No other country offers the sheer breadth of styles that Germany does. Sure, producers around the globe make world-class Riesling, but no one does it better than the Germans. No winemaker or region delivers the value of Riesling that the Germans manage to supply year in and year out.
For this roundup of wines, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite less expensive German Rieslings. These fall into the Qba class of wines as well as the Kabinett level of sweetness. For more information on understanding German labeling conventions, check out Deciphering German Wine Labels.
Just as a side note, I have to say that I am happy to see the majority of these wines being bottled with screw caps. For most of these wines, wines that will be consumed in their youth, there is no better closure than these. Plus, it makes opening cases of wine at a time all that much easier!
Photo courtesy crafterm via Flickr/CC
2010 Turn Me Riesling Rheinhessen Germany 9.5% $10
This smells a bit sweet and reminiscent of cooked peaches/apricot jam with some fennel seed top notes. Sweetish on entry, but really quite well balanced, with just enough acid to keep this from being soft but too much as to disturb the gentle sweet impression. The flavors in the mouth are also a bit cooked, but are much more in the citrus end of the spectrum. Some nice floral and green spice notes emerge with time. This is sweet and simple and everything wine experts loath about cheap Riesling, but it is delicious and well balanced. While not the freshest, it does a fine job of expressing its fruit. 87pts
2009 Clean Slate Riesling Mosel Germany 10% $10
Lovely nose with flowers, pear, a touch of honey and some mineral notes. Fairly dry and leaner than one might expect given that it’s a QbA. A bit apricotty in the mouth, with a round, soft sweetness and integrated acidity supporting the fruit. There’s a little sweet lemon here on the mid-palate. Peachier flavors on the backend take on a shimmer of honey before the acidity kicks in the modest finish. A really nice, rather sophisticated effort. 87pts
2008 Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett Nahe 8.5% $20
Highest-rated German Riesling
This is very mineral on the nose, all potassium and almost metallic, with very clear, clean dried citrus zest notes over some Asian pear fruit. Has a lot of dissolved CO2 adding a bit of fizz in the mouth that helps to keep things fresh and nervous. Without the fizz, this is a bit sweet for a Kabinett, but it brings real depth of flavor to the table. With faint honey tones adding sweetness, this express pineapple, green apple, pear and peach notes that power through on the long finish. This is freaking delicious. Great mouth-freshening acidity and some intriguing melon notes on the long finish, which shows off that extreme minerality again on the finale. Sign me up! 91pts
2009 Schloss Schönborn Pfaffenberg Riesling Kabinett 11% $24
Highest-rated German Riesling
This is full of trapped CO2, so a good hippy hippy shake is in order. The nose here is pure, with layers of fresh apples, flowers, mineral water, citrus pith and a hint of fennel seed. A bit sweet, but the weight is classic Kabinett- high-toned, relatively light and fairly ethereal. There’s plenty of acidity to perk things up. Though it never busts through the sugar, it does lend some fine definition to the pineapple and citrus fruit on the palate. Very bright and nervous, with rock sucking minerality on the back end and onto the long, apple and Meyer lemon-fruited finish. A bit sweeter than I would prefer, but this is mighty fine and still quite youthful. 90pts
2008 Pfeffingen Dry Riesling Pfalz 12% $20
Top-rated Dry Riesling
This is intense on the nose. Lovely lemon peel and dried lemon zest sit over slightly earthy, slatey wildflower and grass notes that are developing some petrol nuances. There’s a little caramel edge and some waxiness that add depth and complexity. Narrow and focused on entry, this is bright without being aggressively acidic. It has a gauzy edge of sweetness that’s helps to soften its contours, yet it retains lovely nuance. Almost lightly creamy citrus fruits up front are topped with powdery mineral notes and suggestion of wildflowers and honey. The finish is long and sapid with more juicy citrus tones, anchored by some bitter orchard fruits. A nice core of stoniness expresses on the finale. I like this a lot, it straddles the line between geek wine and normal wine very well. 89pts
2008 St Urbans-Hof Riesling Mosel Germany 9.5% $15
Other Highly-rated Wines
Lots of development on the nose. It is full of slightly dank, musty oil and diesel scents at first, which are oddly appealing. With time, some fruit and a nice brushy, oily wood tone emerge. This is fairly sweet at first, but the acid really unfurls and gives the sugar a run for its money. This is very lively in the mouth for such a noticeably sweet wine. The fruit is much more prominent on the palate. Lime topped creamy pineapple and pear fruit up front turn tauter on the back end with lively pineapple notes and a slight steely edge. The finish has some nice dusty mineral notes that add a top layer over a light, honied sweetness and lime juice freshness. Delicious. 89pts
2008 Schloss Reinhartshausen Old Vines Riesling Rheingau 12% $18
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Spicy and sweet on the nose, this is a bed of baked tangerine fruit doused with rosewater and chamomile. Light on entry, this is almost dusty on attack. It turns relatively well balanced with quince jam tones early on, followed by a hint of tangerine fruit, drops of lime and something vaguely biter on the back end that’s a cross between licorice and bitter orange. That admittedly sounds a bit nasty, but it’s really quite lovely. The vaguely biter licorice element extends across a moderately long finish. I like this. 88pts
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