As regular readers of this blog know, Riesling is my passion. Riesling’s thrilling balance of acidity, complex citrusy flavours and ability to respond to vineyard character makes it one of the world’s greatest grapes.
German Riesling, in particular, holds a special place for me, as it was in Germany – in the village of Rüdesheim in the Rheingau to be exact – where I first stumbled upon this magical grape variety.
Yet, to my dismay, German Riesling has historically had a tough time in the UK due to its association with “cheap and sweet” low quality bulk wine and an overcomplicated labeling system.
In fact, one of the reasons that I launched The Riesling Revolutionary in June 2011 was to help improve its image in the UK and show people that the Germans are actually producing some world class, DRY white wines.
However, as time went on, I felt that my efforts were being undercut somewhat by the fact that many German producers were continuing to produce wines with gothic looking labels and confusing terminology.
The quality of the wine was never an issue for me. It was the way it was being presented to the consumer.
But rather than standing idly by, I thought I would get hasty and take matters into my own hands.
So, Noble Revolution Wines was born.
My mission was to create a range of wines that not only possessed everything I loved about great German Riesling – crisp acidity, textbook minerality and a sense of place. But, they also had to be attractive and approachable for UK wine drinkers.
If uncertainty surrounding sweetness was an issue, I would make sure that my wine labels clearly stated that the wines are DRY.
If people were often put off by gothic looking script and technical jargon, I would make my labels ultra MODERN looking, exclusively in English and jargon free.
If people associated the tall, slim traditional German wine bottle with the Hock and Liebfraumilch of yesteryear, I would bottle my Rieslings in a BURGUNDY shaped bottle.
One of my first decisions after launching Noble Revolution Wines was to team up with my now business partner and former Senior Vice President at The Coca Cola Company, Herbert Hoffmann. With over 20 years working for the world’s most iconic drinks brand, I knew that Herbert’s wealth of experience and expertise would be invaluable when taking our wines to market.
Together, we set out in search of a winemaker who could help us make our dream a reality. We found that person in Jürgen Meng. Jürgen’s winery is based in the village of Mülheim in the heart of Germany’s Pfalz wine region, the largest growing region in the world for Riesling. The Pfalz’s reputation for producing juicy, powerful Rieslings and Jürgen’s passion and energy made him the perfect partner for Noble Revolution Wines.
So, we set him the challenge of producing for us a range of dry Rieslings that not only tasted great but also reflected the character of the region and the vineyards where the grapes were grown. In the meantime, we went away to find a designer who could create the artwork for our labels.
We could not have been happier with the results. Jürgen kept his end of the bargain in a big way by producing two superb tasting, dry Rieslings from the 2012 vintage. Also, the design team from Identity, led by head designer Mark Whittington, created labels that were distinctive, trendy and had a sense of intrigue.
Further posts will follow in the coming weeks about the wines – named ‘The Trendsetter’ and ‘The Reactionary’ – and more information will also be available at www.noblerevolution.com which will be live shortly.
But if, in the meantime, you have any questions or would like to know where you can find the wines, just drop me an email to email@example.com
Finally, a big shout out to all those people who have helped me with this venture over the past few months. You know who you are and I am immensely grateful for your input and support.
In this video, I review the Dr L Riesling 2011 produced by the Loosen winery in the Mosel in Germany.
If you want to try an off-dry German Riesling that is fresh, lively, affordable and widely available, this is the Riesling for you. You can find the Dr L Riesling in many of our supermarkets in the UK and it is usually priced around the £7 to £8 mark.
At only 8.5% abv, it would make for a lovely aperitif on a warm summer’s day, or alternatively a great match for a fatty meat like pork belly or a meaty seafood dish like scallops and bacon or lobster ravioli.
Thanks to Richard @richard_R2K for the camera work
It is certainly an exiting time for fans of Riesling – and German Riesling in particular – as the German Wine Institute has recently laid out plans to increase its investment in the UK wine market. One of the key objectives behind this increased investment is to create better awareness and understanding about the charms of German Riesling among UK consumers.
In order to help achieve this, the DWI has recruited 3 brave souls – dubbed the “Riesling Revivalists” – to take the Riesling mission to the masses. This Riesling triumvirate, which includes yours truly, will help to preach the Riesling gospel at various wine tastings and food festivals throughout 2013.
