When DNS Wine Club recently met to taste a few different Rieslings, two significant conclusions presented themselves:
- Although Riesling can be very pleasant in the €15 – €20 bracket (in Ireland), it’s at €25+ where the wines start to be special
- Despite normally being a 100% varietal, Riesling can taste incredibly different depending on where and how it is made.
Here are the three which really stood out:
Pewsey Vale The Contours Eden Valley Riesling 2010 (12.5%, €24.95 at The Corkscrew)
While the cool Clare Valley is celebrated as the home of most of Australia’s best Riesling, the higher parts of the Eden Valley are also favourable for the variety. Pewsey Vale winery can claim a number of firsts:
- It was the first winery founded in (what is now) the Eden Valley in 1847
- It was the first winery to plant Riesling in Australia (also in 1847)
- It became the first winery in Australia to use the Stelvin screw cap closure in 1977
The Contours is Pewsey’s flagship single vineyard bottling that they only release five years after vintage as a “Museum Release” – so it already shows significant development. And that development shows most on the nose, an amazingly intense cocktail of toast, brioche, lime, sage and petrol. The palate is just a little less intense, but still beautiful.
Sipp Mack Grand Cru Rosacker Riesling 2011 (14.0%, €30.00 at Mitchell & Son)
As the DNS Wine Club had already held an Alsace tasting earlier in the year, and given my predilection for the region’s wines, I had intended not to include any Alsace wines in the Riesling tasting. However, I failed! As the Sipp Mack Vieilles Vignes Gewurztraminer showed so well previously I was minded to show the equivalent Riesling, but as stocks of that had not quite arrived in the shops from the docks I was “forced” to step up to the Grand Cru!
Of all the Rieslings we tried this had the highest alcohol at 14.0% – the Grand Cru sites get lots of sun (so the grapes develop lots of sugar) and Sipp Mack’s house style is to ferment until totally dry, so all the sugar is turned into alcohol. This Rosacker is super smooth, with apple and tangy lime fruit plus chalky minerality. A profound wine.
Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Mosel Riesling Spätlese 2013 (8.0%, €29.95 at The Corkscrew)
The Mosel is considered by some to be the ultimate region for Riesling, with steep slate-laden vineyards running down to the river. Being relatively far north makes the ripening season longer and so flavours get even more chance to develop. While there is a modern trend toward dry Riesling, for me the beauty still lies in the traditional sweeter wines such as this Spätlese (literally “late harvest”.
Sonnenuhr literally means “sun-hour” or “sun-clock”, but is better translated as sundial! The significance seems to be that the prime south facing sites were the ones where a sundial would work so they made sure to advertise the fact.
Even before pouring it was obvious that this wine was different from the others with its golden hues. Residual sugar is not “volatile” meaning it can’t be detected by the human nose, but the aromas of honey, soft stone fruit and flowers were phenomenal. I did see one taster look shocked on first sniffing this wine – it’s that good! Although quite sweet on the palate this Spätlese was perfectly balanced with zingy acidity.
All three of these wines were excellent, and well worth the price tags. I would be extremely happy drinking any of them and all were well received by the club, but by a narrow margin the Max Ferd. Richter was declared wine of the night!
And here’s the musical reference from the article title…