Week 4 – Riesling

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I’m intrigued to see how this week goes. Riesling has got such a bad name for itself and in my mind is due for a reinvention. Maybe our project can, in a small way, nudge this lovely grape back in the right direction?

I’ve again risked the wrath of Andy, bringing home two Rieslings to try. I was in Austria last week for work and was reminded by just how amazing their dry Rieslings are. So it seemed only right to smuggle back a bottle of Brundlmayer Riesling to try alongside the Australian Riesling we’d put in our buying guide. At least I then I have two chances to make Andy love this grape.

I’ll start with my thoughts on the Brundlmayer Austrian Riesling. It was their “Ried Heiligenstein” vineyard which is a special site in the Kamptal area. This tends to mean the wine has more intensity and specific expression. For me it beautifully expresses the lime blossom youthful aroma of a good Riesling. Then on the palate it has that nervy acidity that makes it brilliantly refreshing, lots of lime zest, very bright but with a fresh mineral core that balances the fruit richness and makes it feel as lean as a good Chablis. And the good news is that almost all Austrian Rieslings are dry, so you can make it your “go-to” European region for good dry Riesling.

Then onto the Pike Family Riesling from Clare Valley in Australia. On tasting this is off dry, so not the exact match to my desired example of a bone dry new world Riesling. However that sweetness is really nicely in balance and doesn’t feel noticeable. Its aroma is more of a mellow lime, with tropical pineapple notes that definitely reflects the difference between new and old world styles. Pleasingly there is a hint of petrol that is an early sign of how it will age. And a bit of a savoury green olive tang which I often find in good Oz Rieslings. So a wine with real depth of flavour and richness.

We had this with a sort of lazy tapas style dinner to go with the Rieslings. Homemade guacamole, gouda cheese, olives and a couscous salad (that was mostly eaten by me not Andy). I think that was a perfect array of food matches for Riesling. The acidity cut really well through the cheese and the lime flavours matched really well to the Guac. But if we were being more sophisticated I think a Thai Curry would have been perfect.”

Andy says: “I like Riesling. One of the first wines Emma forced me to taste was a Chilean Riesling. It was clean, crisp, sharp, and an utter joy to drink. This was also the time that I learnt that Riesling is a cliched, underrated, darling of the wine world. “It maintains high acidity whatever the climate, so they’re always zesty and fresh” – wheel that phrase out in wine company and score wine points. (And of course don’t forget the Viognier tastes like Violet tip from Week 2).

On to the wines. The Brundlmayer was bone dry, sour (in a good way), and tasted like Rose’s lime cordial. I mean, not exactly like that, but if you were tasting this and someone was like “Lime cordial”, you’d be like, “Yeah, I get you man”.

Clare Valley – definitely sweeter and with a hint of CO2, given away by a slight but detectable tongue tingle. Aromas of green fruit – predominantly lime (expected) and apple. 

I’m not entirely sure which was my favourite. I think we had the Clare Valley a little too warm (I like my (alcoholic) drinks cold. Except of course for hot toddies, the clue is in the name, but not excepting mulled wine. That’s just some December marketing gimmick to get rid of shit red wine. If you liked it that much you’d drink it in February too, wouldn’t you? Ever seen mulled wine in a bar in February? No.)

So in conclusion, I like both. Brundlmayer probably for a warm summer day picnic (I mean beer garden, but Emma’s reading this). Clare Valley, maybe a bit more every day, as it’s cheaper.”

Buying Guidelines

Many friends have raised an eyebrow in a mixture of shock and disgust when I suggest they try a glass of Riesling. Yet for wine geeks this is often considered among the king of grape varieties. My challenge this week is to try to gain some converts.

I suspect many people have been turned off Riesling by tasting relatively cheap off dry German wines. This isn’t to say German Rieslings are not good, they can be incredible. For this reason I’m suggesting we try a new world dry style. For me these tend to have a more ready appeal to the modern palate.

As a first choice, I recommend finding an Australian Riesling from Clare or Eden Valley – the best areas for creating wines with that beautiful rich lime zest character and elegant floral aromas. Alternative hot spots for dry Riesling are South Africa, Chile or New Zealand, but beware some of them do leave a pesky bit of residual sweetness. Another tip is to venture into your local small wine shop this week and simply ask for a nice “dry Riesling”.

