Some European wines take a bit of getting used to, especially for those enthusiastic imbibers on this side of the Atlantic whose palates have become accustomed to the likes of California Merlot and Chardonnay.
One example that’s worth a trip outside your normal comfort zone, especially if you enjoy Asian food, is this week’s Five Star Nick’s Wine of the Week, the Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel 2007 ($25) from the venerable estate of S.A.Prüm.
[A word of clarification about this not entirely self-explanatory label: Wehlener Sonnenuhr is the name of the vineyard, Riesling the grape varietal, Kabinett the ripeness level of the grapes, Mosel the region and S.A.Prüm the producer.]
The Sundial vineyard (that’s the Sonnenuhr in the name) is one of the most esteemed in the mid-Mosel. Extremely steep, planted with 80 year old vines in mineral-rich slate soil, it yields wines of indulgent richness and intensity.
Yes, it’s quite sweet – hence the difficulty for American palates – but it couldn’t be further removed from the sort of inexpensive syrup that people unfortunately associate with German Riesling. I blame the whole misunderstanding on Blue Nun.
Flavors of charred toast, hard caramel, yellow plums, toasted almonds and sesame dominate the front palate, but despite all the succulent, ripe-fruit sweetness, the long, aromatic finish, laced with lemongrass, cinnamon and allspice, is unexpectedly crisp.
This intriguing combination/contradiction of sweetness and acidity made it the perfect wine to accompany the food I drank it with: swordfish marinated in soy, ginger, sherry and garlic, and then grilled.
These are the sorts of flavors that are usually so difficult to match with wine – they simply overpower your usual Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – but this Riesling has the presence to stand alongside spicy/sweet Asian food like this, resulting in a happy confluence of European viticulture and Asian cuisine.
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