Three Takeaways from Riesling Rendezvous

What a busy year we’re having! With a successful harvest and the exciting release of our new 2015 vintage GG (dry “grand cru”) Rieslings now in our rearview mirror, we’d like to pause for a moment and think back to Riesling Rendezvous, an event we co-hosted with Chateau Ste. Michelle in July.

Chateau Ste Michelle winery Riesling Rendezvous 2016. Photo by Alabastro Photography.
Chateau Ste Michelle winery Riesling Rendezvous 2016. Photo by Alabastro Photography.

If you don’t know about Riesling Rendezvous, it’s the largest event dedicated to Riesling in the United States. Every three years, experts and producers from around the world gather in Seattle to explore the versatility of Riesling, discuss issues and opportunities to advance Riesling and forge alliances among producers and Riesling enthusiasts.

It’s a heady (and delicious!) experience, with a grand tasting on the elegant grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle by rock star Riesling winemakers, formal tastings of dry and off-dry Rieslings, presentations by Riesling regions, panel discussions and much more.

Here are just three highlights from the event:

#1 – Riesling Isn’t Simple. And that’s a Good Thing.

Ernst Loosen
Ernst Loosen giving introductory remarks at the start of Riesling Rendezvous.

Riesling is the world’s most versatile wine. It comes in a wide range of flavor profiles, from bone dry to dessert sweet. Produced around the world with great distinctiveness from region to region, its range of flavors and aromas is so guided by terroir that four rows of vines in a vineyard can produce an entirely different wine from the four next door.

We in the trade have struggled for decades to find ways to simplify Riesling for consumers, to make it easy for them to understand and choose wines that fit their taste. It continues to be an uphill challenge as steep as the Mosel vineyards where our Rieslings are grown.

In his opening remarks at Riesling Rendezvous, Ernst Loosen put forth this revolutionary idea:

“Whenever we have a Riesling event like this one, there’s always a lot of discussion about how to find the perfect, most simple message about Riesling that will make more people want to try it. The simple truth about Riesling is: it is complicated. And I think we need to start looking beyond simple messages about Riesling and truly embrace its astonishing diversity and complexity.”

Whether you agree or disagree, one thing is certain: the Riesling community is big enough for all points of view!

#2 – A New Riesling Video to Help Educate Consumers About Riesling


Following on Erni’s remarks, how do we help consumers learn about Riesling? How do we even get them to try it?

At Riesling Rendezvous, the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) debuted a new video “Your New Favorite Wine.” This is a great tool for helping people open their minds and hearts and palates to Riesling. We join the IRF in strongly encouraging you to visit the IRF YouTube channel where you can play and download it as well as other Riesling education videos.

If you’re in the trade, show the video in staff training sessions, play it for consumers at Riesling tastings, and share it on all of your social media. If you’re a consumer, please watch it and share with your friends!

#3 – Climate Change and Riesling

One of the most well-attended breakout sessions at Rendezvous was a presentation on climate change by Professor Hans Schultz of Geisenheim University and Professor/Research Climatologist Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University.

Climate change presentation at Riesling Rendezvous 2016
Climate change presentation at Riesling Rendezvous 2016

They confirmed what every wine producer in the room knew in their bones: worldwide, 2015 was the warmest growing season on record.

The good news, according to Professor Schultz, is that Riesling is one of the most elastic grape varieties, tolerating a wide range of temperatures. However, Riesling so expressive of all of its growing conditions that temperature changes will likely play a very significant role in how the grapes express their terroir. Changes in flavor are a likely result.

Professor Jones also pointed out that climate change will vary by Riesling region, affecting vines differently with frost, changing night and day conditions, vine respiration, and more.

Both experts agreed that change is coming to the world of Riesling, but at this point it’s very hard to predict just what and where that change will be.

For a more in-depth look at the presentation, please see Peter Mitham’s excellent article on Wines and Vines.

See You in 2019!

Riesling Rendezvous will be happening again in 2019. We hope to see you at the next one.

Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling Rendezvous 2016 Farewell Reception at Bell Harbor. Photo by Alabastro Photography.
Erni and Bob Bertheau at Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling Rendezvous 2016 Farewell Reception at Bell Harbor. Photo by Alabastro Photography.