An unimpressive Riesling Kabinett

Demis/half-bottles – definitely a practical bottle size, although vacuum corks are unfortunately a must for the discerning wine consumer who wants to drink in small instalments, for the simple reason that the selection of wines (other than sweet wines) in demis isn’t that good. A demi I recently pulled the screw cap off was No 1 Edition Riesling Kabinett 2008 from Mosel, Germany and St. Michael Weinkellerei in Bernkastel-Kues (apparently no website), bought at Systembolaget (the Swedish alcohol monopoly) during my vacation, and it was relatively cheap but priced sufficiently high so you would expect a reasonably OK wine. Kabinett without an additional designation means a semi-sweet (or at least significantly off-dry) wine.

Tasting note:

Very pale in colour. Rather typical nose, but very discrete, with some Riesling perfume and peach fruit. Dilute on the palate, some taste of yellow apple and peach, a slight citric note, barely semi-sweet (rather “feinherb” than really “mild” using German terminology), rather good acidity, but short on the palate with a slightly unpleasant but mostly non-expressive taste. 70-73 p? Lacks minerality, elegance or recognisable Mosel character. The fruit component (despite being weak and dilute) is really a little too “warm/mature” to indicate a Mosel Kabinett, it should have shown more citrus and apple – and more aromas in general, more character and less dilution. I get an impression of a wine produced at very high yield, and grapes that had to be harvested slightly late to be able to just reach the formal must weight requirement for a Kabinett, meaning that it not just lacks concentration, but also the typical crisp character of a good Kabinett, which actually defines it charm in comparison to higher Prädikat levels.

Label says 8% alcohol, and I estimate its residual sugar level to be on the order of 25 g/l, which corresponds to another 1.5% in potential alcohol. The grapes should therefore have held around 9.5% potential alcohol at harvest, or around 70 °Oe, which is just above the minimum requirement of 67 °Oe.

I should point out that I’m a big fan of semi-sweet German Riesling, despite the fact that this wine style has been considered completely “out” for a long time and has been branded unsophisticated by many. I perceive the current Riesling craze to be focussed mostly on dry wines, with some acceptance for fully sweet wines. It seems to me that much of the English-speaking world actually discovered and started to appreciate the new generation of dry German Rieslings of higher quality, more concentration (and higher prices) some years later than we did in Scandinavia. And high-end German wines are surprisingly rare in Belgium given how close some of the best German regions are.

But back to the topic of this post – I just wanted to point out that my low score for this wine is absolutely not because I have anything against semi-sweet German wines. And 2008 is supposed to be a rather good German vintage, so I can’t see that there are any acceptable vintage-related excuses for producing a substandard wine. I don’t think this wine is justifiable as a Prädikatswein. Had it been sold as very cheap QbA, the quality would not have mocked its label. A wine from a rather anonymous bottler could in principle be a custom bottling for the Swedish importer Granqvist, but since the back label is in English and it doesn’t use any specific Grandqvist brand, this is probably not the case.

This wine provides additional support to the hypothesis that there hardly are any halfway decent German wines that have been bottled by anyone else than the actual producer. If the term on the label is “Weinkelleri” rather than “Weingut” it’s probably not going to be good value to a discerning wine drinker no matter how cheap it is. Simply avoid such wines.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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