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What our expert thought of Andreas Bender, Dajoar Riesling

about this wine About this wine
Ask a wine writer or a wine merchant to name the best white grape and they will probably say Riesling. Ask the average wine drinker and you’ll get a different answer. Yet Riesling is slowly gaining popularity outside the aficionados, and this is largely due to dry (or dryish) New World examples with easy-to-understand English labels, like the Blanc Plonk we featured a few weeks ago.
However, Riesling originated in Germany and it’s there that the finest examples are still to be found, made in a bewildering array of styles and bearing cryptic long-winded labels, often in gothic script to boot.
German wine labels are all about location and ripeness. This is especially true of the Mosel, one of the most northerly wine regions in the world. A favoured site is usually essential to get the grapes to ripen, and consumers then want to know just how ripe they got. A label that says Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese tells you that the wine comes from the village of Wehlen and, within that, the Sonnenuhr (“Sundial”) vineyard, and that it reached the Spätlese (“late-harvest”) level of ripeness.
All these terms are precisely defined in German wine law. The named vineyard must be at least 5 hectares in size, so each village has only a few of them and each one is subdivided between many different owners. Wehlener Sonnenuhr has over 200 owners. Famous named vineyards command a premium price so if you do own a slice of one you vinify it separately so you can use the name on your label.
Most producers own many small plots in multiple vineyards spread over several villages. Each plot can produce wines at six defined ripeness levels (seven if you count Eiswein). Consequently each producer makes dozens of different bottlings each year, many in tiny quantities. These will change with every vintage: in good years a producer’s bottlings from a particular vineyard will be biased towards late-harvest styles like Spätlese and Auslese at the expense of dryer, less ripe styles like Kabinett and plain Qualitätswein; in cool years it will be the other way around.
All this makes it effectively impossible to produce what most consumers want; a wine whose name they can remember that has a consistent style and is made in sufficient quantities to be available year on year.
Enter Andreas Bender, the “Maverick of the Mosel”. Andreas owns 60 different plots scattered across the Mosel and its tributary the Ruwer, most of them in first-class named vineyards. Yet he blends them together to make only three Rieslings: the dry, modernist Paulessen, the sweet late-harvest Hofpäsch and this one, the off-dry Dajoar.
In the Mosel dialect, Dajoar means “as before” or “as it used to be”. Andreas says he makes Dajoar like they made wine on the Mosel 50 years ago. Off-dry is the classic Mosel style, with just enough sweetness to balance the piercing acidity characteristic of Riesling grown this far north. But his winemaking technique is also resolutely old-school: close to nature, with minimal intervention.
His vineyards are farmed organically, although they’re not certified. Practically no-one on the Mosel is; you need a backup plan for the worst, wettest years or you’ll lose the whole crop. Moreover, your vines can’t be certified organic unless they’re a minimum distance from those of your non-organic neighbour, and the very parcellated nature of Mosel vineyards makes that almost impossible to achieve.
Andreas then ferments his grapes in old oak casks rather than the stainless steel tanks now de rigueur on the Mosel, using only the wild yeasts naturally occurring on the grape skins. The produce of each plot is fermented seperately, giving him complete control over the blending process.
the tasting The Tasting
The colour is a pale lemon. Riesling, especially from the Mosel, often has a hint of green but I don’t notice that here. What I do notice is lots of tiny bubbles forming on the inside of the glass. This wine must have been bottled with quite a lot of dissolved CO2 still in it after its long, slow, wild-yeast fermentation through the winter.
There’s an enticing, medium-intensity nose of orchard fruits - ripe yellow apple and peach - combined with blossom and a touch of honey. These are backed by a piercing spike of citrus and sweet spice (ginger) that you can really feel in your sinuses.
The palate is off-dry and has high acidity but you don’t really notice either until the finish - this is beautifully balanced. It’s got bright, fresh flavours of lime and melon that really build in the mouth. Don’t swallow too soon!
On the long, minerally finish you first notice the slight sweetness, then the acidity really makes your mouth water.
This is another back-loaded white, like the Vermentino from two weeks ago. Although the nose isn’t exactly reticent, it’s rather dwarfed by the grip and intensity of the expanding palate. This wine pulls off the trick of being powerful but not heavy, and that thrilling balance of acidity and sweetness keeps you coming back for more.

Tasting notes

pale lemon, tiny bubbles of CO2

Intensity medium(+?)

Aromas orchard fruits (ripe yellow apple, peach), blossom, honey, backed by piercing citrus and sweet spice (ginger)

Development youthful

Sweetness off-dry

Acidity high

Body medium-

Intensity medium+, builds to pronounced

Flavours lime, melon, sweet spice, touch of honey

Length long

Flavours as palate, minerally, sweetness then mouthwatering acidity
Other notes
Unoaked. Powerful but not heavy.

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