Riesling (pron. rees-ling).
Wine writer and TV personality Oz Clarke once described Riesling as the teacher’s pet of the wine world. Beloved by the wine trade, misunderstood by everyone else.
He’s right. Ask one of the wine gurus in store about Riesling, and you’ll likely get an enthused response. We love it. We’re convinced that it should be the next big thing, bigger than Sauvignon Blanc. Except it probably won’t. But hey, more for the rest of us, right! Why though? Why ever not?
Much like Sauvignon, Riesling is an aromatic grape variety. The hallmark aromas are of lime, grapefruit, green fruits, beeswax, and can go towards stone fruits when really ripe. When extremely ripe – over-ripe some would say – you’ll find notes of pineapple flesh. With age it develops a pronounced paraffin-like aroma that some people liken to a garage forecourt. Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing!
It has naturally high acidity, which gives it tremendous longevity as well as that trademark piercing freshness, food-friendliness, and makes it well suited to both dry and sweet styles. Riesling doesn’t suit time in new oak barrels at all, though, which mutes the aromatic qualities of the grape.
A grape of Germanic origins, Riesling’s first crime is being mispronounced. I before E pronounces E in German – hence ‘rees-ling’ and not ‘ryes-ling’.
The second crime is far greater, and sadly it’s not the grape’s fault at all. Order a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc and you can be virtually certain the wine will be dry. Order a Riesling and you could get anything from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. What’s a thirsty wine-lover to do?
First choice? Play roulette. Pick a bottle, chill well and discover for the pure enjoyment of the unexpected.
Better choice? Ask one of our wine gurus in store. Tell them how you’d like your wine and they’ll point you to the perfect bottles. And if they get it wrong, you get your money back.
If you want a dry or off-dry Riesling, that means Alsace, Austria and Australia.
If you want an off-dry through to sweet Riesling, drink German. Germany produces all styles of Riesling from bone-dry to lusciously sweet, but the majority are off-dry to medium. New Zealand tends to produce wines in similar – if fuller bodied – style to Germany.
If you want lusciously lip-smacking gorgeousness, go for Canadian Icewine, German/Austrian Eiswein, Beerenauselese or Trockenbeerenauslese. Anything New World that says Noble, Botrytis or Late-Harvest will be sweet.
Here are two choices of drier styles to kick you off on your adventure into this thoroughly under-appreciated variety, and a full on sugar-bomb to delight in.
Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia – Get it here
Taste: Dry. Lime and grapefurit peel scented with ginger, beeswax and orange blossom. Haunting crisp acidity makes this explosively refreshing.
Enjoy It With: Spicy dishes, especially aromatic Asian dishes featuring ginger, lime, and coriander/cilantro.
Dinner Party Nugget: Winemaker Tom is the grandson of founder Jim Barry. He studied with Dr Ernst Loosen in the Mosel Valley, so he knows a thing or two about making top quality Riesling.
Hunawihr Riesling, Alsace, France – Get it here
Taste: Off dry. Ripe lime, lemon and honeysuckle florals leading to a zingy fresh burst of pear, green apple and peach.
Enjoy It With: Great seafood wine, particularly mackerel. Try smoked mackerel pate with a dollop of horseradish on crisp rye.
Dinner Party Nugget: The cooperative of Hunawihr was founded in 1952 and has 120 members – these members are growers who group together to share a winery. Winemaking is in the hands of Nicolas Garde, a native of Alsace who trained in Burgundy and New Zealand. This old vine Riesling was chosen for our range by our store managers.
Jackson Estate Botrytis Riesling, Marlborough, Australia – Get it here
Taste: Fully, lusciously sweet. Manuka honey, succulent peach and apricot, orange marmalade and nectarine with lemon drizzled on top.
Enjoy It With: If feeling utterly sated after a superb dinner but still craving a sweet treat to finish, look no further. If you do have space for pudding, have this with ginger & lemon crème brulée or any creamy, fruity dessert.
Dinner Party Nugget: Botrytis is short for Botrytis Cinerea, a type of necrotrophic fungal rot. Gross, right? Don’t worry, it’s as safe as driving a Volvo, only far more delicious. It punctures the skins of grapes so that all the moisture evaporates, thus concentrating the sugars and acids so you end up with tiny, miniscule amounts of super-flavoursome juice. It also adds a unique marmalade character to the wine, which is the hallmark of the finest Sauternes and Tokaji.
Simple when you know how, right? If in doubt, ask one of our wine gurus in store and they’ll take you to a bottle you’ll love.