If you want a bit more depth of information about Riesling do check out the grape page which gives you some hints on how to find a German Riesling that may be a drier style too.

26 thoughts to “Week 4 – Riesling”

  1. (catch-up!)

    I absolutely love Reisling, i fell in love with a petrol infused example a few years ago, and am constantly amazed at the complexity and variations that this grape is capable of. I have decided to compare an Eden Valley example with a German example, as I don’t have the German ones all that often.

    Wine 1 – Peter & Ulrich Dry Reisling 2016, Germany (Majestic £11)
    Bottle says – ripe apples, lime, stone fruit, minerals

    Firstly, the aromas were definitely of apples, limes and stone-fruits (especially peach and nectarine) with a dash of wet-stone and a slight whiff of petrol.
    This one tasted quite rich and tree-sappy, with a taste of concentrated sugars, not unlike toffee.
    It had a big lemony finish and was very soft and rounded and not too acidic.
    I had this with a bread and butter pudding (made with M&S Sicilian Lemon Curd), which was a combination that can only be described as mind-shatteringly awesome.
    The next day, we had another glass with some herby-chicken, where it struggled a little bit to hold its own.

    Wine 2 – Peter Lehman Riesling, 2016, Eden Valley (Majestic £9)
    Bottle says – a load of twaddle

    The petrol smell in this one was a lot stronger, but not unpleasant. Along with the citrus notes, it made the wine seem very clean, crisp and inviting.
    The petrol was also more noticeable in the taste, but I quite like this, so no problems there. There was also a large amount of unripe stone fruits on the palate.
    The finish was long and subtle with faint notes of citrus lingering for a while.

    All in all, these were two delicious wines in their own right, and with their own identities, although you could tell they belonged to the same family. One thing I did notice during this tasting, was that Reislings benefit from being drunk a degree or two warmer than I normally do, to really bring out the complexities.

    On another side-note, my missus could only taste the petrol in the second one, and said it was more like two-stroke engine oil, so I don’t know if this is a smell that some people pick up on more than others.

  2. We chose Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2014 from Columbia Valley. Riesling is a wine we wouldn’t purchase very often due to a misconception that it was on the sweet side. 52 grapes opened our eyes to the possibilities of the Riesling grape and its ability to produce a range of dry to sweet wines. With that being said our introduction to the opening was an aroma of light peach/pear then lead into a citrus and apple flavor. Pleasant acidity and nice length of finish. We would recommend this wine.
    In the future, I would like to explore Rieslings from the German and French regions…thanks for the enlightenment.

  3. Have been a bit busy this week so I am way behind with Riesling immersion.

    I undertook to buy my Riesling from M&S, having been shamed for making other purchases from Waitrose and Bargain Booze. But, no could do! Our local M&S could only offer German Rieslings so, with tail between my legs, I headed off to Waitrose who had a Clare Valley example for me.

    It was Bailey & Bailey Folio Clare Valley Riesling 2015 11.5%.

    It is a long time since I had tasted Riesling and I had fond memories of a tasting trip down the Rhine and Moselle where we were sampling German wines with real age, rather than bottle and ship wines that were prevalent in those distant days. They were winners of great character and flavour and so I was looking forward to enjoying Riesling anew.

    The wine looked good; grey green in colour and clean and bright, so fine so far.

    The wine was lovely, clean, ripe and perfumed with oily/petrol smells on the nose. Still looking good.

    The palate was clean, dry and astringent with petrol flavours, a prickle on the tongue and a mellow honeyed finish. But I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

    The label said that it give flavours of citrus and floral. Not to me it didn’t!

    So, disappointing. It left me wishing that I had purchased the German Riesling from M&S. Perhaps I still will.

  4. I bought Riesling with some trepidation, not had in a long time. Ended up buying 2 bottles, an Austrian niederosterreich at £8 which was dry crisp and zingy with a bitter after taste. Somewhat uninspired I opened my second bottle. A £5 bottle of German from Sainsbury’s winemakers selection- qualitatswein rheinhessen. IM HOOKED!!! Best bottle of white in a long time, refreshing taste of apples, fruity and refreshing. 3% lower alcohol content, but would drink twice as much. New wine found and will be buying plenty more – especially at that price – thank you!

