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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Riesling Revisited















Sound Riesling


Riesling is one of three classic aromatic white grape varieties originally from the cool northern European wine region of Alsace. The other two are Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Riesling is also a wine that a lot of people love to hate.  In fact, many of my overseas wine tour clients (especially Brits) produce garlic and crucifixes at the very mention of the word and have to be seriously talked into trying one of ours.

The blame goes way back to some pretty awful sugary sweet style Rieslings from the 1970s and early 1980s.These were cheap, mass-produced wines in quirky bottles which caught the imagination of newbie wine drinkers and for many years thereafter branded Riesling as a god-awful sweet wine to be avoided. Nowadays we tend toward the drier end of the spectrum, mainly producing wines that are crisp, fruity and dry, or ‘off-dry’ - just slightly sweet. And that’s not to say that Riesling can’t shine as a sweet style when the grapes are left on the vine till they are extremely ripe and full of
natural fructose sugar. Taken to extreme, these wines are called Late Harvest Riesling (very ripe and shrivelled); or Noble Riesling (affected by a symbiotic fungus called Botrytis, which sucks out the water content and leaves very sweet concentrated juice with a honeyed taste).

Craggy Range Te Muna Martinborough Riesling 2014 $NZ 33.00 
A very classy, lean and elegant style with aromas of lemon squash and jasmine.  Fruity and just nudging off-dry with a mouth-watering crisp finish.
Available from Glengarry

Rockburn  Tigermoth Central Otago Riesling 2013 $NZ 30.60 
Another clean and lean style.  Not a lot of aromas – with just a hint of herbs and beeswax, but opens up on the palate with tangerine, honey and Rose’s lime juice. The back label says ‘medium sweet’ which is about right, but there is some racy acidity in there to balance the natural sugars. 9% alcohol.
Available from Glengarry, or online at Advintage

Dusky Sounds Waipara Riesling 2014 $NZ 12.00
Just to prove that it’s not always about the price. Great value easy-drinking medium dry style with flavours of lime and lemonade, and hint of green herbs. Finishes dry.
Widely available

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Kabinett Semi-Dry Riesling 2013 $NZ 27
Rheingau is one of the smallest of Germany's 13 wine regions, yet renowned for its Rieslings. The bottle presentation is pretty cool – it looks like a metal screwcap closure, but is sealed with a T-shaped glass stopper and a clear plastic seal.  Anyway, this is a more subtle yet complex wine, with faint citrus blossom and ripe grapefruit aromas.  Swished around the mouth it has a rich palate of grapefruit, nougat and a creamy richness that I’d normally associate with a Champagne method wine.
Available from Glengarry

Ngatarawa Proprietors Reserve Hawkes Bay Noble Riesling 2014  $NZ 39
Yum. I’m a fan of desert wines and this one’s a ripper. Aromas of beeswax, honey and candied orange peel.  It’s a luscious medium bodied sweet wine, but not syrupy. Flavours of dried apricot, honey and marmalade, with just enough zip of citrus to balance the sugars.
Available online from Advintage and Ngatarawa winery.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

2 comments:

  1. My favourite mid-range (okay, supermarket) Riesling is still Giesen Riesling (particularly 2013) sourced from their Marlborough vineyards. Dry onto the tongue and sweet off.

    I often find Pinot Gris bland, but love a nice Gewürztraminer (thinking of Chard - Otago - but not had one in a long while.)

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  2. Quite agree. I do like the Giesen Gwz too.

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