Wine Press: German riesling is a wonderful thing

Domdechant Werner vineyard, Germany

If you haven’t tried German riesling for years because you think of that warm German wine on  your corner shop’s  bottom shelf, then think again.

And now would be as good a time as any.  The  31 Days of German Riesling campaign organised by Wines of Germany  is in full flow.

Author and wine critic Stuart Piggott says:  “A miracle has happened in Germany. A generation ago there were good German wines but you had to search hard to find some. Today they are available in abundance in every price range.”

Dr Franz Werner, Domdechant Werner
Dr Franz Werner, Domdechant Werner

Domdechant Werner riesling bottleI was welcomed into the home of Dr Franz Werner, whose family has owned Domdechant for seven generations. If enthusiasm could be bottled, I doubt it could match his fine rieslings. A  Classic Rheingau is  so-named because it is typical of its region, in this case a light golden, mouth-filling acidity full of rounded citrus and stone fruits.

I tasted Dr Werner’s excellent Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett in his dining room, surrounded by family portraits as the early summer sun    glinted crisply on the elegant wine. Balanced peaches and pear mingled  wonderfully in the mouth, with a tingling lingering acidity.

Hochheimer 2009 vintage is £16.30 from, along with  several of his other    superb rieslings.
Laithwaites has put together a case of 12 rieslings – six wines – to mark 31 Days, at a price of £119.88, including the Domdechant Werner Hochheimer Riesling Classic 2011 (£12.49
If you’re on Twitter, and you use German language to  greet @ampsfinewines   (   they’ll give you 10% off German riesling until July 31.  For more information on 31 Days you can  follow @WinesofGermany on Twitter or go to There’s  details of 31 Days events   plus some riesling facts, not least understanding the difference between kabinett and auslese.
Also in my glass
Another riesling, another country. France and  Alsace. Cave de Beblenheim Grafenreben  Alsace Riesling (RRP £9.99, Waitrose)  shouts apples. Not literally,  like a market trader. There’s apples on the nose with a murmur of apple blossom, and to taste it is apple pie without the pie and a  metal spoon taste-tink. Perhaps I should just say it is lovely, as indeed it is.

Balblair 97 whisky is delicate and “Bryan Ferry smooth”

Balblair 97 whisky review

What was going on in the world in 1997? A  book about a  schoolboy  wizard hit our bookshelves, Pierce Brosnan enjoyed his second outing as a Martini-shaking secret agent, while Tony Blair became Prime Minister for the first time.

Oh, and a Scotch  whisky  was laid down in Bourbon casks.

Sixteen years on and the eighth Harry Potter Hollywood blockbuster is fading from   memory, Daniel Craig has enjoyed three outings as James Bond – and Blair has been and gone.

But the 1997 vintage of Balblair has just matured.  Balblair whiskies are unusual in that they are named after the year they were made.
When it comes to whisky I know that Irish whiskey has an ‘e’ in it. Scotch doesn’t. I know I enjoy whisky, with or without the ‘e’.  I even raised a glass to a Scot who won Wimbledon. Did you hear of him?

But when it came to an expert view,  I asked  a whisky  buff colleague  for his thoughts.

Dave – for that is his name –  says it  is “a lovely delicate spirit, aged perfectly, combining freshness with depth and complexity.  At around £55 a bottle it doesn’t tick every box. The colour is a little underwhelming.

 “Distillery notes claim a ‘deep golden amber’ – but in reality it’s more a pale, washed out yellow.
Balblair 97 whisky review
Balblair 97 whisky
“But the  tropical fruits, hints of honey, vanilla and butterscotch  which the label promises are all evident, as is a hint of Love Hearts for those who spent too much time in sweet shops as a kid. It has tingly spiciness, but is  Bryan Ferry smooth.
“Bourbon casks help import fudge, honey, spices, sultanas and hard toffee onto the palate – and there’s also a lovely, long creamy finish.”
I don’t think you need me any more.

In my glass this week …

A couple of  lovely summer whites from The Wine Society (

The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) and Exhibition Albariño (£12.95) are on offer until August 11 (£5.50 and £11.50 respectively).

The vinho verde splashes into the glass  like sea foamily glancing onto a pebble. The bubbles frizzle, frazzle and disappear. On the nose there’s refreshing pears apples and … well,   garden daisies? Spritzy summer sipping.

The albariño was made for the  Society  by  Pazo de Señorans, one of the  top estates in  Rías Baixas.  It  has a classic  peachy, rich mouth feel. I love albariño and this has the classy balance of  an on-form Rafael Nadal serving an ace. From a tightrope.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 13, 2013