Riesling – a wine which captures so many styles and tastes.
by Ben Nuttall (WSET® Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits)
A little bit about Riesling
To start this blog I want to clarify something to anyone who just cringed. Riesling is not only a super sweet variety. It is not only the Moselle/Crouchen Riesling/Spatlese of the 1970’s and 1980’s that some of you may have immediately though of.
Riesling, in my humble opinion, is the most interesting grape variety out there. There’s a few reasons but mainly because it can be made in so many different styles. More importantly, can be made into very good examples of those styles. The diversity of options a winemaker/viticulturist has when dealing with Riesling is phenomenal.
To explain, here’s a short list of options when you buy a Riesling:
Sparkling, dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, sweet, dessert, oaked, unoaked, aged release…more options of style from one variety than you can poke a stick at!
For me, my journey into Riesling began with helping Mike Sharman (owner at the time of Sharman’s Vineyard where I worked) to bottle the 2005 Botrytis Riesling. As the bottles rolled from the machine, I asked the question that had been playing on 15 year old me’s mind – what’s this botrytis stuff? It smells sweet but isn’t Riesling a dry white wine? My only experience before then was of the regular Riesling that Sharman’s made. It was then explained to me that while it can be picked and made into dry table wine, it can also be left on the vine for a rot called botrytis to effect it. This concentrates the sugars and flavours in the grapes and makes lusciously sweet wine of very high quality. It was armed with that knowledge that I started delving into what Riesling could offer.
One of the last of those bottles! Opened one the other night and it has matured to a superb depth and was a complete joy to drink. Note the original Sharman’s label.
For anyone that wants to explore wine and finds it as fascinating as I do, I cannot recommend enough doing a night (or several) exploring Riesling. Here’s a rough list of what I did while educating myself on the styles out there (I set a ~$20 per bottle budget to give you an idea, some a little higher, some lower). I won’t describe each style as I don’t want to ruin the exploration by putting expectations in your mind.
The brands I’m referencing here are personal favourites but anything from a similar region will work.
Josef Chromy Sekt (sparkling) – Relbia, TAS
Pewsey Vale (dry, soft) – Eden Valley, SA
Skillogalee (dry, powerful) – Clare Valley, SA
Best’s Great Western Foudre (dry, oaked) – Grampians, VIC
Dopff Au Moulin Grand Cru Schoenenberg (dry, rich) – Alsace, FRA
Schloss-Vollrads Qualitatswein (off-dry, soft) – Rheingau, GER
Frogmore Creek FGR (semi-sweet, soft) – Coal River, TAS
Donnhoff Oberhauser Liestenberg Kabinett (semi-sweet, soft) – Nahe, GER (this one’s expensive -$50 – but incredible)
Moore’s Hill Dessert (super sweet, dessert wine) – Tamar Valley, TAS