Schloss Johannisberg, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Silberlack Trocken GG 2018

($75):  Schloss Johannisberg, whose Riesling planting started in 1719, is thought to be the oldest Riesling producer in the world.  (The first documented wine harvest from the site itself was a roughly a thousand years earlier, in 817.)  The estate grows only Riesling, yet makes many different wines depending on where in the vineyard the grapes grow and when they are harvested.  Stefan Doktor, the estate director, explains that they make many different wines because of the diversity of soils and microclimates within the vineyard, which is located at the confluence of warmer air from the Rhine river and cooler air from the north.  He emphasizes that you need cold climate to make superb Riesling.  Cold nights especially — and the nights are cold at Schloss Johannisberg — slow ripening and allow flavors of the Riesling grape to develop.   The other advantage of this northern clime, according to Doktor, is long hours of daylight during the summer, from 5 AM until 10 PM, which helps the grapes achieve ripeness.  He adds that the quartz in the soil retains heat, which also aids ripening.  This wine, labeled Silberlack Trocken for the vineyard parcel, is bone dry with a measured residual sugar of 2.7 grams/liter.  To put that wine-geek number in perspective, tasters can typically start to detect sweetness at a level of about 5 grams/liter.  The GG stands for Grosses Gewachs, the equivalent of Grand Cru, indicating the stature of the growing site.  The grapes come from the coolest part of their vineyard, the southwest corner, which is always the last to be harvested.  The wine is positively gorgeous, racy, minerally and penetrating.  It’s all you could want.  The first sip makes you smile.  With impeccable balance, all the elements are in harmony and dance across the palate.  The tension between vibrant minerality and alluring peach-like fruitiness is splendid and seemingly never ending in the aftertaste of the wine.  Sip it by itself, or drink it with virtually anything.  You will be surprised how wonderful it is, even with a steak.
96 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020