broaden your palate
Are you part of the riesling revolution? You may laugh, but it’s an actual ongoing campaign by riesling lovers to convince people to drink the versatile, age-worthy and, frankly, utterly delicious variety. It’s hard to know why riesling lacks popularity. The wines are high in acidity, but then so is sauvignon blanc. It can vary in sweetness levels... like pinot gris. So why is sauvignon steady and pinot gris rocketing while riesling needs a cheer squad to keep it in public consciousness? Beats me. I love riesling and I find those I serve it to are equally enamoured. Maybe it’s just that in a country awash in sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, we stick to familiar territory? Read on then, to discover what you might be missing...
Riesling 101 Light-bodied with moderate alcohols (eight per cent to 12.5 per cent is typical), riesling is highly aromatic, redolent with limes and lemons as well as apple, quince, white flowers and notes of spice, beeswax and wet stone, depending on origin and style. Made with no oak influence to enhance its pure-fruited aromatics and delicately precise palates, riesling is beguilingly delicious when young, yet can mellow over time into complex honey, toast and even petrol/kerosene richness (tastier than it sounds!).
As befits a grape hailing from Germany, riesling loves a cool climate and suits New Zealand well, particularly the South Island’s generally cool, dry, sunny autumn conditions. The long period of ripening delivers not only heightened varietal character and balance but also a wide range of styles, depending on when the grapes are harvested – the later the pick, the sweeter, more intense the wine.
Styles Rieslings vary from ultra-dry through to luscious dessert styles. Most New Zealand wines are just off-dry – as a guide, generally the lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine. That high acidity offsets sweetness, lending a rapier precision that’s refreshingly moreish. Check out the back labels for further guidance.
Food first Riesling is very food-friendly, a great all-rounder for seafoods, pork and substantial salads. Medium styles are especially good with Asian cuisines, as the sweetness helps offset spice and heat, and riesling also goes well with cheese, with drier styles suiting aged cheddar and gouda, and sweet styles superb with blue cheese.
In a sea of samey sauvignon and pinot gris, riesling offers a burst of brightness and character. And best of all for wine-lovers? Riesling is usually extremely good value for the quality on offer. So on second thoughts, maybe we revolutionaries should be keeping things quiet!
Riesling offers a burst of brightness and character.