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24th September 2021 by Rachel Wallhouse
One of the wine world’s undervalued star grapes. One that provides an almost blank canvas to a winemaker, giving them the ability to create something different every time.
Long regarded as the ‘Grape’ of Germany, this grape can create a myriad of styles that can outlive nearly all the high profile red wine styles. It now appears in a variety of grape growing countries including South Africa, USA and Australia, where it has made a new home in the Eden and Clare Valleys.
Riesling wears a distinctive ‘Coat’, the majority of Riesling wines are bottled in a tall, slender bottle, a good 3-5 cms taller than normal bottles (A bit of a pain when trying to fit them on fixed shelving), but a good deal thinner. They are easily recognised when browsing the shelves. Their Germanic style labels are crammed full of information about the contents inside. It includes information about bottle size, alcohol content, region, wine style, grower and quality level, so that it is easier to make a more informed choice. All the information, coupled with the various styles available, there is a Riesling for all palates.
But it was the dramatic downfall in the 1980’s that saw a slump in the purchase of Riesling in the UK. During the early 80’s Austria was selling a
lot of their Riesling to the German supermarkets, but due to some poor weather conditions during the growing season, over several years the
grapes were felt to be lacking in body, only a few winemakers were involved and it was discovered that by adding Glycol, it would add body and weight to the wine. This was swiftly discovered and the adulterated wine was destroyed, the shockwaves through the Austrian wine making
community meant a total redraft of their winemaking rules to become some of the toughest regulations in the world, and a beacon for top quality wines. Now, at the Whalley Wine Shop we are seeing a resurgence market for Rieslings, and also in the Whalley Wine Bar too.
“But it’s far too sweet….” I hear you cry. Well yes, there are some sweet styles in the all encompassing range of styles, and jolly nice they are too. But with a couple of little tips, there are some beautiful, crisp, zingy styles.
The first one is to have a little look at the alcohol content, generally the lower the alcohol number then the sweeter the wine. So if a German
Riesling says there is 7.5% alcohol content, then it tends to be on the sweeter side, 10-11% is more off-dry (think really ripe fruit) and then more
than 11% is a drier style. Also where the wines come from is a nice handy hint, wines from Australia’s Eden Valley are bursting with crisp, dry, citrus notes such as lime and lemon, bursting with acidity like an ice cold Sprite. Between these two regions there is more than enough to tempt any palate.
1. Weingut Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2019 £23.99
Just look at all that info in the name, Max Richter is the producer, Juffer-Sonnenuhr is the vineyard, Riesling is the grape and Spätlese is the style (means its harvested late) and the year it was produced. All that and on the back it says 7.5% alc. This wine is bursting with ripe fruit aromas, maybe a touch of the infamous Riesling ‘Diesel’ note, lots of citrus but drizzled with a little honey, very long length flavours with a
little stone/slate finish. An excellent introduction to Riesling. If you can, decant this wine about twenty minutes before serving it.
2. Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2020 £16.99
Charles Smith was on tour in the States when he was told that he should get into wine making, as the Danish heavy rock band he was playing in wouldn’t last much longer. He was in Washington State at the time, and that's where he decided to start. This Riesling is a little higher in alcohol, 12% and full of stone fruit aromas such as Apricot, yellow plum and nectarine. Classed as an off-dry style there is a softer, rounder mouth feel, but still that little touch of acidity.
3. Pewsey Vale ‘The Contours’ Museum Release 2010 £37.99
This is a fine example of a little bit of age on Riesling. Pewsey Vale likes to keep stock back so they can release examples at five and ten years after the vintage. This wine is bursting with the tell tale Eden Valley lime notes, it’s like LIME in all its styles, lime juice, lime marmalade, lime oil….. Just bursting with freshness, then as the lime fades there’s delicate herb notes and honeysuckle, then a little buttery brioche. So many layers and complex notes, this is one to savour on your own and maybe show your friends on Instagram.
A little Note on German styles.
On the German labels there are keywords to help you ascertain what is the
style of wine you are buying. Here are a few of the words used.
● Trocken (dry)
● Kabinett (dry to off-dry)
● Spätlese (sweet)
● Auslese (sweeter)
● Beerenauslese (very sweet)
● Trockenbeerenauslese (super sweet)
This column first appeared in the Lancashire Post: view here