The Riesling varietal is multifaceted, to say the least. This aromatic varietal is originally from Germany and now grown throughout the world.
A few months ago, a friend of mine and fellow judge, Dr Rowald Hepp, the winemaker and leader of the historical Schloss Vollrads Winery in the Rheingau region of Germany, mentioned he had traveled the world collecting Riesling clones — 50 to be exact — and planted them at his estate in an effort to monitor the behavior of all this expressions on the same terroir. The experiment is still underway; it will be a few years to yield results he mentioned.
What resonated is that there are at least 50 clones of Riesling, each adapted to different soils, altitudes and latitudes. A few days ago, Armen, a wine collector and industry star, had a brilliant idea, which he named ‘Ries-namese.’ Based on his recent travels to Vietnam where he dove deep into the culture and also a couple exciting finds on his cellar he contacted us with the wild idea of a gathering based on friendships, Riesling and Vietnamese food. Not a new concept by any means, but a brilliant idea indeed.
The carefully planned adventure consisted of six people total, and each person brings a bottle of Riesling. In my case, I couldn’t help it and I added a bottle of Riesling-like Sake from Miyagi prefecture. We dug for local Riesling in our cellar, like Edelweiss from Carneros or Benevolent Neglect from Mendocino, but it appeared we like those too much and haven’t replenished supplies.
The setting was an undisclosed mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurant where he had previously established that we could bring bottles; furthermore he brought his own glassware. A feast ranging from shrimp spring rolls to Pho soup crowded the table instantly.
The wines were carefully curated by the attendees. We started with a dry and balanced sparkling version by Peter Lauer a well-established producer in the Mosel. The NV Brut, aside from being a great palate cleanser, showed flint and a faint orange blossom quality.
Dr. Loosen Auslese, from Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2001 also from the Mosel region, was shining with touches of lime zest and a bright kiss of sweetness that worked great with the heat of the dried pepper paste.
We then traveled to the Kremstal region of Austria with the 2011 Salomon Undhof, Undhof Kogl. This producer, deeply rooted along the Danube for over 200 years, is known for his finesse and schist mineral-like qualities, and this wine was no exception.
The following wine transported us back to the Mosel with the 2005 Van Volxem Alte Reben (Old Vine) a producer based in Wiltingen. This wine has aged gracefully with a honeyed aroma and texture, a lemon preserve finish and long-lasting acidity.
Speaking of acidity, the next wine was a perky Australian Riesling, the 2015 Maverick ‘Trial Hill’ from Eden Valley. I have to say I expected a ripping acid attack, one of those that makes your gums scream and retracts as you smell it. It proved to be quite put together like a well-behaved good student in his 20s. This wine had a lime, crushed rock quality, and it was gracefully placed before the next selection.
The last wine was a real nail biter, the 1976 — are you ready? — Staaliche Weinbuadomane Singer Scharlachberg from the Rheinhessen region of Germany alongside the Rhein River. This wine was magic; a mouthful, just like its name. The layers of caramel, butterscotch, cooked lemon were counteracted by the coffee and the acidity that reminded me of a soldier guarding a fort fiercely.
The final result of the exercise was a true proof of Dr. Hepps’ crusade, a drastic difference of this varietal that not only adapts to different environments but ages like no other. We are lucky to have experts like Dr. Hepp and Dan Berger to dig deeper into it.
Oh yeah, the sake! Let me preface by saying I’ve never come across a sake like this, with lemon-lime notes, a touch of sweetness and a remarkable acid structure that holds it together. Ichinokura Himezen ‘Princess Taste’ from Miyagi prefecture — unbelievable and great with spicy food.