The best wines from The Global Riesling Masters 2020

One of the favourite grapes of the true wine connoisseur, Riesling comes in many types, from sparkling to dry, from medium to sweet. But our annual blind-tasting test showed that there are delights in all categories. Read on for an analysis of the results and a list of all the medallists from the 2020 competition.

If you want proof of Riesling’s versatility, then look at the spread of top medals in this year’s competition. Held for pure Riesling only, we had fantastic entries for sparkling wine, dry still wines, medium dry and sweet ones, including an outstanding Icewine at the end of the tasting. It shows that not only can Riesling be used to make a wide array of wine styles, but in each case, it can achieve excellence. This is rare in the wine world, where noble grapes tend to create something exceptional in one or two styles, with only Chenin Blanc, and perhaps Furmint, being other grape varieties that can I can think of that are capable of yielding excellent sparkling, dry and sweet results.

So, starting with the sparkling Riesling, with had a small taste of Sekt, with two delicious examples from Kessler in Württemberg, with the second notable for its fresh chalky edge, and intense, lime-like fruit. Then we came across another sparkling, which was a touch pricier, but with a more powerful flavour combination of peach, citrus and biscuit, and then the bright, firm, hallmark Riesling acidity. We awarded this a Gold, and later learnt that it was from Thirty Bench in Canada, and not Germany, as had been presumed.

Among the still wines in the tasting, starting with the driest Rieslings, the quality was high, and while a few of the wines seemed a touch dilute, there seemed to be fewer incidences of fiercely acidic samples, the sort that finished firm, as opposed to fresh.

Notable among the dry samples were two wines in particular. The first of these was the Riesling Les Princes Abbés from Domaines Schlumberger in Alsace, which impressed the judges with its combination of tangerine, lime and beeswax in a textured, slightly evolved and dry style.

The other Golds in the dry category were pricier, and both came from Australia’s Clare Valley. The cheaper of these, from Wakefield/Taylors, was a brilliant example of its type, with masses of juicy lime, and a dry, stone-like finish – it was bright, but not sharp.

The other, from Kilikanoon Wines, was similarly dry and fresh, and also loaded with lime, but being an older vintage – it was from 2011 – it had the lovely flavours of aged Riesling, from toast to a touch of kerosene. But running both these wines close were a sweep of excellent Rieslings, as you can see from the high number of Silvers, even under £15.

In other words, if you opt for dry Riesling, particularly from Australia’s Clare and Eden Valley, then you can be assured a high standard of wine, with clean citrus fruit, and Riesling’s wonderful crisp character.

When it came to those Rieslings with just a touch of residual sugar, the medium-dry style, again the standard was high, with any sweetness more than offset by the high natural acidy of this grape variety.

Within the ‘medium-dry’ flight we tasted some lovely floral peachy samples from Chile (Cono Sur) and a good value wine from New Zealand (Hunter’s). Among the Golds was a ripe and bright Riesling mixing peach and pear with fresh lime zest, which hailed from Casablanca in Chile (Casas del Bosque) and soft, pure, persistent sample from the Pflaz in Germany (Ruppertsberger Weinkeller Hoheburg).

CRISP FINISH

At higher prices, there were two brilliant Rieslings from Domaines Schlumberger, representing a pair of Alsace grands crus: Saering and Kessler, with the former showing a touch more ripe peachy fruit, honey and tangerine, and the latter more pear and apple, along with chalk and salt characters on its crisp finish.

Germany was the source nation of the final Gold in this sweetness category, with the powerful Rheingau Grosses Gewachs Riesling from Weingut August Eser, loaded with apricot richness, a touch of sweetness, and a stony, dry, lime-fresh finish.

The rest of our outstanding wines came at higher sweetness levels, notably the Riesling Rotschiefer from the Mosel’s Weingut Sorentburg, with peach and strawberry, a whiff of kerosine, and a persistent clean citrus note.

Then came our first Riesling Master, which was from the same winery, but this was its old vine expression from the 2017 vintage, which was a highly impressive wine, with apricot, marmalade and beeswax, a touch of sweetness, and then a long, apple-like bright finish.

