Story by Manos Angelakis

White Moscato Grape

Let’s Splurge on Good Wines

December is the time of the year when most people that drink good wines and Champagne or other bubblies start building their supplies to be drunk during celebratory moments in the holidays, at the end of the year, or the beginning of the New Year.

We recently tasted two exceptional Piper Sonoma sparklers, from the California vineyards of one of best US sparkling wine producers; a Brut and a Blanc de Blancs. Slightly different in style these sparklers are well priced. They are made according to the traditional méthode Champenoise.

The Blanc de Blancs is primarily Chardonnay, with some Pinot Blanc; it is pale straw in color, with considerable finesse and aromas of green apple, citrus and white flowers. The finish is refreshing with a creamy texture. The palate is crisp and dry with a long finish and a rather soft touch. 

The Brut is a fruit-forward sparkler made of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir; it has lovely lemon-lime citrus flavors and nice gingery spice characteristics. Very dry, it is delicious on its own or as a perfect foundation for a sparkling cocktail. We rate both at 90/100 points.

In addition, we opened a number of German Rieslings from producers in the Mosel Valley, the Rheingau and other German Bereich (viticultural regions) imported by Winesellers, Ltd., of Niles, Illinois.  

Much of the best German wine sold in the US, especially wine from the Middle-Moselle region, is Prädikatswein (formerly known as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat, abbreviated QmP); it indicates a superior quality wine with special attributes, which must meet the most stringent harvesting and production requirements.

A wine can also be considered of high quality if you find “Grosse Lage,” “Erste Lage,” or “Grosses Gewächs” listed on the label. Those terms are part of the classification system of an independent association. In some cases, you may see these terms alongside the “Qualitätswein” or “Prädikatswein” designations.

A wine we liked was the 2018 Kabinett Riesling from Weingut Wwe Dr. H. Thanisch, Erben Müller-Burggraef, a bottle of wine from the Badstube vineyard plots. It is beautiful and highly complex with a nose of grapefruit zest and intense, fresh herbal notes - mainly sage, fresh almonds, ginger, nectarines and vanilla. The wine is gorgeously balanced on the palate. An elegant touch of sweetness comes in the subtle, long finish which is mineral with hints of stone fruit and smoke. It is a monumental dry-tasting Riesling. We rate it at 94/100 points.

Another Riesling that we loved even better, from the same producer, from grapes of the storied Berncasteler Doctor Vineyard, was the 2018 Riesling Kabinett. Very well priced for the quality it represents, this is a wine to have with your festive holiday meals. Extremely well balanced on the palate, complex, with an elegant sweetness, I consider it one of the best recent vintages of the famous Doctor am Doctorberg. I’ll go out on a limb and rate it at 97/100 points. It is silky and juicy on the palate, with bright acidity that gives it a crisp finish. White flowers, tropical fruit, green apple, lemon and pineapple flavors with hints of honey and mineral elements of  slate and earth best describe this beauty. Try it, you’ll love it.

And again, from the Dr. H. Thanisch, Erben Müller-Burggraef winery, the 2018 dry-style Riesling with a modern looking grey label; it was interesting, in a generic-riesling manner. Good but not exceptionally smooth sweetness, light tropical fruit and lemon on the nose, green apple and tangerine on the palate and a hint of honey and slate on the finish. This is a wine without pretentions; we rate it at 89/100 points and we liked it mostly with appetizers or with fresh fruit.

The 2018 Reverchon Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett from the Saar river valley was another bottle we enjoyed. An off-dry wine, with a pronounced nose of apple, grapefruit and lime and hints of white flowers. The palate offers juicy white stone fruit, spice and floral hints. A considerably long mineral finish makes this wine good with both appetizers and main courses. We rated it at 89/100 points.

From another famous vineyard, the Niersteiner Hipping, the 2018 Georg Albrecht Schneider Spätlese, is a juicy and easy drinking Riesling that offers loads of ripe tangerine, pineapple and apple flavors. It's not a very complex wine but it is crisp, with a pleasant hint of astringency that lends structure to the finish. We rate it at 89/100 points.

Abfüller Fritz Allendorf is another producer that makes a line of good Rieslings from 140 acres of estate vineyards mainly in Rheingau. The 2018 bottle still pleads on the label “Save Water Drink Riesling” and is an estate bottled white, slightly off-dry, alcohol-free wine. It is priced by retailers in the $8 to $23 range, so Caveat Emptor. We rate it at 87/100 points.

To your health!




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