Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks

So… we were talking about Riesling Rendezvous 2016, before we were so rudely interrupted by about a week of “real life.”

RR 2016 provides some concurrent sessions, during which you can listen about and, usually, taste wines from particular Riesling-producing regions. I happened to get signed up for what was called “Rocks & Riesling: Exploring Alsace’s Diverse Terroirs” with the entertaining and informative Thierry Fritsch, head oenologist and chief wine educator with Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vines d’Alsace (or CIVA).

Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks

Courtesy of Wines of Alsace

Fritsch walked us through twelve wines from across most of the narrow expanse of Alsace, and did so expertly and humorously. I found his slide attempting to match Riesling wine attributes with particular Alsatian soils quite useful (see inset pic).

But I’m not here to talk about any of that, because this is, well, me. I’m only going to focus on one of Alsace’s Grand Cru terroirs, and only two wines. Because those two wines convinced me that when it comes to Alsatian Riesling, I don’t know what the hell I am doing; I am a mere babe crawling his way out of Rangen Riesling-soaked diapers, my friends…

Embarrassingly, at least – actually, especially – in hindsight, I knew more or less nothing useful of import about Alsace’s Rangen Grand Cru wines, apart from the fact that they were usually expensive. In wine lover terms, this makes me an idiot (I am being kind here), given that Rangen’s wines were well-known throughout Europe as early as the 12th Century, the spot having been farmed by Saint-Théobald church monks and achieving some notoriety given its location as a pilgrimage site.

Rangen’s high fetching prices aren’t the only aspect singling it out as special within Alsace; it’s also the steepest (think 55 degree slopes), southern-most, and highest-elevation (around 450 meters) of the Alsace Grand Cru sites. The difficult-to-farm (again, being kind) soils are volcanic schist, also unique to Alsatian Grand Crus.

Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks

NOT an Alsace Grand Cru; just where I fell in love with one

The following two wines, the last that we tasted at the seminar… well, they captivated me; we’re talking Instant Diehard Rangen Convert levels, folks.
Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks2013 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain, Alsace Grand Cru, $100

Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks

image: Kobrand

Named after a nearby 15th century chapel that was leveled during the French Revolution and rebuilt in 1934, the vines at Z-H’s Rangen vineyards see good fruit ripeness because of their direct southern exposure.

This wine is absolutely, balls-out, fucking killer. There’s so much fruit complexity, it’s head-spinning levels: orange peel, pineapple, lemon, pear, stone fruits. Then add mint, smoke, saline, green herb, and white flowers to the aromatic mix. The wine is a study in length and consistency, in that the palate has similar fruit flavors as the nose, and comes off as intense, young, and even powerfully assertive. Only 12% abv, but 18 months in 40-year-old French barrels and a bit of malolactic fermentation accuont for its powerful presence.


Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks2013 Schoffit Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos Saint-Théobald, Alsace Grand Cru, $60

Rocks & Riesling Proves That Rangen Riesling Rocks


Hands down, one of the best Rieslings I’ve ever had from France. While the Zind-Humbrecht is about power and complexity, this Schoffit is about elegance, focus, and vivacity. Bernard Schoffit steadily acquired a good portion of his now 6.5 hectares of Rangen vineyards that nobody else wanted to farm because it was too much work. I am very happy that he had the grit to do that, based on this beauty.

Flowers, lemons, peaches, flint, lemon peel, and smoke all contribute to a beautiful, lovely nose. The palate is ebullient, lifted, toasty, and enticing. I’d compare the experience to a good Les Clos Chablis, which for me is the white wine equivalent of comparing a coffee high to smoking crack cocaine. So, yeah, I kind of liked this one.


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Seaside Rendezvous, Part Deux (Highlights From Riesling Rendezvous 2016)

Seaside rendezvous, anyone?

I, along with three or four other people (ok, it’s not that bad, it just feels that bad), profess to love Riesling, so much so that I actually purchase it with my own hard-earned cash. So I’m not the kind of wine writer to turn down a media invite to the Seattle-hosted Riesling Rendezvous event when it rotates back stateside (alternating in other years with Europe and Australia).

