Back to Germany this week with the very region that started my love affair with riesling, the Nahe. Smack in between the Mosel and Rheinhessen, the region used to have the sorry reputation of being a thirst-quencher, often ending up in anonymous blends. It wasn’t until German wine law recognized the region’s unique character in the early seventies that it’s ascent to the top of the country took off. This is rightfully so, as the incredible diverse composition of the soil can lead to interesting and complex wines. In any given vineyard, you can have a mix of schist, volcanic rocks, slate, loess and many others thanks to the geological past of the region, on the crossroads of the Rhenish Mountains and the Saar-Nahe basin. It’s up to the best of winemakers to really understand the terroir that they are working with and how it can be used to its full potential.
This means that the Nahe is really a winemaker’s land. Know your terroir, and you can do anything you want. Just throw everything together, and you can end up with something bland and non-descriptive. Luckily for winelovers, Nahe winemakers first and foremost focus on quality. The terrain can be as difficult to work with as the Mosel, so why would you put all the work into something if not extraordinary? Donnhoff’s Tonschiefer was the wine that triggered my infatuation with Riesling, but there are plenty of other producers who offer nothing but some of the most interesting wines of Germany.
The Crusius family lived in the Nahe valley for the past 400 years, but it was only in the fifties that they decided to focus solely on wine. They produce about 15 different types of wine, most of it Riesling, with the majority being sourced from classified sites. The best way to get a feel of an estate’s quality level is to start with their entry level wine, which is the Traiser Riesling Trocken 2013 , drunk over two days. First impression is very closed, really doesn’t show anything except a bit of fruit (pears) on the nose. Mouthfeel is nothing but acidity, so tucked away to try again on day 2. Luckily the wine starts showing itself, more open fruit on the nose, pear again with a bit of citrus as well. The acidity is still present on the palate but comes across fresher, more in balance. I also got a sense of residual sugar now, probably because the acidity expresses itself a lot more through freshness and a lasting stony minerality in the finish, excellent for basically everyday!