Today, let’s take a tour of three wine regions: the Rheingau in Germany, Verona in Italy and Roussillon in France, and three well-known and well-regarded producers from each of those regions.
The German producer Prinz von Hessen is a Rheingau estate that specializes in, not surprisingly, riesling. Rocca Sveva is the high-end label of the Cantina di Soave, and it makes the primary white and red Veronese brands. Domaine de Bila-Haut is the Roussillon estate owned by Michel Chapoutier, the well-known the Rhône producer.
All are quality producers, although one may argue with a few things they do.
First, a note about rieslings. Many riesling advocates seem to be in a state of denial, complaining that consumers have this idea that rieslings are sweet — which shouldn’t be surprising because most, though not all, rieslings do have abnormally high amounts of residual sugar in them, often two to three times as much as other white table wines. In most instances, they are well-balanced with very high acidity, which makes them seem drier. So, how do you look at these high-sugar rieslings? As well-balanced, often-delicious sweet table wines (my position) or as dry wines regardless of their sugar because they have high balancing acidity? Your call.
2012 Prinz von Hessen “H” Rheingau riesling ($16)
A very pleasant wine with mellow riesling flavors gathered in with the crisp edginess of peach skins and made more complex by metallic mineral notes. (Most white table wines, for example, have less than four or five grams of sugar per liter; this one has 15.8 gpl.)
2012 Prinz von Hessen “Royal” Rheingau riesling kabinett ($25)
This is a great wine to have in your glass at cocktail time. It is slightly spritzy and juicy with tart apricot flavors, has nice skin tannins around the edges, and is well-balanced, though not lean. (10.7 gpl)
2007 Prinz von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus riesling ($60)
People who love lightly aged white wines should rush out to buy this one that comes from a first-growth vineyard. It still retains beautiful fruit — ripe and dried apricots — plus delightful, creamy brioche notes. A wine to be savored. (Only 6.7 gpl)
2013 Rocca Sveva Soave classic ($15)
Very enjoyable young wine, not overly complex, with mellow apple notes and a crisp finish.
2009 Rocca Sveva ripasso Valpolicella superiore ($22)
A traditional blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara, it has moderately dark fruit with flavors of mulberries and cherries and a savory, dry-herbs finish. Nice rounded flavors, but just a touch soft-bodied.
2008 Rocca Sveva amarone della Valpolicella ($60)
Ripasso’s big brother — tangy, concentrated flavors of fresh and dried blackberries and black raspberries, well-balanced (14.5% alcohol) and long on the palate with integrated tannins and dried, savory herbs in the finish.
2013 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon blanc ($13)
Very enjoyable drinking — a blend of grenache gris and blanc, macabeo, and vermentino that provides nice, green-fruit flavors similar to those of a sauvignon (tart apple, some lime) with a pleasant touch of creaminess and a crisp finish.
2013 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Pays d’Oc rosé ($13)
Light strawberry flavors with good structure and a few defining tannins.
2012 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages rouge ($13)
A bland of syrah, grenache and carignan, it is murky and rich, with dark cherry and mulberry flavors, medium body, and a pleasant, but not crisp, finish.