Riesling - 31 days later

The ramblings of an oenophile:

In my personal opinion there is only one white grape that produces styles ranging from juicy, mouth-watering, dry and tangy aperitif wines, right through the spectrum of flavours to unctuous, honeyed dessert wines, with the potential to drink any of them young, or old; that grape is RIESLING!

No, I’ve not gone mad. It really is my favourite.

It began many years’ ago with my first ever trip abroad to Germany.

As the recipient of their WSET “Walter Sichel” Scholarship, the visit, courtesy of Sichel (importer of the (infamous) and popular “Blue Nun”), was very much targeted at showing there really was life after the horrors of cheap Liebfraumilch (which mostly never contained any Riesling).

My introduction started promptly at 8 a.m., before breakfast in the hotel, with a line-up including the aforementioned “Blue Nun” which, to say the least, was a big disappointment. Let down by this experience, I wasn’t expecting much after that, but the visit just kept getting better, with some spectacular estate wines, culminating with a final day in the winery laboratory eating fresh strawberries, washed down with some delicious, sweet Auslese, BA, TBA and Eiswein. A stunning combination.

They definitely succeeded in their aim. I’ve been hooked on Riesling ever since then!

Recently, at home, I found a bottle called “Idig”, by A Christmann, that I’d had for 25 years. It just had to get opened. What a wine. Still going strong after a quarter of a century. Replacement cost for a new vintage? £50 each. Unfortunately, you’d have to buy a case direct from Germany. No single bottles allowed.

Riesling is a wonderful wine to age. The best will keep evolving for decades.

A subsequent visit to the Kamptal region in Austria proved that their Riesling had more class than most of the endless Gruner Veltliner wines that were on show at the wineries.

My favourite wine used to be sold as an “Auslese Trocken” dry style, but the current release of the Parker 97-point rated, single vineyard, Willi Brundlmayer Riesling (now labelled, “Zobinger Heiligenstein Alte Reben”) retails elsewhere for close to £60 a bottle. I wish I’d bought cases of it all that time ago when it was much more affordable. Hindsight!

The French can also knock out some brilliant Riesling. Grand Cru Alsace examples, with bottle age, are thrilling to both smell and taste.

I once had an old, clearance bottle of Trimbach’s “Cuvee Frederic Emile”, bought for less than £10 from a Bottoms Up (remember them?). Now that was a 10/10 wine for me. What a bargain. I don’t think they knew how good it was, or the staff would have bought it all at that price.

Current vintage of this wine is going for £30 - £40.

Do you see a pattern here?

Buy some good Riesling and keep hold of it. You won’t regret it. It will only surprise you with the complexity and quality.

By the way, it’s not just the Europeans who can grow quality Riesling.

Australia has great value wines such as the “Aged Release” edition by Paulett’s (Clare Valley) which is rich, dry and full of lime fruit… but it takes the balance and flavour to a new level. It’s not just bottled lime-juice cordial.

Another wine that is no longer available outside of its country of origin is the Capel Vale “Whispering Hill” from Mt. Barker in Western Australia. It’s a high achiever and regularly scores at least 95 points with many critics.

I once tasted a mature bottle at the winery, back in 2000, and, even then, you could only buy it at the vineyard restaurant which, on the day of the visit, was closed. Now just a fond memory!

In the USA, Washington State numbers some great Riesling producers. Chateau Ste. Michelle, in conjunction with Ernie Loosen, has the “Eroica” wine. New World richness with Old World elegance. A winner.

Also, the off-dry styled (and fantastically named/labelled) “Kung Fu Girl” by Charles Smith is an affordable, quaffing wine. More like a Rhine “Kabinett” from Germany. Really fresh & crisp, but with rounded acidity. Perfect with salads.

Cool-climate areas of South Africa now have numerous examples of winemakers who are “Riesling” enthusiasts. Frazier’s has Paul Cluver Estate. Give it a try.

New Zealand is another good source for excellent “Riesling” including the Two Rivers “Juliet” from Marlborough. Winner of the NZ tasting night at Frazier’s, back in the halcyon days of February, 2020.

Check out our full Riesling selection here

31 days is not long enough to try all the great Riesling. Let’s go for 365 instead. Every year!