Finally, we had some very sweet Rieslings, including a delicious Auslese from Weingut August Eser. Although the wine had more than 100g/l of residual sugar, it was still a beautifully clean and fresh expression.

Our final wine of the tasting turned out to be another Master. It was layered with fruit flavours from mango to apricot, along with dried apple and raisins. It was unctuous too, with almost 190g/l of sugar, but offset by a tangy freshness. It had the characters of great Icewine, which we later learnt it was, and from Canada’s Andrew Peller Estates.

Please see the tables below, which feature all the medallists from this year’s competition.

Sparkling

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Kessler Sekt Kessler Jägergrün Riesling Brut Württemberg Germany NV Silver
£15-£20
Kessler Sekt Kessler Riesling Reserve Vintage Württemberg Germany 2016 Silver
£20-£30
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling Beamsville Bench Canada NV Gold

Dry (0-4 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Girl Riesling Washington State USA 2019 Silver
RockBare Rockbare Clare Valley Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Reillys Wines Reillys Watervale Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
McGuigan McGuigan Cellar Select Riesling Hilltops Australia 2018 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Aldi Exquisite Collection Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
£15-£20
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Les Princes Abbés Alsace France 2016 Gold
Gatt Wines High Eden Single Vineyard Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
McGuigan McGuigan Shortlist Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Block Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Block Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Reserve Parcel Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Gold
Tempus Two Tempus Two Pewter Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines McGuigan Shortlist Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2020 Silver
Wakefield/Taylors Wines St Andrews Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2020 Silver
£30-£50
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Reserve Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2011 Gold
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kitterle Alsace France 2017 Silver
Kilikanoon Wines Mort’s Reserve Riesling Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Weingut Baron Knyphausen Erbacher Hohenrain VDP Grosse Lage GG Rheingau Germany 2019 Silver

Medium-dry (5-12 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Hunter’s Wines Hunter’s Riesling Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Imperial Riesling Palatinate Germany 2019 Silver
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Riesling Pfalz Organic Palatinate Germany 2019 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling QbA Dry
Mosel Germany 2019 Silver
£10-£15
Cono Sur Cono Sur Single Vineyard Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Cono Sur Reserva Especial Riesling Bío Bío Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Weingut Baron Knyphausen Riesling Charta Rheingau Germany 2018 Silver
Charles & Charles Charles & Charles Rieling Washington State USA 2018 Bronze
£15-£20
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Imperial Riesling Organic Palatinate Germany 2019 Gold
Viña Casas del Bosque Riesling Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Gold
Gatt Wines Eden Springs Eden Valley Australia 2017 Silver
£20-£30
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Saering Alsace France 2017 Gold
Domaines Schlumberger Riesling Grand Cru Kessler Alsace France 2017 Gold
Cembra Cantina di Montagna Vigna Cancor Trentino Italy 2017 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut August Eser Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Riesling GG
Trocken VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Gold

Medium (13-45 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Ruppertsberger Weinkeller
Hoheburg
Ruppertsberger Hofstück Riesling Palatinate Germany 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling
Triangle Vineyard
Beamsville Bench Canada 2017 Silver
Thirty Bench Wine Makers Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling
Wild Cask
Beamsville Bench Canada 2017 Silver
Viña y Bodega Estampa Inspiración Riesling Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Weingut August Eser Oestrich Lenchen Riesling
Kabinett VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Weingut Sorentberg/
Castelfeder Winery
Sorentberg Riesling Rotschiefer Mosel Germany 2018 Gold
£50+
Weingut Sorentberg/
Castelfeder Winery
Sorentberg Riesling Von 1000
Alten Reben
Mosel Germany 2017 Master

Sweet (+46 g/l)

Winery Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling Kabinett
Mosel Germany 2019 Silver
Schmitt Söhne Thomas Schmitt Private Collection
Riesling Auslese
Mosel Germany 2018 Silver
£30-£50
Weingut August Eser Oestrich Doosberg Riesling Auslese
VDP Grosse Lage
Rheingau Germany 2019 Gold
£50+
Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Riesling Icewine Niagara Peninsula Canada 2018 Master

About The Global Riesling Masters

With high-quality judges and a unique sampling process, the Global Riesling Masters provides a chance for your wines to star, whether they hail from the great vineyards of Europe or lesser-known winemaking areas of the world.

