Riesling is one of the wine world’s undervalued star grapes. One that provides an almost blank canvas to a winemaker, giving them the ability to create something different every time.
Long regarded as the ‘Grape’ of Germany, this grape can create a myriad of styles that can outlive nearly all the high profile red wine styles. It now appears in a variety of grape growing countries including South Africa, USA and Australia, where it has made a new home in the Eden and Clare Valleys.
Riesling wears a distinctive ‘coat’, the majority of Riesling wines are bottled in a tall, slender bottle, a good 3-5 cms taller than normal bottles (A bit of a pain when trying to fit them on fixed shelving), but a good deal thinner. They are easily recognised when browsing the shelves. Their Germanic style labels are crammed full of information about the contents inside. It includes information about bottle size, alcohol content, region, wine style, grower and quality level, so that it is easier to make a more informed choice. All the information, coupled with the various styles available, there is a Riesling for all palates.
But it was the dramatic downfall in the 1980s that saw a slump in the purchase of Riesling in the UK. During the early 80s, Austria was selling a lot of their Riesling to the German supermarkets, but due to some poor weather conditions during the growing season, over several years the grapes were felt to be lacking in body, only a few winemakers were involved and it was discovered that by adding glycol, it would add body and weight to the wine. This was swiftly discovered and the adulterated wine was destroyed, the shockwaves through the Austrian wine making community meant a total redraft of their winemaking rules to become some of the toughest regulations in the world, and a beacon for top quality wines.
Now, at the Whalley Wine Shop we are seeing a resurgence market for Rieslings, and also in the Whalley Wine Bar too.
“But it’s far too sweet….” I hear you cry. Well yes, there are some sweet styles in the all encompassing range of styles, and jolly nice they are too. But with a couple of little tips, there are some beautiful, crisp, zingy styles. The first one is to have a little look at the alcohol content, generally the lower the alcohol number then the sweeter the wine. So if a German Riesling says there is 7.5% alcohol content, then it tends to be on the sweeter side, 10-11% is more off-dry (think really ripe fruit) and then more than 11% is a drier style. Also where the wines come from is a nice handy hint, wines from Australia’s Eden Valley are bursting with crisp, dry, citrus notes such as lime and lemon, bursting with acidity like an ice cold Sprite. Between these two regions there is more than enough to tempt any palate.