Thanksgiving Wine: Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling QbA – The Hock Glass and Sugar In Your Wine

In 2013 I reviewed this wine from the 2010 vintage, and will repost some of the general details of the estate here. The Thanisch family split winery holdings a few years ago. This Riesling is from Dr. H. Thanisch, the Erben Müller Burggraef side of the split. The 2011 vintage was a good one, a bit wetter during the summer, but gloriously warm and sunny in early fall with most of the harvest falling in October. The QbA identifier means this is a “Qualitatswein” wine, translated to a quality wine of a guaranteed region. with grapes grown in one of thirteen specified districts, in this case in the Moselle/Mosel. The grape variety, Riesling, is also (actually first) among the quality wine grapes allowed. A QbA is less dry than a Kabinett, which is considered, generally, a vintner’s driest food style wine.

Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling 2011 QbA

Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling 2011 QbA


I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in Germany, yet Rieslings never quite made it to the top of my preferred grape list. The best are pricey and many too acidic for my palate. When I buy, I generally buy Kabinetts. I have many fond memories of German Late Harvest wines (sweet): Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein (click the link to “Pronunciations” under my banner –– easy, phonetic). Nothing ends an evening of great food and fellowship better, and nothing compares when elegantly made, and when I still have some money in the bank after leaving my wine merchant.

When I poured the 2011 QbA Riesling the first thing I noticed was the barest hint of spritz, and on the first taste, loved the bright minerality. Most Rieslings are rather pale, possibly straw colored. The 2011 you see in the glasses above does have color, but note the orange and gold of the (fake) pumpkins and squashes behind the glasses. Neither is it a pale lady.

The nose is a tad spicey, with fresh juicy peach standing out. On the palate, there is a smokey essence often not found in QbAs. Apples, pear and grapefruit are prominent. The finish sustains nicely, and while the residual sugar is 12.8 grams per liter (off-dry), the wine finished delightfully dry. The Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling 2011 is a fine food wine, and is perfect for a Thanksgiving table. Whether oyster stuffing, sausage or cornbread stuffing –– take your pick –– even cranberries will cozy with this affordable ($13-$17) Riesling.

In the photo above, note the hock glass with the green stem. I bought those in Germany many years ago. The green isn’t there for the esthetics of anything but the wine. You won’t find peach stems on a hock glass to match your table settings. The green was, and I suppose still is, assumed to pump up the light-ish hue of the Riesling grape.

The Hock Glass:

The hock glass in the photo above with the blue bowl is hand-cut, leaded crystal from Hungary. I was fortunate to inherit a set of jeweled colored hocks from my aunt and uncle. He traveled the world as communication’s director for several presidents –– Truman through Eisenhower, I believe. He is responsible for contributing these beauties to our family.

Hand-cut Hungarian Leaded Glassware

Hand-cut Hungarian Leaded Crystal Glassware

With the hocks, the collection includes brandy snifters, which I use often during winter months, and sometimes in summer for Grand Marnier with a small bit of ice. The middle glass in the photo immediately above, the black one, is considered to be a wine glass. I sometimes use it for water, but never but for wine (because the shape isn’t suitable in my opinion). I have it in all the other colors you see in the photo immediately above, and some lighter versions of the blue, red and green.

If the black glass is still being manufactured, I can’t find it. It stays safely on display behind glass doors.

The Hock:

Hock is an old English term for German white wine from Riesling grapes. Sometimes the term references specifically the wine from the Rhine regions and sometimes all German wine. “Hock” is short for the now-obsolete word “hockamore.” Hockamore is an English usage corruption of the name of the German town Hochheim, which lies on the Main River in the Rheingau wine region. The term seems to have been in use in the seventeenth century, initially for wines from middle Rhine, but in the eighteenth century became used as a term for any German wine sold in Britain. . . . Source: Need a replacement glass. Click here and also here.

The Home of German Rieslings:

Riesling’s spiritual home is unquestionably the regions that trace the middle Rhine and the lower Mosel, two of Europe’s great wine rivers. Here we find the key wine regions of Germany, most famously Mosel, Rheinhessen,Rheingau and Pfalz. Riesling vines cover the steep, slate-rich hillsides above these famous rivers, and are used to make crisp, refreshing wines with pronounced acidity.

On the other side of the Rhine lies Alsace, once German but now part of France. Here, Riesling is the most important wine grape variety in terms of both quantity and (arguably) quality. Alsace Riesling has its own individual style, richer and more generous than those made in Germany. This is made possible by the region’s sunny, dry mesoclimate and the shelter provided by the Vosges Mountains. Source: Wine-Searcher

Barbara Rundquist-Muller standing in the Bernkastler Doctor vineyars, high above the town of Bernkastel-Kues

Barbara Rundquist-Muller standing in the Berncastler Doctor vineyards, high above the town of Bernkastel-Kues, Germany

Getting back to the Thanisch family that is Dr. Hugo Thanisch Erben Müller Burggraef, the same family owns about eight acres of the, indisputably, most famous vineyard in Germany, Berncastler Doctor. Located on the Middle Moselle/Mosel River, the steep slope gradient (and many other vineyards in the area) of sixty percent of this vineyard, demands the grapes be hand-picked with careful attention to the picker’s footing and ultimate safety. The fruit is sent to the winery using a basket and pulley system. This area is among some of the most beautiful on the planet.

Dr. H. Thanisch Erben Müller-Burgraef Bernkastler Doctor Vineyard Topography

Dr. H. Thanisch Erben Müller-Burgraef Berncastler Doctor Vineyard Topography

You’ve heard of grapevines growing out of rock, slate? The photo above is from the Dr. H. Thanisch Erben Müller-Burggraef Berncasteler Doctor vineyard. (Notice the two spellings of Bernkastle and Berncastle? Can’t give an answer why, it just is, until I have more time to research). HOWEVER, I suspect the “c” is for the English market, and the “k” for European markets –– but just a guess.

If you can afford a Dr. H. Thanisch Erben Müller-Burggraef Berncasteler Doctor, treat yourself. If you can afford a Dr. H. Thanisch Erben Müller-Burggraef Riesling Kabinett, treat yourself. If not, treat yourself anyway and try the 2011. I still have one bottle of the 2010 left, which I loved two years ago. Opened one bottle not long ago, still love it. Still drinking well, full and lush and more golden in color.

Some of your guests, or maybe you, expect a technically dry wine. I’ll admit when I serve Riesling, even a dry Riesling, I always have a another, more familiar choice for my guests that falls on the drier scale, or at least they think it does. Once again, find a wine merchant who can lead you to a white with under 4 grams of sugar per liter. He/she will probably walk to the French Burgundy or Spanish white aisle. OR –– see the last two lines below in red text.

At a recent blind tasting exploring perceptions of sweetness, we were, unbeknown to us, served the same wine twice, once at room temperature and once well chilled. We all thought the chilled version of this sweetish wine (60 g/l residual sugar) was drier than the warmer one because acidity is more prominent at lower temperatures. Source: Jancis Robinson

Good quality Riesling works for every holiday, and as an everyday wine, if you can afford it. I bet you can if you rely on the direction of a good wine department that will take your budget in mind. Riesling for every holiday –– really! Uh huh. Even Independence Day when you want that long, cool drink that isn’t a beer. Related: see my Gruner Veltliner review here, at about 4 grams of residual sugar per liter! Related: See my Babich Sauvignon Blanc review here, and YAY! only three grams of sugar per liter.

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