A Fellowship of Riesling

POSTED ON 07/03/2015

I tasted the wines but missed the speeches at The Riesling Fellowship last month; a shame because the Wines of Germany initiative turned out to be rather more controversial than expected. Asked to give their thoughts on a riesling that inspired them, Jancis Robinson MW and Hugh Johnson duly obliged. When it came to Stuart Pigott, author of The Riesling Story, The Best White Wine on Earth (£15.99, Stewart Tabori & Chang), he looked beyond his chosen 2012 Kupfergrube Gut Hermannsberg Riesling to ‘the raids that targeted the urban civilian population of Germany…It caused quite a stink’.

Though it looked as though he was biting the hand that awarded him the Riesling Felllowship, Pigott felt compelled to tell the story as he saw out of respect for his mentor, Philip Eyres. Eyres was the German UK specialist merchant who’d introduced many, Pigott included, to the joys of German riesling. I had always thought it was the blandness of liebfraumilch coupled with the brush-tarring image of ‘bastard’ rieslings such as lutomer laski riesling that had once prejudiced us against German riesling. It had never occurred to me that there might also have been a ‘don’t mention the war’ factor too.

True or not, there were some excellent German rieslings on show that evening. From Rheinhessen, Weingut Wittmann showed the magisterial new dry style with a peaches and cream dry white of serious mineral intensity in the 2013 Westhofener Riesling, £21.75, The Wine Barn, while biodynamic producer Peter Jakob Kühn showed a mouthwatering lemon and lime-crisp dry white with the 2012 Doosberg Riesling GG, £32.99, The Winery. Also from Rheinhessen, Weingut Thörle, showed a creamy-textured, juicily citrus zesty 2013 Riesling Gutswein, £14.95, Caviste, and Weingut Braunewell a smoky, refreshingly crisp 2013 Essenheim Riesling Kalkstein, £11.95, Lea & Sandeman.

Soon after, Stuart Pigott was in Australia commenting on the improved quality and regional definition of Australian riesling. Coincidentally, I came to a similar conclusion, tasting a raft of Aussie Rieslings for Decanter Magazine. It’s no secret that Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia now produce a range of exciting dry Rieslings that have re-kindled our affair with the variety.

Try for instance the captivating 2009 Peter Lehmann Wigan, Eden Valley, £11.74 - 14.99, The Drink Shop, Noel Young, the lime-centric 2013 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling, £9.99, The Co-op, and superfresh 2014 version, buy 2 = £9.74, Majestic, and the magnificently lime-zesty 2014 Grosset Springvale Riesling, Clare Valley, £22.95 - £24.95 slurp.co.uk, Exel Wines, Altus Wine, Martinez. The biggest eye-opener was that the Great Southern in Western Australia is now emerging as a serious rival to Clare and Eden. When more of the superb 2014 vintage comes on stream, I aim to report in greater depth on these mouthwatering wines.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2013 Madonnina Gavi del Commune di Gavi

No, not Madonna’s wine, but, rather, a deliciously refreshing expression of this Piedmontese dry white to whose juicy apple and pear flavours the cortese grape brings a juicy Alpine-crisp snap. 7.99, down from £11.99, until 15 March, Morrisons.

Dinner Party

2007 Orovela Saperavi Kakheti, Georgia

This accomplished Georgian red made from the saperavi grape shows bright, spicy black fruit aromas and appetisingly sappy fresh blackberry fruit that’s nicely rounded out by oak with succulent texture and balance. £12.49, down from £16.99, until 17 March, Waitrose.

Splash Out

2011 Château Thivin, Côte de Brouilly, Cuvée Godefroy

No easy-drinking Beaujolais but moreishly easy to drink, this is a succulent, mouthwatering gamay whose savoury, mulberry fruit makes it a great partner for spiced Hunan chicken. £14.10 - 18.95, Beaujolais and Beyond, Berry Bros & Rudd.

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