WHAT: Riesling is considered by many to be the most noble, most versatile grape in the world. The results range from crisp, elegant wines of high acidity to a late-harvest offering that is rich and honeyed.
The grape doesn’t get much respect in the United States, because there are not many places where it thrives, with the Finger Lakes region of New York being the major exception. And the best Rieslings from Germany usually have labels that are difficult to decipher.
Because many top Rieslings are off-dry, they go against the prevailing bias toward dry wines in the United States, though those tastes are trending more toward sweeter wines.
Clean Slate Riesling should go a long way toward awakening Americans to the wonders of German Riesling. The fresh peach flavors with hints of lime balance the crisp acidity. Mineral notes from the slate in the vineyards add a pleasant taste. The alcohol level is only 10.5 percent.
The folks at Mosselland (the winery) and Winebow (the importer/distributor) have put a clean, modern label on the wine, one that is sure to attract young American wine drinkers. Stacks of slate on the label and the clever “Clean Slate” name will make it attractive for the world market.
The grapes come from throughout the Mosel (Moz’l) region of Germany. The steep slopes of the lower Mosel, lined with blue slate, give the wine its mineral character, while the peach flavors are typical of the Upper Mosel. The vineyards are more than 30 years old, with an elevation ranging from 300 feet to 1,500 feet.
The grapes were cold fermented in stainless steel vats and aged for about four months before bottling.
The Mosel vineyards are among the most beautiful in the world, and a trip down the Mosel River is an unforgettable experience. The slopes are so steep, some of the slate slides into the river each year and then gets carried back to the top of the vineyard.
Because the area is so cool, the slate is important in capturing and retaining the heat of the sun to ripen the grapes.
Clean Slate has been making this wine since 2005. For this vintage it produced more than 500,000 bottles, so the wine should be readily available. And at $9-11, this wine is an incredible bargain. Serve it well-chilled.
WINERY: Grape-growing in Germany can be traced back to the Romans during the first century. The earliest vineyards existed on the left bank of the Rhine, and plantings spread to the Mosel probably around the third century. The vines advanced further in the Middle Ages, mainly through the church, its monasteries in particular.
In the 19th century, many small growers in Mosel formed wine-growing cooperatives so they could compete more efficiently. Moselland was formed in 1969, when major cooperatives merged with Hauptkellerei Koblenz to form the largest wine-growing cooperative in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz.
Moselland is the largest vineyard owner in the Mosel and one of Germany’s top exporters of Riesling. It is located in Bernkastel Kues, and is known for high-quality wines.
Clean Slate was formed in the last decade, when Moselland started working with Winebow, a top U.S. importer, distributor and developer of fine wines from around the world.
The Mosel River flows about 320 miles from France’s Vosges Mountains through Luxembourg and empties into the Rhine River at Koblenz. The wine-growing region west of Koblenz is the most dramatic.
Some of the most famous vineyards in the world are along the stretch in the Mittel-Mosel between Wehlen and Piesport. A vineyard above the city of Bernkastel known as the Bernkasteler Doctor is the most expensive piece of wine real estate in Germany, producing a wine famous throughout the world.
All of the fine wines of the Mosel are white, and almost all are produced from the Riesling grape. The vines cling tenaciously to incredibly steep hillsides, which provide optimum drainage and exposure but require a lot of manual labor in the vineyards.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this with a quick-and-easy dinner of steamed shrimp, fried potato wedges and pan-fried zucchini with salads. We usually like bone-dry whites, but this Riesling was the perfect match to our food.
The minerality and peach flavors nicely balanced the tangy cocktail sauce and lemon juice on the shrimp, which we had brought back from Edisto Beach, S.C.
The wine was equally good to sip with cheese while we cooked and by itself after dinner.
The wine also should pair well with spicy food, such as Asian, Latin or Indian dishes, and with all kinds of fish or Sushi.