The exact dates of the events have not yet been confirmed but you can find more details about the DWI’s plans in the press release below.
“The German Wine Institute is “significantly” increasing its UK investment to boost its burgeoning growth of the above £5 price bracket.
The country is still losing volumes in the UK – they are down 17% against the overall UK decline of 3% – but the body is confident it is nearing the tipping point and will start to see volumes go up soon.
“We always lose volume much quicker than value,” said Nicky Forrest, managing director of Wines of Germany in the UK. But she is hopeful that “maybe in the next 12-18 months we will reach the tipping point and will start increasing volumes.” Forrest says most of the volume decrease has been at the below £4 level. Its value stands at £11.9 million, down only 2% on 2011.
When it comes to Germany’s volumes sales by price point, the below-£4 section of the market has declined by 23% from 75% in 2010 to 55% to the end of May 2012, according to Nielsen. Meanwhile the £5+ market has grown by 36% from 7.4% to 16.8%.
German Riesling reaches an average price point of £6.47, ahead of the average bottle price of £4.90, according to Nielsen MAT figures to the end of June 2012. Its Riesling wines also have 57% of the overall Riesling market here, up 9 percentage points on 2011.
The generic body unveiled its marketing plans for the UK for 2013 which will focus on Riesling and Pinot Noir. It has recruited three “Riesling Revivalists” to spread the word on the variety. Writers Anne Krebiehl and Matt Walls and lawyer-turned-sommelier Alex Down will “evangelise” about the variety to consumers.
It will launch a Dragon’s Den-style competition called “Get it on” where winemakers pitch their UK-specific German wines to trade experts with prizes including listings and financial support from Wines of Germany on offer.
It is also relaunching its Riesling Fellowship after a five-year hiatus, which will see Riesling producers and ambassadors from around the world recognised by the German Embassy, similar to the Gran Orden de Caballeros for services to Spanish wine.
Also planned for next year is a gastronomic tie-in with a number of food festivals and masterclasses on german wine with Jeannie Cho Lee MW.
In addition it plans to grow it Riesling Summit, and double the size of its 31 Days of German Riesling promotion, which attracted 50 trade outlets this year.
The UK is the country’s biggest export market for wine, following the USA.”
I have recently teamed up with online wine retailer, Winedirect.co.uk, to help them launch Winedirect TV. A number of the larger wine retailers such as Majestic, Bibendum and Slurp are all using videos on their websites and on YouTube to good effect to engage with potential customers (and especially a younger generation of wine drinkers).
As wine geek and social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, has shown in the US (read more about Gary here), video reviews can be a very useful sales tool, as well as giving customers an opportunity to learn more about the wine they are thinking about buying from the comfort of their own homes.
So, the idea behind WinedirectTV - which will feature videos of myself and Winedirect’s Helen Tate – is to carry out wine reviews, winemaker interviews, give tips about wine regions and lots of other stuff. Essentially, the idea is to give potential customers a better idea of the wine they are considering buying by giving them informative and relevant information which is delivered in a fun and approachable manner.
Naturally, the first few videos that I shot for WinedirectTV were Rieslings, so over the coming weeks I will share these videos with you on The Riesling Revolutionary.
And what better way to get the ball rolling than with the 2008 Pegasus Bay Riesling from the Waipara growing region in New Zealand. This is a dry, complex white wine that really pushes the boundaries. I hope you enjoy the review!
p.s. any feedback, good or bad, on my videos is very welcome! You can leave comments below or also on The Riesling Revolutionary’s Facebook page. Cheers!
As you may have seen from my post earlier this month (which you can read here), 31 Days of German Riesling has come to the UK for the first time following its success in the US.
Never shy to get out there and preach the Riesling gospel, I teamed up with Wines of Germany to shoot a couple of videos to get people in the mood for mass Riesling consumption!
This first video gives a brief introduction to German Riesling and I also talk a little about why I am such a big fan:
I also made the trip to one of my favourite restaurants in London, The Glasshouse in Kew, which is one of the restaurants participating in 31 Days of German Riesling. The Glasshouse has a cracking list of German wines (including some great Rieslings) and the head sommelier, Sara Bacchiori (@tasteinwine), was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about German Riesling. So here you are:
Both of these videos are now posted on the 31 Days of German Riesling homepage which you can find by clicking here so why don’t you head over there and check out the website.
