Riesling is the world’s seventh most-planted white wine grape variety, and it is most definitely a personal favorite of many wine professionals all over the world. Appealing aromatics, finesse, minerality, highly acidic; it is known for its incredible ability to absorb and reflect terroir; and for its impressive versatility with cuisines of all types. Usually made dry in most of Europe and Australia, Riesling is made traditionally sweet or lightly sweet in Germany. This incredible versatility and range of styles make Riesling one of the most fascinating “international” grape varietals.
Three regions rank as the benchmark style of the grape: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer in Germany, Alsace in France, and Eden and Clare Valley in Australia. But many countries, especially in the new world, are doing incredibly well with Riesling and a few different styles start emerging. How interesting it is to do a comparative tasting of all the different regions of production, old and new, and determine which one are the new favorites!
I selected 8 wines, all from different country. With the exception of a sparkling Riesling that I used as a greeting wine and a palate cleanser, all the wines were table wine, either dry or off-dry, and ranging from 2009-2015, the objective of the tasting being to compare similar styles and ages from different regions of the world.
I was very impressed by the quality of the wines and by the result of the votes! Here’s a short description of the wines that we tasted:
2013, Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling $31.99
Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario, Canada
The second vintage of the Limestone Ridge Vineyard Riesling Spark impresses instantly with its lime flowers and green apple profile, with a light petrol whiff. The dry, crisp palate dances with focus and drive – all high toned and riesling-marked, with pure lime, lemon zest and abundant minerality. Lively and refreshing, positively demands pairing with oysters or fried squid and lemon juice. Champagne quality from an outstanding family-owned Canadian producer, for a fraction of the price of a mineral-driven Blanc de blancs. Cheers!
2015, Pewsey Vale Riesling $23.49
Eden Valley, Australia
High in the hills surrounding the Barossa Valley lies Pewsey Vale, one of the Eden Valley’s pioneer vineyard, is a single vineyard dedicated to the a single variety. It was the first vineyard established in what is now the Eden Valley wine region, and the first to plant Riesling vines in Australia. Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Rieslings are approachable wines renowned for their delicacy, finesse and intense green citrus characteristics with a long, lime peel finish, very typical from the Rieslings from Australia.
2011, Torlesse Riesling $22.99
Waipara, South Island, New-Zealand
Torlesse Wines takes its name from an early Canterbury resident, surveyor and farmer, Englishman Charles Torlesse. Wonderful acacia flower notes, with lime, pear skin, and unripe tangerine. 100% estate-grown grapes and it is a fine pairing for pork chops or mild curries. The Waipara region has a reputation as a premium area for the production of Pinot noir, Riesling and Chardonnay and keeps impressing by the quality of the grapes. I can’t wait to see more wines from this upcoming region on our market!
2012, Foris Vineyards Winery Riesling $28.99
Rogue Valley, Oregon, USA
When Ted Gerber, owner, planted his first vines in 1974, he had a vision and the courage to produce Alsace varietal wines in the remote south west corner of Oregon, in the warmer Rogue Valley. The close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the elevation of their estate vineyards established on the Siskiyou Mountain terrace create the perfect environment for a long growing season, in a cooler microclimate. The warmer 2012 vintage provided slightly less acidity than usual for and a little more roundness in texture, enhanced with higher alcohol, but still vibrant, even if the overall character of the wine is slightly more tropical. Aromas of Meyer lemon, apricot and honey mix with a minerality that smells like rain evaporating from dry river-bed stones. Flavours of lemon curd, dried pineapple and Meyer lemon sorbet. About 5-10% of the clusters were botrytis affected in 2012, providing added depth and richness to this drier style of Riesling.
2015, Tantalus Riesling $35.99
Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada
A gem from the Okanagan that could give a traditional German Riesling a run for its money. 2015 was a very warm vintage in the Okanagan, and this wine is a true portrait of the growing season, with his tropical influence and very expressive nose. Aromas of Delmonte fruit cup, guava accented by nuances of ripe melon and hibiscus. At the core is an intense citrus character underpinned by notes of cardamom and apple skin and met alongside roasted pineapple and quince – hallmarks of a very warm growing season. Great example of how versatile Riesling grape is!
2014, Dönnhoff Riesling Trocken $33.99
A fanatical commitment to quality, and a remarkable natural talent for winemaking, that’s how we could describe in a few words Helmut Dönnhoff. Dönnhoff has been making the wines since 1971, and now his son Cornelius works alongside in the winery. The Dönnhoff family came to the Nahe region over 200 years ago and the estate has been family-owned since then. This trocken (dry) Riesling is very typical of the style of riesling made by the family, and a very good introduction to their wines. Pale straw coloured, this dry Riesling has a lively fresh red apple and orange blossom nose and on the palate plenty of crisp fruit with notes of orange & lime blossoms, unripe kiwi, and just the right amount of acid to balance. Wonderfully fresh and well defined, this wine is elegant with a tingling minerality.
2009, Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Émile $90.99
Uber-dry Riesling from Alsace, from another legendary producer. The south and south-east facing Ribeauvillé terroirs Geisberg and Osterberg which overlook the winery have been producing this wine for several generations. The average age of the vines, 45 years, results in limited yields and a very limited production. And what an impressive wine… Its arrow-like penetration and sharpness, its adamant stoniness, and its citrus zest and cherry pit bitterness, are allied to formidable density, bracing salinity, deep, marrow-like meatiness, a subtle suggestion of textural creaminess, and an overall impression of exhilarating, vibrant refreshment. This will be for those with patience and/or for acid freaks (of which I count myself one). From the best terroirs of the estate, not produced every year, this wine will keep for 20+ years, according to the winemaking team.
2012, Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese $44.99
Manfred Prüm along with daughter Dr. Katharina Prüm turn out perennially classic, collectible Rieslings. Graacher Himmelreich vineyard is situated just upstream from the famed Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. With deeper, richer soils, this site is a little less steep, and its southwest exposure ensures that the wines from this site have a racy and juicy acid background that really make the wines sing. This wine delivers a great nose combining cloves, baked grapefruit with brown sugar toping, petroleum and a hint of white peach and quince, alongside a fresh raspberry leaf character. Some zestier and more floral elements come through after some extensive airing. The finish is ripe and long and leaves a delicious saline feel in the after-taste. This is gorgeous.
After going back and forth on the wines one last time, I asked people to determine their two favorites wines of the night, and I was pretty surprised about the result:
-Tantalus Riesling, Okanagan Valley, Canada
-JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese, Mosel, Germany
Tradition versus modern style from a new region of production. What an interesting result! And it is not always the case, but the KWM staff that tasted the wines (me included), all agreed on the fact that these two wines were the highlight of the tasting.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that this tasting report will make you want to buy a couple bottles of Riesling on your next visit to the shop. You will always find a Riesling lover’s on hand at KWM to have a chat about this incredible grape varietal!