Do you say R-ees-ling or R-ise-ling?
the grape variety that can make wine in many styles and can be pronounced in many ways. However, it is a grape with a long history in the UK wine trade and consumers love to hate it due to the poor quality that resulted from the constant price battle to make ever cheaper Liebfraumilch and other German wines such as the brands: Blue Nun and Black Tower in the ‘90’s. Prior to this time quality German Riesling was a real star in the UK.
Thankfully, Riesling lives on to tell the tale in quality wines from around the world but they need introduction to gain wider appeal again. The great thing is the number of different styles available worldwide that eventually lead us back to Germany especially for fabulous dessert wines.
Riesling wines are very refreshing with a naturally low level of alcohol, a high level of fruity acidity and a unique aroma that is both floral and grapy with honey, herbs and spices & many are capable of aging well in bottle too. The diverse wine styles range from minerally dry through half dry and increasing levels of sweetness and richness through to luscious dessert wine richness in many parts of the world.
In Germany there are some superb Riesling wines produced by growers such as Ernie Loosen, ‘the Prince of Riesling’ and S A Prumm. The latter make Riesling based wines that have the classic characteristics of floral, refreshing grapey notes. The Mosel and Rhine regions are the main areas for this grape on the steep stony hillsides in Germany. Mosel Rieslings have lovely minerally overtones whereas those of the Pfalz and Rheingau are more fleshy with richer peachy notes. Austria, its neighbour is gaining a good reputation for their broader yet elegant Riesling wines from producers – Weingut Pfaffle and Eschenhof Holzer.
Alsace producers are masters of Riesling too with dry yet full styles with a less obvious acidity that ages beautifully gaining in complexity over time. This is especially evident in the Turckheim Cooperative’s Grand Cru Brand Riesling amongst others. Many Riesling based honeyed dessert wines are produced in Alsace such as those from A Metz. They are produced when the fruit is attacked by noble rot and labelled as Vendanges Tardive, literally Late Harvest or Selection des Grains Nobles where the shriveled grapes have high levels of sugar and capable of making luscious nectar like wine.
Riesling is becoming an icon of winemaking in Tasmania, Western Australia & in Eden Valley and Clare Valley of South Australia where the cooler climates result in intense distinctive aromas and flavours that are limey and zesty, dry to off-dry in style and can age in bottle, gaining delicious luscious complexity.
New Zealand offers real opportunity for Riesling, the cooler climate well-suited to enabling slow ripening and flavour development and the very best are intense & full of vibrant flavours. Marlborough, has successfully made Riesling wines with crisp, high acidity, balanced alcohol, delicate fruit aromas such as those from Zephyr and Clark Estates. In Central Otago the vineyards around Queenstown provide fantastic conditions for making elegant dry styles such as those from renowned film director and actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks vineyards.
All these styles from one grape variety – try Riesling again and you’ll find it hard not to enjoy at least one of it’s amazing wine styles from somewhere!