If there’s one wine that might change your mind about Riesling, this might be it.
Most casual wine drinkers choose Riesling because they want something sweet. Sommeliers and other wine hipsters are pretty pushy about letting you know that dry Riesling is the only way to go. Who’s right?
The politically correct answer is “whatever you like is the wine you should drink.” True. But It’s a Wonderful Life, one of the most beloved movies of our time, was a box office bomb when it came out. Conversely, movie critics uniformly trashed the Farrelly Brothers’ Dumb and Dumber, but we all know it might be the funniest comedy ever made. Just think what a horrible world it would be if all we did was either a) stick with what we think we like and ventured no further, or b) only listened to critics.
The 2016 SELBACH OSTER Riesling feinherb settles the argument by being both scintillatingly dry and delightfully sweet. Being a German Riesling, fruit quality just can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world. America tries its hand at making dry Rieslings, but too often that pleasure principle is amiss, or that elegance of structure is awry. Australians are making many beautifully structured dry Rieslings that are very nuanced, but they remain a hard sell because the casual drinker doesn’t want to work that hard to love a wine. Rieslings from Alsace are a critics’ darling, but they are very eclectic and can be difficult to grasp.
The “feinherb” from Selbach Oster, a very hands-on, artisanal family winery located in Germany’s celebrated Mosel region, strikes an emphatic modernist tone by taking a rather minimalist approach in letting the terroir speak for itself through the wine. Of course, it takes A LOT of labor to be this minimalist. Oh, the irony, the irony… (think Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now before his character dies).
You can smell German terroir right off the bat: wet slate, flint and saline on the nose, along with sunny notes of honeysuckle and white and yellow peach. The wine is a supremely uplifting affair—bright acidity that lends a refreshing and vibrantly fresh element, and a feeling of a splash of sun that hits your face, like what happens while driving your convertible along the cliffs of Malibu. It’s a dry Riesling to start, with very clean structure and excellent precision, then—wait for it—that underlying sweetness of citrus grabs you, delights you… then a final, subtle reprise of salinity on the finish, like a spray of ocean mist at sunset.
Before you convince yourself you don’t like dry Riesling, try this one. On the flip side, before you become too pretentious, try this one as well. You will change your mind. –J.M.