By Rick Riozza

We know Germany for its beer, but the northern European country has a long history of winemaking dating back to the Roman era.  And one of the most delicious wines of the world is Riesling [Ree-sling]. This white grape seems to have originated around the Rhine area of Germany and we contend that it still produces the most sublime Riesling—a racy elegance that no one, anywhere, can imitate.

There is great art in liquid when a vintage Riesling exquisitely balances fine acidity to an impressive and understated sweetness. It’s been said that, in wine, sweetness without acidity would be flat or flabby, and acidity without sweetness would be sharp. In a great Riesling there is the fusion of the grape’s fantastic essences intertwined within the “unfashionable” ingredients of acid and sugar.

Thirty years ago or so, we used to write,”Because these German vineyards are located so far north, ripening, when it happens, brilliantly maintains its foray of flavors with low alcohol levels.  Traditionally, the first tier of premium world-class, known as Kabinett, the wine tasted of fresh rose petals, green apples, citrus, apricots, stones, steel, and light herb spices.  There was natural fruit sweetness but the wine was dry and owned that racy acidity, that wakens the palate and kept things so interesting and desirable.


“Riesling offers elegance, longevity, versatility, expression of terroir, and bracing acidity, with tension balanced by fruitiness. It flourishes in numerous environments—not only slate soil but also limestone, gneiss, sandstone, marl, and loam, on slopes as steep as 70 degrees or on gentle rolling hills.”

Although the geology remains the same, within the last 20 years of climate warming however, the wine community has noticed that a lot of premium Kabinett has lost some of its edge in the racy acidity category.

To get nerdy for a bit: High-quality wine production is largely dependent on a balanced sugar-acid ratio and a regulated percentage of alcohol in the fermented product. With extended growing seasons and longer ripening times, white wine grapes will see higher levels of both sugar and alcohol after fermentation. These characteristics were not traditionally associated with the crisp and refreshing German whites of old. Loss of the fresh, crisp, and racy characteristics due to increased temperatures means we have to keep an eye out for those wines that can still blow us away with Zen and zip!

But here is the good/bad news:  In general, Germany is doing great in producing more wine than ever; and we’re talking about Pinot Noir and other varietals evident in Germany, where grapes have in previous years been cold-limited.

So here’s the thing: traditional Kabinett producers will always strive to create a wine that will show off its crisp, refreshing & racy flavors.  It’s just that it will cost more than it used to.  Back in the day, we could get an excellent Kabinett starting at 15 to 20 bucks a bottle.  Now we’re looking at $25 to $30 for starters.  Whaddya gonna do!

And now, some of our favorite Rieslings:

2018 Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Alte Reben GG Dry Riesling (Mosel) ($50).  The critics write: Deep ripples of smoke and spice permeate through this smoldering dry Riesling. Packed with bristling lemon and grapefruit flavors, its palate is rich in texture yet steely and firm on the backbone. Tasted in early 2021, it’s nervous and demure in youth but should gain nuance and depth from 2023 and evolve beautifully through 2035 and beyond.”

2018 Schlos Johannisberger Silberback Troken GG Riesling (Rheingau) ($90) “Wafting of spring blossoms, smoke and raspberry brambles, this is such a delicately perfumed Riesling. It’s slim in profile but beautifully defined, etched by layers of luminous white peach and grapefruit along with a bold, intensely slaty core. It’s quiet in youth but should gain depth well through 2030 and hold further still.”

2016 Prinz von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus Grosses Gewaches Riesling (Rheingau) ($45)  “Enticing whiffs of smoke, hazelnut and dried sage mingle into succulent lime and lemon here. It’s dry and lusciously full bodied but calibrated by spine-tingling streaks of acid and minerality. It should improve through 2030 and hold further.”

The 2021Dr. Hermann Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett ($30).  is a white wine made from the Riesling grape variety grown in the Urziger Wurzgarten vineyard, located in the Mosel region of Germany. Known for its aromatic profile, the flavors and aromas can range from green apple and lime to honey and petrol.

You’ll find a natural sweetness balanced by acidity, as it’s made from fully ripe grapes. It’s also a medium-bodied, with a lower alcohol content and a lighter mouthfeel.

Overall, Dr. Hermann Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2021 has flavors and aromas of spices, stone fruits and red berries, as well as notes of honey, with a long finish.

This is a great example of an excellent Kabinett Riesling that used to show a bracing acidity.  Now, with the current weather, you see it’s sweetened up a bit.

And finally the 2021 Escher Haus Riesling ($12). Anton Escher tended to his vines as his grandfather had many years before. The vines of Rheinhessen Germany flourish in the warm, sunny, mineral-enriched soils. Proud of his heritage, Escher grew his grapes to match- pleasantly crisp with a chiseled character. Ripe fruit flavors and aromas of peaches and pears round out this traditional German Riesling. A decent Riesling starter for a very decent price!  Cheers!