"I don't like Rielsing." Wait for it. "It's too sweet." If I had a dollar for every time I heard those words when I was in wholesale and retail trade I'd have a very nice cellar of Rieslings. I'm not trying to convince anyone anymore about the merits of German Riesling, for now long living in the shadows of Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I'll leave that chore to Jancis Robinson and the sommeliers of fine dining establishments. Having championed German Riesling for decades now, if Jancis' breadth of knowledge and proselytizing about the virtues of Riesling doesn't make you more curious about the wine, you can't be helped. Notice how I mentioned the red wines before the Chardonnay. Well, that's because anybody that knows anything about wine, knows there is only one real type of wine and it has to be red. Cheers to the "Big Reds Only Guy", downing glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon at mid-summer outdoor barbecues.
Alright enough with the sarcasm, lest you think I don't like German Riesling. I love Riesling. I suppose one of the reasons I love German Riesling is the tradition behind it. Some of the best Riesling wines hail from the incredibly steep valley slopes of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer rivers in the southwestern region of Germany not too far from the borders of France and Luxembourg. Farming and harvesting on these steep slopes can be done by machines but it's still mostly done traditionally by hand, using seasonal workers from eastern Europe. A machine harvester can replace fifty grape pickers, start work at a moments' notice and doesn't need to take breaks during its shifts. As time marches on the machines will do more and more of the work, although I'm not convinced for now, that the machines do a better job than humans. Holding to tradition Nik's vineyard holdings are still hand harvested. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks and aging in seasoned Fuder ( thousand liter oak barrels) make German Rielsings truly unique wines. One of the reasons German Riesling is touted as having the greatest ability to express the differences in terroir is the fact that the German winemakers eschew new small oak barrels in the cellar for fermentation or aging. This allows for a truer expression of what the grapes have to offer in the finished wines. Think of new oak barrels as condiments in your kitchen and without the use of your condiments you have only the true flavors of your base ingredient.
The object of my desires this week is the 2015 Single Post Riesling Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett from the Saar River Valley. Nik Weis is in charge of this operation and his grandfather Nicolaus Weis built the St. Urbans-Hof estate after the war, by the village of Leiwen in 1947. The family owns an extensive amount of vines (33 hectares) in the Mosel and Saar area. The grapes for the Single Post come from a leased portion of the Ockfener Bockstein vineyard so the Single Post bottling is a secondary label for St. Urbans-Hof. Even though you don't get their distinctive black and gold label that adorns their top wines, you do get a wine that has been raised under the watchful eye of Nik Weis, from a Grand Cru vineyard. That in itself is a great value because Nik makes great wines at fair prices.
The Single Post Riesling is crafted from grapes grown on the steep south facing slopes of the Bockstein Vineyard above the village of Ockfen. Bock is a buck in German and a stein is a rock.
German wine labels in the past have been notoriously famous for their Gothic fonts and tongue twisting names which could be difficult to read and understand. Nik is a smart marketer, electing to use easy to understand labeling, but still giving a nod to the old schoolers. For this wine the label clearly states Single Post Riesling in bold red and gold fonts. Typically used on steep slopes where trellising is not possible 'Single Post' vines have their own stake with two canes bent in the shape of a heart. A drawing of this vine training style is featured on the front label. For the traditional old schoolers the name of the village, vineyard and wine style is in smaller font towards the bottom of the label. Ockfener meaning from the village of Ockfen. Bockstein is the name of the vineyard site, set in a side valley of the Saar River with a 50% slope and a southwest exposure. Kabinett denotes a high quality wine made in a light style. Turn the bottle around and you essentially get the same information on the back side along with the International Riesling Foundation Taste Profile. For the consumer this easy to read scale makes buying German Rielsing much easier. The bottle features a red colored stelvin closure with the words con natura non invicem. A nod to Nik's recent affiliation with the Fair and Green Association which espouses a holistic sustainability concept. Consequently traditional and natural winemaking methods are used in Nik's cellars instead of some of the modern technology and hocus pocus you may witness in other cellars.
The Single Post Riesling has a light amber color and displays lemon-lime, white peach and intriguing leesy aromas. On the palate it's Golden Delicious apples and apricots all wrapped in honey. At 8% alcohol its off dry, delicately light with vibrant acidity and a long lengthy finish that leave you wanting more. In our household once a bottle of Single Post is opened there's never any left over for tomorrow. Both the 2015 and the 2016 vintage are currently available on the market. $18 to $20
The village of Ockfen
photo courtesy of Ockfen.com