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Why is German wine such a hard sell? A lot of people blame the label. German wine labels look antique. They contain puzzling terminology, tiny print and so many unpronounceable German words! Who can ask for "Pickelwasser Gesundheitzchen Schnitzelbank Riesling Tovarich Behundertjahren" with a straight face?
But wait! What's this? Here's a spiffy new Riesling in a screw-capped clear bottle just one inch too tall to stand upright on my refrigerator shelf, and the front label (pictured below) bears only a handful of words. In English!
Flanking a semi-abstract graphic that looks like a stream flowing between stacks of flat rocks, we read:
a region of steep slate hills
and winding rivers
That's it! And to tell you the truth, the back label isn't that much more informative. As the front label disclosed, it's a Riesling from Germany's Mosel region, 2010 vintage. It's brought into the U.S. by Winebow Inc., a respected New York City importer, and the language "Selected, Shipped and Imported" reveals that Winebow worked with a German partner or partners to assemble wines from the Mosel into a regional-generic Riesling, not that there's anything wrong with that. The alcohol content is a gentle 10.5 percent, the Surgeon General offers his usual stern warning, and there's a bit of ad copy that I won't quote here but that you're welcome to read on the Clean Slate website.
"Clean Slate" contains a vinous pun of sorts, representing both its English connotation of a fresh start on a blank piece of paper, and a possible tasting note for a typical Mosel Riesling, known for its clean, fresh flavors and the minerally stony nuances that slate soil purportedly imparts.
It's a nice idea, and at a buck over $10 in this market (a few dollars less in some regions), it's an excellent introduction to Riesling in the Mosel style. You'll find my tasting notes below.
As a matter of fact, this weekend wraps up this month's Wine Focus exploration of Rieslings on our WineLovers Discussion Group. You're welcome to join our friendly international crowd of wine lovers as we delve into a world of Rieslings. To tell us about your choice, click to the forum topic "October Wine Focus: Riesling, Riesling and more Riesling." And watch the forum for an announcement about November's Wine Focus, coming up soon.
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Today's Tasting Report
Clean Slate 2010 Mosel Riesling ($10.99)
Transparent pale gold. Good aromatic fruit scents, peach and a whiff of mango, fresh but not over the top. Flavors are consistent with the nose, fresh mango and tart acidity, and perhaps just a hint of that fabled Mosel slatey stony character in the background. If there's sweetness there, it's hard to pick out against the zippy acidity. Light 10.5% alcohol makes for easy sipping as table wine or aperitif, and there's a gentle peach-pit bitterness in the finish. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC. (Oct. 27, 2011)
FOOD MATCH: Riesling may be the most versatile white wine for food matching, and this fresh, crisp model would serve across a range of food companions from freshwater fish to seafood to pork, turkey or duck, cheeses and even spicy fare. We enjoyed it with an offbeat Asian vegetable dish, Chinese okra (fresh loofah) stir-fried with onions, garlic and ginger and a touch of Thai spice.
VALUE: While I have no complaints for value at this price, it's worth checking around if you can order online; Wine-Searcher.com finds it at U.S. vendors as low as $7.64, with many sources under $10.
WHEN TO DRINK: It's made for immediate enjoyment, but the combination of good balance, a sturdy screw cap and Riesling's natural ageworthiness could probably support several years under good cellar conditions.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and locate vendors for Clean Slate Riesling on Wine-Searcher.com. To find specific retailers in your region, try this handy tool on the Clean Slate website.
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