It may just be the most perfect summer wine of all. Sitting out on a warm sunny evening, I can think of no other drink I would rather have in front of me. The words fragrant, charming, filigree and delicate are frequently used to describe the unique combination of fruit, acidity and sweetness that you get from a Mosel Riesling Kabinett. With age comes a rich (but never heavy) honeyed complexity, while younger wines usually have a seductive floral fragrance and fresh pure fruits.
Many younger wine lovers are looking for drinks that are lighter in alcohol. They don’t have a hang up about enjoying something with a little sweetness, and so worldwide a generation is turning to German wines. With an ABV of 7-11%, a Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel fits the demand perfectly, and sales are booming. While they have some residual sugar, they often “drink dry” or off-dry thanks to the vibrant racy natural acidity and delicious delicate fresh fruit.
The vineyards along the river Mosel rank as some of the most spectacular and beautiful in the world. Vines cling to impossibly steep slopes that run down to the serpentine river, giving way to green forests as it twists and turns. Every vineyard has been carefully mapped, and producers know where the ideal combination of slate soils and south-facing vineyards come together to produce unique single-vineyard wines of the highest quality. More sunshine and warmer weather means poor vintages are far less likely. Vines were first planted here by the Romans, and Riesling has been grown since the 15th century.
Like Pinot Noir, Riesling reflects the terroir, changing in a subtle and wonderful way depending on where the grapes were grown. Wine anoraks love to debate the differences blue, grey and red slate soils of the Mosel bring to the wine. Given the tiny yields and huge labour costs involved in working these vertiginous vineyards, it is hardly surprising that the best Mosel Rieslings are not cheap. But there are plenty of less expensive options too. As well as the wines below top names available in Ireland include Immich-Batterieberg, Fritz Haag, Markus Molitor, JJ Prum, Alex Pauly and Heymann-Löwenstein.
Understanding German label nomenclature is not always easy. Kabinett is the lightest style, made from grapes with the lowest level of sugar. Sometimes the wine is fermented dry, in which case it can be labelled Trocken or Kabinett Trocken, but usually it is off-dry. Germany also produces great dry wines, Pinot Noir and some of the world’s greatest sweet wines, but today I focus on Kabinett and other off dry wines. While they are the perfect warm weather aperitif, these will also go very well with food, including sushi, sashimi, prawns and lighter chicken and pork dishes.
Riesling Feinherb 2020, Schiefer Steillage, Mosel, Reh Kendermann
Nicely balanced with smoky green apple fruits, good citrus acidity and an off-dry finish. Perfect on its own, possibly better with oysters or grilled sea bass.
From Dunnes Stores
Dr. L Riesling 2020, Loosen Bros, Mosel
Rich honeyed red apples and pears with good racy acidity and a medium-dry finish. A lovely aperitif or with Chinese chicken and prawn dishes.
Available from O’Briens, Select Mulloys Liquor Stores, and independent off-licences including Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; wineonline.ie; O’Donovans Wines, Cork; Martins, D3; McHughs, D5; Ardkeen Stores, Waterford; Redmonds, D6; Baggot Street Wines, D4; Blackrock Cellar; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey; Nolans, Clontarf; Dwans, D16; Bradleys, Cork
Max Ferdinand Richter, Elisenberger Riesling Kabinett 2020
Floral and springlike with intense opulent nectarine fruits, piercing acidity and a lovely lingering off-dry finish. Classic Mosel Kabinett, and a delight to drink. Enjoy solo, with sushi, prawn tempura or Thai Crab Cakes.
From Mitchell & Son, IFSC, D1 and Glasthule; Redmond’s, D6, Martin’s, D3; Blackrock Cellar
Maximin Grünhaus, Single Vineyard ‘Abtsberg’ Grosse Lage Mosel Riesling Kabinett 2020
Intense rich pear and peach fruits with a laser-like mineral streak. Off dry but wonderfully fresh and vibrant. Keep for up to ten years or enjoy with scallops, chicken salads, asparagus or green salads.
From Blackrock Cellar; Clontarf Wines; wineonline.ie; The Corkscrew, D2; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth