There are at least five good reasons to give Riesling a try:
The flavors are constantly evolving;
It is highly ageable;
The aromas are distinctive and wonderful;
Alcohol is typically low;
There are various levels of sweetness from dry to botrytized.
And that is not all there is, Miss Peggy Lee! Rieslings should be every bit as expensive as a prized Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend, but they are not! Our Rieslings from Down Under are typically in the $20 range.
Why, you ask, should they be as expensive as Cabernet or Bordeaux?
Are the five reasons listed not sufficient?! Are we going in circles? No! Consider the characteristics we are looking for in a wine we intend to buy now, cellar, and bring out over the next ten, fifteen, or twenty years to enjoy with family and friends…..or maybe just ourselves if we are in a grinchy Grinch mood. We choose wines which smell and taste of their varietal character and place – check – wines which will evolve in a yummy and interesting way over the years – check check – and we would prefer not to break the bank – check check check. Indeed, Down Under Rieslings are a comparative fire sale.
Warning: Begin Wine Geek Section *** Rieslings have that desired combination of extract and acidity which make wine ageable. Extract is the totality of non-volatile solids. In other words, extract is sugars, non-volatile acids, minerals, phenolics, glycerol, glycols, and traces of other substances including proteins, pectins, and gums. Tartaric acid is one of several acids present in wine. High tartaric acid, as is found in Riesling, provides a reliable counterbalance to high levels of sugar. (Thank you very much to “The Oxford Companion To Wine.”) Riesling has a natural hard wood, which makes it an apt varietal for colder growing regions. The grape ripens optimally in a long cool growing season. While day time temperatures Down Under may be slightly higher on average than in Europe, the day to night temperature swings can also be greater, and therefore, very well suited to the varietal’s needs.
Science is all well and good, you are thinking, what about taste? It is as good as the science actually. If Rieslings of the Mosel and Alsace are the European standard to meet, then met they are by the Rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia, the Great Southern and Margaret River in Western Australia, Tasmania, and from New Zealand’s Marlborough, Waipara, and Central Otago regions. Down Under Rieslings tend to be dry to off dry and only occasionally sweet or botrytized. If there are notable differences, then Rieslings from Australia tend to be a bit weightier while New Zealand Rieslings tend to have somewhat zippier acidity.
Both Australia and New Zealand produce Rieslings of extraordinary acidic balance which are exceedingly food friendly. Try one with fish such as cod, sole, or trout; shellfish including oysters, scallops, or prawns; poultry or richer fowl such as duck; white meats including pork or veal; and even some sausages, cured meats, and pates. Root vegetables and other “sweet” vegetables such as corn are really wonderful with Riesling as well. Pair a dry Riesling with dishes to which you might add citrus. Off-dry Rieslings are fabulous with spicy hot or exotic spice foods as well as smoked foods such as trout. Sweeter Rieslings are lovely with fruit based desserts, especially if they have honey in them, and with custard.
Save that expensive Cabernet for the beef tenderloin. Get out of a rut and try a Down Under Riesling with practically everything else!