Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's been going on with Alsace Rieslings?

Is it me or . . . . does it seem like more and more Alsace Riesling producers are leaving significant residual sugar in their Rieslings?

This is a trend I've noticed over the last 10-15 years.  Before that, most Alsace Rieslings tended to be bone dry, very minerally and austere.  I loved them.  But in American retail stores back then, that presented a problem.  If you said "Riesling" to most customers back then, they shook their heads:  "No, I don't want a sweet wine."  If you tried to tell them that most Alsace Rieslings aren't sweet, it wouldn't change their mind.  They didn't want to try it.  And as for those who wanted sweet Rieslings, well, they would be disappointed.  So I suppose Alsace producers began to collectively realize that they may as well align the wines with (wrong-headed) consumer expectations.  And that's my theory on what happened.  Also, Parker's gushing on and on about Zind-Humbrecht's and Weinbach's sometimes sweeter cuvees didn't help, I'm sure.

But the problem is that Alsace producers pick their Riesling grapes at higher sugar and lower acid levels than, say, Rheingau and Mosel producers, so leaving residual sugar in a Riesling with 13% alcohol results in varying degrees of cloyingness.  Ironically, the big old line houses of Trimbach and Hugel still seem (at least with their higher level Rieslings) to have stuck with the more austere, dry style.  But I haven't recently had one of those, so maybe they've changed too.


Anyone have a different view?  Anyone know of any basic, entry level Alsace Rieslings that hew to the old, bone dry, austere style?

Update:  My brother sent me a link to a NY Times article about this issue that came our about 2 years ago.  Glad to see I'm not the only one who has noticed the problem, though the article suggests that Alsace producers may be going back to dry.  I hope so.

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