Now that Thanksgiving is over and you’re looking to see what is next on the horizon, don’t forget about Germany and the noble Riesling grape for your next holiday party. I think I’ll bring a bottle of Riesling Spatlese with me. In fact, to be more specific, I’ll bring Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Spatlese. Great bottle for its flavor and great as an aperitif! Bottles like this don’t come along every year. So this is my special bottle to introduce everyone. I do believe it will be a great bottle for all—and I know what you’re thinking—Riesling is just sweet and nothing else, but what you don’t know is just how much acid has to be in the bottle to balance that sweet. I mean, this wine is fresh and intense, with grapefruit and green apple flavors flanked by ginger notes, with rich and savory mid-palate, offering lemon verbena overtones framed by a steely structure. Mineral and sea salt details emerge on the finish. Drink now or hold for 20 years…
One of the coolest things that I get to do is learn the history of wine, and this one in particular has that fun history. Spatlese (late harvest) or second harvest was a bit of a mistake when it happened the first time. Legend has it that the introduction of the Spatlese category took place in the Rheingau winery Schloss Johannisberg in 1775, and happened by mere circumstance. Since 1718, permission to start harvest at Johannisberg was announced in writing from the Prince-Bishop of Fulda by means of a so-called autumn courier. In 1775, for some reason, the courier sent out by the abbey at Fulda was delayed for 14 days. According to some, the abbey’s messenger was robbed on the way to bring the official harvest picking order. By the time the order finally arrived noble rot (a whole other story) had set in, but the harvest was carried out anyway, although no high hopes were staked on the wine from the rotten grapes. But rather than a failed product, the wine turned out to be surprisingly good. Schloss Johannisberg began actively seeking to produce late harvest.
I was lucky, I got to visit the vineyard while I was in Germany, but for those who have not, you get to drink the wines from the region and taste the wonderful fruity green apples and a bit lower alcohol any time you want just by heading to ABC…Schloss Johannisberg may have been the first, but today we have an array of Spatlese to choose from. This time choose Dr Thanisch!
Kathleen Anderson, Northwest Florida wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinekat.