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.”
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.