As Will Hepworth, Manager at Majestic Wine Chichester explains, there are many reasons to love the undervalued ‘noble grape’ – wherever in the world it comes from.

Misunderstood, mispronounced and often overlooked, Riesling deserves so much better than its tainted associations with cheap Hock and Liebfraumilch. Indeed, the fantastic purity of fruit and elegant minerality seen in the best examples really should share the limelight enjoyed by popular varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Old World

Riesling’s home is in the cooler climes of Northern Europe, planted on steep slopes, angled towards the sun, in poor, stony soil. German Rieslings typically balance sweetness with crisp, refreshing acidity and lower alcohol levels. For a drier style, look towards Alsace and Austria, whose long, dry autumns promote gradual ripening and result in fantastic depth of flavour.

Fritz’s vibrant, off-dry German Riesling offers crunchy green apple and citrus lime, while “Dr L” is an elegant introduction to the Mosel style, a medium-dry mouthful of apples and pears balanced by a mineral streak of slate and refreshing acidity. From the warmer Nahe region, Donnhoff’s 2008 Kabinett sings of green apples along with riper stone fruit. The richness  and balancing acidity provide poise, making this wine a great match with richly-sauced pork dishes.

German Riesling can age remarkably well. The 2002 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese is the perfect example of a sweeter style Mosel Riesling with incredible complexity added by ageing. Baked apples, honey and paraffin aromas give way to a luscious honeyed palate, again with that wonderful balancing acidity.

In Alsace, Philippe Zinck produces a lean, racy, nervy wine – fuller in body than its German counterparts but still with wet-stone mineral notes and pure lime citrus flavours. In the Kamptal region in northeast Austria, Brundlmayer produces a purists’ delight, with delicate floral notes and a whiff of talcum powder leading to a subtle, poised palate of limes and blossom. Perfect with an aromatic Asian stir fry.

New World

The Riesling vine thrives in cooler climate New World regions with exciting and sophisticated results. The high-altitude Clare Valley in South Australia – originally settled by Prussian immigrants with Riesling vine cuttings in tow – is just such an area. Knappstein’s Hand Picked Riesling is a great example of the region’s quality and style, with pure lime citrus aromas followed by a crisp, dry, subtly floral palate.

New Zealand also offers up its own hallmark style; typically slightly off-dry and just as food friendly. Multi-award winning Villa Maria’s offering shows zesty lime, apple and passion fruit in a style that partners fish and cold meats superbly. And to finish, a wine made exclusively for Majestic – Fairleigh Estate’s mouthwatering Riesling, whose apples, pears and mineral whiff of petrol are a great match for spicy seafood.

Old World

‘Dr.L’ Riesling, Loosen Brothers 2008, Mosel, Germany

Riesling 2008, Philippe Zinck, France
£7.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles*

Fritz’s Riesling, Gunderloch 2008, Rheinhessen, Germany
£8.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2002, Germany

Dönnhoff Riesling Kabinett 2008, Germany

Riesling Steinmassel 2008, Brundlmayer, Austria

New World

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2008, Marlborough, New Zealand
£7.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Fairleigh Estate Riesling 2008/09, Marlborough, New Zealand
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2008, Clare Valley, Australia

*All prices valid until 26th April 2010

4 thoughts on “Riesling: Old World vs New World

  1. Excellent article and such a breath of fresh air to hear someone in the trade (apart from Jancis Robinson!) harking on about the great German Riesling’s available in this country.

    Far too often I am met by a gasp when I pronounce my undying adoration for the noblest of grapes and then feel abound to proceed with why it is, and always will be, one of the best grape variatals around!

    As Brits we are too quick to brush off German wine as just sugared water from the 70’s under treacherous names that make even tee-totalers shudder!

    If we only knew the hard work and history that goes into every bottle!

    I’m now off to sample a lovely Riesling Spatlese from Johannisberg!


  2. Amazing that in the 1930’s riesling cost 4 times as much as really good white burgundy.Now really good white burgundy is at least 4 times as much as good riesling.There are of course exceptions but in the round for my palate and pocket
    German rieslings are the best value buys on the planet closely followed by high quality sherry – amazing how fashions change and are sometimes influenced.

  3. We have just drunk the last of our bottles of the superb 2008 Fairleigh Estate Riesling and I noticed to my dismay that it is no longer stocked by Majestic. Is this a temporary thing or is it permanent?

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