Max Ferd. Richter, Mülheimer Sonnenlay, Riesling "Zeppelin", 2011
Following last week's review of a kick-ass aged Mosel Riesling it seems only fair to follow up with an exploration of a much younger Mosel wine's ass-kicking abilities. Today's hero may just be a baby in comparison but it comes with a good family history and a coup de grâce delivered by one of the grand masters of ass-kicking, Dr Indiana Jones.
Most importantly it comes with an airship (not included in the price sadly): "the wine most often drunk during the flights of the 'Graf Zeppelin' (airship)", as the label proudly claims in German.
Historically we have to go back a little further than just to the 1920s. Tens of thousands of years actually as we watch the Mosel river cut through hills and change course a few times, in the process first creating the Sonnenlay site and then abandoning it. While the river now longer flows directly past the vineyard it left it with a good exposure and much slate, which is where the name comes from: "Sonne" means "sun" and "Lay" is an old word for "slate". The Richter family can document their Mosel winemaking history back to the 17th century and in the early 20th century they did indeed supply the German Zeppelins with Riesling from the Sonnenlay vineyard for their transatlantic journeys. The label of some of the Richter's export wines still hold up that legacy, and so I discovered my Sonnenlay not in Germany but in the UK where it represented Germany at a wine and music matching event.
Leaving history aside it is the aroma of a lovely fruit salad that makes this wine so appealing. Think well defined, lovely peach, think green apple, grapes, lime and lemon peel and add some flowery herbs. The enticingness of the bouquet is nicely matched by the Zeppelin's quaffability: sweet juiciness and clear freshness balance nicely and finish with a touch of sage and basil sharpness - a wine that does not really need a detailed, analytical dissection but praise for being so very quaffable. I have enjoyed it during the cold months of winter, but Laithwaites will also sell you some now that the perhaps more suitable spring has arrived.
As the "Zeppelin" is of a way too charming disposition to deliver any ass-kicking we leave that to the expert serving staff of a 1930s German Zeppelin: