The Republic of riesling

Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Anyone who tastes wine “seriously” (whether for professional or personal reasons) has to find a way to deal with their biases and preconceptions. Simple-minded harpies screech their “blind tasting” mantra as if it’s Genesis 1:1 in 16-point bold print, but no one who actually understands wine fails to see the extreme limitations of that format; there’s just too much that can’t be properly understood without having some sort of context for one’s responses. That said, there are infinite ways in which a label or the wine itself can invite ancillary judgments that don’t accurately reflect what the taster is experiencing.

So it is with Finger Lakes rieslings, which are constantly being promoted to riesling-loving tasters via blind tastings and brown bags and “ringer”-style trickery. I understand the impulse, but it’s ultimately pointless; one way or another, the wines are going to have to be able to stand or fall on their own merits, without resorting to contests in which the peer group is purely arbitrary and with which the terroirs of the Finger Lakes shouldn’t have anything in common to begin with.

…which is a long-winded way of saying that I engaged in a mighty personal struggle with this wine, wanting both to grant it extra care as a representative of an underappreciated region and wanting to work hard to demonstrate its specific failings in relation to its international peers. I have no idea how that ridiculously fraught environment in which I examined the wine (with and without dinner) affected my response, except to say that I tried really hard to express what was wrong with it, and in the end really couldn’t come up with much. It’s a good wine that starts out a little awkward and reductive, gets a lot better with sufficient oxygenation, and fends off disintegration for at least as long as the two hours I spent with it. It’s quite Teutonic in its austere solemnity, it’s very clearly riesling, and the picture in my mind while drinking it is that of a slightly unpolished metal sphere within a cube. It’s not an integrated wine, at least not yet (I have no experience with aging it, which is stupid as I’ve had plenty of opportunities), but there’s certainly potential; think young Austrian more than anything else, though it’s not that dense nor weighty. Is it good? Yes, it’s good. But it does need air. (9/11)

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