As summer closes, let’s revisit Riesling. Many enlightened folks have come to see Riesling, especially a ballet-dancing Mosel Kabinett, as an ideal wine for summer. But today I’m speaking of Riesling as a fervent reminder that this noblest of wines is ideal for every other season as well.

When the days grow cooler and fall’s harvest bounty spills from the cornucopia, Riesling should be there. Summer of Riesling is fine and dandy. But autumns and winters of Riesling will have their day at some point too. What else are you going to do with sugar-packed root veggies, hearty roasts and spicy sausages?

Honestly, although my blessed “work” for this column is to taste and drink all sorts of exciting wines (usually for free), in the end such experiences distract from my heart’s true desire, which is to drink as much Riesling as possible.

This brings me to the wines of Johannes Leitz from the Rheingau, the most esteemed of German Riesling regions for its symphonic, aristocratic and rarefied wines. This reputation has adhered especially to the dry wines of the area.

Leitz (inheritor of the Josef Leitz winery, in existence since 1744) doesn’t make wines like that; still, he might be the Rheingau’s best chance for long-term survival. There are many reasons for this (some of them noted by the prestigious Gault et Millau, which in 2011 awarded Leitz “Winemaker of the Year”), but for me, it comes down to this: fun.

Leitz wines are complicated and endlessly intricate, but above all they are joyful, lusty and full of affirmative vigor. I love enormous, aristocratic wines that don’t care whether you smile, and there’s no better wine to cellar for 25 years than a Rheingau Riesling from a wine maker like Schloss Reinhartshausen.

But you can also experience, right now, pleasures of the most thrilling sort and not have to be grim or educated about it. For all you Hindus out there, it’s the second through fourth cakras: emotions, guts, heart.

I’ve written about some of these wines before, listed among other “options” for a particular style. Today, though, I want you to feel that Leitz wines are not an option; they’re the only wines with which you should concern yourself. I want their special-ness to register. I want the next $15 to $20 you have available for anything other than food/clothing/shelter to purchase a Leitz wine.

There are four Leitz wines available in Maine, distributed by SoPo, and they give a terrific sense of the spectrum. What I love most about these wines is that it’s texture before flavor that grabs your attention. The wines are mouth-filling, fibrous things, due in part to truly extended lees contact. In the past I’ve used the word “cottony” to describe their clingy, meshy traits. They weigh like cotton too; buoyant and soft.

Look, it’s not like I’m writing this to help support a poor, honorable but obscure German farmer. Leitz won’t even have enough supply this year, given the growing demand (90 percent of it in the U.S.) for his wines and the fact that 2010 had totally insane weather.

My point is, don’t try these wines out of obligation to something outside yourself, because that never matters. Try them because you have the freaking chance.

Leitz Riesling “Eins-Zwei-Dry 3” 2009, $17: Just the nose suggests nobility, elegance and monumentality. As you taste, though, while the grace and strong bones of the wine remain, you lighten up: elegance can be fun! Oily, robust and multi-layered, with a serious blast of crunchy, juicy acidity mid-palate. Doubles in quality after open for an hour (both for breathing and for warming up). How can something so clean and delineated be so full and textured too?

Leitz Out 2009, $14: Fun, funner, funnest. Buy one bottle per diner (alcohol is 11.5 percent; you’ll be fine). The texture is felty and thready. The wine has a Pfalz-like spiciness, woven through with lime or lemongrass, so it’s a memorable pairing for Thai food. A just-barely off-dry Riesling, where the sweetness is of a melted and caramelized quality like molasses (in flavor, not viscosity).

Leitz Dragonstone 2009, $19: I’ve written about this before and it’s Leitz’s cash cow, but I continue to return to it and love it more each time. Super vigorous and lusty, a big bear-hug of a wine. Only Riesling can contain this much purity of flavor through so many different components all at once. The subtle sweetness is of roasted corn, while the freshness and raciness are herbal and minty rather than plain ol’ lemony.

Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spatlese 2010, $24: Eh, who buys Spatlese anyway? Who cops to liking a touch of sweetness, encased in Champagne-like mousse before dissolving into precision and angularity? Who eats soft cheeses, lobster rolls, pate, banh mi, pork chops? Who hangs out with friends after a day at work? Who cares about balance, art, 7.5 percent alcohol, purity, long stories? Not you, surely.

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog,, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at [email protected]


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