2016 was far from an easy vintage. Yet it delivered plenty of elegant dry Riesling, including some stunner which will be legendary in a decade or two. Here the key facts.
The 2016 growing season was “hell followed by heaven.” As we explained extensively in our Mosel Vintage Report (see Mosel Fine Wines Issue No 35 – June 2017), the difficulties encountered during spring affected primarily yields and not quality.
The summer proved great and the harvest conditions ideal. This gave growers the time to make the right selections. The result was plenty of clean grapes with often very moderate sugar levels and riper acidity, i.e. ideal material for great dry Riesling.
2015 yielded impressive powerhouses of dry Riesling, with high levels of everything: ripeness, acidity and dry extracts. 2016 is completely different. If anything, it is about moderation. But the wines are no less admirable. It is an elegant vintage for dry Riesling, with sometimes quite ripe flavors, ripe but juicy acidity and good balance in the finish.
The 2016 dry Riesling have refreshingly low levels of alcohol, typically between 11.5% and 13%. The acidity levels may seem low but this is deceiving. Much of the acidity is of tartaric nature and the pH levels are actually quite low.
Many 2016 dry Riesling showed well young. Despite their fruity charm and lower levels of dry extracts than say 2015, the finest of the 2016 dry Riesling are real keepers. In fact, we would not be surprised if many will go down the road of a strong close-down phase despite their early charm.
It is also undeniable that Klaus-Peter Keller, Koehler-Ruprecht and Markus Molitor outdid themselves in this vintage. Each produced a stunning set of wines including strong contenders for finest dry Riesling of the vintage.
By and large, the vintage confirmed the relative pecking order among growers. Classicss such as Georg Breuer, Emrich-Schönleber and Schäfer-Fröhlich delivered handsomely. Their top wines will be cherished treasures in a decade or two.
Rheinhessen, and in particular the “Rheinfront,” fared particularly well in 2016. Also the Mosel hit the bull’s eye in 2016 thanks to the slightly more moderate acidity and the cleanness of the fruit, producing a huge number of great dry Riesling in all stylistic directions.
A special mention should go for the Pfalz growers, whose wines were often “too much” in 2015. The lighter structure of the 2016 vintage played into their hands and lovers of this stylistic direction will find much to like in the region in 2016.
Overall, the 2016 vintage has the charm, balance and elegance one expects from a great classic vintage for dry Riesling. This is reflected in the large number of wines with outstanding scores in our reviews, including the following modern-day legends in the making (alphabetic order):
If elegance is your thing, 2016 is a vintage to go for. As always, there is not “the” dry German Riesling, but a wide range of styles. It is therefore important to read the tasting notes in order to make sure that you will get a wine in the stylistic direction you will enjoy.
This buying guide would not be complete without a word on the stunning late releases of dry Riesling which have happened recently or are going to happen over the coming months. Let us be direct: Some of the finest dry Riesling from Germany are now the late-released Rieslings by leading Estates. Lovers of elegant dry Riesling will find a full list of stunner in the latest Issue.
The detailed version of this article including over 180 tasting notes from all leading German dry Riesling growers was published in the Mosel Fine Wine Issue No 38 (Oct 2017).
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© Text by Mosel Fine Wines "The Independent Review of Mosel Riesling"
Disclaimer: Mosel Fine Wines is an independent publication and has no commercial relationship with any Estate, association or organization featured in this article.