So we’ve decided to do this New Year’s resolution of drinking a new wine each week for the rest of the year to, well, let’s say broaden our horizons a bit. Or a lot, hopefully!
It’s Week 1 and Anthony (from confessionsofawinegeek.com) has the honour, and has gone for Australian Riesling. I did slightly question that decision given the fact Australia have just stuffed us in the cricket (stuffed is a massive understatement!!) and I worried that no matter what the quality, anything from Australia would taste like bitter defeat. But in fairness, I’ve not had much Aussie Riesling before, and that’s the point of the whole thing. So bring it on!
It gives me an excuse to cover some bases as we go. So let’s start with a bit more of a chat about Riesling.
Now as I’ve said before, Riesling in the UK is recovering from a tarnished reputation from the days of Leibfraumilch and Blue Nun. God bless the 70s, eh? But this grape and the wines it can produce are something that the British should love.
It’s Germany’s flagship white grape. It usually has pretty strong aromatics, which basically means it’s very smelly (in a good way, I promise!). It smells florally and there’s usually a hint of citrus in there, so lemon or limes. There’s also usually a fairly distinctive smell of fruit. What fruit that is depends on where the grape is grown. If it’s in a cool climate, then it’s more green fruit like apple. If in a medium climate then it’s more stone fruity, so peach or apricot.
Again this is just because of the course of the grapes’ growing time on the vine, it produces all the sugars and tastes and flavours. If it’s a bit warmer then the acids and compounds that form in the grape are similar to those in peaches or apricots. That’s why they smell the same.
It’s a grape that likes a long time on the vine, as in cooler temperatures it retains it’s acidity. This is what is going to make it refreshing to drink when you turn it into wine. Unfortunately that means that it will struggle in hotter areas of the world. Site location is a big factor for Riesling.
When producers are turning the grapes into wine they have a choice of style. There’s so much sugar and flavour in there, but also acidity, that you can make it dry, off dry or even verging on sweet. This is a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that those of use with a sweet tooth or five, can enjoy it like that, or even better the sweetness makes it a pretty great thing to drink with a good curry. Are you listening Britain?
Bad thing is that it’s never usually labeled on the bottle. You need to check the alcohol content of the wine. The lower the alcohol content, the more likely it is to be sweeter. Less sugar has been fermented into alcohol. Makes sense right? So less excuse now for a surprise.
The grape has also got fairly thin skins, so if left on the vine and the conditions are right, you get a fungal infection. The one everyone is after is this thing called Noble Rot. It splits the grape skin causing some water to evaporate and making the remaining juice really sticky sweet. So it’s a great grape for dessert wines too.
I reckon that’s plenty on Riesling to get us started.