Riesling is the greatest white wine grape in the world. Yet it is regularly ignored by the most enthusiastic wine consumers.
I don’t have favourites, but when Riesling is good it can make me weep with pleasure.
But I understand the reluctance of the public to embrace it. The good ones are expensive, you won’t find many drinkable examples under €10 and its typical flavours are often unfamiliar.
Add in the fact that it sometimes smells of diesel fuel (and yes often that’s OK), that it is sometimes unfashionably sweet and that it often comes from Germany or in a German-style bottle that brings up genetic memories of sickly Liebfraumilch — despite the fact Liebfraumilch was rarely made with Riesling and is also unlikely to have been experienced by anyone under 45.
Riesling is fussy, it dislikes warm climates but likes to be picked ripe, it can grow as far north as the Mosel but there it needs the steep sunny slopes, the reflection from the river and the slate soils.
The Clare Valley should be too warm but it has a bit of altitude, sunny days, and brisk cool nights to preserve the grape’s acidity. It ages wondrously, like none other and it is excellent with food, as an aperitif and digestif.
It is thought Riesling originates in the Rheingau and it is in Germany and nearby Alsace that it shines brightest. These days due to global warming the grapes almost always ripen. You should try Tasmanian, Austrian and Kiwi versions and the Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in upstate New York can be extraordinary, mainly because their terroir is not unlike the Mosel or Wachau.
Five Dry Rieslings to try this week and one Sauvignon Blanc which does its best to taste like Riesling (bless!). If your local wine merchant isn’t mentioned watch for Trimbach, Hugel, Meyer-Fonné, Müller, Josmeyer, Kientzler and Schlumberger from Alsace, and try anything from Austria or Australia that costs €14 or more.
For German versions buy from a trusted source. Note: The excellent Riesling article in the Hugh Johnson Pocket Guide 2016 informed some of this article.
Wines under €15
SuperValu have had Albert Glas wines in stock for a couple of years but I think this is my first time mentioning their Riesling.
A classic (12%) Trocken crisp Pfalz Riesling with lime and apple aromas, bone dry on the palate with citrus and lemon pith flavours and a zingy fresh finish. Also watch for the Black Label version for an extra fiver which is a little more open throated and textured.
Stony citrus aromas but fruity and textured on the palate with that typical Mosel balance between sweetness and acidity —lime essence, lemon meringue pie and sweet apple flavours are all balanced by green apple acidity on the finish.
This has over 25g of residual sugar but it tastes like less and is a good introduction to traditional German Riesling.
A relatively rare German Sauvignon Blanc from the cool northerly Pfalz but made in a more Germanic style with around 6% residual sugar — twice what you would expect in say Cloudy Bay — balanced by good acidity.
Ripe apple fruits on the nose, grapefruit and lemon flavours on the palate with tropical touches, lively and fresh and an interesting take on Sauvignon Blanc.
Wines over €15
This producer (around since 1720) was new to me until Boutique Wines sent me a sample recently.
I consider this price a bargain given the level of quality — floral lime and citrus aromas with a complex mineral, green apple, chalk and charcoal palate — bone dry, with crisp lemon briskness and lingering apple peel on the finish. Best served at 8-10 degrees to allow the fruit to shine.
Fritz Haag have 17.5ha of Riesling on the steep slopes of the Mosel, the estate has been around since at least 1605.
This dry 12.5% Riesling is textbook and quite joyous — a layered complex nose, with notes of lemon barley water, lime and river pebbles, tactile acidity bristles on the tongue and stony apple/lime fruit flavours linger.
Robert Weil are a star of the Rheingau and considered a young estate as they have only been around since 1875. This is 12% so fully dry with lemongrass and zesty citrus on the nose and a lip-smacking lingering tangy saline finish.
The €38 Kiedrich Klosterberg is a good step up in quality and someday you should try to taste their intense honeyed dessert Kiedrich Gräfenberg Auslese (€58).
Cider of the Week
Stonewell Cider celebrates 10 brilliant years this year — congratulations to Daniel and Géraldine, it’s been some decade with many awards, like Stonewell Rhubarb winning best in show at Blás na hEireann beating 2,500 products. I love the core range and the innovation and dedication in products like Tawny.
This Limited Edition is from Cappoquin Jonagored eaters, back sweetened with fresh apple juice and natural passion-fruit essence. Passion-fruit dominates the nose but it’s crisp cider that hits the palate while the passion fruit is almost a framing device, its perfume lingers from sip to swallow, like the sillage of a good perfume.
A gorgeous summer drink.