The latest development has brought about a classification scheme that aims to give the Mittelrhein wine a distinctive profile. Thirty-eight quality-conscious wineries have chosen to establish the ‘Mittelrhein Riesling Charta (MRC)’. Their mantra: ‘My Mittelrhein | For the love of Riesling’ (#17).
This Charter, founded in May 2011, has the mission to preserve the cultural heritage of the Mittelrhein in a sustainable manner and actively shape the economic, cultural, and social fabric for future generations. The core of the Mittelrhein Riesling Charta is the introduction and promotion of three distinctive wines that each of its members can produce.
These wines that have to fulfill superior quality standards are designed to be recognizable premium products that reflect the quality and diversity of this unique landscape and its viniculture. Each of these wines is made of 100% Riesling and is classified into three categories: Handstreich®, Felsenspiel® and Meisterstück®. The categories are distinguished by their sensory features, their residual acidity-to-sugar-ratio, and the volume of alcohol. Prerequisites to bottle a Charta-Riesling are manifold. One of the key requirements is that each wine has to score at least 3 of 5 in the objective testing by the state’s chamber of agriculture.
The above figure gives a visual of the classification scheme. Following, each of these categories will be described in detail
Handstreich ®: Sweepingly charming
These are modern, delicate and naturally fruity Riesling wines with a maximum of 11 vol% alcohol. The profile encompasses charming wines that sweep wallowers of their feet and ideally accompany light dishes. These wines must be below 89° Oechsle and additionally possess an acidity-to-residual sugar-ratio of over 1/3. Hence, when the acidity is at 8 g/l, the residual sugar must be around 24 g/l.
Felsenspiel®: Ring-a-ring o’ rocks
There is no place in the world that offers such a unique set of elements to bootlick the vines like on the steep slopes of the Mittelrhein. Felsenspiel is a harmonic, down-home Riesling that neither polarizes nor flatters. Always a perfect fit! Requirements for most weights are that these wines must be below 95° Oechsle and additionally possess an acidity-to-residual sugar-ratio of over 1/2. Hence, when the acidity is at 8 g/l, the residual sugar must be around 16 g/l.
A perfected Riesling, boasting with a heady and lasting savor. It requires full attention and wants to be enjoyed; precisely, a masterpiece. Requirements for most weights are necessarily more than 95° Oechsle. The taste must be dry; hence the residual sugar must be below 9 g/l and the acidity must not be more than 2 g/l below.
Experts will recognize great similarities to the Wachau region in Lower Austria. The collective of wineries in the Wachau has been very successful with a similar strategy of simplifying the categorization for consumers, assuring quality and thus promoting the region and its wines. The Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus was found in 1983 and can be seen as prototype for this sort of wine classification scheme (#19). In general, the Wachau offers similar features, with the Rhine-equivalent Danube and a great historical heritage when it comes to producing top quality wines. Moreover, it offers a prevalent segmentation of vineyards and also a myriad of small producers, fighting similar problems as wineries on the Mittelrhein. Detractors would even call the MRC a vile copy or at best a spinoff. But the Mittelrhein Riesling Charta goes beyond the rules of the Vinea Wachau. Only Riesling can be bottled, not a myriad of grape varietals. Moreover, higher quality standards need to be fulfilled in order to bottle a Charta-Riesling.
In my opinion, there is no more time to waste on the Mittelrhein and after all, ends justify the means. Hence, this relatively current introduction of the Mittelrhein Riesling Charta is a necessary step towards the recognition of the region and has to be rated highly positive.