first one was the 2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese Trocken. This wine is a dry late harvest (Spätlese) Riesling. Most late harvests that I know are at least a bit sweet, but Spätlese can actually be dry, in fact very dry, such as this beauty. The acid is perfectly balanced with the fruit in this wine, you get a taste of both but neither kills the other. You also get quite a lot of minerality, which is typical for Mittelmosel wines. This is a serious, complex dry Riesling, while perfectly paired with dishes that go well with dry whites, I would recommend it by itself to enjoy the complexity it delivers. Be careful, the alcohol content of this white is above 14%!

The other standout from Melsheimer was the 2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling, Auslese #36. This auslese is from the same vineyard, but Mr. Melsheimer left the fruit on the vines a bit longer to give it a more concentrated, fuller body. Also, this wine has much higher residual sugar content and is definitely sweet. The minerality is still there, but you get a lot of peach, honey, and a hint (not much more) of oiliness that we come to expect from German Rieslings. Again, while the wine pairs well with some dishes (for example it would be perfect for spicy thai food) I would recommend it standalone as it is amazingly beautiful.

Melsheimer is a fantastic producer and I think the young winemaker has not reached his limits just yet. It is a winery to watch over the next years. Let’s hope the prices will be contained as he gains reputation. Speaking of prices, I wish I could have tasted some of his Beerenauslese, but paying hundreds of euros for a half bottle was not exactly in my budget. He only makes 100 liters of Beerenauslese per year, but it is reputed to be among the best in Germany. And that means it is among the best desert wines in the world.

Name: Melsheimer 2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese Trocken

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 12.90 euros

Got it at: Weingut Melsheimer, Reil, Germany

2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese trocken

Name: Melsheimer 2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling, Auslese #36

Rating: 9 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 18 euros

Got it at: Weingut Melsheimer, Reil, Germany

2006er Reiler Mullay-Hofberg, Riesling, Auslese #36