2022 will long be remembered as one of the hottest and driest summers in Europe but the response to the drought from Germany’s Rieslings is not what you might expect. Of the back of the electric throwback 2021s, we see similarly delicate wines, with lower alcohols and excellent mineral intensity – not quite as rapier, they will be hard to resist on release with that uncanny knack to age gracefully. It’s a good one, folks!
THE BIG PICTURE
The number of dry ‘Trocken’ Rieslings in our range has increased over the years and now more closely reflects the German home market, although it was interesting to hear from a couple of producers that the new generation of German drinkers are re-discovering and enjoying Kabinett wines – proving these things are so often cyclical! The classic ‘fruitig’ wines are of course well represented and they feel related to the exquisite 2021s, there is true delicacy despite the drought and although acidites are a touch lower, the mineral expression adds to a sense of freshness and lift with lower alcohols to boot. These Rieslings are full of charm, but they also have the bones to cellar – the best will have many decades ahead of them. It isn’t news but the current crop of growers and winemakers, on the back of the previous generation’s work, are embracing organic and biodynamic practices across the regions. Innovative programs of planting between vines improves soil health, biodiversity and water retention – care and attention to detail in the vineyard and patience in the winery means ever better wines, and the ecological approach makes them better prepared for the increasingly common extreme conditions.
It is natural to assume hot and dry conditions might produce clumsy wines, but Riesling has shown great resilience in 2022 and older vines coped well to produce characteristically delicate wines in line with 2021 but with easier-going levels of acidity, a signature spiciness and vitality, as well as excellent mineral expression. It is a super vintage for the of-dry Feinherb and Kabinett wines, which are bright, full of white orchard fruits, lime citrus and leaning towards peach; the Spätlesen are charming and have serious cellaring potential, although Auslesen and above are rare this time round. The moderate acidity levels have produced Trocken wines with great immediate appeal, and this will make an ideal vintage for first timers to try the dry wines, while we will look forward to the grander, late-released examples next year. It’s a lovely vintage, neatly summarised by Christophe Schaefer who commented during our tasting, “brilliancy vs opulence, more seductive and easier than 2021, and cooler wines than the vintage suggests”.
A mild winter gave way to a warm Spring which accelerated growth in the vineyard but while frost was not an issue in 2022, some rain at flowering afected potential yield. The months of June, July, and August were completely devoid of rain, this drought was more intense than the 2018 vintage, and caused the vines to slow the accumulation of sugars – ripe fruit but lower potential alcohols. September arrived with downpours, and this threw up challenges of when to pick to avoid rot issues and possible dilution, or whether to gamble on better weather later which might produce more of the higher prädikats (Auslesen and above). For many, since acidities were already moderate, a decision to pick earlier made the greatest sense and most harvested in late September through early October.
"…it cannot be stressed enough that German wine offers great value compared with other top-quality wines” Jancis Robinson MW, www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/germanys-dry-wines-london-2023-releases