After last week's venture beyond the world of wine (and into the realm of photography) it is time to come back to the core mission of the Wine Rambler with a piece on a classic: Riesling. Actually, seen from an international perspective the Knipser Halbstück wine may not be a true German classic as it is not one of the sweet Mosel wines that some hold to be the true expression of Riesling.
While some international wine experts still get worked about about the mistake of dry German Riesling, the German consumers have moved on to embrace "trocken", and German winemakers try different styles, including barrique aged Riesling. The Halbstück is not one of them, but barrels do play a role with this wine.
The Knipser brothers from the Pfalz keep impressing us with excellent red and white wines and so I made sure to secure a bottle of the 2009 Halbstück that got a lot of praise in the German wine press. Basically, it is a late harvest Riesling vinified in a traditional 600l barrel that Germans call "half piece" or Halbstück; there is also the Stückfass that has twice the size. With the Halbstück Knipsers have aimed to create a more complex dry Riesling that will take time to develop its full potential. The grapes mostly come from one of the top Knipser vineyards, Halbstück wines are only made in good years and also only released to the market after a minimum of three years of ageing.
And what can I say? I am convinced it has worked out. My encounter with the Halbstück started with a fluorescent golden colour and stayed as shiny and enticing throughout our long evening of Riesling lovemaking until the happy ending of lime and mineral. I remember blossom aromas (think wild orchids and freesia) with honey, caramel peach and strawberry compote fresh from the warm pan spiced with just a touch of "Edelfirne", the aroma of aged Riesling that reminds some of paraffin wax. As with the bouquet there are lots of layers to the taste, but all well integrated in a creamy texture that has depth and complexity of age but still lots of freshness due to vibrant acidity. The wine manages to at the same time feel much younger and yet wiser than its age.
Halbstück would be very much at home in a world class restaurant as a great food companion, and while €24 may not be cheap I'd say it is worth every cent and then some. Classy and probably the best still wine I have reviewed this year.