Another Friday night and another German Riesling! This Carl Sittmann Riesling is pretty common in the US, and it’s pretty cheap. The 2011 vintage is only $9.99 at Gary’s Wine.
Sadly, the wine quality matches the price! It’s not bad, but not great either. There’s a faint floral smell with a sweetish taste. It’s not super sweet, but definitely not dry. The main problem is there’s just not much other taste…
My verdict? A cheap sweet swirl in the mouth is all you’ll get out of this one. It’s especially disappointing considering you could get a great Riesling for around $20 (e.g., Gunderloch). But if you’re looking for an easy-to-drink cheap sweet wine, then this is it!
I was at Terroir Wine Bar last week with friends and asked the bartender for an off-dry Riesling like the Gunderloch I love so much. He recommended this Feinherb (which actually means “off-dry” i.e., a tiny bit sweet), which was delicious. It was a reasonably crisp wine with a delicious understated sweetness. The fruit wasn’t overpowering. Overall, very enjoyable easy drinking.
This is a half bottle (375ml) late harvest Riesling that I picked up when I was wine tasting in Napa (for around $20). We had stopped by Prager Winery & PortWorks because I had started to enjoy ports, and I had hoped that I would be able to find some ports to my liking. However, none of the ports were of the type that I liked. The only wine that caught my taste-buds turned out to be this late harvest Riesling instead.
Late harvest Rieslings are dessert wines. The term “late harvest” arises because the grapes are harvested later and therefore have more time to build up sweetness.
They are often sickly sweet, which is why I tend to stay away from them. However, this one was more subtle. Don’t get me wrong, it is sweet, but the wine holds something more than just sweetness. For a start, you can smell both honey and apricot exuding from this wine. The deep amber/gold color pairs well with these smells. Then there are hints of herbs in the nose as well. The taste is not overly sweet – the sweetness sort of melts away in your mouth so that it tastes almost semi-sweet, and you get a lingering fruity sensation. However, you can definitely taste that it is a dessert wine!
Overall, a pretty good wine. I enjoyed it with some dark chocolate. Since this wine isn’t a super sweet wine, you have to remember to pair it with desserts that aren’t too sweet – otherwise the dessert will overpower the wine and make your wine taste crappy! Since dark chocolate isn’t as sweet, it works well with this wine.
I had a lovely relaxing weekend in Woodstock, NY this past weekend. While I was there, I had dinner at a vegan restaurant called Garden Café (I’m not even vegetarian, but the restaurant got great reviews and the food, especially the cabbage soup was fantastic). As you might be able to see from the rather shoddy photo I took of their wine list, all their wines are made from 100% organic grapes. (Some of the wines are also vegan, which I will explain in my next post!)
Onto the wines I tried there….
1) Snoqualmie Naked Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington, USA, which was $7 a glass and $26 a bottle at the restaurant, but which retails for $9-13 in wine stores and online. This was also a vegan wine.
I loved the way this wine smelled – of sweet honey (not flowery or sickly sweet, but of almost a fruity honey). The taste was bitter-sweet. There was the bitterness of grapefruit mixed with the sweetness of apples and pears. The sweetness level was probably that of an off-dry wine i.e., sweet-tasting but not much actual sugar in the wine. It’s not my favorite Riesling, but I am definitely partial to off-dry Rieslings, and so this was definitely a “Like” for me. I have to say, I was quite surprised that I liked the wine because I rarely like any non-German Rieslings and was a bit scared of trying a cheap organic one. It was a very pleasant surprise!
2) Gerard Bertrand Grenache from Languedoc, France, which was $9 a glass and $34 a bottle at the restaurant, but which retails for around $12-15 in stores (although it seems to be only carried in a few NY and CA stores and some online stores).
I don’t know if you can tell from the photo on the left, but this was a rose. There was a fruity smell, which was faintly reminiscent of strawberries. Despite this alluring smell, the taste was awfully bland. It was definitely a light wine. In fact, the wine tasted so watery, I wondered if it contained any alcohol in it at all! It was very disappointing, especially since I had tried the Riesling first.
I needed to buy a bottle of wine to meet the minimum for a credit card transaction at my local wine store, and so I fell back on some German riesling. I felt like the chances were that it’d taste ok.
