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The Antidote for Summer Stifle
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 23, 2011
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Weingut St. Urbans-Hof, Mosel (Germany) Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2008 (HB Wine Merchants, about $20):  The 2008 vintage in Europe was what they call a classic one, featuring a long growing season that brought grapes to ripeness with very good flavor development, much more moderate sugar levels than in subsequent years, and strong balancing acidity.  Although the Bordelais could have wished for more ripeness in their red grapes (which Nature gave them in abundance in 2009 and 2010), the flagship white-wine cool climate zones of Chablis, Champagne and Germany all made some very fine 2008 wines.

Germany’s 2008 Rieslings began appearing in U.S. wine shops two years ago.  In the process of moving my wine cellar recently, I uncovered a mixed case of 2008 Rieslings from Germany that I had completely forgotten about.  I didn’t doubt that they would be in good shape -- German Rieslings can live for decades, especially in classic vintages.  And, I discovered that, sure enough, the majority of them are still available in wine shops according to the wine-searcher.com website.  Tasting these Rieslings blind made for joyful work on a muggy August day.

The majority of the wines were from the Mosel region, as was my favorite wine:  The Riesling Kabinett from the Ockfener Bockstein vineyard, grown and produced by Nik Weis of Weingut St. Urbans-Hof winery.  In many ways, Mosel Rieslings are quintessential German Rieslings, perfumed and flavorful with fruits and flowers but delicate in weight and structure and utterly charming in personality.

The St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein has pronounced aromas of flowers and honey, as well as lime zest, orange and a mineral note. In your mouth it is light-bodied and has silky texture, high acidity and a bit of CO2 prickle.  Along with the lemon and floral notes, you might perceive nectarine, and a slatey mineral character.  The mineral tones form a strong undercurrent to the wine’s pretty flavors, rendering the wine serious -- a wine of the earth -- as well as delicious.

I didn’t mention sweetness/ dryness because that’s a tricky issue with many Rieslings that are, in fact, somewhat sweet but not so sweet that dry-wine drinkers can’t like them.  This wine tastes to me neither dry nor sweet. It has 44 grams per liter of residual sugar (left over from the grapes’ natural sugar) but its acidity is quite high at 9.1 grams per liter.  The high acidity (and that slight CO2 prickle) counterbalance the sugar so that the wine tastes neither as sweet nor as acidic as it is; it simply tastes richly flavored, fruity, fresh, clean, racy…and balanced.  Thanks to the unfermented grape sugar, the wine’s alcohol is only 7.5 percent.

In addition to this 2008 Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett, St. Urbans-Hof produced from the same vineyard a 2008 Spätlese -- a wine from grapes one notch riper than those of Kabinett level ripeness in the German appellation system.  (I have not tasted that wine.)  In general, 2008 favored this lighter, more delicate end of the ripeness spectrum.

Enjoy this wine now or for several years to come, with just about any sort of food that you might eat in the summer, except grilled steak and hamburgers (but it is lovely with grilled Italian sausages!).  Come autumn and winter, pair it with any dish that has fresh flavors or is delicate or is subtle.  Lots to work with there!

90 Points