|Grilled Haddock with a spicy pineapple salsa and sprouted coconut |
rice with bay shrimp and cashews.
CLEAN SLATE RIESLING 2014
"What is the USP of Mosel Rieslings? Sky-high acidity that links arms with the honey of ripe Riesling." … Hugh Johnson OBE, The World of Fine Wine (UK)
"German wine goes well beyond the sweet and white type, even a single region can produce a range of styles to suit everyone. " JancisRobinson, M.W. (UK)
Fair enough, perhaps you’re` not a fan of oysters on the half shell. But bear with me a moment and share a discovery apart from them. Oysters here are just a reference to something else. So if you are a fan of oysters, you’ll love the transition; and if you are not, you’ll at least enjoy a new wine that may excite your palate. With that agreement now binding, I need to explain that my traditional “go-to” wine for oysters has been Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine (Sur Lie). Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and coming from the Nantais region of the westernmost Loire Valley of France, the wine is crisply dry, with threads of gooseberry, quince and key lime melded seamlessly over a mineral base. Sometimes I think some smart oyster must have invented these wines just so people like me would enjoy eating them. Together, they are a symbiotic and joyful encounter. (I’ll talk more about Muscadet in a separate post).
Problem is, no Muscadet (remember, that’s the region, not the grape) is available at my local oyster haunt. But they do serve a Dry Muscatel from the Jumilla region (almost south but definitely in the eastern area) of Spain. There it is known as Muscatel and it’s made from the Muscat grape, of which there are many varieties. Muscatel can be vinified dry to super-sweet and the one I order is dry and also goes nicely with oysters.
Now comes another grape, one you would normally recoil at pairing with oysters: Riesling! Even more alarming: Riesling from the Mosel region of Germany! Dry Rieslings, in Germany, are commonly enjoyed, but here, in the U.S. they’re as common as hen’s teeth. Not to say I don’t enjoy Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese and other styles of Mosel Riesling. But Clean Slate’s Dry Riesling has its place too, and, surprisingly, it can work with oysters. Its value, however, is its ability to work with and without. It will work, for example, with those finding a Muscadet too dry. Although not dessert sweet, your palate will detect residual sugar in the finish (at 2.6%, it’s close to a grapefruit) making it likely more suitable for a mixed group. The sensation of sweetness is balanced by the acidity that German Rieslings are renowned for. This Walenda of balance works on the palate telling your brain the wine is less sweet than it is.
The nose is rich with scents of freshly squeezed lime juice and lemongrass softened by floral notes. Almost everyone tasting or talking about this wine enjoyed tastes of peach though, for me, this was dominated by kiwi, quince, lemongrass and lime. Crisp, mouthwatering acidity, so terroir-driven by the slate-soil and cool-climate of the Mosel, balances the fruit and makes for a mouthwatering finish. Notes of tart apple linger on the finish intermixed with lime.
Grapes are selected from throughout the Mosel. The steep, blue-slate slopes of the Lower Mosel contribute minerality. The Middle Mosel contributes spice and the notes of peach are a natural gift from the Upper Mosel. At 10.5% alcohol, this is a light weighted wine, making it suitable for oysters on the half shell. But with its stone fruit character and slight sweetness, it would pair well also with fish, particularly if accompanied by a spicy pineapple or mango salsa. It would also serve well with a pork roast or tenderloin.
The old saw that white wines don’t age well needs sharpening. I’ve previously given many examples of white wines that benefit from aging including Rieslings that develop notes of petrol over time. But Clean Slate is not one of them. This is 100% Riesling, 100% enjoyable, but meant to be enjoyed now. Slightly sweet, Clean Slate is aptly named per the minerality natural to Riesling grown in slate soil and in the cool climate of the northern area of Germany which assures sufficient acidity to clean the palate and provide a mouthwatering finish.
With an ARP of $10 (I found it at $9. U.S.), it’s hard not to recommend this wine just for the benefit you’ll gain from its experience. Aficionados of Muscadet may find the wine too sweet to properly accompany oysters on the half shell, yet find it excellent with spicy Thai, Chinese, Mexican or Indian cuisine. And for those finding Muscadet too dry, you may have found your spiritual, white-wine home.
Clean Slate is a product of partnership between Moselland of Bernkastel-Kues of Germany and Winebow, a top U.S. importer and distributor of fine wines around the world. Moselland is the largest vineyard owner in the Mosel and one of Germany’s top exporters of Riesling.
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