Wine Review: Two Italian Dry Rieslings Made by Elena Walch and Abbazia di Novacella

I am writing this review with some trepidation as I know that most likely it will be read by fellow wine blogger and friend Oliver who authors the very enjoyable and educational blog The Winegetter (if you do not follow him already, I sure think you should!) and, most importantly, is definitely an authority when it comes to Rieslings! I think I know that his preference goes to German sweeter Rieslings, while the two wines that I am going to review today are both Italian dry Rieslings from the Alto Adige area of the Trentino Alto Adige region.

And now on to the reviews of the two wines that I tried. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1. Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling “Castel Ringberg” 2010 DOC (12.5% ABV; ab. €15 in Italy)

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling "Castel Ringberg" 2010 DOCElena Walch is one of my favorite producers of white wines from Alto Adige and, let me say it upfront, her Castel Ringberg did not disappoint me!

This is a single vineyard wine made of 100% Riesling grapes grown in the Castel Ringberg vineyard near the town of Caldaro. It was fermented and rested on its lees exclusively in stainless steel tanks. Unfortunately, although other Elena Walch’s wines are available in the US, this wine does not appear to be, which is a shame.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow and quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of petrol (very discernible), followed by grapefruit, citrus, pear, minerals and herbs.

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, smooth; fresh and tasty, with medium body. The wine was balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors that trailed the wine’s bouquet. It had a long finish and it was ready in terms of its evolutionary state.

Overall, a very pleasant, fresh dry Riesling with a captivating bouquet.

Rating: Very Good Very Good – €

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling “Praepositus” 2009 DOC (13% ABV; ab. $35 in the US)

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling "Praepositus" 2009 DOCThis wine is part of Abbazia di Novacella’s premium line “Praepositus”. It is made of 100% Riesling grapes, grown in vineyards with an outstanding density of 6,000 vines/HA and harvested for 2/3 in October and 1/3 in December (late harvest). It was fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in bottle for 9 months before being released to the market.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow with greenish hints, quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of petroleum, grapefruit, lime and Granny Smith apple.

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh and tasty, medium-bodied. The wine was balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors. It had a long finish and was ready as to its evolutionary state.

Overall, another very pleasant dry Riesling, although it personally impressed me a touch less than the Castel Ringberg, especially due to its narrower bouquet.

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

At any rate, two Italian dry Rieslings that I would certainly recommend and that I am pretty sure would not disappoint you.

That’s all for today! As always, if you have tasted either one (or both!) of these wines, make sure to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!


7 thoughts on “Wine Review: Two Italian Dry Rieslings Made by Elena Walch and Abbazia di Novacella

  1. whiskeytangofoxtrot4

    I only wish we could get the beautiful wines you speak of up here in BC. I guess I will have to book another adventure to Rome….:0) We had the most beautiful bottles there, and I have looked to find them but sadly no. IF you can pass on any suggestions I would appreciate it. Cheers, k.

  2. the winegetter

    First and foremost: I am so sorry I did not spot this earlier. And thank you for the shout out. I have never been called an authority on Riesling before, so this definitely flatters me beyond belief (and scares me).

    You are right that I like my Rieslings with the right mix of minerality, acidity and residual sugar. But I have learned to appreciate dry Rieslings from milder vintages that have less acidity, like 2011 which was stellar particularly for Mosel dry Rieslings.

    I always enjoy your reviews so much, and it is not just pandering. They are precise and give me a great idea of what you experienced. Here are some thoughts (without ever having had an Italian Riesling). I’ve been wanting to try Riesling from Alto Adige, given its history there might be some more German influences in wine making that could have an influence, whatever slightly.

    I’d like to remark that your two reviews sound very similar. At one point I almost thought you copy and pasted it. 😉 I was a bit confused by the thickness of both wines. That is not necessarily a quality I would be looking for in a dry Riesling which, to me at least, should at all cost be refreshing. Thickness could hinder that. What do you think is responsible for that thickness? I usually associate it with sweeter Rieslings.

    I was also a bit surprised by the petrolly notes they both seemed to show, which again is not something I would expect in these younger vintages. Could that come from the ripeness of the grapes?

