Putting in a plug for sunny riesling

02:34, Mar 04 2013

Today marks the end of the Summer of Riesling for another year. The promotion (December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013 in New Zealand) is a worldwide movement that promotes the enjoyment of riesling. It's designed to not only get people drinking the variety, but talking about it too.

Summer of Riesling began in 2008 when Paul Grieco of Terroir Wine Bar in New York City decided that riesling would be the only white wine offered by the glass.

Riesling is a wonderful wine and it grows well here because we have a cool climate. Apple is the dominant flavour in many young rieslings, followed closely by citrus (lemon, orange, orange peel and mandarin), floral notes and honey. Minerality is also common on the palate, mirroring the "wet stone" notes found in the aroma.

As riesling ages the minerality intensifies and it's common to smell and taste kerosene - which is a lot more enjoyable than it sounds - trust us!

One of riesling's drawbacks in the mind of the consumer is the variation in style. It tastes delightful dry and makes a lovely dessert wine when made sweet - but there are many permutations between dry and sweet. The creation of the riesling scale that indicates the wine's overall style, has put paid to this problem as it becomes more widely adopted.

Riesling is a clever wine - it has enough acidity to ensure it tastes good whether dry, sweet, medium or anywhere else within the taste spectrum. It's all about striking a good balance between sweetness and acidity; that balance is one of the reasons a sweeter riesling can still cleanse the palate rather than leaving a cloying sensation.


Most of the rieslings we've rated highly over past years have tended to be around 13 per cent abv, making them full-bodied and slightly off dry. This said we've also enjoyed some of the newer examples including Forrest Estate's The Doctor's Riesling, which is light, quite sweet and citrusy and very easy drinking. The low alcohol (8.5 per cent) makes this lively wine ideal at lunchtime - it doesn't tire your palate or your body.

Where's all this leading? To the fact that riesling is underrated and deserves far more attention than it receives in New Zealand. To reinforce this we take a look at a couple of rieslings from the Nelson region, which produces some particularly fine examples. Both are from Nelson Wineart's "First Fifteen" aromatic wines selection. Nelson Wineart is a group of 26 family-run wineries brought together to promote the region. For more information go to www.nelsonwineart.co.nz

The first wine is from Kahurangi. The Kahurangi vineyard was first established in the early 1970s, making it home to some of the oldest commercial vines in the South Island. Kahurangi is a family-owned boutique winery focusing on aromatic varietals.

The second is from Waimea Estates. The Bolitho family has owned and operated Waimea since 1993 when their first vines were planted on the Waimea Plains.

Kahurangi Estate Nelson Dry Riesling 2011 ($18)

The aroma is enticing with lemon fruitiness and gentle honey combining with mineral, a hint of kerosene and some dry sack notes. This wine enlivens the senses with its crisp acids and combination of lemon and gentle kero notes that wash across the palate.

Waimea Classic Nelson Riesling 2011 ($20)

Apricot and citrus dominate the aroma with some dusty, creamy and sweet floral notes adding depth.

A jot of residual sugar is instantly recognisable on the palate yet this wine is only .5 per cent lighter in alcohol than the Kahurangi. Honeyed with tingly acids and some apricot fruitiness, this wine has excellent breadth of palate, it fills the mouth with succulent juicy flavour and delivers a particularly moreish finish.

Peter Yealands Premium Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($18.95)

Packaged in a plastic bottle but still looking smartly presented - this wine is perfect for taking out and about. The prickly tomato leaf and grass aroma is intense with subtle mineral and tropical notes adding complexity.

The Marlborough Express