edited by Sue Courtney
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Marlborough, New Zealand
I was tasting a whole heap of New Zealand Rieslings the other day and was wondering if there was such a thing as a 'classic' New Zealand Riesling because when people here talk about the great Rieslings of the world, there are often just three distinct regions and styles mentioned.
There is the classic German style characterised by low alcohol, high acidity and medium to high residual sugar resulting in pure wines of fantastic balance.
There is the Alsace style from France, wines that generally have lower acidity, some residual sugar and high alcohol that adds glycerolic mouthfeel and weight.
And thirdly the Eden Valley and Clare Valley styles from Australia, high acid dry wines with a medium alcohol component, floral when young but fattening out with fusel characters as they age.
It is not surprising that these models have influenced our winemakers for New Zealand doesnít really have a long history with Riesling even though the grape was amongst the first introduced to the country in the 1800's. Riesling didnít really start to take off until the 1970's. In 1975 there was just 8 hectares in the ground but with phenomenal growth there is almost 700 hectares of plantings in 2004.
Riesling didnít have a particularly good image in the early 1970's either. We were hit by cheap sweet German imports and copycat wines here were sugary sweet and not particularly well balanced. But things have changed and only for the better.
The wonderful low alcohol, beautifully balanced sweet Germanic styles are becoming more and more popular with Kiwi winemakers as the grape's natural high acidity is well retained in our cool climate growing regions. Fromm's Marlborough Rieslings are the easiest to confuse as German but other wonderful followers of this style include Pegasus Bay, Neudorf Moutere and Felton Road.
Alsace styles with high alcohol and lower acids can be found in wines like Muddy Water's Unplugged and Giesen Reserve.
The Aussie style is a harder style for Kiwi winemakers to emulate but Seresin Dry Riesling from Marlborough is a good example.
So what is the classic New Zealand style of this wonderfully versatile cool climate grape that grows in several regions and is affected by regional, viticultural and winemaking influences resulting in wines that range from bone dry to unctuously sweet? During the tasting it soon became clear. They are fresh and vibrantly fruity perhaps with slightly floral aromas, citrus and tropical fruit, medium (12-13%) alcohol level and a touch of residual sugar. The wines that fitted this mould all turned out to be from Marlborough, Nelson or Waipara.
And the most classic of the classics in my tasting was the Allan Scott Marlborough Riesling 2004. It is lightly floral with citrussy aromas and sweet citrussy flavours with some toastiness coming through that builds up the richness in the palate. The backbone is quite steely with a touch of stonefruit to flesh it up, the long finish develops some zestiness, and juicy tropical fruit flavours linger. Off dry in sweetness with 9 grams of residual sugar yet still crisp and fresh. It carries 14% alcohol by volume, is sealed with a screwcap and costs about NZ$17.
Find out more from www.allanscott.com.
© Sue Courtney
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