German Riesling still has an image problem in the UK. And Germany is not the first place that comes to mind for unconventional vinification methods. Sure, there are a minority of winemakers, like Peter Jakob Kühn or Thorsten Melsheimer, who have been experimenting long before the current ‘trend’. But the high price tags of their off-piste wines reflect their niche status. It’s worth noting though, that German Riesling traditionally undergoes overnight skin maceration.
I am a big fan of Clemens Busch’s racy, tension-filled Rieslings from Pünderich in the middle Mosel. So when I saw that he had produced an orange wine, there was no way I was not going to give it a spin.
Clemens Busch converted to organic farming practices in 1984, immediately after taking over the 2-hectare family estate (which dates from 1802), and has today grown it to 17 hectares of vines.
Riesling from steep, terraced hills of blue, grey and red slate characteristic to Mosel. There is no information available on the duration of skin contact, but I am guessing that it is minimal from the paler colour. Spontaneous fermentation without temperature control (like all of their wines). Unfiltered with a layer of fine lees that is meant to be mixed with the wine. No oak. 11% ABV.
Typical nose of German Riesling, and closer to the sweeter Kabinett style. Sweet strawberry and faint Fuji apples. But the skin contact introduces a stronger profile of wild honey. There are thankfully no off “farmy cider” aromas, but the finish is more typical of orange wines, with a hint of volatile acidity.
Contrary to the orthodox nose, there is not enough sweetness in the palate to create the usual tension between acidity and sweetness. The first impression is that of tame sourness, similar to a lemonade or a citrussy wheat beer, with a faint mid-palate bitterness. There are no notes that I associate with orange wine, such as apricot or miso-pickled daikon radish. The light frame and non-existent tannins further belie the ‘orange’ moniker. Given the lack of tension, the taste profile remains flat, making it an easy-going accompaniment to lighter foods. A commendable first experiment, which I hope is further pursued to bring out the character of Clemens Busch’s Riesling.
Distribution of this particular wine is limited, but the Winery in the UK have always been a strong advocate. Clemens and Rita Busch usually visit the shop annually.