A Rheingau Riesling Spätlese

Spätleses are usually sweet...

Spätlese Grapes

Spätlese grapes in German white wine

If you are looking for fine German wine and food, you should consider the Rheingau region of central Germany. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local Riesling Spätlese, literally a late-harvest wine but in fact one made from ripe grapes.

The Rheingau region is the most central of Germany’s thirteen wine regions but comes in eighth both for vineyard area and the volume of wine produced. It has quite a special terrain. The majestic Rhine River runs mostly in the east-west direction and has excellent exposure to the summer sun. Furthermore the heavily wooded hillsides block cold air. The Rheingau is known for its Riesling which makes up over 80% of its total wine production. Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) comes in second with a measly 10%. But this is Riesling country and has been since the Middle Ages. And since the late Eighteenth Century it has been making Spätlese and the sweeter Auslese wines.

Herr Leitz_vineyard in German white wine

Herr Leitz in his vineyard.

If you are in this region you should visit Öestrich-Winkel about thirteen miles (twenty-one kilometers west of Wiesbaden, the main city in the Rheingau region. Öestrich is home to the largest vineyard in the Rheingau. The nearby Brentano Haus has a special room devoted to the writer Goethe, but you need an appointment to visit. North of the town you’ll find Schloss Vollrads, the oldest (we’re talking almost seven hundred years) private wine estate in Germany with a tower and moat that were inhabited for centuries. And don’t miss the nearby Schloss Johannisberg, described in a previous article in this series.

Before reviewing the Rheingau wine here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Riesling-Käse Suppe (Riesling and Cheese Soup). Continue with Bauernente (Farmer’s Duck). For dessert indulge yourself with Riesling-Torte (Riesling Torte).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Letitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese 2004 7.5% alcohol about $25

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Wild floral aromas combine with guava, cinnamon and nut oils. The luscious tropical fruit flavors along with a bacony tang come across as lively rather than sweet. Succulent and long on the finish. Score – 90 (Joel B Payne, International Wine Cellar, Jan./Feb. 2006) And now for my review.

The first sip was deliciously sweet with plenty of citrus. I really felt that I could finish the bottle; what a headache that would give me. My first meal consisted of packaged vegetarian lasagna covered with grated Parmesan cheese. The taste of tropical fruits remained in my mouth for a moderate period of time. The wine’s sweetness melded with the lasagna’s tomatoes. For dessert I had a French-style lemon pie with a very buttery crust. The two somewhat different citrus tastes meshed; I got some pear notes as well.

I next tried the wine with a vegetarian pizza. The Spätlese was too sweet for the pizza. It actually went well with the toppings but there wasn’t a lot of tomato. As always, I don’t blame the wine for an unorthodox (read weird) food pairing.

The final food pairing was with a commercially barbecued lightly-herbed chicken breast accompanied by roasted potatoes cooked in chicken fat, and a fairly spicy tomato, garlic, green pepper, and lime juice salsa. This time the wine was lovely with sweet acidity and an excellent citrus taste. It did a fine job of cutting the potatoes’ grease, and believe me, they are greasy. This Riesling was a chameleon; it became spicy when faced with the salsa. In the presence of fruit juice candy the wine was quite round but somewhat short. It seems to go well with almost everything. I did something that I don’t usually do. I repeated this delicious meal with the same great results, leaving only a tiny bit of wine for the cheese tastings. No way that I was going to waste a quarter bottle of this wine on cheese pairings.

I first tried this Riesling wine with a Havarti cheese. The wine enveloped the cheese and wasn’t overly sweet. But frankly, why bother? Marbled Cheddar cheese increased the wine’s acidity.

Final verdict. Yes, yes, and yes. Maybe I am tired of $10 wines, but frankly most $20-$30 wines don’t even come close to this delicious bottle. I not only would buy it again, but am actively looking for such a wine. I do have a Rheingau Auslese (a true late-harvest wine) that I will review shortly.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine websites include
www.theworldwidewine.com    and    http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com

Visit his website devoted to Italian travel www.travelitalytravel.com

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