Riesling is a grape native to Germany. In particular the beautiful Rhine region with its rolling hills, crystal clear waters and Alpine life. It’s one of the three noble white grapes alongside Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but far behind them in the number of plantings worldwide. To me, that’s a little bit of a shame. It creates wines with intense fruity aromas that express the terroir much more than its stable mates.
A Riesling wine isn’t usually as dry as most other whites, making it an important part of a wine list. It offers a point of difference for consumers looking for something with a bit of sweetness or a wine to pair with spicy foods. Indian and Chinese spice provide a perfect match.
It’s not all about German Riesling. Riesling was once the go-to for plantings in Australia until the rise of Chardonnay. You can still find some stunning examples in the countries cooler climates such as the Clare Valley and Tasmania. Across the sea in New Zealand, cool areas such as Marlborough and Central Otago are picking up the mantle for New World Riesling, producing typically terroir-expressive wines.
If I have managed to pique your interest in stocking a Riesling wine then read on. I’ve asked our wine experts to put forward some of the best examples in our wine list; five of them to be precise. We’ve got all areas covered with Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia and the USA all accounted for!
Bay of Fires Riesling, Tasmania – Australia >
This award winning Riesling from Northern Tasmania shows the grape at its very best. The Bay of Fires winery was founded upon the vision that Tasmania would one day be the pre-eminent region in Australia to produce cool-climate wines. You’d find it hard to argue against them when you’ve tried this wine. With a bright green hue, this Riesling wine flaunts a bouquet of fragrant aromas featuring fresh lime coupled with subtle hints of musk.
The juicy, vibrant palate shows luscious citrus and a crisp mineral acidity, ensuring drinkability whilst young. At Bay of Fires, they choose to blend grapes harvested from a number of premium regions across Tasmania. The grapes for this wine come from the Derwent and Coal River Valleys, regions that are relatively cool and dry, producing wines that are perfumed, elegant and complex.
Riesling Alsace Grand Cru Eichberg, Domaine Zinck – France >
Paul Zinck established the family-owned estate of Domaine Zinck in 1964. Based in Eguisheim, a beautiful medieval Alsatian village close to Colmar and the Vosges Mountains that keep the area warm and dry. The calcareous clay soil of the Eichberg Grand Cru vineyards develops rich, opulent wines built on solid minerality.
The nose of the wine is precise and elegant; marked by a high degree of minerality, it suggests fresh notes of grapefruit, lemongrass and flint. On the palate, the wine proves to be lively and chiselled; this Riesling is completely dry with a vivacious character.
Loosen Bros Dr L Riesling, Mosel – Germany >
Situated on Germany’s Mosel River the Dr. Loosen estate has been in the same family for more than 200 years. The Riesling grapes used to make Dr L, come exclusively from traditional vineyards with steep slopes and slate soils. The best vineyard sites are close to the river, with the water keeping the air warmer at night and during the day often reflects sunlight onto the vines.
Ernst Loosen assumed ownership in 1988. He realised that, with ungrafted vines averaging 60 years old in some of Germany’s top-rated vineyards, he had the raw materials to create stunningly intense, world-class Riesling wine. So that is exactly what he has done. Fresh and light with the classic Mosel raciness, this wine shows citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lime with mineral notes and a touch of spritz on the finish.
Ceres Composition Riesling, Central Otago – New Zealand >
Heading back down under now for an example from New Zealand. Ceres Wines is a tiny family owned and operated artisan producer from Bannockburn in Central Otago. Their Pinot Noir, of which they only produce around 250 cases a year, has stolen most of the chatter about this winery but the same dedication and expertise are applied to craft an intense Riesling wine.
This Riesling is just off-dry with 10 g/l residual sugar to balance a mineral and acidic backbone. The bouquet is elegant with aromas of mineral-infused white flowers, with a little flintiness and delicate lime and lemon fruit. Off-dry on the palate, a fruit amalgam of limes, lemons, and exotic florals with an- intense and concentrated body.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes – USA >
Riesling was brought to the United States by 19th-century German immigrants and almost immediately, it was the Finger Lakes region of New York states that became the home to US Riesling production, a pocket of German wine making. In fact, by 2012 the US had the world’s second biggest area of Riesling vineyard after Germany.
Dr. Frank arrived in the US in 1951. He was a professor of plant sciences and had brought with him a vision that would elevate wine growing in the region. A decade later he founded his own winery on the back of his research, growing the delicate European vinifera grape varieties in the local climate.
The grapes for this dry Riesling wine were grown on the shale-rich soils in steeply-sloping vineyards to the west of the Keuka Lake. The site provides excellent drainage of both water and cold air and Riesling thrives here. The fruit is picked in the early morning to retain freshness and then fermented with specially-selected German yeasts at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. A long, slow fermentation develops the wines delicate floral aromatics. Expressive with grapefruit, lime and tangy star fruit notes on the palate. The crisp acidity is enhanced by a distinctive minerality, often referred to as the Keuka Lake minerality.
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