That’s it for now but be sure to check out some of the retailers and restaurants participating in 31 Days at www.31daysofgermanriesling.co.uk as they are making a superb effort to raise the profile of this much underrated grape variety! Cheers!
After a really successful campaign in the US (you can read about it here), 31 Days of German Riesling was launched just a few days ago for the first time here in the UK.
The idea behind the campaign is for selected restaurants and retailers throughout the country to team up and promote Riesling wines for the month of July.
If you ask most sommeliers or wine professionals for their favourite white grape variety, they will usually answer: Riesling! But in the UK, most wine drinkers still associate Riesling with cheap and sweet German wine from the 1980s.
So, 31 Days of German Riesling is a great opportunity to get the word out there about Riesling and explain to people that the Germans are producing some really world class dry Rieslings which have character and originality.
You can check out which of your local retailers and restaurants are involved in 31 Days of German Riesling here.
There will be more to follow from me as the month continues as I will be doing various things to drive the Revolution forward. But, in the meantime, I know with your support we can convert some of those Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers to the charms of German Riesling!
Video review for Winedirect.co.uk – Wines from Weingut Thanisch
After having recently spent an immensely enjoyable month working in the vineyards of Germany, I was delighted when Winedirect.co.uk asked me to review a couple of stunning Rieslings and a Dornfelder from Weingut Thanisch in the Mosel region of Germany. The following wines were reviewed in this video:
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Alte Reben R 2010
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese 2010
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Dornfelder 2010
As I mention in Part 1 and Part 2, I recently made the decision to leave my job as a lawyer in the City to follow my passion for wine. The first stop on my wine adventure was a month’s work experience at legendary German winery, Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff.
Now that I have returned to UK soil, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the four weeks that I spent at Weingut Dönnhoff and share with you some of my highlights.
New vineyard. After spending an exhausting first week bottling wines from the 2011 vintage, much of my second week was spent outside working in the vineyards. The final two weeks were a combination of the two but a real highlight was helping to plant young rootstocks in a new vineyard plot in the Norheimer Dellchen. One of the really smart things that Helmut Dönnhoff has done over the last 20 years is to acquire parcels in numerous vineyards throughout the region. By cherry-picking the best sites as they become available, he has been able to maintain very high quality not only in his top single vineyard wines but also in his more generic estate Rieslings.
Lunch breaks. The way that we took our lunch breaks was a breath of fresh air for me. Each day we would all assemble in the communal galley at 12.30 to have lunch together. Lively conversation would flow – often about wine and football (which suited me down to the ground) – and there was also usually a bottle of something to hand so that we could wet our beaks on the good stuff before heading back to work. A definite improvement on my time as a lawyer, where I routinely spent my lunch breaks alone at my desk!
Driving the Unimog. What a rush! Google search “Unimog” and you’ll get the idea.
My housemates. I was fortunate to have the company of three other lads in the accommodation block where I was staying – one from Germany and two from Poland. The German, Sebastian, 20, is currently carrying out a year-long work placement at Dönnhoff as part of his wine studies. The two lads from Poland, Mateusz and Mateusz, both 23, are in Germany for the year just to earn some cash. They are genuinely three of the hardest working people I have ever met and their humour and goodwill kept me in high spirits throughout my stay.
Visit to the Mosel. It was brilliant to have the chance to make my first trip to the Mosel, the most famous of all German wine regions. As we made our way from village to village, it was amazing at last to see so many of its magnificent vineyards after having spent so many years quaffing the region’s wines! The most striking feature was without doubt the steepness of the slopes. Previously, I had thought that the vineyards in the Nahe were steep but the Mosel takes it to a whole different level – some of the vineyards reach 80% gradient in places!
VDP Weinbörse. On my penultimate day in Germany I travelled to the city of Mainz for the annual tasting of VDP members. The VDP is an organisation to which most (but not all) of Germany’s top wine producers are members. Like any wine fair, you need a well laid out plan of action before you go into battle otherwise you won’t stand a chance. My focus was on the Rheingau, Mosel and Baden regions, as well as a cursory stroll through the Nahe section to say hello to Team Dönnhoff. After a good six hours slurping and spitting, I walked away exhausted but content in the knowledge that 2011 is generally speaking a magnificent vintage for Germany across the board.
