German wine tasting

Sarah Wong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:46am

German wine exports to Hong Kong have doubled in volume since 2011 and are still gathering momentum. Germany is responsible for 60 per cent of the world's riesling and consumers here are gradually realising that the white wine variety goes well with the local climate and food.

Many consumers mistakenly associate riesling only with sweet wines, but the grape can be made into sparkling, dry, off-dry, sweet and even honeyed elixirs. Germany's climate is classified as cool, meaning that grapes may take time to attain ripeness and acidity levels will tend to be high. Winemakers do not ferment the wine to dryness, instead leaving a little sugar to balance out the sharp acidity. Acid tends to disguise sugar, in fact some wines that contain sugar are perceived to be dry. A good riesling with a little residual sweetness will never taste cloyingly sweet as the acidity will cleanse and refresh the palate.

Consumers looking for more full-bodied, drier rieslings should try the wines from the Rheingau region as more than 80 per cent of the region's output is dry. The Rheingau is also famous for the town of Hochheim am Main, which was visited by Queen Victoria in 1845. The wines from the region are known as Hock and, at one time, as a favourite among the English, fetched higher prices than Bordeaux.

Balthasar Ress, located in the Rheingau, is a family winery that dates back to 1870. More than 90 per cent of its vineyards are riesling. It is a good starting point to taste the diversity of riesling styles from dry to sweet.

Balthasar Ress Rüdesheim Berg Rottland Riesling Erstes Gewächs Trocken 2010

The term Erstes Gewächs indicates that the grapes are from a first-growth vineyard. Quality standards dictate yield levels and a maximum residual sugar level - 13 grams per litre. This wine is labelled trocken (dry).

Quite closed on the nose, with mineral, apple and citrus notes. These have a medium body, are dry with high levels of acid and lean with a long finish. A great wine for delicate dishes. HK$570

Balthasar Ress Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2007

Spätlese (late harvest) means that the grapes have a higher ripeness levels, and tend to be richer and more concentrated. Sugar levels tend to be higher than in kabinett wines.

There are honeyed, floral notes that are rich on the palate and sweet with well balanced acidity. Works well with desserts or rich, savoury dishes. HK$630

Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Schützenhaus Riesling Kabinett 2011

Kabinett wines are made from grapes picked at the lower end of the ripeness spectrum. They will tend to be lower in sugar, but sweetness levels will ultimately depend on harvest conditions in that particular year.

Citrus and mineral notes with a medium body that is off-dry. Very well balanced with a long finish. Can be enjoyed as an aperitif or a food wine with spicy dishes. HK$200

Available from meritwine.com