Thursday, October 2, 2014

My Sweet Spot: Trocken & Feinherb

An all-time favorite Riesling pairing:
Tagliatelle in Truffle Cream Sauce
I believe I have finally found my German Riesling sweet spot, and that is within the amazing styles of Trocken and Feinherb. It’s been quite a journey, arriving at this decision, and many thanks go to a couple of friends who put some amazing wines in front of me. I’m not saying that I haven’t loved and lusted after a number of Spätlese and Auslese level wines. However, it’s the racy style of a good Trocken and the almost impossible balance found in Feinherb that sings to my soul.

If you’re not already familiar with these terms, just started getting into Riesling, or have given up on Riesling because you think they are all just sweet wines, then let me give you a little background. First and foremost, you may be surprised to learn that the preferred style of Riesling in Germany these days are of bone-dry wines. Many of the sweet and incredibly ripe Rieslings you see on store shelves are being produced for our benefit. If sweet wine isn’t your thing, then you owe it to yourself to find a Trocken (Dry) Riesling. Trocken is a bone-dry style of Riesling that’s crisp and fresh with precise and focused fruit and minerals. They can be achingly enjoyable, as the acid seems to almost sear your gums, but then coaxes your taste buds to water, releasing an intense wave of fruit. The experience is one like you may have never before witnessed in your wine-drinking life. For me, finding a wine that produces this effect is truly thrilling—as was my recent experience with the 2011 Keller Nierstein Riesling Trocken.

Then there is Feinherb, a relatively new term in German wine, which could be compared to the designation Halbtrocken (half-dry). However, what Feinherb is all about is finding a perfect balance. The fruit is intense with all the minerals and acid that I love in Riesling. Yet, there’s also a small dose of balancing sweetness which give these wines a truly jubilant feel. They are not sweet, they are not dry—what they are is perfectly balanced. In many cases, like with the 2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese Feinherb Ur Alte Reben, the intensity in the glass is simply incredible, and you can feel the weight of the riper fruit on your palate, but it stays within the lines and never bubbles over. Instead, it’s a wine that’s teetering on the edge, and it’s on that edge where I find the most enjoyment.

I beg you to seek out these wines. You owe it to yourself, especially if you’ve given up on (or never even started) tasting German Riesling. Admittedly, some of these will not be easy to find—but that can be part of the fun.  My advise would be to seek out the Selbach-Oster or Spreitzer, and go from there.  Enjoy!

On to the wines:

2011 Stein St. Aldegunder Palmberg-Terrassen Riesling Spätlese feinherb - Aromas jumped from the glass of this young Riesling, showing ripe pear, peach skins, wet mineral laden stone and hints of lemon. On the palate, there was a yin yang of fruit, acidity and minerality. Grapefruit was foremost with an equal doses of acidity as expected from taking a bite, note the sprinkle of sugar on top. Ripe peach flavor and weight added balance, along with gorgeous saline minerals, which poured out as the mouth began to water. The finish made the cheeks pucker with slight lemon pith, hints of fresh honeycomb and inner floral notes. To say i enjoyed this wine would be an understatement. (92 points) Producer Website! (German Only)

2011 Weingut Keller Nierstein Riesling Trocken - An intense and pulsating wine with power and verve. On the nose it was highly expressive with peach and apricot fruit, lemon oil, minty herbal tones, and wet stone. It showed razor-like focus on the palate, like a bullet train, yet then suddenly blossomed into an explosion of tart orange and tangerine. The finish lingered long as the mouth began to water and lemon pith flavors turned to mineral stone. It's a beautiful wine. (93 points) Producer Website(German Only)

2012 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Rosengarten Riesling Großes Gewächs - The nose was enticing, showing intense spiced-apple with lemon accents, sweet yellow floral tones and moist minerals in a focused, yet fruit forward expression. The more time it spent in the glass, the more its fruit seemed to ripen and I found it difficult to pull myself away. On the palate, I found green apple, grapefruit, lime and wet stone, with sharp acidity contrasted by silky textures. Notes of bitter citrus peel seemed to coat the entire palate through the long finish along with herbal hints. (93 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben - A beautiful and truly seductive Riesling, the 2012 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr “Ur” Alte Reben explodes from the glass with aromas of ripe pear, yellow flowers, roasted walnut, saline minerals, and hints of brie. On the palate, it’s silky yet fresh with sweet and sour tropical fruit, lemon pith, slate and a hint if green olive. Lemon zest lingered long on the finish, as the mouth watered, slowly melting away the oily textures revealing a note of pineapple left behind. (94 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

2010 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling - The nose showed ripe peach, grapefruit, sweet spice, wax, and yellow florals in an airy yet gorgeously ripe expression. On the palate it played a sweet and sour act with grapefruit, grapefruit and more grapefruit, mineral stone and lemon pith with rich textures balanced by piercing acidity. The finish seemed to create a vacuum of flavor, which suddenly exploded into a rush of tropical fruits, spice and sweet inner floral notes. In a word, WOW! (94 points) Producer Website!

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido


  1. Eric, great post, especially for a Riesling fan. Not familiar with Feinherb, but after your post I will look for it.

  2. Very helpful information, thank you, Eric. German Riesling is a new frontier for me (I very much enjoy Austrian Riesling) so am looking forward to trying these ... at least the ones I can find.

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