Plugging English wine. Having drank so many impressive Germany wines, I could not head back to London without first spreading the word about the rapidly improving English wine scene. Our wineries continue to improve year-on-year – especially in the sparkling category – and I could not resist leaving boss, Helmut, a bottle of sparkling from East Sussex winery, Breaky Bottom – the Sparkling Brut 2008 (100% Seyval Blanc) to be exact.
It is amazing how quickly time flies when you are working hard and having fun but this experience was invaluable and I cannot thank Helmut and Cornelius Dönnhoff enough for this opportunity.
One thing’s for sure – it has certainly given the Revolution fresh impetus. Roll on 31 Days of German Riesling!
REGION: Mosel, Germany
VINEYARD AREA: 7 Ha
YIELD: 5700 cases (Riesling 2011)
VARIETALS: 98% Riesling, 2% Weissburgunder
Weingut Dr Hermann is located in the village of Erden in the Mosel region of Germany and is managed by Rudi Hermann and his son, Christian.
The present estate was created in 1967 when the renowned Mosel estate, Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben in Ürzig, was divided. Although Weingut Dr Hermann is a relatively small estate – it owns around 7 hectares – it has managed over the years to secure sites in some of the Mosel’s most prestigious vineyards. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Weingut Dr Hermann is producing such impressive Rieslings.
These vineyards (which include the famous Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Treppchen and Erdener Prälat vineyards) are fiercely steep (50-70% gradient) and take on an almost divine presence as they tower over the villages of Ürzig and Erden.
As Christian explains below, the soil from these vineyards consist predominantly of red and blue schist, which is a type of metamorphic rock. The wines benefit from this soil in two ways in particular – firstly the rocks absorb the heat of the sun which, in turn, warms the vineyard and helps the vines achieve a ripe and developed fruit; secondly, the large amount of schist making up the soil gives the wines a unique mineral character and, in the case of the Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard, a hint of spiciness (Würzgarten means “spice garden” in German).
I first came across the Weingut Dr Hermann wines at
the end of 2011 when I reviewed a number of them for my first video blog. I was very impressed by them and thought that they were an excellent example of the mineral-driven style of Mosel Rieslings – you can see my video review here.
So let’s hear what Christian has to say about Riesling, what the future holds for Weingut Dr Hermann and who else to look out for in the Mosel:
TTR: How would you describe the Riesling grape in 3 words?
CH: Fruit, Elegance, Mineral
TTR: What makes your region so well suited to growing Riesling?
CH: The steep slopes of red and blue schist form an ideal terroir – the Mosel valley is a warm island between two cool mountain regions. The turn of warm days and cool nights provides for an extremely long ripening season, which allows the Riesling grapes to develop complex aromas and to keep refreshing acidity. The different soils in Treppchen (blue schist), Würzgarten (red schist) and Prälat (mixture of both) add specific aromas to each vineyard.
TTR: Old World Riesling vs. New World Riesling – friends or foes?
CH: Friends – of course! Tasting the differences between old and new world Rieslings makes our “original” wines – which have been cultivated for more than 500 years in vineyards that have existed for 2000 years – as well as the new world wines, even more interesting.
TTR: Which winemakers (past or present) have had the greatest influence on you?
CH: A few old winegrowers our region who have kept the tradition of producing Riesling wines with respect to nature, giving the grapes and the wine time to develop to finally show the strengths of the different vineyard sites.
TTR: Which new producers are you excited by the most at the moment, and why?
CH: Among many young talents in our region are: Vollenweider, Adam, Weiser-Künstler.
TTR: If you’re not drinking Riesling, what wine do you usually like to drink?
CH: “Burgundian Wines” Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir – these are also fine wines made from a single grape variety.
TTR: What are the biggest challenges currently facing you as a winemaker?
CH: Given the differences of each year, to take the right decisions in vineyards and cellar at the right time in each single year.
TTR: Where do you see your winery in 20 years time?
CH: Still in Erden and in the top group of Mosel-Riesling producers.
TTR: How can Riesling improve its reputation on the world wine stage?
CH: The global reputation of Riesling has already improved enormously in the last 15 years. The strength of our Rieslings is that they are fruity wines from first class vineyards. We, as German wine growers, will have to make people all over the world familiar with the top wines from the classic vineyard sites. Someone who has tasted the best will always keep in mind Riesling as noble white grape variety.