This is my second stint attending RR, and between the 2013 incarnation and this one, held in mid-July 2016, I can give you a rough idea of what positive and negative trends have emerged in Riesling-world.


  1. The state of Riesling, in general. The quality of Riesling fine wines, overall, has rarely been as high as it is right now. Emerging Riesling regions, such as Canada and the U.S. Midwest, are really starting to hold their own with the likes Austria, the Finger Lakes, and even Germany.
  2. The standard-bearers. Alsace, Germany, and Austria – probably the holy trinity of Riesling in terms of what we consider as fine wine standards – showed up and showed off big time at RR 2016. More to come on Alsace in particular in a separate post.


  1. Terroir. Seriously. RR 2016 repeated the panel format of RR 2013, when several dry Rieslings were tasted blind by a panel of experts, as well as a room full of wine media, producers, industry folk, and avid consumers. This format was then repeated for off-dry/sweet Rieslings from around the globe. There were many excellent wines in the lineups, but the trouble came whenever the expert panelists (and the the very knowledgeable audience members) attempted to guess where each wine originated.Our success rates? Maybe 30%. And that’s being generous. The majority of the time, winemakers couldn’t successfully identify their own wines.To me, that suggests that a) several dozen people who do wine (and in some cases, Riesling) for a living don’t know what they’re doing, which seems incredibly unlikely, or b) the quality of Riesling winemaking in general is one the rise, causing a bit of non-threatening conformity, which does seem extremely likely, and c) the common notion among wine peeps that Riesling is a lightening rod grape for the expression of terroir has been significantly overstated. Discuss among yourselves…

Following are what I considered several highlights (about 15 wines, if I’m still able to count correctly) from those panel tastings, so start paying close attention, you Riesling warrior acid-freaks…

Generally, the longer the take on each wine, the more interesting I found it; within each category, I tried to list the wines in order of increasing sweetness levels. You’re welcome.

Seaside Rendezvous, Part Deux (Highlights From Riesling Rendezvous 2016)

The Crowd-Pleasers


The Kick-Ass Contingent

Seaside Rendezvous, Part Deux (Highlights From Riesling Rendezvous 2016)

The Elegant Takes

  • 2013 Weingut Emmerich Knoll Ried Schutt Riesling Smaragd, Wachau, Austria, $50
    Nectarines, limes, toast, wet rocks, a fairly voluptuous body (in Riesling terms, that is), and a very consistent (and consistently persistent) impression from start to finish.
  • 2015 Mari Vineyards “Scriptorium” Riesling, Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan, $NA
    This is the first vintage made of this particular wine, which made me shake my head – in a good way – at how damned poised and solid of an effort it is. The name of the game here is tension: between opulent and racy, fruity and mineral.
  • 2010 Hugel & Fils “Grossi Laue” Riesling, Alsace, France, $50
    Another first release, and another excellent one. The length of the finish alone makes this one worth the fifty clams; adding the mineral, floral, lemon-drop-filled aromas, tropical fruit flavors, and linear, focused palate seals the deal.
  • 2014 Carl von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany, $30
    This is on the off-dry side of Kabinett, and comes with the subsequent extra sense of richness. That this wine, which I adored, is under $50 pleases me to no end. It’s gorgeous; citric, mineral, and very floral, with a mouthfeel that’s finessed, toasty, and almost electric.


The Sexy M-Fs

  • 2011 Battenfeld-Spanier Nieder-Florsheimer Frauenberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs, Rheinhessen, Germany, $40
    Essentially unpronounceable if you don’t speak German, you certainly don’t have to be German to drink this bedroom-eyed white. There are plenty of mature notes already in this – smoke, toast, spice – but the stone fruits and minerals are strutting their stuff here, too.
  • 2010 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Grafenberg Riesling Beerenauslese, Rheingau, Germany, $180
    One of the few wines that I actually called correctly. The finish is so long, and so good, it’s like two straight days of foreplay and sex. Smokey, spicy, full of bold stone fruit and petrol aromas, it’s about as straight-on seductive as Riesling gets.


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