I am mad for Riesling, pretty much as most of the wine aficionados I encounter in tastings.
Everyone has an opening line, hidden in their sleeve, that starts with: “Oh, I am so enthusiastic about Riesling these days……blah blah blah”. I do not believe that there is a single person in the wine industry that would go and say it out loud: No, I do not have a clue about what Riesling is all about!
It makes you wonder how all the professionals in the UK are so passionate about Riesling, yet the consumers do not share their enthusiasm. Most of the tastings organised by the Wines of Germany, in order to promote Riesling wines, are targeting the professionals but not the consumer; I spot a clear communication gap just here. People tend to believe that by approaching the journalists, the bloggers, the restaurants or the retailers will just solve their problem but it’s just not working. Wine consumers do not receive enough direct contact with the actual product, simple as that.
Last year, I submitted my Masters’ Thesis, titled “The profile of German dry white wine in the UK- Repositioning Riesling in the British market.” One of the major problems I came across is the difficulty to speak the consumer language and not describing wines with “elderflower”, “lychee” or “ice bon-bon”, for the simple reason that consumer do not tend to engage with such descriptors. Especially, in the UK, one of the most challenging and important importing wine countries, consumers tend to be very cautious about German wine in general, as they suffered huge quantities of cheap and sweet German wine, such as Liebfraumilch. So, let’s travel back and understand how all these started.
Wine purchase and consumption was not democratised in the UK, until the 1970’s. Wine was widely enjoyed by the aristocracy and was mostly originated from Bordeaux vineyards. New fashions, cosmopolitan spirit and the trend of going to holidays abroad became very popular and consumers were chasing after not that ordinary beverages. At the same time, New World of wine made its appearance, with countries such as Australia and New Zealand making and promoting their wines in a much simpler way, letting the consumers leave their lexicons aside, in order to understand a wine-label. The consumer’s palette is moving away from the cheap, semi-sweet wines and is craving more complex and fine tastes. Now, combine all these with the 1971 German Wine law- mass production promotion and perplexing labels- and you have a recipe of disaster!
German vineyards overlooking river Rhine
Nowadays, German dry Riesling is in a much better place but still many changes have to be made. There is an immediate need to enter more restaurants, wine bars and pubs, this is the ideal place for wine lovers to get acquainted with this fine wine. Still, we all know how much fun it is to share our experiences with friends or even take a picture of a bottle and share it in the social media. This is why it is so important to make wine labels much nice and neat and avoid all the drama of a consumer breaking his tongue, during the effort of explaining this “just out-of-this-world wine I had the other day”.
So, here we are talking to ourselves about German Riesling once again! What I would be very fascinated to do is to take my wine passionate friends to a German Riesling tasting that would be open to the public, taking place at interesting local areas, where they could learn a lot about Riesling but also have a memorable evening. Wine is fun, not just studying! Let’s remember it.