  5. I’m going to put it out there boldly and clear – Riesling is the greatest white grape in the world. Yeah, I love me some good Chard (Grand Cru White Burgundy anyone?!) but in my heart, Riesling is king. And while I love Riesling in all its diverse styles from around the world (Clare Valley, just like Emma picked!!) the deepest part of my Riesling fueled heart belongs to German. The greatest wines in the world. Yumm yumm.

    1. Go bold Dave – that is what this site is for! Love it or hate it.

      And Riesling is the wine to beat any other white for age-ability isn’t it? Have to confess I’d find it hard to put it before White Burgundy, especially a grand cru Chablis. But if we are comparing on price and bang for buck then Riesling is most definitely the King….

  6. Having given up on the idea of catching up on the first few weeks, I popped over the road to ‘that other supermarket’ in search of a tasty Riesling. There wasn’t a wide selection but I found one that said it would pair beautifully with a Thai curry, which coincidentally was exactly what I had in my shopping basket for dinner. It was a match made in heaven.
    Conclusion: the curry was plenty hot enough after I broke up the dried chilli into tiny little pieces. There’s nothing worse than a curry that isn’t hot enough. The wine was quite tasty as well.
    Next week: I will go to a proper wine shop. Having tasted more new world wines than old, I quite like the idea of comparing one of each for each grape. Definitely need to do this for Shiraz/Syrah from last week 🙂

    1. Great to have you on board. It is also nice to hear about how the food and wine matches are going. Thai curry and Riesling is spot on.

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Shiraz/Syrah. They are such different beasts when new/old world. It is nice to see how much a grape can change according to the place it is grown in…

  7. German Riesling is probably my favourite.
    Try the Grosses Gewachs for some of the best value for money premium wines you can find. The Grand Cru of Germany for a fraction of the price of great white Burgundy or Bordeaux.
    75% of all German wine is now dry, shows their and the world’s changing tastes.
    This looks great Emma – seems like people will have a lot of fun exploring the wine world one variety at a time!

  8. It’s good to see some other positive comments – because I loved my Riesling! I was worried I had a touch of unconscious bias as I already ‘knew’ I liked Riesling, but the wine I tried only reinforced my view (Pewsey Vale Riesling 2016, Eden Valley, from Oddbins).

    It was very pale, crystal clear straw in appearance. On the nose I got pears and pear drops. There was also a distinctive mineral ‘fustiness’ which (after a quick sneak online) I absolutely pinpointed as rubbers (as in things for rubbing out pencils). It sounds unpleasant, but it was far from it.

    To taste is was very dry and sharp. Clean cut with a tangy zing of barely-ripe kiwi fruit and limes. There was a surprisingly long and sharp finish. It wasn’t as fruity as I’d expected but that wasn’t to its detriment. It was wonderfully fresh and clean-cut with a distinct character.

    Overall I thought it was lovely and certainly something I’d drink again. It was also interesting to compare to week two’s voignier. Both were very sharp and citric, but my voignier simply didn’t have the balance to carry it off. This Riesling had it in spades.

    Finally, a shout out to WillThomas for his review. Wonderful!

    1. Sounds like a lovely Riesling, must seek it out.

      You and Will are neck and neck for getting the unusual tasting note award – I like the idea of a freshly used pencil rubber – now you say it I get it!

  9. Riesling!

    First time I drank Riesling was in the former Yugoslavia many many years ago. I seem to remember it being zingy and just the right drink for a very hot afternoon. Somehow or other me and my friend got involved in a traditional Yugoslavia wedding so I blame Riesling for a good time and a good drink in summer. Sometime later when back in England I tried to buy Yugoslavian Riesling which prove to be impossible so I went to the German stuff. Ugh – sprayed it on the Roses to kill the greenfly, did the trick. Never drank Riesling since and too costly to buy as an insect killer.
    Emma as the school reports go ………… must try better.

