2010 “Zeppelin” Müllheimer Sonnenlay Riesling, Max Ferdinand Richter, Mosel

I didn’t plan to write about this wine today – actually, I didn’t plan
Posted 30th July 2012        

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I didn’t plan to write about this wine today – actually, I didn’t plan to write about any wine at all. But you know how it happens when life changes all your plans in a second. So here I am, still in London instead of Brighton, heavy-hearted and full of a feeling that the last hours of the last sunny summer day are being wasted. And the moment I stepped in my garden – with a glass of wine in my hand – I saw that my beautiful old wooden birdhouse has been stolen. And whoever did it left an old rusty iron bird on my garden table.

The bird was the last straw. The only thing that kept my sanity – or almost did – was the knowledge that the stuff in my glass is lovely. I knew it. That was for certain. And this kind of certainty is one of the things I love most about wines – they are reliable, unlike people or circumstances.

So sitting on the warm doorstep of my bedroom and looking at the garden I’m raising this glass to say farewell to my lovely birdhouse (still I can’t stop thinking it’s such a weird thing to steal from someone’s garden, don’t you think?). I am trying to focus on the wine – it is well worth it. This is by all means my favourite Riesling of the last half a year. It is very pale, in the way many Mosel Rieslings are. It is off dry and delicious in a way that most wines are not.

The three most beautiful things about this wine are the intensity of its flavour, its acidity and lightness. Tropical fruits, zesty apple, peaches, pineapple are as tasty as they can get here – but never ever with this wine you get a feeling that it’s too sweet or flat. Every shade of flavour is pronounced, and the acidity complements it, making the wine even more refreshing and really mouth-watering. But what I especially love about this gorgeously mineral Riesling is its lightness. In the era of Parker-style monsters of 14%-15% ABV this wine is merely 10% – which is incredible if you think of the German climate and the difficulties winemakers face there to achieve proper level of grape ripeness. I can’t blame them for chaptalisation, really – as long as they don’t do it in Liebfraumilch style. But this Riesling doesn’t need any crunches; it is made from terrifically ripe grapes already – the producer praises his south-west facing slope that offers maximum exposure to the sun.

The sun, yes. This is what we miss here, on this island. Talking about islands – that’s probably what passengers of Graf Zeppelin stared at whilst crossing the Atlantic. This Riesling was among the most-often-poured in the Zeppelin’s luxurious restaurant. I wonder what it’s guests thought of “Zeppelin” wine then. Maybe they didn’t think that much and purely relaxed. As it was promised in Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei’s brochure (published to familiarise airship passengers with what they could expect during their voyage on Graf Zeppelin), there’ll be “no dust, no soot to trouble you, the whole atmosphere is one of tranquility and peace. The air is delicious and fresh, in fact you seem to have been transported into another and more beautiful world”.

The Graf Zeppelin is long retired but the wine makes exactly this transportation –  even to some in a London garden with an iron bird as a fellow passenger.

I’ll call it Zeppelin.

Available from £10.99 at Laithwaite’s.


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Meet the Author:
Alya Kharchenko
There is not much out there that Alya wouldn’t try out – sometimes only for the sake of it, tackling obstacles of any kind being her drug of choice. But there are other things she is fond of: especially wining and writing – so wine writing came in handy. Trained as a journalist, Alya discovered her love for wine long before she moved from Moscow to London, which became her home five years ago. After having worked for the BBC, she took a leap of faith, and a few sips of wine, and started her first full time job in the wine trade at the UK's oldest wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd. Since then she's worked as a sommelier and wine advisor, but writing has never been far from her mind - as well as a bottle of nice wine, suitable for any mood and occasion.