By Robert Parker
Rieslings from the steep slate slopes of Germany's Mosel River Valley are delicate and light-bodied wines. Those labeled Kabinett are usually no more than 10% alcohol. All display a discreet sweetness, which makes them good partners for spicy foods, especially fiery Asian cuisine. No trees are killed in making these wines, either: They're aged in old barrels or stainless steel.
The following selections, reviewed by my colleague David Schildknecht, are from the 2005 vintage, an exceptionally strong one for the Mosel. They will stay fresh and gain complexity for five or more years, but you'll succumb to temptation long before that.
91 points. From a sweet spot where slate cliffs and pooled water channel the sun's energy into the grapes, this wine smells alluringly of vanilla, nut oil, baking spices, and flowers. Creamy and rich with nougat and maple syrup notes, it also has invigorating apple and lime flavors. $15
90 points. Scents of root beer and licorice are followed by a rich palate that combines apple and melon with the aforementioned root and herbal aromas. A superbly concentrated finish adds baking spices and underlying notes of toasted nuts and wet stones, a common characteristic of wines grown on slate slopes. $15
88 points. Made to retain only the subtlest hint of sweetness, this cuvée offers scents and flavors of sweet cherry, baking spices, and wet stones. It has a satiny, plush texture, palpable density, and a roundly rich, judiciously sweet finish that, besides cherry, suggests kumquat, lemon oil, and honey. At 11.5% alcohol, it's fuller-bodied than most Mosel rieslings. $16
88 points. From Piesport's foremost vintner, this wine teems with grapefruit and pineapple flavors, supported by a modest amount of residual sugar and a creamy texture. A fine, sappy finish incorporates grapefruit zest, toasted nuts, and wet stones. Like the Zilliken, it is 11.5% alcohol. $17
90 points. From one of the Mosel's great vineyards, this wine displays hints of apple and vanilla. It is juicy on the palate, with a subtle and alluring suggestion of creaminess. A long, nuanced finish displays dried apple, vanilla, and wet stones. $19
92 points. This really ripe yet still delicate wine offers a torrent of black cherries in the nose, mingled with vanilla, lime zest, flowers, and baking spices. Subtly creamy in texture yet juicy and ingratiating on the palate, it launches a lovely long finish of cherry, vanilla, and salt. $22
90 points. Lemon oil, peach, and a pungent whiff of spice and sea breeze inform the almost prickly nose of this Kabinett from a vast but quality-conscious estate. A bright, tongue-nipping, invigoratingly intense palate leads to a refined, ringing finish. $22
Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.
Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.