Riesling is a grape variety that I have probably known the longest without actually realising it. I remember during my childhood, many a Sunday lunch was accompanied by a bottle of Liebfraumilch or Hock. Occasionally, my parents would allow us children to have a small sample but my memory of what we were allowed to try has faded beyond recall and only four remaining words summarise what I remember of the taste, "Maybe beer is better?"
If dad brought home a bottle of this to try instead, the taste would have made a longer lasting impression. Let's be clear on this point though, I'm not knocking German wines. I have bought several in recent years and have immensley enjoyed them. No doubt I will review them at some point however, I don't think I would get any objection from saying they are a far cry from what I was exposed to back in the eighties and early nineties.
This particular bottle comes from New Zealand's Waipara Valley on the south island where the Donaldson family collect grapes from nearby vinyards to create their wines. If this Riesling is anything to go by, the rest of their range is well worth looking out for. This bottle cost in the region of £12.50 and came from ye olde faithful Majestic Wines. The price may cause you to think twice and you would be right in doing so. This isn't quaffing wine but the sort of bottle that goes with you to a nice, sit down meal with friends. This is also a great wine to try if you feel that all white wines smell and taste the same.
On the nose was immediate and obvious tones of petrol or diesel; the nice smell that hits you sometimes on a petrol station forecourt. This was combined with a well matched minerality, reminiscent of slate. Although not unpleasant, this primary smell is strong and overpowers any scent of fruit, limiting it to just a faint whiff of grapefruit which compliments the original nasal assault.
The tasting was equally robust and full of surprises. A sweetness is immediately evident but is a momentary pre-cursor to the main attack from the petrol/diesel element which also turns dry on the tongue. Although this sounds a little odd for describing a wine, the Riesling grape is well known to produce a petrol/diesel taste and it is most certainly an endearing feature that creates much buzz and desirability. Towards the latter end, grapefruit steps up and gradually takes over, providing a great citrus tang without the sourness. The diesel ends abruptly on swallowing and the citrus continues without decay to provide a lengthy aftertaste. A well balanced and consistently enjoyable bottle of wine which has an added trick up its sleeve: The wine is allowed to retain some residual carbon dioxide during fermentation and despite not being immediately evident during visual inspection, contains a very slight fizz (called "spritzig" on the bottle). This slight effervescence pinches the tongue and wakes up the tastebuds, really complimenting the entire drinking experience.
After all this time, it is great that Riesling is still going strong and while the cruelty of the dreadful eighties wine continues to give Riesling a bad name, I am very happy you can purchase wines from this grape that are superior in everyway. I am also equally happy that my father's taste in wine has vastly improved.