So why has riesling remained so unloved? It is in fact a paradox; riesling is rejected because it’s too acidic and rejected because it’s too sweet. Add to that the fact that riesling can’t be made into a budget wine as readily as sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, and the fact that a lot of the best of it comes from a wine country that’s not fashionable at the moment, Germany, and you have quite a few obstacles already.
The result is that riesling tends to need hand-selling and not all wine retailers have the time or staff for that. The great pity is, once you get above entry point, of which there isn’t much, a lot of riesling is actually laughably cheap for the quality on offer. And pinot grigio drinkers and lovers of unoaked chardonnay can be good targets for German and New Zealand riesling, for example, and may well appreciate the value in the bottle and come back for more.
While Australia and New Zealand have been making a serious impact on the riesling market, with Chile coming up strongly of late, Germany has only recently started to invest more energy in promoting its wines. Dublin has seen some excellent tastings over the last 18 months, the most recent being the Riesling & Co World Tour road show, which was a real showcase for the variety. Fine wines were everywhere, with even the weakest wines being drinkable, and overall there was a very impressive price quality ratio. For details on producers contact Wines of Germany on 01 642335 or email email@example.com.
We’ve tasted quite a lot of rieslings in 2009 and now seems a good time to look back at them:
Dr Loosen Riesling 2008 (Comans €12). Always approachable, yet with a zesty intensity and green apple flavours. Decent enough for the enthusiasts yet priced to attract the novice. Of the Germans, it’s one of the easiest to sell and should be on every off-licence shelf.
Weingut CH Berres Riesling Spatlaese 2007 (around €5 ex-cellar). One of a range of very classic, balanced Mosel rieslings tasted at the World Tour. Worth looking into by retailers seeking a well-priced, high quality offering. Contact Wines of Germany for details.
Max Ferd. Richter Mosel Riesling Classic 2008 (Wicklow Wine Co €15). Classic indeed, with really well defined green grape and apple character. €ven at this price, it is real value for money. One of a range of soundly delivering bottles at various prices.
Domdechant Werner Hochheimer Riesling Spatlaese Trocken 2004 (Febvre €25). A late harvest wine that is vinified dry, it’s got lovely, juicy apple and kiwi fruit flavours, yet with great acid balance. Tasting young yet, it’s surely got some good development ahead. Wonderful gift for a riesling lover.
Sepp Moser Riesling von den Terrassen Kremstal 2008 (Febvre €20). Austrian riesling can generally be distinguished from German by its higher alcohol and touch of tropicality to the green fruit. This is in classic style from an excellent producer.
Wakefield €state Clare Valley Riesling 2008 (Findlater €12). Consistently one of the best value rieslings around and one of the most successful with spicy food
Knappstein Hand Picked Clare Valley Riesling 2007 (Gilbeys €14). Classic Clare Valley at a fair price, with clean citrus fruit and noticeable mineral notes.
Pewsey Vale €den Valley Riesling 2008 (Cassidys €16). A label sometimes overlooked here but for several Australians I’ve met, this is their favourite native riesling. Zingy fruit with well-balanced acidity.
St Clair Marlborough Riesling 2007 (Findlater €13). This New Zealander would be ideal for someone trying riesling for the first time: good acidity yet with ripe lime cordial flavours to ease things along.
Hunters Marlborough Riesling 2008 (Gilbeys €20). A consistently good producer across its range, this riesling has German style floral notes on nose and palate with tasty green fruit flavours. Perfect for drinkers who don’t like too much mineral or diesel aroma.
Loredona Riesling 2007 (Findlater €12). Flowery, slightly off-dry style from California, with just 7% alcohol. Good with spicy food or try it with desserts that aren’t too sweet, such as fruit or fruit pies.
Dopff & Irion Alsace Riesling 2008 (Cassidys €14). Hints of tropical yellow fruit cut by green apple notes. Tasty and approachable.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josefshofer Riesling Spatlaese 2004 (Searson €28). Lovely flavours of green apple with touches of bitter marmalade, this is a real treat which can work very well with cheeses. Would make a lovely gift wine.