Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's in a Name? (St. Urbans-Hof 2009 Riesling)

Whilst strolling in a beautiful weingut last night a thought occurred to me: I don’t actually know what a weingut is, how can it be that I’m strolling in one? But it was of no matter to me as I was soon presented with a delicious bottle of official gutsabfullung wine from the very weingut that I was strolling through, needless to say I was quite pleased. As I whiled away the night drinking my delicious Mosel Riesling, it occurred to me that if I was strolling through the very weingut in which this gutsafullung wine was produced weingut must mean wine estate! Which of course led me to the realization that gutsafullung must be the more stringently regulated version of erzeugerabgullung which everyone knows means producer bottled! And of course just like the butcher selling his own meat is a good indication of superior quality… err, well…

Photo by Mick Stephenson, who in no way endorses this blog
Germany, like many European countries and indeed the EU as a whole, has a mind boggling set of legislated terms which are meant to give the consumer a hint as to the quality of a wine. As we all know when you buy a Gevery-Chambertin you are most certainly getting a quality wine! Clearly they don’t need to put the grape on the label because as is commonly known Gevery-Chambertin is a small town in the Cote de Nuits district located in north Burgundy, or as it might say on the label Bourgogne, in which only Pinot Noir is allowed. Thank heavens the French and Europe as a whole have made wine so easy to understand for their consumers.

In all non-facetiousness though Gevery-Chambertin is known for quality wine, but then so is Bordeaux and I have drank a lot of over priced swill from this most famous of wine appellations*. The Europeans have tried to make rules that protect the quality of wine and also give some indication of the quality of the wine to the consumer. Bureaucracy being what it is the system, I would argue, failed. A lot of quality wine is confusing as all hell to buy. (By and large what would not be considered ‘quality’ wine is less strictly regulated)

There are dozens of terms that are put wine labels that are meant to indicate wine is of a given quality. From my experience most of these terms guarantee that there is indeed wine in the bottle. I have tried in the past to memorize the terms from various regions so I could be assured a quality product. I have now concluded that terms rarely indicate anything about the quality of a wine. For example ‘Bordeaux Superieur’ is a legally legislated term, which in theory should indicate a certain level of quality. What the term really means, besides superior Bordeaux, is that the wine has  0.5% more alcohol than a regular Bordeaux, assuming the producer even bothers to put ‘Bordeaux Superior’ on the label. At one time alcohol content did somewhat give you an indication of quality but this is no longer the case.**

The problem is there are so many of the terms floating around that no longer indicate much of anything, least of all a guarantee of quality. I’ve learned not to shop based on terms that are applied to a label but to shop based on specific regions I like or based on a specific recommendation from someone I trust. That being said I mostly just grabbed the wine I’m drinking tonight at random and thankfully I got lucky!

Producer: St. Urbans-Hof
Wine: Riesling
Region: Mosel, Germany
Vintage: 2009
Grape: Rielsing
Alc: 9.5%
Price: $20

Notes: I didn't know what to expect because there were very few labels indicating quality... This wine is off-dry, but don't let that scare you it is well balanced so you won't even notice the slight amount of sugar. Aromas of Green Apple, Pear, Mineral, Floral, Citrus, hints of Peach and very minor hints of Petrol, flavours that match the aroma without any noticeable Petrol. This wine is Very Nice, and I would recommend it to anyone who is afraid of 'sweet' wine.

*In all fairness Bordeaux is a much more general appellation than Gevery-Chambertin and as the specificity of the appellation increases so to should the quality of wine, unfortunately such is not always the case.

**Modern viticulture (grape growing) and vinification (wine making) mean that pretty much every single Bordeaux wine will also qualify as a Bordeaux Superieur. In the past alcohol content would be an indicator of grape ripeness which translates into wine tastyness, but as I said modern techniques have evolved whereas the terms have not.***


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