I knew that it was going to be a sweet wine (the low alcohol percentage of 8% gave it away pretty quickly), but I didn’t realize it was going to be literally sugar water with some alcoholic buzz.
It’s definitely not a great riesling – it’s not fruity and has no real “taste” except for sweetness, but that’s actually appealing to some drinkers (I used to be one of those drinkers!). Personally, although I like my sweet rieslings, I’ve grown to enjoy a greater variety of flavors, especially delicate fruity flavors. But, for $12.99 from the wine store on 9th Ave between 36th and 37th in New York, it’s not bad (I couldn’t have expected too much more to be fair!).
I tried this wine a few nights ago at Casellula Cheese and Wine Café on 52nd and 9th Ave (in NYC). It was an interesting place with a decent selection of wines and cheeses (although very few wines by the glass). My eyes naturally wandered down the wine list to their one riesling.
What did I like about the wine? Hmm, the name was cool…and the bottle label made it look like a sake rather than a wine bottle. I had trouble smelling the wine, although I detected a slight metallic whiff. Then, the first taste was at fairly pleasant – slightly sweet and fruity. I was briefly reminded of grapefruits during that sip. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more in favor of the wine. A mildly bitter aftertaste developed in my mouth, and the wine became more bitter with every sip.
I was told that I didn’t like the wine because it lacked “complexity.” My understanding is that a complex wine will have a variety of different flavors with distinct aftertastes. Complex wines will keep being interesting to you every time you drink it as you discover more flavors and more smells. I would agree that this wasn’t a complex wine. Nothing new came to me as I drank it, except for it becoming more and more bitter, which wasn’t very interesting or good tasting! All in all, it was fine to drink once, but probably not a repeat buy.
Price? I found it online for $12.99 or $14.99 a bottle for the 2008 vintage and as cheap as $10 a bottle for the 2009 vintage. At Casellula Cheese and Wine Café, it was $10 for a glass.
What could be more German than a meal of sausages and sauerkraut with a glass of riesling. It almost fills me with compulsion to spew out some random German phrases I picked up during my time in Stuttgart, but I’m going to save it for another day, especially since more German wines are going to be consumed in the near future. In fact, I’m planning a very seasonal review of Glühwein! If you haven’t come across Glühwein, or what the English call “mulled wine,” it’s a spiced red wine served warm and often drank during the winter months. Check back soon for that review.
Back to rieslings… Rieslings are generally known to be a sweet white wine, but there are actually several levels of sweetness, and you can tell how sweet the wine is by the label on the bottle. This wine has the label “Kabinett” attached to it, which indicates that it is considered “off-dry” i.e. there’s a little bit of sugar in it, but not much. If the wine is sweeter (i.e. the grape was left on the vine for longer before it was harvested), then the term “Spätlese” is used to describe it. For super sweet (almost dessert-wine style) reislings, “Auslese” is used. There are even sweeter German wines, so if you’re in the market for a dessert wine, look out for labels such as “Beerenauslese,” “Trockenbeerenauslese,” and “Eiswein.” However, if you just see the word “trocken” by itself on the label of a German wine, then it means that the wine is super dry (i.e. no residual sugar). Another way of estimating how sweet a wine is is to look at its alcohol content. A low alcohol content usually equates to a sweet wine. This is why some sweet rieslings have very low alcohol percentages e.g. 9%.
Onto the actual wine itself. This is my favorite riesling because it has that quintessential fruity, floral riesling smell but none of that nauseating sweetness that can sometimes be associated with rieslings. It has a very delicate yet refreshing grapefruit taste that just leaves you aching for more. The Kabinett label on the wine tells you that it has very little residual sugar, but there’s a subtle fruity essence to the taste that tricks your mind into thinking it’s sweet! I can enjoy this bottle by itself anytime. However, it does go great with food as evidenced by the fact that the 2008 version of this wine is on the wine list at Gordon Ramsey’s 2 Michelin star restaurant in New York ($52 for a bottle or $12 for a glass). In fact, that’s where I first discovered this wine. But if you just want to buy a bottle to drink at home, then you can get the 2009 one, which is shown in the photos, for $20.99 at Astor Wines and Spirits.