Wines from the Mosel

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Stunning views in the Mosel. The wines can be exceptional.

German white wine is probably the wine lovers best kept secret. It only takes a few tastings of a German Riesling, whether bone dry, semi-sweet, sweet or even in its ice-wine variety and you are likely to be hooked. Riesling ages incredibly well, is very versatile and changes character along the way. It is also extremely versatile with food.

When the wine is not mass-produced, and mass production is probably one of the reasons why it had such a bad reputation, it can be brilliant. It also provides exceptional value for money.

A good Riesling to me has unique qualities. It is fresh, vibrant and has a great perfume. The freshness can be surprising even when you are drinking an older wine. It is not uncommon to open a 10 to 15 year old dry wine and still find incredible freshness.

IMG_3854The Mosel Valley is a beautiful and scenic region in Germany and exploring the vineyards and wineries is a great way to get a taste of German culture, its people and some wonderful wines. Most of the region is centred around eating and drinking.

For non-German speakers, German wines can be intimidating because of the labelling even though once grasped it is incredibly simple and extremely transparent. The classic gems of German wines are sweet wines which are best enjoyed alone. I have quite a number of sweet wines in my cellar which can be savoured over the years given the ageing potential is huge. However, because sweet wines are no longer so much in demand, German producers have opted for dry wines called trocken. When it is medium try it is called halbtrocken.

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This weekend, we tasted two different wines from the Mosel. They were from Weingut Lotz.

We tried two wines from the same terroir. One was a 2010 and the other was a 2013. Both were great but also incredibly different one could not help wonder whether the 2013 would develop in such a way.

The location of the vineyards that produce these wines is the Erdener Herrenberg. The slate-stone ground is very weathered and produces wines with a special minerality.

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The Lotz wines. (Photo taken from website of wine producer)

We first tried the 2010 Riesling Schieferstein from Weingut Klaus Lotz. For a four-year old wine this still had incredible freshness. It is complex on the nose with hints of exotic fruits. It has the right balance between acidity and sweetness and goes perfectly well with a light meal. We tried it again a day later and it still showed the same sort of freshness indicating that it still has the potential to age. Overall this is an incredible value for money wine.

The 2013 Lotz Schieferstein from the same producer has different labelling now. This is the sort of wine that you will enjoy drinking when it is extremely hot. It is crisp and has great acidity. It is not as complex on the nose as the 2010. It is indeed rather gentle on the nose though it has a really nice aroma which reminded me of marzipan. To me this was a perfect wine to drink as an aperitif also because the finish was not as long as the previous wine. Overall, it was still fantastic.

The great thing about Rieslings is their ageing potential and therefore the possibility to try different wines of different vintages. You do not need to worry if you don’t finish the wines. Firstly these two wines had a screw cap. Moreover, given that these wines can age, you can actually test their ageing potential by trying them days later. If they still taste good, then you know that they can still age.

The only problem with these wines is that they are so hard to find. But that makes them all the more alluring.

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Santorini – a wine region worth discovering

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Santorini’s views can be breathtaking. Its wines are however worth discovering

It might sound like a cliche but Santorini is all that you can imagine about a Mediterranean island if not more. This volcanic island offers crisp blue seas, breathtaking views, glorious sunsets, excellent produce (particularly tomatoes and aubergines) and incredible wines.

The latter may come as a surprise for people not necessarily in the know. Greek wines can be surprising in their quality. But in terms of island wines, the ones which come from this beautiful island in Southern Aegean are exceptional.

If you have never tried the white wine Assyrtiko, which has a potent dryness and minerality with strong hints of lemon, then you are clearly missing something really special. Just like with Riesling, the first time I tried this grape variety, I was immediately hooked.

The volcanic soil of Santorini is great for grape growing and while many might consider the conditions to be too harsh for wine growing, both the land and the climate make for exceptional wines with great ageing potential.

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The Domaine Sigalas vineyards

The wine makers to look out for in Santorini, and those which are also available outside the island are Domaine Sigalas, Hatzidakis and Gaia – not to be mistaken for the wines of Italian wine giant Angelo Gaja.

Another white grape variety is Athiri which is also an indigenous, white variety. Athiri is an aromatic variety, of lower acidity than Assyrtiko and lower potential alcohol. This is also blended with Assyrtiko making a very interesting combination.

Among the reds is the lesser known though equally excellent Mavrotragano, a red variety indigenous to the island.  This grape came close to extinction but is again being grown by a number of wineries on the island. I can confirm that this wine has exceptional ageing potential. I have tasted a few 2004 over the years and still have a few in my cellar.

When in Santorini we visited the winery of Domaine Sigalas close to Oia. The wine tasting was exceptional in that you tasted the wines pretty much in the middle of the vineyards in a perfect setting. Despite being a small island, Sigalas produces around 300,000 bottles of wine annually and their wines are exported to many countries including Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Holland, England, Cyprus, Switzerland, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Sweden, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, USA and Canada.

We were told that the vines in Santorini are extremely old and have resisted to phylloxera (which is attributed to the fact that that the volcanic soil is well drained). This means that the vines did not need to be replaced during the epidemic of the late 19th century. What is interesting about the Santorini wines is that the vines are planted far apart to get as much exposure to dew as possible and they are often made in the shape of low-spiralling baskets, with the grapes hanging inside to protect them from the island wind.

My recommendation is to try the wines from Santorini if you come across them whether in your favourite wine store or a restaurant or wine bar. You will surely not to be disappointed. The white Assyrtiko might well be among the best wines you have tried in many years.