Any Good Riesling: Hexamer Riesling Quarzit, Nahe, 2011
It really doesn't matter what this particular wine is, even though it's a good one, because my intention when I bought it was to buy a good Riesling, and that was that. I treat myself to good Rieslings now and again, when I want to drink the bottle myself and have a cerebral, visual experience. All wine is synesthetic to a degree, but fine German Riesling conjures visions of sunlight streaming through conifers and the gold of day filtering down to stones beneath steady trickles of water. It offers visual separation, if I can synesthetically borrow an audiophile's term: layers of colors that equate to flavors, each discernible in its own right, and in terms of the others that surround it.
This bottle is not as delicate as some of the Mosels I've gone sublime for: even the entry-level Kabinetts from good producers, which will set you back between $20 and $25, can have this light-as-air quality that makes them feel like they were distilled from northern forest air. Minerality is a big part of the draw too. You can taste the ground, but cleanly. These wines feel like they're beyond agriculture.
Nevertheless, this was enjoyable, if a little more muscular than I'd expected. I should have known: at 11% alcohol, it pushes its 8%-10%, prettier cousins out of the way, and some of their poetry with them. What it gains in return is, well, a little more alcohol, of course, and aggressive verve. It wants you to know it likes you. Who doesn't like to be liked?
But the real reason I wanted to drink a good Riesling, any good Riesling, is that I had just read the following passage in Patrick Leigh Fermor's A Time of Gifts. The book is the fist half of an account of a journey, almost entirely by foot, from Holland to Turkey taken in the 1930s by a mischievous 19-year-old Englishman with literary ambitions. It is written by the same Englishman, 40 years after the fact. Sometimes wine isn't about what you drink or what you're eating, or who you're with, but a means of participation, a way of telling a story, and a means of satisfying a desire to explore that draws in equal part from the mind and the heart, passing always over the palate, and over and around the tongue, like language:
The plain bowls of these wineglasses were poised on slender glass stalks, or on diminishing pagodas of little globes, and both kinds of stem were coloured: a deep green for Mosel and, for Rhenish, a brown smoky gold that was almost amber. When horny hands lifted them, each flashed forth its coloured message in the lamplight. It is impossible, drinking by the glass in those charmingly named inns and wine-cellars, not to drink too much... simply by sipping one could explore the two great rivers below and the Danube and all Swabia, and Franconia too by proxy, and the vales of Imhof and the faraway slopes of Würtzburg: journeying in time from year to year, with draughts as cool as a deep well, limpidly varying from dark gold to pale silver and smelling of glades and meadows and flowers.
It was reading the words "dark gold to pale silver and smelling of glades and meadows and flowers" that made me buy and drink this wine. The wine became an expression of them, carrying them back over the threshold into sensual life. Stuart Krimko. (Other Krimko pieces here.)