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Germans on the way back
Believe it or not, a century ago top class German Riesling used to be more expensive and considerably more in vogue than cru classe claret.
Indeed even 40 years ago, Riesling was regarded as infinitely superior than both Chardonnay and Cabernet. So what went wrong?
It didn't exactly help that back in the 70s, the German wine industry bastardised its greatest asset by allowing cheap mass market rubbish to imitate Riesling and highjack its once proud reputation.
Ever since, industrial quantities of insipid sugar water (ironically, mostly made from Muller Thurgau grapes) have continued to plumb ever greater depths of mediocrity, thus sacrificing the goose that laid the golden egg at the altar of quick and easy profits.
Can I offer anyone a glass of Liebfraumilch? No, I thought not.
Of course these mass produced concoctions could not and should not be remotely compared to the real thing - ie great German Riesling. But try telling that to the great British public.
In recent years though, there has been something of a small but nonetheless significant Riesling revival - especially in the wine trade, as well as wine journalists and hardy aficionados.
Most notably, Jancis Robinson has often pronounced that, in her view, Riesling is the world's greatest white grape variety.
Similarly, Freddy Price, one of the UK's great pioneering wine merchants, recently produced a splendid book titled Riesling Renaissance' (published by Mitchell Beazley at £25).
So what is it about Riesling that excites the cognoscentii. Hugh Johnson is in no doubt about its infinite variety.
Riesling alone makes pure wine, innocent of oak that precisely reflects its origin, in a range from flowery and feather light, through tense, dry, and mineral-laden to unctuous and creamy, to a piercing liquor like celestial marmalade,'' he says.
High praise indeed from the High Priest of winewriters.
If this sounds like hype, I can assure that it is nothing of the kind. Riesling really does express its terroir as no other wine. For instance, in Alsace and Austria it has a dry, intense minerality with hints of stoney fruits and citrus. These bright, vivid whites make wonderful food wines, particularly from producers in Alsace like Trimbach, Hugel and Schlumberger. In Austria, try household names such as Knoll, Hirtzberger and Brundlmayer and you can't go wrong.
So why not pick up a mixed case of Riesling just in time for summer to discover one of the wine world's greatest treasures. My bet is that you'll be coming back for more quicker than you'd expect.