We are smitten by Riesling, and many’s the time we’ve extolled the virtues of the variety. We’ve written about the wide range of expressions of this noble grape from around the world, going from bone dry and mineral driven to deliciously sweet. We’ve discussed the exceptional value you get for money, especially among Germany’s finest. Finally, we’ve covered the characteristic acidity that makes Riesling arguably the most versatile food pairing wine in the world, equally at home alongside Thanksgiving dinner, light seafood, or even—trust me on this one—a juicy hamburger topped with bleu cheese. Of course you're already a savvy wine enthusiast and know all of this without me rambling on. But did you know that the best Rieslings are even better with a few years of experience and maturity?
Stored in ideal cellar conditions, good Riesling improves with significant age, something that would leave most whites limp. This is thanks in large part to the combination of vibrant acidity and slightly higher sugar content, which over years becomes integrated with the fruit, leading to aromas of honey, candied almonds, beeswax, peach preserves, and dried nectarine, to name a few. At any given time we have a few aged Rieslings on hand at Appellation, whether it’s a 26-year-old stunner from J.B. Becker or a gorgeous nine-year-old magnum of Joh. Jos. Prüm. You don’t have to wait to experience the grape in its full glory; the work has already been done for you. Of course, as with any aged wine, many can creep up in price compared to their younger counterparts, so we’re always on the lookout for that rare Riesling unicorn: a quality aged offering from a good producer at a steal of a price.
Surprise, surprise—we found one. Harald Hexamer’s gorgeous off-dry Rieslings are a pleasure drunk young (I speak from experience), but his 2001 Hochgewächs from Meddersheimer Altenberg is a real game-changer after fourteen careful years in the cellar. Despite 18.5 total hectares of vineyard sites located in Nahe, a major winegrowing region located alongside the river of the same name in the larger state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Hexamer’s production remains focused on the small details: careful pruning to control yields, hand harvesting, pressing of whole-clusters, and using only native yeasts for fermentation.
This particular example from 2001 is off-dry and built for aging, perfectly balancing aromas with refreshing, food-friendly acidity and subtle sweetness. Time has added significant complexity to an already beautiful wine; consumed now, there’s a freshness combined wth wonderful notes of preserved apricot, candied almonds, and wildflower honey. It’s a cinch to polish this bottle off with nothing but a nice night on the roof; however, if you’re feeling an itch to be behind the stove in the kitchen, it would be out of this world with braised pork and apples or a selection of rich, decadent cheeses. Drink now and thank me later!