Freiherr von Heddesdorff Halbtrocken Riesling 2005
Oh how I wish I had tried this wine blind! I would have made three major errors and learned
from each. I would get the grape, of course, Riesling, the world's finest aromatic white grape,
but then I would have gone astray. With smug certainty I would have narrowed this wine
down as an Eden Valley Riesling from South Australia, while in actuality it is from the
Mosel-Saar-Ruhe region of Germany. I would have called the wine, by taste, dry, when it is
technically off-dry, halbtrocken in German. Finally, I would have put it in the $16 to
$20 price range when it actually runs $12-$15, depending on outlet. If I hit anything right on
the mark, it is the objective fact that this wine is delicious.
Von Heddesdorff has been coaxing wine out of these precipitous terraced slopes (some of the steepest in the Mosel) since 1424; Andreas Canal is the modern winegrower, growing Riesling only. As to my first error, since I know the wine is German, I am sensitized to taste the minerality in it; to my palate it is limestone and clay. On the second point, the fruit acidityŚreflecting peach, apricot, mandarin orange, mango and especially limeŚis unquestionably forward, so forceful as to push through, and indeed require, that bit of extra sugar, which balances and in fact enhances the bold acidity. This is full acidity, by which I mean the delightful direction of ripe fruit, maximally extracted yet beautifully balanced. Without the halbtrocken sugar, the wine might seem over-concentrated, stimulating to the palate but a step sideways from the direction of wine. The sugar itself, well-used in every respect, contributes to a redolent fruit-filled finish. The luscious lime speaks at every critical stage.
On the third point, price, any decent wine course or book will tell you Riesling is still
suffering from its association with the hyper-sweet German trash wine of the past. The
knowing consumer benefits from this dichotomy now, but you only have to look at California
wines, which a generation ago faced a similar reputational issue. German Riesling will
ultimately break through the perception barrier; this means your friends will finally know
what you are gushing about, though the wine itself will cost more.
Verdict: Quickly Emptied
Riesling is a magnificent grape; rest certain it will have its day in the modern market.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman