I love Riesling. The realisation that I love Riesling came pretty early on in my drinking career, though I can’t quite say when. It was around the time when wine was becoming more prominent in the diet, rather than vodka or the usual lolly water cocktails. It started with Eden Valley Riesling, then the taste buds found Clare Valley, Canberra and Murrumbateman region featured quite prominently for a bit, and more recently I discovered Tasmania. Each year in October I have a mild flirtation with Rieslings from other countries, but I rarely feel the need to venture outside Australia’s shores. For the last 3 years I flirted with Germany, Austria, New Zealand and even America quite a bit due to the required learnings as part of a wine course – these guys make some amazing juice. On the annual pilgrimage to Canberra International Riesling Challenge in 2012, I recall being very infatuated with a Czech Republic offering… Yet, I always return back to the fold and guzzle the bracingly dry, lemon-lime, talc-y, juiciness and pure goodness that is Aussie Riesling.
One of the more inappropriate Riesling experiences was on a Hunter Valley wine trip, in mid winter sitting in a spa at midnight and guzzling Riesling from Eden Valley that we brought with us for fear of running out of good wine. The wine was delicious, the stars were bright and the air was cold. Copious quantities were consumed, no hang over was experienced the next morning and the day was happily spent trialing Hunter Valley reds and the other great white, Semillon.
In the days of hosting public tastings in the suburbs of Sydney, I tried to sway the hordes towards the one and only. If I didn’t tell them it was Riesling, they loved it. If they asked for Sauvignon Blanc, they got Riesling and they loved it. If I offered them Riesling, the ubiquitous response was almost invariably the same “Ah nah, I don’t like sweet wine”. After years of this it made me want to tear my hair out, so I just resorted to subterfuge (see above) and kept the hair. This misunderstanding continues, and like any die-hard Riesling freak of a supporter I hope in my heart of hearts that there will be a renaissance. However, I am also guilty of thinking that while the mass of consumers forget this noble drink, there’s simply more for me!
So, Riesling… why do I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard and publish my ravings? Mostly, because the annual pilgrimage to Canberra is next week and I’m gearing up for the Masterclass and also because sharing the love for the grape may just convert one more person. I may convince someone to try it, who hasn’t tried it before. Even small wins are gratifying.
On a more gripey note, recently the news is all about single vineyard or single site wines. (I’m waiting for that ultimate $100,000 bottle of single vine wine at this rate.) An article in a well respected wine rag, boldly stated that a producer having recently purchased a new rather famous vineyard (in Australia) has bottled a new wine (from Chardonnay) that speaks of the vineyard. The article then listed a few vinification techniques and concluded that the new single vineyard wine “speaks of its place” but also tastes very similar to a wine the producer makes from a collection of vineyards. Pray tell, how does the wine speak of its place when the winemaker worked it to the bone? And if it’s so site specific and speaks of place, why is it so similar to the more blended version?
So here’s the thing: you wouldn’t have this problem with Riesling. In fact, the best Rieslings are made in the vineyard, picked and the least the winemaker does to it, the better the wine is. A wine that truly “speaks of its place”. Alsace usually gets mentioned right around here with it’s myriad of soil types and Riesling styles. Germany, for centuries was renowned for producing the world’s best wines – from Riesling. So if you are a natural-minimal-intervention-wine-lover-type person, grab some Riesling and enjoy. It’s the closest to nirvana you will ever get.