Vivid, dry, and intense, these bottles are perfect for Thanksgiving.

By Ray Isle
October 24, 2019
Victor Protasio

Riesling is both blessed and cursed. The blessing is that it is truly one of the world’s greatest food wines—bright and zesty, able to pair with almost anything. The curse is that everyone thinks it’s sweet.


People particularly think that about German Riesling, which would come as a surprise to most Germans, who actually drink more dry Riesling than sweet styles by a resounding margin. And when I was traveling recently in Germany’s Mosel Valley, arguably its most famous wine region (and certainly one of its most beautiful), I drank plenty of dry Riesling: intense, vivid whites that seemed to distill the essence of the cracked slate that carpets the region’s crazily steep vineyards.


And now, with Thanksgiving approaching, I’m thinking, could there be a better roast turkey wine (or mashed-potato-plus-stuffing-plus-green-beans-plus-creamed-onions wine)? If your tastes run toward whites, I honestly don’t think so. Riesling even goes with cranberry sauce, which lands on your table with a contract out on most other wines. Here are 15 great Mosel Rieslings, both dry versions and (lightly) sweet ones, too. Now, bring on the bird.

Dry

Hate sweetness in your wines? These six Rieslings are as dry as they come.

2017 Dr. Loosen Red Slate Riesling ($18)

The slate soils of the Mosel River region fall into two types: blue and red. “Riesling on blue slate tends to be more green apple and white peach; red slate is more mineral-driven,” Ernst Loosen says. This stony, orange-zesty wine bears that out.


2018 Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling ($18)

The unstoppably energetic Nik Weis makes excellent wines at all price levels, but the quality of his affordable bottlings is so high, it’s hard to pass them up. Witness this thrillingly brisk, green-appley white.


2018 Franzen Quarzit Schiefer Riesling ($20)

Kilian and Angelina Franzen farm 5 hectares in the fearsomely steep Bremmer Calmont vineyard, producing intensely focused Rieslings. This wine, with its lime peel and dusty mineral character, directly expresses their elegant style.


2018 Stein Blauschiefer Riesling Trocken ($22)

Blauschiefer literally translates to “blue slate,” making this wine, with its high-toned quince and grapefruit notes, an excellent counterpart for the Loosen wine above. 


2017 Carl Loewen Alte Reben Riesling ($23)

In German, alte reben means “old vines,” in this case at least 50 years old, on some of the steepest slopes in Germany. The wine they produce is vividly aromatic, with dry spice and quince notes.


2016 Selbach-Oster Bömer Riesling ($26)

Johannes Selbach is one of the great names of Mosel Riesling, and his family has been in the wine trade for more than 400 years. This intensely dry bottling, from behind the village of Zeltingen, is savory and almost oily in texture, a great main-course white.

Victor Protasio

Faintly Off-Dry

The feinherb category in German Rieslings denotes wines with a touch of sweetness—enough to amplify the fruitiness of the wine but (typically) not so much as to come off distinctly sweet. 


2017 Saarstein Riesling ($18) 


Grapefruit peel and golden apple flavors define this bright Riesling from vineyards overlooking the Saar River. A light touch of residual sugar on the finish amplifies its fruitiness, but the wine doesn’t come off as sweet.

2018 Fritz Haag Estate Riesling ($20) 


Fritz Haag is renowned for its Brauneberger Juffer vineyard Grosses Gewächs wines (the Mosel term for grand cru); this estate bottling offers some of the elegance of the top wines for a more modest price.

2018 Schloss Lieser Estate Riesling ($20) 


Founded by a baron, who also built the gorgeous castle in front of the winery, today Schloss Lieser is owned by the talented winemaker Thomas Haag. Lightly off-dry, this estate bottling is full of ripe peach notes.

2018 Maximin Grünhaus Monopol Riesling ($22) 


This property dates back to the seventh century, when King Dagobert of Franconia gave the lands to Benedictine monks. Today, the Von Schubert family owns it and makes wines like this bright, almost tingly bottling.

2018 Lauer “Senior” Fass 6 Riesling ($30) 


Rising star Florian Lauer works in the Saar River valley (an offshoot of the Mosel), where he makes alluring Rieslings that balance precision and power. His “senior” bottling, barely off-dry, is polished and smoky.

Lightly Sweet

Modest levels of residual sugars are present but in perfect balance; dessert wines these are not.

2018 Dr. H. Thanisch Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett ($24) 


Rising steeply above the 
quaint (and loved by tourists) town of Bernkastel-Kues, the 
Bernkasteler Badstube vineyard grows assertive Rieslings with golden apple and spice notes—this bottling, from a benchmark producer, is spot-on.


2015 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett ($25) 


Originally a Jesuit college in Trier, F.W.G. acquired most of its vineyards in the late 1500s; the wines—like this modestly sweet kabinett bottling—are still made in the ancient cellars under old-town Trier. 


2018 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett ($35) 


The wines of this tiny estate are sought after for their effortlessly complex, almost crystalline expressiveness. Even in the ripe 2018 vintage, that purity is evident, as in this tart, lightly herbal white.


2017 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett ($52) 


One of the greatest estates of the middle Mosel, J. J. Prüm produces only sweet wines. But what wines! This kabinett is mouthwatering, smoky-stony, and filled with citrus and white peach fruit.

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