The Riesling Why

POSTED ON 09/05/2015

Whatever a young man’s fancy turns to in Spring, mine turns to riesling, simple as that. Nothing else quite refreshes or lingers so scentedly in the nostrils as riesling and no other grape runs the gamut from mouthwateringly bone dry to lusciously sweet. The German grape is perhaps the only known great non-French white grape, aka rhine or johannisberg riesling, and not to be confused with its bastard central European cousins, olasz, lutomer and welsch.

My preference is usually for the drier style of riesling thanks to its greater versatility with food, but a beguiling touch of sweetness in a light-bodied frame can make a fine al fresco sipper on a sunny Spring day and the 2012 Balthazar Ress Hattenheimer Schützenhaus Riesling Kabinett, £15.95, Oakham Wines, £74.48/6 in bond, Christopher Keiller, fits that bill for its mouthwatering peachy fruit and crisp appley bite. Cross the border to Alsace and you’ll find superb off-dry intensity of rich, fuller-bodied lime-juicy flavours in the 2012 Rolly Gassmann Riesling, £17.99, Waitrose.

Outside Europe, New Zealand’s cool, maritime climate disposes it to similar styles and producers are now grasping the nettle of sweetness and light. Central Otago’s 2014 Felton Road, Bannockburn Riesling, £20.30 - £21.50, Tanners, Free Run Juice, Field & Fawcett, for instance is a marvel of tropical scents and tonguetingling lemon and lime zest with a light sweet touch of honey, while from Waipara, Pegasus Bay’s 2012 Aria Late Picked Riesling, Waipara, £17.95., is intensely floral with juicy apple, peach and honeyed richness.

I’m increasingly a fan now of drier rieslings from New Zealand in wines such as Marlborough’s 2013 Esk Valley Marlborough Riesling, £13.25, Hoults, Wimbledon Wine, Flagship Wines, whose lime-citrusy fresh scent is complemented by a refreshing prickle and tropical citrusy tang. Nonetheless, the antipodean benchmark for the style remains Australia. Try for instance the wonderfully fragrant, new vintage 2014 Snake & Herring High and Dry Clare Riesling, £16, Marks & Spencer, with its intense appley core flecked with zesty limes, or, on a budget, the tropically juicy 2014 The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling, £6.99, Aldi.

It’s good to see that riesling-mania is finally spreading to the Americas both north and south. Chile has its cooler spots for the variety, notably the Pacific-cooled san Antonia Valley, the origin of the stylish dry and refreshing 2011 Undurraga T.H. San Antonio Riesling, £10.53, The Drink Shop, with riesling’s classic hint of ‘petrol’. North America too is taking quality riesling seriously, viz the wonderfully ripe and zingily citrus-fresh 2012 Tatomer Kick On Ranch Riesling, £26.95 - £28.95, Roberson, Prohibition Wines, and, further north still, from Washington, the 2011 Poets Leap Riesling, Long Shadow Vintners, Columbia Valley, £21.54, Yorkshire Vintners, all jasmine scented lemon and lime fruitiness and vibrant mineral dry aftertaste.

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Night In

2014 The Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay

A well-crafted Aussie chardonnay in Mâcon-like mould with notes of vanilla and appley fruit in its aromas and a more opulent fresh peachy ripeness than Mâcon could summon up at the price, still finishing drinkably dry. £5.99, Aldi.

Dinner Party

2012 Viñalba Malbec Reservado de la Familia

This Argentinian malbec made from grapes in the high altitude Uco Valley of the Andes punches way above its weight with resplendently rich, dark berry fruit and plum fruit shot through with satisfyingly bittersweet chocolatey flavours. £9.99 Morrisons.

Splash Out

2013 Joseph Mellot Menetou-Salon Les Thureaux

This fresh Loire dry white is the real sauvignon deal, scented with nettle-tinged gooseberry and an opulent, tropical fruit style that chimes with fish and salads. £17.65, North and South, Noble Green, Evingtons, DeFine, Amps, Partridges, Halifax, Hoults, Harrisons.

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