TOP NZ RIESLING
Mission Estate Riesling 2014 (Hawke’s Bay) -3 $16.50 ★★★★★
A couple of years in the bottle has given this wine remarkable harmony, both in taste and texture. It is medium-dry, round and flows evenly, generously dispensing toast, lime, apple and honey notes before resolving seamlessly with a lingering finish. “A fleshy, quite flamboyant style with energy,” was how John Belsham described it. The judging panel felt fresh sardines grilled with salt, garlic and parsley would be an excellent match.
Mission Estate winemaker Paul Mooney remembers well the first time the winery used fruit from a favoured grower site on Ohiti Road. It was back in 1992, and the wine that resulted picked up several gold medals. Mission Estate has had a strong connection with the vineyard ever since, allowing Mooney to build a wealth of experience with Hawke’s Bay riesling and winning more awards (including nabbing this year’s Cuisine top riesling). “It’s about the picking window,” he declares. “We find that flavour peaks at around 19 brix. So that’s when we pick it; if you let it hang you can lose those flavours. We then ferment it in stainless steel and retain a touch of sugar in the wine, so the alcohol is always down around 11 per cent. That’s what gives us the best balance.” Mooney is a great believer in cellaring riesling (and the other aromatic varieties) for a few years. “This 2014 is coming into its own and they’re all like that – unlike sauvignon blanc, they need a year or two before they start to blossom.”
2 / The Sounds Marlborough Riesling 2016 ★★★★★ -3 $21
The panel was much taken with the aromatics of this medium-dry expression – wild flower, jasmine, ginger, apricot and clover honey. The palate is marked by fruit purity and a soft, even texture. “A, juicy, delicious, elegant wine,” noted Cameron Douglas.
3 / Te Kairanga Riesling 2015 (Wairarapa) ★★★★★ -4 $23
2015 was a great year for riesling in Martinborough and this is one of the region’s best. It is dry, delicately textured and lemon sorbet-infused, with lovely definition and energy. “The focus and length are remarkable,” noted John Saker.
4 / Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling 2015 (Marlborough)
★★★★★ -6 $19.95
A whiff of toast mingles with lifted Rose’s lime juice scents. In the mouth, this riesling has length and elegance, lime and stonefruit notes propelled by fine ripe acidity. Serve it alongside a salad of rocket, heirloom tomatoes and grilled eggplant.
5 / Rockburn Central Otago Tigermoth Riesling 2016
★★★★★ -5 $40
Winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis has crafted a riesling that offsets the variety’s becoming florals and fresh herb notes with minerally, flinty intrigue. It’s a concentrated, medium-dry style with plenty of energy and tension.
Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2015 (Marlborough)
★★★★ -3 $25
This medium-sweet version from the dedicated team at Fromm is always a treat. The 2015 is typically light framed, with gentle acids underpinning peach, apple, lemon and some edgy sage notes. The finish is fine and long.
Hunter’s Marlborough Riesling 2016 ★★★★ -4 $20
Hunter’s experience with riesling is clearly evident in this dry style, made from fruit taken from a trio of Wairau Valley vineyards. There is a surfeit of loveliness to the fruit, with honeysuckle, mango, lime and sherbet notes all noted. The acidity is spot on – it freshens and lifts without drawing attention to itself. A riesling to enjoy with seared scallops.
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Big John Riesling 2016 (Marlborough)
★★★★ -4 $26.90
This expression captures sweet lemon, tangerine and stonefruit flavours and frames them with fine, lively acidity. “Great focus, concentration and length,” noted John Belsham. It’s medium-dry in style and would work well with mildly spiced Thai.
Vidal Estate Dry Riesling 2015 (Marlborough)
★★★★ -5 $16
Bursting with apple and citrus freshness, with a touch of white pepper for good measure, this is a bright, engaging wine. Its fruit was sourced in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, and winemaker Hugh Crichton gave it time on lees to enhance texture and presence. With its lively acidity it will age well. It’s also great value.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2015 ★★★★ -4 $18
There are few (if any) better riesling buys in the country than the Villa Maria Cellar Selection. This version is a bony, flinty wine with toasty citrus highlights. It’s a lovely compact package that grows in the mouth and offers great length. Put a few bottles in the cellar and leave them there for a decade; you won’t be disappointed.