2013 Riesling


The grape harvest was huge.

This simple fact largely explains the quality of 2013 Riesling.

Stories of excess grapes abound.  Many wineries had to purchase new barrels and tanks.  “For sale” listings of Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah popped up on the Cornell Classifieds site, something that had rarely occurred  before.  At Sawmill Creek vineyard, tons of grapes remained unsold and unused.

Ordinarily, all other things being equal, a huge harvest means lower quality.  Of course, there are exceptions.  In a very sunny and warm year the vines might fully ripen a large crop.  But this was not the case in 2013.  

The growing season was very rainy and overcast from May through much of August.  Only a dry and sunny September bailed out growers.

Yes, the crop was “saved” by September, but it was not an ideal crop.  The number and size of grape clusters was well above average, while the number of degree days was substantially lower than 2011 and 2012.  This combination meant only one thing: grapes that were less ripe than usual.

In fact, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension reports, the sugar levels of Riesling in 2013 came in lower than the five year average.

So what does this mean for wine drinkers?

• First and foremost, 2013 was just an average year for Riesling.

• In general, quality was lower than in 2011 and 2012.  Yet, plenty of “very good” wines at reasonable prices are available.  More than half of the dry Rieslings are “very good” or better.

• Sweet Rieslings were considerably less successful in 2013 than the drier wines.  Out of 15 wines tasted, only three can be heartily recommended.

• Drinkers who love aromatic Riesling are apt to be disappointed.  Many of these wines have lots of mineral acidity in the nose, but are short in the fruit and flower departments.

• Buyers who like fruity Riesling should seek out the Wiemer wines, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Keuka Spring and Glenora.  The Dr. Konstantin Frank, in particular, is a tremendous value.

• Riesling Fans who gravitate toward “food wines” that are full of zippy acidity (and may resemble Sauvignon Blanc) shoud purchase Hosmer, Anthony Road, Fox Run, Sheldrake Point, and Boundary Breaks.

• Lovers of savory Riesling, with flavors of stones, earth, nut oils, and fennel seed should look at the Silver Thread, Hector Wine Company and Atwater wines.

All buyers should seek out wines rated Very Good, Very Good+ or Excellent. Given the tenuous connection between price and quality in the Finger Lakes, there is no need to purchase wines that are simply “Good.”  There are plenty of fine values in the “Very Good” and “Excellent” categories.


© Douglas Hillstrom 2014