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Dr. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Riesling 2002
Quality is still the standard of the Thanisch family estate. A great part of this quality is due to the Doctor Cellar which is hewn deep into the rocks beneath the vineyard. Here all Thanisch wines are matured in traditional old oak Fuder casks at a constant year-round temperature of 8 C (45 F). Recently, the family has invested heavily into modern technology, gentle handling of uncrushed grapes and cold, controlled fermentation. The estate is today owned by Margrit Mueller-Burggraef, a grand-daughter of Dr Hugo Thanisch.
Margrit Muller-Burggraef, a granddaughter of Dr. Hugo Thanisch, passed the estate on to her niece, Barbara Rundquist-Muller in January of 2007. Since then, considerable effort has been taken to practices sustainable agriculture in its now 16 hectares (40 acres) of prime Mosel Valley vineyards, with no use of pesticides, herbicides (special herbs are planted to kill weeds), insecticides (use of pheromones instead),no chemical fertilizers (only mulch from pips, stems and skins of grapes) or heavy machinery which compacts the slaty soils with nearly all work done by hand. Environmentally-friendly practices extend to the cellar where there is no use of artificial enzymes, sorbic acid (commonly used to stabilize wine), industrial cleaners and only minimal use of sulphur dioxide. The results produce wines with more purity and expression of their unique terroirs.
Following the Mosel River as it slithers and weaves dramatically through the Eifel Mountains in Germany’s far west, the Mosel wine region is considered by many as the source of the world’s finest and longest-lived Rieslings.
Mosel’s unique and unsurpassed combination of geography, geology and climate all combine together to make this true. Many of the Mosel’s best vineyard sites are on the steep south or southwest facing slopes, where vines receive up to ten times more sunlight, a very desirable condition in this cold climate region. Given how many twists and turns the Mosel River makes, it is not had to find a vineyard with this exposure. In fact, the Mosel’s breathtakingly steep slopes of rocky, slate-based soils straddle the riverbanks along its entire length. These rocky slate soils, as well as the river, retain and reflect heat back to the vineyards, a phenomenon that aids in the complete ripening of its grapes.
Riesling is by far the most important and prestigious grape of the Mosel, grown on approximately 60% of the region’s vineyard land—typically on the desirable sites that provide the best combination of sunlight, soil type and altitude. The best Mosel Rieslings—dry or sweet—express marked acidity, low alcohol, great purity and intensity with aromas and flavors of wet slate, citrus and stone fruit. With age, the wine’s color will become more golden and pleasing aromas of honey, dried apricot and sometimes petrol develop.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.