German and Austrian wines took pole position in an international dry Riesling tasting in Vienna – leaving the New World struggling to keep up.

The June 6 tasting, which took place at the Vievinum fair in Vienna was devoted to top dry Rieslings from the around the world. Organiser Jan Paulson’s previous tastings include two celebrated occasions when he pitted Grüner Veltliner against top Chardonnay, with triumphant results for the Austrian wines.

The results of the Riesling blind tasting were less clear-cut. The Austrian tasters were in a minority amongst about 40 panellists from Japan, Sweden, the UK, the USA, Germany, Australia, and elsewhere.

On the other hand, half of the 48 wines presented were from Austria. European wines were from the 2001 and 2002 vintages, Australian wines from 2003. With 16 wines attaining average scores from 92.24 to 90.15, the differentials between the leading wines were very tight.

The two top wines, calculated by averaging the scores (while eliminating both the very highest and the very lowest), were from Germany: 2002 Forster Jesuitengarten Spätlese Trocken from J.L.Wolf in the Pfalz, followed by the 2001 Mönzinger Halenberg Auslese Trocken from Emrich-Schönleber in the Nahe.

The next four wines were from Austria. In third place was Achleiten Smaragd from Prager (Wachau), fourth equal were 2002 Vinothekfüllung Smaragd from Knoll (Wachau), and 2002 Zöbinger Heiligenstein Lyra from Bründlmayer (Kamptal). In sixth place was the 2002 Zöbinger Heiligenstein from Hiedler (Kamptal).

The next ten places were taken by the following producers: Christmann (Pfalz), Rudi Pichler, F.X.Pichler, and Jamek (Wachau), Franz Künstler (Rheingau), Nigl (Kremstal), Alzinger (Wachau), Wieninger (Vienna), Kastiel Béla (Slovakia, but overseen by the Saar’s Egon Müller), and Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace).

New World Rieslings did not excel, perhaps because the steely, austere wines from Grosset and Frankland Estate were overwhelmed by the richer offerings from Germany and Austria. Nor did Alsace shine, although Trimbach’s 2001 Cuvée Frédéric Emile came in at 19th with 89.6 points.

Written by Stephen Brook