Wine Profile: Riesling

Summer is only reluctantly making its presence known in New Zealand this year, which means that I’ve yet to fully transition away from my warming winter reds and oaky Chardonnays to the lighter, crisper whites which I favour during the summer months. Rosé seems set to spend another summer in fashion here, but Riesling (Reessling) has also been gaining a following.

riesling-wine-folly
Riesling, (c) Wine Folly

Riesling is an old varietal – its history can be traced back to at least the 14th century – which apparently originated along the banks of the Rhine in Germany/Alsace. Although it doesn’t yet have the profile in New Zealand of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc it is being cultivated here in increasing quantities, meaning that it’s readily available in New Zealand shops. Rieslings, particularly cheaper ones, can often be sweet, or at least off-dry, but there are also plenty of dry Rieslings, and almost all of them pack a pleasantly acidic kick. Having just tipped an overly-sweet bottle of Pinot Gris/Gewürztraminer down the drain a dryer Riesling is definitely on my shopping list for the near future.

Riesling is a white wine, straw-coloured to yellow in colour. It is light and aromatic – one of the most aromatic wines – with a high acidity, and has a relatively low ABV in the 7% to 8% range. Its complex flavour can include notes of stonefruit, such as peach, nectarine and apricot; lemon and lime; apple and pear; honey, honeycomb and beeswax; ginger, citrus blossom, and petrol. It is almost never oaked. It is also one of the varietals which serves as host to the (sickly) sweet Botrytis fungus: grapes infected with the fungus, which has resisted efforts at cultivation, are prized for the desert wine (‘noble wine’) which can be produced from them (although I personally find the sweetness and note of decay in such wines unappealing).

Riesling can be aged for 5-10 years, depending on the quality, which can serve to bring out notes of fuel and lanolin. It should be served cold, and goes well with lighter foods, such as creamy, lightly-flavoured cheeses and sweeter vegetables, and with spicier foods including Asian cuisine.

riesling-botrytis
Riesling grapes infected with Botrytis (‘noble rot’).

Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.

 

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