Despite being the darling of the wine trade for what seems like decades, German Riesling still has an image problem in the UK. Why is it that we can’t get the abominations of Liebfraumilch, Blue Nun and Black Tower out of our heads? Perhaps we’re simply too attached to our folk memory of the 1970s – an age of bad taste, questionable fashion and worse wine.
Noble Revolution wines, the brainchild of ex-lawyer, sommelier and self-styled “Riesling revivalist” Alex Down, is on a mission to change our poor perceptions. Alex’s modus operandi is simple: abandon the fluted bottle, the gothic script and the ferocious complexity of the labelling. Instead, the two noble revolution Rieslings have clean, simple branding with a Ronseal ethic and an eye on mainstream consumption.
I really like this idea. I need no convincing about the joys of German Riesling – crisp, nail-biting acidity, sharp-focused fruit and those fantastic mineral finishes are a sure way to my heart. I’m also more than happy to have some residual sugar in my Kabinett or Spätlese. But Alex knows that the Great British unwashed might not be ready for that, so the two wines in his portfolio are definitively dry Rieslings – which is of course clearly declared on the label. Smart move.
There are two risks with a venture like this – first, the wines have to be up to snuff, to avoid pigeon-holing as a cynical marketing exercise. Second, the branding could cheapen the product or just seem incongruous.
So, to the liquid credentials. Both labels are made by Jürgen Meng, from the Pfalz region. The Pfalz’s south-westerly position lends a little more ripeness to these wines than you might expect from more northerly (and more prestigious) wine regions like the Mosel or the Rheingau.
The Reactionary is the more upmarket offering (£14 retail), made from 50 year old vines. There’s noticeably more weight and interest, and I found myself reaching for this bottle when I poured a second glass.
These wines aren’t really about “minerality” (a tricky term at best), as the Pfalz’s rich, loamy soils give generosity and depth instead. In fact you could say there’s a nod to the best new world Rieslings, with their utterly clean, linear yet ripe character. In one important respect they are different – at 12% alcohol these wines are refreshing not just in acidity, but also their ability not to knock you down after two glasses.
What about the packaging? I love the branding and its simplicity. But, although it might just be a sign that I’ve been into wine for too long, I found it harder to reconcile myself to the Burgundy bottles. They just didn’t feel right for the style. Still, I could imagine these wines going down a storm by the glass at a huge variety of bars, pubs and restaurants – and I’d be very happy to bump into either of them, especially if they save me from third-rate Pinot Grigio or stinky, formulaic Sauvignon.
I reviewed the 2012 vintage of these wines based on samples supplied by Noble Revolution wines. Contact them for details of stockists.