The 2020 competition was judged by David Round MW, Patrick Schmitt MW and Patricia Stefanowicz MW in December at London’s 28°-50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Riesling Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Judge’s comment: Patricia Stefanowicz MW

“After a glorious day of judging the Riesling Masters in 2020, it is difficult to understand what is not to love about the Riesling grape variety. This great grape shows its range of styles beautifully, far beyond its ‘homeland’ of Germany, Alsace and Austria. Dry Rieslings can sometimes appear ‘acidic’ or ‘stretched’. Not this category here. With just a tiny bit of residual sugar and ripe fruit, these wines have purity of citrus flavours, ranging from lemon-lime in the Clare Valley (Australia) through tangerine to orange zest (Eden Valley, Australia). Apple, pear, honey and minerality are more apparent in the wines from Germany or Alsace. Many of them have a lovely accent of lemon or orange blossom adding interest.”

The Global Riesling Masters: the results in full

We bring you a full report on this year’s Global Riesling Masters, including all the medallists from the tasting, which took in Rieslings from Alsace to Kamptal, Rheingau to Washington State, and a couple of wines from Kazakhstan.

Mention the word Riesling to mainstream wine drinker and then a trade professional, and the response will be markedly different. In the eyes of the former, the grape signals something sweet and perhaps cheap. As for the latter, Riesling is the noble source of fine whites with high acidity. It’s a divide that is also getting greater, as it seems that the Rieslings being made today are getting drier, fresher and pricier, although the bargain off-dry end of the offer is gradually disappearing – and it’s probably being replaced by Prosecco.

While the reduction in entry-level Riesling may be good for the grape’s image, crafting a delicious bone dry wine from Riesling is far from easy. As a result, if there was a single criticism of the wines in this year’s Riesling Masters, it concerned the level of acidity in the dry wines. For the most part, the wines were delicious, with fresh citrus fruit flavours that made one’s mouth salivate like licking just-sliced lime, but occasionally, the finish was so intensely acidic, it left a hardness that made even our Riesling-loving panel of judges wince.

In the same way that Chardonnay makers moved to something austere in an attempt to distance themselves from a previous paradigm of fat, buttery whites, I wonder if some Riesling producers are going to an extreme form of dryness to provide a contrast to something sweet, and possibly too saccharine, that was made by – and for – an older generation.

Another reason why acidities may be too intense in some samples concerns an urge to minimise the ‘kerosene’ character in young dry Riesling. Hailing from the presence of TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2- dihydronaphthalene), which is believed to form in warmer areas and from high sunlight exposure, it could be the case that producers are harvesting grapes earlier, or allowing canopies to shade the bunches more, to reduce the incidence of the aroma compound. Such an approach would result in less ripe grapes, so, while the kerosene character is diminished, the resulting wine, if fermented to dryness, will have a marked acidity.

Personally I would prefer a dry Riesling with some kerosene aromas and a softer acidity, than a pure lime-scented white with a hard finish. And our judges felt similarly.

So, if there is a message to the producers of dry Riesling, please pursue a softer style of wine, even if it means a touch more TDN.

As for the great Rieslings in our tasting, whatever the sugar level, they combined the grape’s intense citrus freshness, often with a slightly chalky sensation on the finish, and riper characters from beeswax to peach, along with a hint of white flowers. Such examples displayed cleansing, if not sharp acidity, and a touch of TDN, like a whiff of burnt rubber or spilt petrol. Like all great wines, the key is the balance of the components, which should complement each other.

In terms of the sources of the highest-scoring Rieslings in this year’s competition, the range was broad, with Alsace, Austria, Germany, Australia, Washington State and Canada picking up the top medals. Among the outstanding dry wines were a Grand Cru Riesling from Schlumberger and a ‘Museum Release’ from Australia’s Howard Park, while we were wowed by the top wines form Austria’s Schloss Gobelsburg.

In the medium-dry category it was Schloss Sconborn’s top Rheingau expression that took home the only Gold of the flight, with further Golds then awarded to sweeter wines, including a Spatlese from the same producer, and another to a further Rheingau winery, with August Eser also gaining a Gold-medal score.

