Irrational Exuberance in California Rieslings

Reisling Wine Glass Sculpture Germany

A summer heat wave means it’s time  to go on a riesling tasting to help offset the thermometer.  We tasted about half a dozen, but Query’s 2009 Central Coast riesling was particularly interesting.

Initially it showed an excellent acid – sweetness balance and could have been our best-in-show. We learned to appreciate this kind of bitting balance from our week in Trier, Germany with the American Association of Wine Economists.  But after about 20 minutes, the acid in the Query disappeared, leaving a rather ordinary riesling.  What the heck happened?  (And, parenthetically, who or what is Query?  The label says they’re in Healdsburg, but I’ve been unable to track down any information.)

AAWE tastes German wines in the Trier ancient Roman Thermes

I had a hypothesis.  Naturally.  There was some secondary fermentation, leaving a little CO2 in the bottle.  This created a weak solution of carbonic acid, which, in turn, created the acid flavor.  But once the bottle was opened, the CO2 bubbled out, the carbonic acid level was reduced, and the acid disappeared.

At the UC Davis Extension Sensory Evaluation Class

Thinking I had a good hypothesis but wanting to confirm it, I contacted John Buechsenstein.  John is a consulting winemaker.  We were lucky to have him as the instructor in the wine appreciation seminar we took at U.C. Davis.  John was gracious enough to reply — and he confirmed my speculation.  In fact, John says this is pretty common among young rieslings.  Here’s exactly what he said:

Class Break – UC Davis Extension Senory Evaluation Course

“I’ve experienced this many times. Younger Rieslings do retain much of their CO2 from their original fermentation. This is particularly true since they are usually kept cool during storage and bottled young. This is desirous as it helps them have a “zippy” edge when first tasted. So, this spritz plus the fact that initially we serve them cold helps to boost their acid impression. Then, as they sit a while, they both loose their carbonic edge and warm up, eventually presenting a bit softer.”

Prof. Lima with Prof. John Buechsenstein, UC Davis Extension

Query riesling is available at Beverages & More in the Bay Area (14.99 per bottle, but BevMo has it on sale with a second bottle for $0.05 right now).  If you buy it, make sure you have enough guests so the bottle doesn’t stay open long before it’s empty!




About the author

Tony Lima has been a California wine fan since arriving in California from the east coast in 1974. He's lived the growth and expansion of the West Coast industry first hand. He's seen the fickle California Wine consumer fads pop up and burst... the craze for Zinfandel, then oaky Chardonnay, then Merlot, now Pinot Noir. On behalf of fellow Californian oenophiles, he hunts for great pinot noir and great values in pinot noir all along the West Coast. His day job is Professor of Economics at California State University located in Hayward. His undergrad degree in chemical engineering (MIT) and his MBA (Harvard) and Ph.D. Economics (Stanford) are the root of his interest in the Business of Wine. He is a card-carrying member of the AAWE - American Association of Wine Economists.

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