    Lastly, the rather high alcohol levels did scare me a bit. I also assume that they are what make the wines seem warm on the palate. Again, not necessarily something I would be looking for in a dry Riesling. I guess it shows my predominant experience with cooler climate Rieslings where dry can usually be equated with refreshing and not warming.

    That said, both wines sound really interesting and nicely in balance, the key to any good wine, but especially Rieslings which seem to be very dependent on that balance, they are just so fragile. I see us meeting with a case of assorted wines each. That will be a glorious feast…

    Again, thanks for the shout out!

    1. Stefano Post author

      Wow, thank you for the incredibly thought-provoking comment, Oliver!
      Let me try to address your comments.
      You are absolutely correct that the two reviews are similar: although they were made at different times, the two wines ended up being very similar, which I think underscores the similarities between two Rieslings from the same Italian geographic area.
      Regarding their thickness, bear in mind that I classified them both as “quite thick”, which in the 5-step ISA scale is one notch below “thick”. So, I don’t think we are saying two different things here. What we call “thick” is a wine that when swirled produces slowly descending tears and narrow arches. “Quite thick” is a wine that swirls more fluidly in the glass, having lesser ABV and glycerol contents, such as those two Rieslings.
      Petrol notes are quite common in Alto Adige Rieslings: other than this factual information, I am afraid I am not in a position to offer any more “wisdom” as to why that is…
      Finally, regarding alcohol: once again, bear in mind that I classified them both as “quite warm”, which is one notch down from “warm” in the ISA scale for the so-called “pseudo-caloric feeling”, that is the feeling of “warmth” that you may have in the mouth due to the ABV of a wine. “Quite warm” is pretty much what you would generally call a wine with 12.5% ABV or thereabouts. At any rate, I think you are absolutely right that northern Italian Rieslings have more alcohol than German Rieslings due to the different climates the grapes are grown in.
      Last note: I am very much looking forward to our get together and your idea of bringing a case of wines each is just phenomenal! I could see that happening!
      Thank you very much again for taking the time to write so thoughtful a comment, Oliver!

      1. the winegetter

        Stefano! I always forget that you actually are trained in all of this!!! And yes, while the “quite” for me is usually just a filler word to somehow lower the following adjective’s strength, for you it is actually denominating a category. There, learned something again…

        Thanks for taking the time to reply in depth. It definitely cleared up my question marks. We need to make this meet up happen. Somehow. Soon…:)

      2. Stefano Post author

        You are right, Oliver: terminology can be confusing, and in order to fully understand it, it would be necessary that I spell out all the steps in the ISA scales for each of the qualities that get assessed in the wine tasting protocol, which however would be a daunting task and would result in a very boring post 🙂
        But you immediately got the concept: when I use “quite” in a wine tasting assessment, it is not a filler word – it actually means that the relevant quality is perceived less intensely than an unqualified assessment. To give you an example, the full assessment scale for the thickness of a wine goes like this: 1 Viscous (e.g., a PX sherry), 2 thick (e.g., structured reds or whites with relatively high ABV), 3 quite thick (e.g., simpler reds or whites with less structure and ABV), 4 mildly thick (only acceptable for certain “weak” whites such as Asti Spumante or Moscato d’Asti), 5 flowing (always a negative assessment for a wine). So, in essence, you may imagine that over 90% of wines end up being classified as either “thick” or “quite thick” in the ISA scale. I hope the example helped you better “visualize” the logic behind the classification and therefore the terminology I use.
        Anyway, your comment makes me think that I should come up with a better way to assess/describe a wine in my reviews, a way that is more intuitive to grasp… I will give it some thought!
        I totally echo your comment that we need to make this get together happen soon! 🙂

      3. the winegetter

        That is such an interesting point you make, Stefano, that a lot of wines end up being classified as thick or quite think, when it is is something I hardly ever seem to encounter in a wine on a daily basis.

        I am not sure that you should adjust your descriptors though, as long as it is clear what you are referring to. I just, frankly, had not kept up with your detailed explanation of the terms you use. I think wine description gains from common standards…so please, don’t overthink possible rewrites.

        And yes, it will, it will, it will happen this year. (We’re getting a car once we’re back from South East Asia in September, so we will be more mobile which will hopefully benefit our plans to get together!!)

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