Our tasting ended on an intensely sweet high, with a Canadian ice wine from Peller Estates named a Riesling Master for its combination of remarkable raisined richness, lemon curd-like characters and freshly sliced green apple acidity.

Indeed, having started the tasting by sampling the fine chalky fizz of top German Sekt and ended with the viscous deliciousness of a Canadian Riesling made from frozen grapes, we were reminded just how versatile this single grape is. Indeed, such is the diverse nature of Riesling, it would be a great shame for the grape to remain famous for just one style of wine. The challenge of course comes with telling the consumer exactly what they can expect from their chosen Riesling. And for that to be overcome, an accurate tasting note on the bottle or wine list is vital.

Over the following pages you can see all the medallists from this year’s competition, as well as comments from the judges (who are pictured below), and more information about the Global Riesling Masters, including how to enter.

The judges (left to right): Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW; Patrick Schmitt MW; Jonathan Pedley MW; David Round MW

Chardonnay Masters 2014: The results

Proving that few grapes can beat the malleability and creative potential of Chardonnay was last month’s Masters tasting, where top-price pours and cheaper oaked styles fared well.

Chardonnay-Masters-JudgingIF THE chef’s universal test is an omelette, then a winemaker’s should be a Chardonnay. With its relatively delicate flavours the grape is able to transmit winemaking tweaks more clearly than any other variety, making it the ultimate tool to judge cellar technique. And like that egg- based dish, the wine from Chardonnay may seem uncomplicated to make, but it’s also easy to get wrong. If it’s good, however, the wine trade will undoubtedly sit up and salivate.

It’s for these reasons that our annual Chardonnay Masters is such a popular and revealing judging session. Not only does it give us a chance to see the trends at work in winemaking, but also discover some of the hottest talent in the global vinous scene. Furthermore, as the grape can only be grown in few places with great success – despite its appearance almost everywhere there are vineyards – the tasting highlights places of brilliance.

ENGLAND SPARKLES

And, as this year’s tasting showed, one of these places is England. Our first flight of the day considered sparkling Chardonnay, taking in a mixture of blanc de blancs from Champagne and a range of English counties, including Sussex and Hampshire. Just two golds and three silvers were awarded, split almost equally between English sparkling Chardonnays and those from Champagne, proving that the Brits can create traditional method fizz that is comparable in quality with Champagne, if different in style. With Wiston Estate the sole gold from England, the tasting also reinforced the belief that its creator, Dermot Sugrue, is one of this small industry’s greatest winemakers.

Moving onto still wines, it was notable that the unoaked Chardonnay category yielded no golds in 2014. “At the cheaper end the oaked Chardonnay seemed to do better, so if you are going to do a sub £10 Chardonnay then having some carefully judged oak seems to add something,” commented judge Martin Gamman MW. Nevertheless, a few names stood out in this category, with the Co-op supermarket’s Chablis, made by Jean-Marc Brocard, one of just two silvers in the under-£10 unoaked Chardonnay category, proof that this region is one of the very few areas that delivers real character from the grape without a heavy wood influence.

That said, it requires the economies of scale and low margins of a multiple retailer to hit a sub-£10 price point for Chablis today.

Another star was a new Chardonnay from Giusti, a producer in Asolo and one of only two wineries to achieve the top title of Master in our 2014 Prosecco Masters. Italy was the source of another silver in the unoaked category, although this time in the £10-20 price band, with Zonin’s IGT Toscana Chardonnay impressing the judges, along with Valdivieso Reserva Chardonnay from Chile.

OAKEY-DOKEY

However, the majority of entries in the competition had seen some oak in their production, and looking at the cheapest category, it was pleasing to see the brand leaders performing well. Indeed, the top three best scoring Chardonnays in the oaked under-£10 flight were from three of the biggest names in the business: Hardys, Jacob’s Creek and Torres, representing Australia and Chile. “With inexpensive New World Chardonnay I look for something with some oak and balanced, bright acidity,” commented another judge, Clement Robert, head sommelier at London’s Medlar Restaurant and 2013 Moët UK Sommelier of the Year. Considering further this category, he also described the general standard of the wines as “good to very good”, and was pleased to see no obvious signs of added acidity.