    1. Yugoslavian Riesling – interesting! Well I’ll have to keep an eye out for that too. I have tasted a lot of Welschriesling from Croatia which is a close cousin to the real stuff and is actually very good. Maybe I’ll have to try a bottle of that on you.

      Next week is Primitivo/Zinfandel – I’m sure those won’t be fly killer material…

      1. Yep, on me and perhaps in Belgrade! In that way we may well be able to nip into Greece and sample their wine. Need you to advise when in Greece, hopefully your recommendation will include eating olives.

        Going to Grange over Sands next week for a weeks holiday. We’ll be trying Cartmel beers.

  10. In my youth Blue Nun & 3 Kings were the Rieslings I tasted , and they were just awful !!
    So the Clare Valley Riesling from Australia was a most pleasant surprise and very drinkable.
    Good light wine with a taste of pears , but not too citrus. I found the flavour of this wine was better if its only slightly chilled
    i think this wine would go well with chicken & fish, but sorry Andy not cheese!

  11. DMC hits the nail on the head. There’s a beautiful sweet spot of temperature for Riesling. Not too cold, but definitely not too warm. At this ‘just right’ point, there aren’t many wines that can touch this majestic grape.
    I went Old World, buying the Stepp Riesling ‘S’ currently on offer at M&S (down from £15 to £12). Made by Gerd Stepp at the Kallstadter Saumagen vineyard in the Pfalz region of Germany, this is quite frankly a humdinger of a wine. Gerd has made wine all over the world, and there’s a certain ‘international’ vibe to this Riesling from his beloved Pfalz region.
    The colour of white gold, this wine really delivers on the nose: an aromatic smorgasbord of intense sherbet, lemon zest, kafir lime, golden kiwi, cola cubes, steely minerals and even a hint of just-out-of-the-box bicycle inner tubes (yes, I may be slightly drunk, but I stand by this).
    In the mouth it is no less powerful, a burst of flavours and cheek-puckering acidity. The aromas are here, but it’s like they’re inverted, reimagined. There’s lemon juice sourness balanced by a golden sunny richness, a Granny Smith apple tartness tempted by tropical fruit delights. All carried through to the lingering back palate where a slightly acrid green olive thing rests on the back of the tongue.
    I love this wine. I love this grape. Give me Riesling, give me Vouvray, give me sunshine, good music, platefuls of fishy risotto, an old guitar, a stack of good books. Life demands simple pleasures.

    1. Another great review. I look forward to your “out-of-the-box” tasting notes each week 😉

      This is a great wine and the Pinot Noir of the same producer too….

    2. Great to hear that you enjoyed the Riesling *S*! I am working as a winemaker in many exciting counties around the world but it is always good to come back to the Pfalz region. It is a truly special place and wonderful experience to make Riesling wines from these vineyards on limestone and sandstone. Really love your fab tasting note (got to crack open a bottle to see what you mean by inner tube) ☺ Cheers, Gerd

  12. I’ve previously mentioned I’m not a huge white wine fan and after the Voignier I was predicting things could only get better. I selected Clare Valley, Australian Riesling, 2017 vintage, produced by the Pike Family, and sold by M&S.

    The Pike family originally established themselves as brewers (1885), before moving into soft drinks (1940) and then released their first vintage of Polish Hill Riesling in 1985.

    Anyway less of the history and onto the tasting!

    Wow – I love this wine. I initially served it far too chilled, but once it started to warm up and became ‘slightly chilled’ the flavours really started to come through. Whilst off dry this a fruity, sweet, flavoursome Riesling. I could taste apple and lime, and my wife could taste pear and lemon. Once we’d shared our views on what flavours were coming through we we’re both convinced we could taste all 4.

    As for food pairing, we had it with chicken fajitas (slightly spicy) and i happily finished the bottle the following evening without food.

    Excellent value at £14……I will definitely buy a case of this Riesling and may buy others from other countries so I can compare.

    1. Hi DMC,

      Great pick for the Oz Riesling, exactly the same as our choice. And lovely to hear you’ve been converted a little to it; especially when you say whites are not normally your thing. Hopefully we’ll find a few in the coming weeks to add to that list.

      I like the extra info on the Pike family. I didn’t know that. Every day is a school day!

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