Wine Spotlight (Part 2) - Aged Rieslings By Request

Aged Rieslings

Here ya go Tambi - Part 2 of wine post will focus on aged Rieslings, primarily from Germany, but a brief mention of Alsace Rieslings from France. Riesling is Germany’s specialty. The regions of Pfalz, Rheingau, and Mosel produce some of the world’s best Rieslings with high aromatics, acidity, intensity, minerality, and balanced off-dry styles making it food-friendly. Before we begin to understand these Rieslings, it is important to discuss terminology that is unique to Germany. They have their own system of classifying wine broken down into ripeness levels of grape and sweetness levels of resulting wine (see attached image example of these levels on label). They are different. German winemakers are legally able to balance certain wines by adding sussreserve – held back juice clarified and left unfermented. These levels will appear on the wine level to help the consumer. They are in the process of changing how its wines are categorized and labeled to include producer, village, vineyard, grape variety, and vintage.


Ripeness Levels (labeled Pradikat wines, in ascending ripeness when grapes are picked). –


Kabinett – grapes picked during normal harvest; typically light body, dry or off-dry, and low in alcohol. Very food-friendly!

Spatlese – literally means “late”. Later picking yields fully ripened, more intense fruit flavors, dry or off-dry, and slightly fuller bodied than Kabinetts. Sweetness levels are not usually detected because of the high level of acidity on tasting.

Auslese – literally means “select”. Very ripe grapes harvested in select bunches with increased richness and intensity. Not produced every year because the climate has to be exceptionally warm. Fairly sweet, although not as sweet and syrupy as they used to be.

Beerenaislese (BA) – literally means “berry”. Rare and costly wines made from very, very ripe grapes selected by hand. Usually the berries are affected by “noble rot” or Botrytis giving them a deep, honeyed concentration. Always sweet!

Trockenbeerenaislese (TBA) – literally means “dry berry”. Richest, sweetest, rarest, and most expensive. Only produced in exceptional years from individual shriveled to raisins by rot. The high concentration of sugars makes them difficult to ferment, therefore, very low alcohol content (6%, less than the half the alcohol of Sauternes, dessert wine from France).

Eiswein – literally “ice wine”. Made from frozen grapes picked at daybreak. Frozen grapes are pressed yielding sweet, high acid, concentrated juice separated from the ice (ice discarded) that is highly sweet and acidic. The grapes must be frozen naturally as in Austria and Canada. In other countries, grapes can be frozen artificially (cheating lol). Climate change and warming temps has greatly impacted Germany from producing Eiswein consistently because Botrytis sets in consuming much of the water.

Sweetness Levels (from dry to sweet) –


Trocken – bone dry, less than 0.9% residual sugar (RS)

Halbtrocken – half dry, less than 1.8% RS

Lieblich – some sweetness, up to 4.5& RS

In summary, German Rieslings can be any combination of these sweetness and ripeness levels, such as Kabinett Trocken, Kabinett Halbtrocken, Kabinett Lieblich, Spatlese Trocken, Auslese Trocken, and so on…

One of the benefits of acidity in German Rieslings is that it acts to preserve flavor. German wines have some of the highest acidity levels in the world leading to age-worthy wines and the most ageable white wine in the world. If the wine is slightly sweet (sugar is a preservative too), it will age even longer. The fresh fruit component of apricots, peaches, meyer lemon, bees wax, for example, in the first few years will be noticeable, but as it ages, those fresh fruit flavors will dissipate and replaced by honey, marmalade, toast, sage, petrol, etc… One of the traits of aged Rieslings is petroleum/petrol/diesel – a distinctive aroma that is viewed as a very favorable and positive trait that stands out immediately. Typically cellar-worthy for 5-10 years with potential in excellent and quality years to be 20-25 years.

Alsace region of France is next to Germany in worldly Rieslings, Very often you will find the Alsatian-style of Rieslings in cool climates like Canada, Ontario, Finger Lakes, NY, and NYS state in general. Riesling here will be quite aromatic, dry, lean, crisp, loaded with minerality and flavors of green apple, citrus, lime, lemon, and herbaceous (basil, sage, and rosemary - not to be confused with herbal (mint, menthol)).

Off-dry Rieslings, in general, will pair well with spicy foods, like Indian and Asian cuisine, and duck, pork, bacon, shrimp, crab dishes, and most soft and cheeses.