Some wineries in Germany, especially historical ones, devote themselves to only planting Riesling, the king of white wine. Schloss Vollrads in Rheingau, one of the oldest wineries in Germany – selling the first bottle of wine some 800 years ago in 1211 – is one such 100%-Riesling wine estate.
Schloss Vollrads has been present in Hong Kong for 15 years and recently appointed Enoteca, a wine importer with eight retail outlets, as its agent here. Dr Rewald Hepp, the winemaker and managing director of Schloss Vollrads, flew to Hong Kong for the Enoteca celebration dinner at Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Shang Palace at Kowloon Shangri-La.
Dr Hepp explained that Riesling is the best food wine because it supports but not dominates food, and I can’t agree more. Its crisp acidity counteracts any richness, while its versatility and complexity complement a wide range of food.
Schloss Vollrads is the founding member of VDP (an association of premium wine estates in Germany), and Rheingau is arguably the most prestigious Riesling-growing region in Germany, so the quality of the wine is beyond doubt. The estate makes 10–15 Rieslings from its 80-hectare Riesling vineyards, ranging from sparkling and dry to semi-sweet and sweet. Guests eagerly awaited to see what Chef Long Yin Cheung and Sommelier Cyrus Ho from Shang Palace had up their sleeves with their wine and food pairings.
The first dish was deep-fried shrimp paste ball with marinated red jellyfish and spring onion oil (黃金百花球拼葱油紅海蜇頭), paired with Schloss Vollrads Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken 2017, an entry-level dry Riesling. The interplay between the acidity, oiliness and strong flavours was superb.
The second dish was crispy shredded eel fillet with osmanthus and honey (桂花蜜餞脆鱔球), paired with Schloss Vollrads Riesling Spätlese 2016, a late-harvest fruity Riesling. Some guests wondered if the wine would be too sweet for the dish, but the result was perfect. Both the dish and wine had similar palate weights, and the pronounced floral and fruity notes of the wine complemented the flavours of the osmanthus and honey. Chef Cheung later told us that he had experimented with different quantities of osmanthus and honey to find the optimum ratio in order to make sure we were not disappointed.
The surprise pairing of the dinner was the sautéed Angus beef with asparagus in XO sauce (XO醬露筍爆安格斯牛柳條). Sommelier Ho paired this dish with two contrasting wines: Schloss Vollrads Riesling Auslese 2011, a semi-sweet Riesling, and Schloss Vollrads Winkler Schlossberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2015, the best-quality single-vineyard dry Riesling from Schloss Vollrads.
The verdict of the pairing was split half and half depending on one’s tolerance for chilli. Dr Hepp said that he preferred the dry wine with the first bite of the beef, but as the XO sauce intensified, he found the semi-sweet Auslese a better match. This pairing fully demonstrates how wine and food can complement each other and enhance diners’ sensations. Everyone gave a thumbs up to Ho’s creative pairings!
Amongst all the Rieslings, I think the most meaningful one was the Schloss Vollrads Edition Riesling 2016. “Edition” is not an official German wine term, and Dr Hepp explained that this wine represents the entire Schloss Vollrads team. Every year for the past 25 years, all staff members select their favourite wine, and the wine with the most votes is then bottled as “Edition”. The style and quantity of the wine vary naturally every year. The 2016 edition is harmonious and paired well with the golden fresh abalone with spicy salt (椒鹽鮮鮑魚).
At the end of the evening, we were treated to the delicious Schloss Vollrads Riesling Beerenauslese 2010. Beerenauslese and the even rarer Trockenbeerenauslese are sweet wines made with noble-rot grapes; they are weather dependent and thus not made every year. The last three vintages were 2010 (200 bottles), 2011 (450 bottles) and 2018 (still in casks). These wines are intense with multilayered aromas, from delicate floral to marmalade and honey. They are sweet yet fresh on the palate thanks to the high acidity of Riesling.
Riesling is no doubt a chameleon for pairing with food. Gather a few friends and enjoy the endless pairing possibilities of Riesling with different cuisines.