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Wine of the Week for week ending 18 January 2004
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Coney 'Ragtime' Riesling 2003
Martinborough, New Zealand

It's often quite boring reading back labels but sometimes there's a little gem. Take the back label of the Coney Ragtime Riesling 2003 from Martinborough, for instance.

Cane pruning just finished, new buds waiting, nascent.
A quickening Jack Frost, beware those complacent.
Then tucking and trimming, now plucking and thinning,
And tractor mowing, a Coney seen grinning.
Ripening fruit, hasty netting, starlings' hunger unseated
Let the pickers start snipping, Ragtime vintage completed.

Tim Coney's obviously a bit of a poet, not a poet laureate by any means, but definitely a rhymer. As well as poems for each of his wines, he writes songs, as delegates at the Romeo Bragato Conference will know.

Perhaps the singing has something to do with the Coney's obvious musical passion, the treble clef logo and the wine names such as Ragtime Riesling, Rallentando Riesling, Pizzicato Pinot Noir and the new vineyard only café wine, the Ramblin' Rosé.

"The Coney Clan claim to be able to hold their notes and as long whoever starts in G, the rest will fall in behind", says Tim in his soft, lilting voice. The other connection is Tim's wife Margaret, who was a classical pianist in days long past.

Mind you, Tim would prefer to not have a back label at all, but there is an official requirement and the barcode has to go somewhere.

We were sitting in the vineyard (and I'd have a photo here if I hadn't left the camera cable at home) and while wines always taste great in the vineyard setting, I'd tasted the Coney wines before and thought them pretty smart.

The Ragtime Riesling has been the favourite, though. It's utterly flirtatious in its youth and simply perfect served chilled on hot summer days, just that little sweeter than the dry Rallentando, which is held back for a year of maturation before release.

When I tasted the 2003 Ragtime at the 'Toast Martinborough' road show in Auckland last October, I was very impressed. " It smells of sweet fruit, very appealing on the nose delivering in the palate what it promises - sweet tropical fruit with a ripe citrus (mandarin) core and a spicy backbone", was what I wrote. But it's better drinking the wine, rather than tasting with the pressure of knowing there are umpteen more wines to taste in the following hour.

The Coney Ragtime Riesling 2003 is the first made by the Coney's new winemaker Debbie Christensen, who is not new to winemaking at all but has the experience of making wine on several continents. But now she's spending some time at 'home'.

Debbie's got a passion for Riesling in the Alsace style, the influence of being taken into the fold by the great Alsace winemaker, Albert Mann. She learnt that you leave the wines alone as much as possible. Therefore it's gentle handling, whole bunch pressing with short bursts of pressure over about 5 hours, and minimal additions of whatever it is that winemakers add, to let the vineyard characteristics sing their ragtime tune.

Today the Coney Ragtime Riesling 2003 is a light yellow gold that refracts brilliant hues in the summer sun. It's a rich, oily, zesty wine with heaps and heaps of spicy citrus flavour and a lovely honeyed richness that persists long after the wine has gone. It's a vibrant Riesling with the pure character of the grapes, like Muscat has and the pungency of Gewurztraminer in a very broad sense, similar to what you'd find in Alsace I guess. A touch of botrytis gives it richness and weight.

Margaret Coney recommends Cajun Chicken with this wine. I particularly liked a spicy carrot puree with a herb - I forgot to ask what it was but it could have been basil or coriander. You'll just have to pop down to Martinborough and go to the Coney's new café to try it. Here you'll pay $6 a glass or $19 a bottle for the Riesling, but it's possibly cheaper in retail where you'll find it in Glengary Hancock stores at least.

Coney Wines do not list an Internet address so email then on for any further information. The café and tasting room are open weekends only, from 11am to 5pm. You'll find them in Dry River Road, on the southerly side of Martinborough Square.

© Sue Courtney
11 January 2003

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