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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Monday, May 04 2009. 13:40

Urbans-Hof : Saint Riesling from Mosel

Nik Weis, third generation owner and winemaker of the German weingut St-Urbans-Hof was in Delhi for a tasting of delicious Rieslings from his Mosel river valley estate last Friday at the Rick’s bar in the Hotel Taj Mahal, reports Subhash Arora

It was six years ago when I was hurriedly passing through one of the alleys at a pavilion in Vinexpo when I was stopped by a German exhibitor who requested me to taste some of his red wines. ‘German Riesling, sure-but reds? I am sorry I am in a hurry but will come back to taste later,’ I said. But out of sheer politeness, I did stop by and tasted the reds as well as his Rieslings. The reds were still mediocre although drinkable but I quite liked the whole spectrum of his Riesling. I felt they would go very well with the spicy Indian food.

Over the years I met him again at several wine shows including the IFOWS in Mumbai where he took part as an exhibitor on my recommendation. German Rieslings were still not popular in India- what to talk of the red wines; and he did not succeed in finding the right importer at the show either. A few more years of persistence and perseverance and he found and settled down with the relatively new importer, FineWinesnMore. The producer was Ulrich Langguth of Mo-Re-Na (related but not part of much bigger Langguth group that owns the ubiquitous Blue Nun  label) from Mosel and is happy with the sale of his Rieslings in India.

Since those ‘early’ years barely 6 years ago, German wines- especially Riesling, have made a remarkable progress in the Indian market (even Sula has brought out a limited Indian edition). Three years ago Dr. Loosen and Gunderloch, two well know wineries from Mosel and Rheinhessen tied up with Brindco and the Rieslings have not looked back since then.

Every established importer has a German Riesling producer (or an Australian, Kiwi, Alsace or even Italian in his portfolio, or is planning to have one). Vishal Kadakia, owner of The Wine Park, Mumbai started wine imports a couple of years ago only but  had tied up with Weingut St. Urbans-Hof of Mosel a year ago with a one-year exclusivity contract with the new Four Seasons Hotel in Worli, Mumbai for their estate Riesling.

‘The contract got over only last night when we had organised a dinner at the Hotel,’ informed Nik Weis, the visiting winemaker and the current owner of the family winery to the few who attended the tasting of his Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Rieslings. ‘These wines have already been listed at the Taj and The Aman in Delhi,’ said a beaming Vishal who accompanied him to Delhi.

Nik and he have reasons to smile. St- Urbans Hof has been apparently a blessed winery since it was founded in 1947 by Nik’s grandfather who was smart and religious enough to use the name of Saint Urbans-the Patron Saint of wine in that region for his winegut. His flagship wine, an estate St. Urbans-Hof Riesling has reportedly made it to the Top 100 list of Wine Spectator for 4 out of the 8 previous years. One of the contributing factors is that the € 8 (Retail price in Germany) wine is priced reasonably, which would be a credit for the price-sensitive Indian market as well. Even the Four Seasons, Mumbai sells it at Rs. 450 a glass (Rs. 2400 a bottle) even after paying the ridiculously high 160% customs and 200% excise duty.

Nik’s winery has a 3-point quality programme: wine should be fun and inspiring, it should display the original characteristics of the region and the soil (The French term gout describes it well) and it should be ageable.

He seems to practise what he preaches as one could taste that quality in all the four wines offered. ‘Our wines can age for 50 years or more. I have some wines in my cellar, which were produced in 1950s and are still alive and kicking. I can say with pride that our wines are Tres Gout de Riesling,’ says the third generation owner-winemaker with a smile of satisfaction.

Tasting of Rieslings Four 

St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling QbA 2007
The low alcohol (8%) fruity and off-dry wine  has typical petrol aromas, tastes of strawberries in the forest, is very crisp and has the mineral touch with a typical Mosel fruitiness and sweetness that feels like 15-20 gms when in fact it is around 30 gms./liter. Sits light on the palate.

Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2007
This wine from the vineyards in Ockfen village situated on the Saar river, a Mosel tributary was slightly darker pale straw colour with green tinge with subtle fresh floral aromas. Very crisp and off-dry (30-35 gms of sugar as Nik told us) with a slight savoury flavour that seems to ‘lift’ the wine. Although it disappointed a little on the back palate, the taste lingered on long after the sip was finished.

Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Spaetlese Erste Lage 2006
Very mineral, well-structured and silky flavoured wine from their Grand Cru vineyard was full bodied, very concentrated wine that danced all over the palate with a very long and complex after taste. The classical petrol flavour was traceable in the background with a strong presence of minerals. Slightly peppery and tropical flavour, this fresh and crisp acidity tempted one to go for the next sip rather quickly. Due to the hot summer in 2006 it had a relatively high alcohol level of 12.5%, admitted Nik.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Auslese 2006
This off-dry to sweet wine from the well-know town of Piesport in the Mosel valley was bold and powerful with a rich texture that almost coated the palate with bursting flavour of apricots and tangerines. The taste persisted long and left a lasting impression. Most people would find it a bit too sweet despite the balanced acidity; and its perfect harmony. Suggested with slightly spicy food only and not as an aperitif, to get the best out of its flavours.

DelWine had published an article, King Riesling Resurrected


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