CHILEAN CHALLENGERS

Notable in the next price band, £10-20, was the strong performance of Chardonnays from Chile. Leading the nation in this category was the Viñas Errázuriz Group, which took one of only two Masters in the entire competition for its £15 Arboleda Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay. Exciting the judges was its combination of ripe fruit, toasty oak and a refreshing grapefruit tang, all for a sub-£20 wine. The group’s slightly cheaper Errázuriz Max Reserva also did well in the same category, gaining one of the 16 silvers. Using Chardonnay from the same region of Aconcagua Costa, it seems this area of Chile is a region to watch for high-quality Chardonnay, although Leyda- sourced Chilean Chardonnays from a number of producers, including Santa Rita, did well too.

Proving that New World Chardonnays from as broad a set of sources as Lake Ontario Canada and Hawke’s Bay New Zealand are able to compete with Burgundy in the same price range, among the silvers awarded in the £10-20 band were two Côte-d’Or whites from Domaine Pierre Labet, including its Beaune Clos du Dessus Des Marconnets. In other words, those New World Chardonnays in this price band that gained silvers are making wines of equivalent quality to good village- level Burgundy.

Moving up to the higher price points however, it was notable how good the Chardonnays were from Australia, California and South Africa – the latter perhaps a somewhat underestimated source of high quality Chardonnay. In Australia specifically, the judges were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Chardonnay from the Clare Valley, which had plenty of ripe fruit, but also an appealing smoky and subtle sulphidic character, palate-cleansing citrus and well-judged toasty oak. This wine was awarded a gold in the £20-£30 band, along with the Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay from Cambria Estate Winery in California’s Santa Maria Valley, heralding from the Jackson Family’s impressive stable of wines. The latter wine was a wonderful example of a more classic Californian Chardonnay, with richness, warmth, but also complexity and just enough acidity to offset the generosity. Sommelier Clement Robert, having tasted the wine blind and scored it highly, was particularly pleased, as he later revealed he had previously chosen this Chardonnay to serve by the glass at his restaurant.

TOP-END TRIUMPHS

At even higher prices, once more, Australia’s Bird in Hand Chardonnay, made by highly respected winemaker Kym Milne MW, was given a gold for its Nest Egg label, highlighting the quality of fruit from the Adelaide Hills. But it was a Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley that scored even more highly, with the region’s Oakridge winery achieving a Master for its 864 Chardonnay. Made in a slightly leaner manner, but with a fashionable struck- match character, touch of toast, and lovely grapefruit flavours, not everyone liked the style, but at least it attracted plenty of discussion, and all agreed it was an excellent wine.
Over £50, without the presence of grand cru Burgundy in the tasting, we had few wines, but those that were commanding such high prices thankfully performed as well as one would expect for the expense. At the very top were Penfolds Yattarna, the wonderful white equivalent of Australia’s flagship red, Grange, and the boutique South African producer, Uva Mira, which produces intense Chardonnay from its high-altitude vineyards on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains in Stellenbosch.

So what made the best examples great? For the judges it was the intense flavours from a broad set of complementary components, coupled with freshness. Summing up, David Bird MW commented, “You can mould Chardonnay into a simple wine or a lovely oaked example, but it is very easy to overdo it, and too many still think that you can produce a superb Chardonnay by sticking lots of wood in it.” Continuing, he concluded, “It is hard to produce a great wine from Chardonnay, but when you do, it is the greatest wine in the world.”

The wines were judged blind using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses at Broadway House in London. Wines were awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, with only the very highest scoring entries being given the accolade of a Master.

Chardonnay-Masters-Judges

Judges left to right: Keith Isaac MW, Justin Knock MW, Clement Robert, Sarah Knowles, Neil Sommerfelt MW, Catriona Felstead MW, Patrick Schmitt, David Bird MW, Matthew Hemming MW, Beverley Blanning MW, John Atkinson MW, Michael Palij MW, Martin Gamman MW (not pictured)

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