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2007 Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese J. Leitz, Rheingau
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Johannes Leitz is a man on a mission. Ever since starting in 1985, he's traveled extensively in the quest for perfection in his wines, not least to Meursault, with which his home town Rudesheim, is coincidentally twinned.
On his return home, the '90s witnessed a new Leitz, one seeking long fermentations made possible by natural yeasts which give the wines great longevity & character, with fermentations generally rolling on until March the following year. At the same time the realisation dawned that great wine is made in the vineyard, calling for a biological hand among the vines.
The domaine is currently 18 hectares large, averaging 30 year old vines covering some of the most perfectly placed, as well as precipitous vineyards on the Rhine's Rudesehimer bend, opposite the mouth of the River Nahe. Here the the vineyards are warmer than those in the Mosel valley, with mid-slope sites most prized, while dense forests help protect the vines from the coldest continental winters.
Riesling's twin peaks are its intense perfume and its piercing crisp acidity which it manages to retain even at high ripeness levels.
In Germany, Riesling constitutes around 20% of total plantings, yet it is responsible for all its greatest wines. It is planted widely on well-drained, south-facing slate-rich slopes, with the greatest wines coming from the best slopes in the best villages. It produces delicate, racy, nervy and stylish wines that cover a wide spectrum of flavours from steely and bone dry with beautifully scented fruits of apples,apricots, and sometimes peaches, through to the exotically sweet flavours of the great sweet wines.
It is also an important variety in Alsace where it produces slightly earthier, weightier and fuller wines than in Germany. The dry Rieslings can be austere and steely with hints of honey while the Vendages Tardives and Sélection de Grains Nobles are some of the greatest sweet wines in the world.
It is thanks to the New World that Riesling is enjoying a marked renaissance. In Australia the grape has developed a formidable reputation, delivering lime-sherbet fireworks amid the continental climate of Clare Valley an hour's drive north of Adelaide, while Barossa's Eden Valley is cooler still, producing restrained stony lime examples from the elevated granitic landscape; Tasmania is fast becoming their third Riesling mine, combining cool temperatures with high UV levels to deliver stunning prototypes.
New Zealand shares a similar climate, with Riesling and Pinot Gris neck to neck in their bid to be the next big thing after Sauvignon Blanc; perfectly suited is the South Island's Central Otago, with its granitic soils and continental climate, and the pebbly Brightwater area near Nelson. While Australia's Rieslings tend to be full-bodied & dry, the Kiwis are more inclined to be lighter bodied, more ethereal and sometimes off-dry; Alsace plays Mosel if you like.