Riesling from the ashes
A couple of things happened this week that reminded me it was time to write an article about possibly the most noble and definitely the most misunderstood white grape in the world of wine; Riesling.
The first of my “Riesling moments” was a tweet by Jimmy from West London Wine School informing me about an upcoming JJ Prum tasting (link to event), the second was a visit to my favourite wine shop, Wine and the Vine in Battlers Green, where Jez had a number of Rieslings on his tasting table.
Riesling has so much going for it. It is such a versatile grape, from bone dry to super sweet. You can match Riesling with almost any food; white meat, a wide variety of seafood, and its great with spicy food. The grape is also grown in many different parts of the world, revealing lots about its place of origin, its terroir. Just listing some of the aroma and flavour characteristics of Riesling makes my mouth salivate… Citrus, tropical, floral, mineral. And what about the development of petrol aromas when Riesling is aged? It might not sound like fun, but it really adds depth and complexity to an already fascinating wine.
So where in the wine world do you go for Riesling?
Riesling originated in the Rhine region of Germany and is the most planted variety in the country. The real home of Riesling is found on the beautiful steep, south facing slopes of the Mosel Valley, overlooking the stunning chocolate-box villages below. German wine is still suffering from the awful Hock and Liebfraumilch that filled supermarket shelves in the 80’s but please, forget all you know, go back with an open mind and you will not be disappointed.
The following designations will help you determine the level of sweetness in the wines. Also the word “Trocken” on the label means dry.
For dry/medium style:
Kabinett – light in body with high acidity and a touch of sweetness
Spatlese – means late harvest, often fuller in body and medium sweet
Auslese – more body and more tropical flavours. Increasing number of dry wines at this level
Beerenauslese – individually selelected, over-ripe grapes
Trockenbeerenauslese – even more concentrated, more sweet, and more expensive!
Eiswein – picked when frozen to concentrate the juice even more. Worth reading about as this is a remarkable process
Weegmuller Riesling Trocken 2009, Pfalz (Wine and the Vine £13.99)
Delightful nose of lemon, limes and passion fruit with a wonderful slaty minerality. On the palate the fruit hits you and there is a delicious balance of acidity and sweet fruit. Then comes a nervy steeliness and lots of slate mineral, leading to wonderful dry and long finish. Great balance, beautiful wine. 91 points
These wines tend to be mostly very dry with lots of mouth-watering acidity. Often quite rich and big-bodied, they can offer some if the best drinking experience you will encounter. Lots of these wines are very expensive and made to last, however there are some fantastic wines at the £10 level that are fruity, cleansing and simply wonderfully delicious.
Dopff Au Moulin Riesling 2010, Alsace (Wine and the Vine £12.85)
Stylish with lovely straight-line citrus aromas. Very tight palate of apple and limes, with medium body and just a whisper of spice. Lovely clean and bright finish, simple and delicious. 89 points
Australia & New Zealand
Australian Rieslings are noted for their citrus fruit flavours and a great balance of freshness and acidity. The bone-dry Rieslings of the Eden and Clare valleys in South Australia offer some remarkably consistent and enjoyable wines and are my pick to go along with spicy food. Western Australia are also producing some great examples of lime-drenched wines with a touch of sweetness, which is just perfect for a summer afternoon in the garden.
Riesling has flourished in the relatively cool climate of New Zealand, particularly in the Marlborough area (it produces more than just Sauvignon Blanc!). New Zealand Rieslings are generally very light bodied, extremely refreshing, and often have a lovely off-dry finish. Personally I would rather pay £10 for an expressive NZ Riesling than another run if the mill Sauvignon Blanc.
Knappstein Watervale Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, South Australia (The Wine Society £19.00)
Beautiful hint of orange and marzipan aromas with just an ounce of petroleum, developed in the bottle. On the palate the freshness is wonderful and massive concentrated citrus fruit, especially limes. A bone dry but long and elegant finish. New world Riesling at its best and most elegant. 92 points
St Clair Riesling 2010, Marlborough, NZ (Wine and the Vine £12.85)
Lots of bright citrus fruit and even a hint of orange/marmalade jumping out of the glass. The flavours of the fruit translate into the mouth and this is a very pleasant and very refreshing glass of wine, with a wonderfully balanced and mineral finish. A fun and bright wine to drink by itself or to accompany a spicy meal. 89 points
And here’s a coupe of other examples of Rieslings I have tasted recently from Spain and South Africa.
Jordan The Real McCoy Riesling 2011, Stellenbosch, SA (Wine and the Vine £11.45)
I love Riesling, whether from Alsace, Germany or South Australia. This delivers something from everywhere! Lots of limes and green apple plus a dash of tinned pineapple on the nose. Crisp and fruity and just a bit smokey, lots of freshness and just a hint of sweetness. Seriously good and just over a tenner. Brilliant with my Friday night curry! 90 points
Torres Waltroud Riesling 2011, Penedes, Spain (N/A in UK)
I chose this to accompany a lunch of seafood tapas on a recent visit to Barcelona and what a good choice it turned out to be. At first taste I thought it may be a touch off-dry, but this was simply the juiciness of limes and pineapple chunks coming through. The finish was actually bone dry and rather reminiscent of a wine from the Clare Valley – a very modern and enjoyable wine (89 points)
So give Riesling a try… You won’t be disappointed.