It was a really, really happy day in January 2013, when I first visited Toni Jost in the charming riverside village of Bacharach, just across from the steep cliffs of the Rheingau which sit on the other side of the Rhine River. But Bacharach, officially located in the Middle Rhein, or, as the Germans say, the Mittelrhein, has steep vineyards too! In fact, Bacharacher Hahn (the hen of Bacharach), with its Devon slate, is one of the most beautiful steep vineyards on either side of the Rhine!
So why do American wine geeks foam at the mouth about Rheingau wines, yet say virtually nothing about Mittelrhein wines just across the river? Because only the Mosel and the Rheingau got into the first English-language texts extolling the virtues of German wine! The Mosel and the Rheingau are like Bordeaux and Burgundy, reputation-wise. The old guard. Happily, we’ve all added LOTS of other French regions to the list of French wines we drink…but, unhappily, the expansion of Americans’ minds to other German regions is just beginning!
I began this expansion on that January day, in 2013, when I was greeted by Peter Jost (who has had the winery in his family for 200 years), his wife and partner Linde, and their enterprising daughter, Cecilia…who is co-winemaker now with Peter, but is in the process of taking over the winery…to the delight of her proud parents! On a wintry day, Linde prepared the family specialty: a fricasée of chicken (hen!) in a creamy mustard sauce, with gorgeous fresh noodles…and scores of Toni Jost wines to sample, both old and young, both dry and off-dry. The wines were magnificent…the quintessence of Riesling in a northern vineyard, bursting with fruit and energy. And they all went beautifully with the hen!
Cecilia will probably make some stylistic shifts at the winery…moving sometimes towards more of the forceful, Alsatian-like Rieslings that are in vogue today. But any Jost from this vintage (2011) or before you can count on for the old-fashioned delicacy of traditional German wine.
Like this one! Light straw in the glass. Gorgeous waves of peach and apricot on the nose, with just a hint of the slate on which these grapes were grown. The wine is a feinherb, which is the new way of saying halbtrocken—that is, the winemaker stopped the fermentation just before the wine turned completely dry. So, in this wine, along with the racy acidity, and the lush fruit, you get a bit of sweetness (a little less sweet than a traditional spatlese would be). It is the perfect kind of German wine to sip in the afternoon, especially with its infinitely long finish of dried peaches and honey.
But it’s also a food-slayer…as I discovered in Bacharach with the creamy chicken! This week, I’m going to make a pork roast, with apples and potatoes in the roasting pan. Anything you can do to add a touch of sweetness to your protein (cream, fruit) will help harmonize this extraordinary bottle with your dinner. AND ONE MORE IDEA: this is the perfect libation for a plate of cheese, fruit, and nuts!