For the Love of Wine
Alan Koller is back, this time with the story of his first sip of wine, German Rieslings, and the details of a very special evening planned for October.
"I love wine. Seriously – I love wine. I am very passionate about wine, and I am not apologetic about it. Being passionate about wine is one of the greatest accents to your life’s journey. It is the perfect blend of everything we need in life. I may write a post just on that one day, but for now I want to talk about one of the keys to becoming truly passionate about wine. The key I am referring to is building the correct foundation. What do I mean by that? There are many styles of wine in the world, and to truly embrace wine as a passion, one must embrace all of it. From Bordeaux to South Africa, dry sherries and sweet ones, Pinot Noirs from around the planet, to every obscure grape found in Italy – all wines have a story to tell and deserve to be appreciated.
Now, unfortunately there is one grape that has been unfairly picked on by wine drinkers for a long time – German Riesling. For many people, all they think when I say German Riesling is, “ugh sweet wine, I don’t like it.” This is a situation we face everyday on the floor at Bauhaus. It is our mission to expose our guests to the truly incredible wines of Germany. To not have Germany included in your passion for wine means you exclude some of the greatest wines the world has ever seen.
For me, I was fortunate – my exposure to German Riesling began 40 years ago. I was 5 years old and sitting at the table with my parents and their friends. What was unique about this dinner was what was in my little glass in front of me was wine. Yes folks, my dad gave me wine at 5 years old (only about two ounces, if that makes it better). My mother didn’t drink, so I blame my dad. At least that is what I tell my therapist! Now, I can honestly say that drinking wine at 5 has had no ill effect on my life, but it did have a profound effect on my life. This first moment of enjoying wine became one of the cornerstones to my life both personally and professionally.
I was fortunate to have my love of sweeter style wines cemented within me at a young age. The best part is I still remember the wine – Niersteiner Goldener Oktober Kabinett Riesling. Some of you may remember this wine, and it is still available today for $10.50 at your local liquor store, in case you would like to take a trip down memory lane. I will not be joining on that trip unfortunately, as I have moved on, and thankfully. This is the wine that many of our customers think of when they hear German Riesling.
Moving on from the age of 5, I began to find out that Riesling is the most fascinating white grape in the world, and here are a few reasons why. One, you can have a situation where 1 vineyard could produce 7 different styles of Riesling. Two, you will learn how acidity and sugar levels are connected in great Rieslings. Three, you can have the same style of Riesling produced by different vineyards, vinified in almost the same way, but end up with completely different wines. A great example of that is our collection of GG Rieslings at Bauhaus. If I lined them up side by side for any of you to try, you would not find any two remotely similar.
I should clarify something, allow me to digress a bit on my use of “GG”. GG stands for Grosses Gerwachs, which is a sub-category of the Grosses Lage designation. Grosses Lage is essentially the grand cru vineyards of German. Grosses Gerwachs is the designation given to the dry Rieslings produced in those grand crus vineyards.
What separates the GG class from the regular trocken Rieslings? Complexity. Riesling is known for a few key flavours such as petrol, green apple, and stone fruit with some other players in the game, but when you move into the GG class, that is when those other flavours are balanced out with this incredible minerality. This is where Riesling moves from a patio wine to one of the best wines in the world to pair with food. You have heard me say that the quality of the wine is dependant on the length of conversation. Well, GG has a lot to say. But let’s get back on point.
I am going to focus now on the wines of Robert Weil, an exceptional creator of some of the finest Rieslings in Germany. Allow me to take a moment to give you an overview of the winery. Robert Weil winery has been open for business since 1875, which in Germany is considered a relatively young winery. The winery is located in Kiedrich, in the Rheingau. They own approximately 90 hectares of vineyards, with one vineyard being classified as grosse lage, the Gräfenberg Vineyard, and two erste lage, the Klosterberg and Turmberg. Erste lage is essentially first growth vineyards, one tier down from Grand Cru. Weil produces only Riesling, and have produced a trocken, kabinett, spätlese, auslese, eiswein, beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese every year from 1989. This is an extremely difficult feat to accomplish, and Robert Weil is one of the very few vineyards can say they have been to accomplish such a feat. Why? Because each style of wine requires grapes to be of a certain sweetness, and to achieve these levels of sweetness you must leave the grapes on the vines for a very long time. Not only that, but you must hand-pick each bunch when they are ready to be picked. Because of these factors, the vineyard may be harvested up to 17 times in one picking season. That is an incredible amount of work, not to mention having to have a strong team of pickers who know which grape bunches to pick, and which to leave.
What can you expect from a Riesling from Robert Weil? Well at Bauhaus we have 3 offerings. The Kiedricher Trocken Riesling, the Gräfenberg GG, and the Rheingau Kabinett. The first thing you can expect from all of their wines is the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. This applies to all 3 we offer.
But, individually, the Kiedricher Trocken will properly introduce you to what a true dry Riesling can be. It has wonderful green apple tones, subtle hints of stone fruit, with a perfect amount of minerality and salinity on the finish just before the acidity brightens your palate.
For the Gräfenberg GG, imagine everything I just said but add in more complexity. The minerality extends the wine well beyond expectations. The fruit plays along perfectly, and everything is rounded out with the incredible acidy. But the best part is that it does it with an elegance that creates the longest most enjoyable conversation. It is a wine that you can get lost in.
The Kabinett shows much more intensity on the fruit. Beautiful apple, stone fruit, and honey tones all erupt on the nose and in the body of the wine. The winemaker also takes some of the grapes from their top vineyards and add them to this wine. This creates some more fruit complexity and, more importantly, it adds a subtle amount of minerality right before the acidity kicks in to balance out the sweetness.
At this point I usually make a wine pairing suggestion. Today this is not the case, as I have a better offer for you. Coming up on Wednesday, October 4th we are doing a winemakers dinner with the Brand Ambassador for Robert Weil. Chef David and Chef Tim will be creating 5 dishes paired with 5 wines, all designed to show the passion and creativity of Bauhaus and Robert Weil. Full details are listed below. I hope to see some you joining that evening to experience the passion and depth of the Riesling grape."
- Alan Koller