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If Arinto is the Portuguese Hock, what is a german Hoch? 11 Apr '19

Was I talking about the famous Hock wines in last week’s post... and I cross again with the same theme last Saturday, at the 40th birthday party of my friend's Rodolfo Tristão. Rodolfo is, without a doubt, one of the best Sommeliers of Portugal. And of course, the party was a true feast of special wines with the presence of a Riesling, the base variety of the wines from Hochheim am Main in the region of Rheingau - Germany, that gave the name to this style of wine originating from this country.

The wine that I tasted, actually, was not even German. It was French, originating from Alsace, a Trimbach from the 2008 vintage. It was a serious wine, still full of energy and a good example of a Riesling of Alsace, that are very different from German Rieslings. This variety - that soon won fame for high quality - is the queen of the white grape varieties in Germany.

Retreating to the origins of this wine, was found in 1435 a count's registry of Russelheim in Rheingau refering to the purchase of Riesling to plant close to his house. A little later, there are references to this variety in the area of Mosel, my favorite for Riesling wines. In 1648, after the Thirty Years War, Alsace is given up by Germany to France and, with the vineyards completely destroyed, is given order for planting Riesling grapes in substitution of varieties of smaller quality. Already in 1787, in Mosel valley, Clemens Wenzeslaus decreed the removal of varieties of smaller quality from the valley so there can be planted high quality ones, what facilitated the rise of Riesling and that confirmed that is was a sure bet in the Riesling variety.

Riesling wines are, in general, a tribute to the Terroir where it is planted. There are few varieties that can express the place, climate and cultivation as good as this one. There are also few with such high acidity, with such pleasant notes and, at the same time, with such aging potential. These are the attributes that make the variety so special and made it spread all over the world.

In Portugal, there are very few good examples of the variety and the most interesting are in areas with plenty of Atlantic influence or in altitudes above 600 meters. Riesling - that is of precocious ripening - becomes uninteresting when in hot areas, because it loses its refreshing acidity, elegance and consequent aging potential, in other words, its best attributes.

Here is one more clue about a wine that is worthwhile to know. And when it happens, you will remember what you read here.

Hélder Cunha
The wine’s my life