A Riesling Classic

I’ve been eyeing this bottle for some time now…

Where I work we must sell over forty types of German Riesling, but this is our only “Classic”. From my days in Nierstein, I remember being told that seeing Classic on the label implies the wine is dry. However, I feel this is more of a secret code than a successful marketing endeavor because very few people in the trade know this—let alone most consumers.

However, the term “Classic” was approved as far back as 2000 together with another equally ambiguous designation called “Selection.” Both designations were created simultaneously to promote dry German wines in a supposedly less confusing manner than existing Germanic terms like Spätlese trocken (“late harvest dry”), Auslese trocken (“selection dry”) and halbtrocken (“half dry”).

As defined by the German Wine Institute:

  • Classic: The Classic designation is applicable to dry style wines typical of their regional character that satisfy a high criteria of quality. Intensity of flavor is key and wines must fulfill the taste profile of being harmonisch trocken (harmoniously dry).
  • Selection: To meet the criteria for Selection classification, wines must originate from an individual/single site where reduced yield and hand-selection of the ripened grapes ensure premium quality. Release is not permitted prior to September 1 of the year following the harvest year. Therefore, the market debut (vintage 2000) of Selection wines will be in September, 2001.

Ironically, with the exception of this particular bottle, I’ve only come across the English terms in Germany. In fact, I think the terms “Selection” and “Classic” are better understood in Germany than the intended export market. On the bright side, I do believe the term trocken is starting to make a few inroads among U.S. wine consumers, simply because most people in the trade understand that trocken is German for dry, which they can then relay to customers.

So, what about the wine?

Well, all confusion aside, this wine—an ’07 Mosel Riesling “Classic” from producer Weingut Karl Jostock-Thul & Sohn—enamored me. No, it was not completely dry (wines labeled “Classic” are permitted to have as much as 15 grams/liter of residual sugar). Therefore, I would have to consider the expression “harmoniously dry” as being the best descriptor.

In fact, everything was in harmony about this wine. First of all, 2007 was an excellent vintage for German Riesling and now, four years out, this wine is showing at its prime. It was as smooth as smooth could be. I read this producer lets the wine mingle with the leftover yeast post-fermentation (sur lie), which is quite evident from its creamy texture.

Taste-wise, caramelized pineapple came to mind. However, what was most apparent (which I’m beginning to think is a Mosel thing) was the smell of hot springs. Now, I’ve smelled this before in very youthful Mosel Rieslings and it was not at all appealing (more along the lines of runoff water). However, in this particular wine, the aroma was far more subdue and literally conjured images of having a mud bath—which in my opinion is quite pleasant.

Simply put: a Riesling Classic that’s a class act.

4 thoughts on “A Riesling Classic

    1. Ja, bis 15 Gramm Restzucker ist doch was… obwohl es soll mit der Säuregehalt passen, d.h. bei Classic darf die Restzucker nicht mehr als 2x die Säuregehalt sein (und dann nur bis zum 15 g/L maximal). Also ein Classic Wein wurde nur 15 g/L RS haben, wenn die Säure erst bei 7,5 g/L liegt—und sowas nennt mann “harmonisch trocken” 😉

    1. Hi Kevin, here’s an article from Wines of Germany which I referenced for this post: http://www.germanwineusa.com/news-events/news/classic-selection-designations-german.html When I lived in Germany, I would often see the terms Classic and Selection used on wine labels. However, rarely do I come across them elsewhere. It was a marketing attempt to make the German wine label more approachable to an international (esp. English-speaking) audience. However, ironically, it only really took off in Germany!

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