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Riesling - Traminer / Heida

Riesling - Traminer / Heida

Many would say Riesling is the best wine grape in the world. It is certainly one of the Great Whites.

German Riesling (Mosel)

The Mosel is Riesling country at its best, exquisite wines that are full of fruit.

Vineyards cling to the banks of the river. The steepest valley slopes make the best wine, and mankind has found the best spots over the centuries. The region has many unique sites and styles. In general, however, the wines are characterised by a minerality and citrus acidity derived from the slate soils. The fruitiness is more exotic and, with age, come the mineral notes often tagged as "petrol" (to me, it always smells more like beeswax).

Our reference for the Mosel is Patrick Philipps in Graach. Taste his Auslese and know this is what Riesling should be. In Erden we have found perfectionist mineralist Schmitges. Both Philipps and Schmitges make a full range of fabulous wines but, as a rule of thumb, one has a perfectly balanced edge on the sweet wines and the other's perfectionism shines in the dry wines. Further upriver the Kollmann-Becker family offers a great introduction to German wines.

Austrian Riesling

Riesling is fussy about where it is planted but it thrives on many outstanding sites in Austria. Fine Rieslings are typically dry and substantial, yet have a raciness and delicacy that is second to none. The minerality in these wines is also very distinctive. A peachier, floral side of Riesling often comes out.

We have many fine Rieslings from Austria. Wachau's Leo Alzinger is legendary world wide. The Waldschütz Rieslings are possibly the best wine for your money in our entire catalogue. Diem's Rosenhügel is a masterpiece of subtlety. Arndorfer gives it a touch of oak. Buchegger makes warm filling Rieslings - and there are a few more to explore.

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Riesling wines can be highly aromatic with apple, peach and pear at the forefront, mixed with delicate floral undertones and often honey and spice on the nose. On the palate, Rieslings echo the apple, pear and peach along with citrus and tropical nuances. Rieslings tend to pick up a noticeable "minerality" from their native soils.

Riesling, through DNA data, appears to be a cross between Gouais Blanc and an unknown relative of Savagnin. Riesling seems to have originated on the north bank of the Rhine in Germany where we find its first mention in a document dated 1435.

Up to the early 20th century Riesling and Sylvaner were often confused with each other. If you buy an ancient bottle you can't be sure which it might be. After the 60s, you're OK.

Origins and Connections

The origins of this grape are not without debate. It most likely began in north east France and south west Germany, though some believe that it is from Egypt and others, with no botanical proof, say that it is not from Vitis Vinifera but from Vitis Aminea or even other strains of Vitis.

Heida is the parent or grandparent of an impressive line-up of offspring, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Silvaner, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner, Verdelho and Traminette, among many others. It is related to Pinot but the parent/offspring relationship cannot be defined.

In Switzerland

In Switzerland it is grown only in the Valais, principally in the vineyards around Visperterminen at an altitude of some 1100 metres above sea level, where the Föhn, a warm southerly wine, helps ripen the grapes. This is a truly old variety. The first written records date from 1586 when it was referred to as "Heyda", but it has been in use much longer. Indeed, the name Heida itself is local patois for "ancient" or "from an earlier time" and the French name "Païen" descends from "Pagan", i.e. before Christianity.

Plantings today are still limited with just some 15 hectares in commercial production. In the vineyard, Heida's grapes are small and compact and are yellowish and aromatic. It ripens mid-season, later than Chasselas, but before Petite Arvine. Heida makes, in my view, some of the best Valaisan white wines which can be complex and powerful, with exotic fruit flavours including quince. Heida ages quite well and should last 5 years without problems. They can also be versatile when food matching, going well with many vegetable dishes, cold meats and fish.

In Austria

Most Traminer in Austria is either Roter Traminer or Gewurtztraminer. There is, however, a rare grape called Gelber Traminer. Do not expect to find any Traminer on our website. Have a look at the details for each wine and see what it really is!

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