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Wine of the Week for week ending 29 Jan 2006
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Framingham Dry Marlborough Riesling 2003
Marlborough, New Zealand

It's been so hot lately, just sitting around watching the tennis on TV makes me break out into a sweat. All I want to drink is something refreshing and cool from the fridge. So I piled a pile of Rieslings in there to see if any of them would do the trick. I would taste them first, then I would try them with something light and tasty for dinner.

My favourite of the 12 wines for a cool refreshing drink was the Main Divide Riesling 2005, (10% alcohol, $19.95), a blend of grapes from the Marlborough, Nelson and Canterbury regions. It has everything I love in a lower alcohol style being juicy and fragrant with a lively, spritzy texture. It made me quiver in delight.

Close on its heels was Waipara Springs 'Premo' Waipara Riesling 2005, (10.5% alcohol, $23), with its appealing ginger flower and lemon aromas and bright, lively, juicy flavours with ginger, honeysuckle and citrus peel and a finish full of verve. It's another cool refreshing style, just perfect straight from the fridge.

These wines were hauntingly alike with similar flavour profiles, similar alcohol levels, similar high acidity and enough residual sugar to put them firmly in the medium sweet category.

But there was another wine I really loved, a wine so completely different in style, a wine that could only be classed as dry. At first I though it was Australian, as it tasted like a wine from the Eden Valley, and there were a couple of Aussie wines in the tasting. But when the wines were revealed, it provenance was Marlborough.

Framingham Dry Marlborough Riesling 2003 was the wine that tricked me of its origin. It’s a dry, talcy style with a bright, zesty, lemon Madeira aroma and a crisp limey flavour with steely acidity and a juicy, weighty, almost stonefruit richness to the delicately floral, lime blossom and honeysuckle finish. It's developing a beautiful toasty character with age. Despite the sweeter wines around it, I placed it at number 3 in my order of 'drinking without food' preference.

Now it was time to taste the wines with food. How would they go with the dishes I had chosen.

When someone asks, "What's the best food with Riesling?", many people will answer fish. And that's exactly what my husband answered when I asked him the question. So I bought some fish as well as some ham to cut into steaks to BBQ and serve with a fresh pineapple and piquant pepper salsa. But by the time we got through all the fish courses, I couldn’t be bothered cooking the ham.

The problem with generalisations about food and wine matching, is that it doesn’t always work. This was clearly the case with matching the fish, the way I had served it, with the sweeter, fruiter Rieslings. I couldn't conjure any delights with the sweeter wines, not with the oily smoked salmon slices, the smoked fish, the surimi and prawn salad and the skewered raw prawns sizzled in butter, nor with the delicious white bait fritters either. I decided the sweeter styles needed a slightly spicy Asian-influenced flavour, to make the fish work. However with the drier styles, most of the fish dishes I had in front of me, were just fine.

The highlight, however, was the Framingham Dry Marlborough Riesling 2003 and the whitebait fritters. The dry lemony flavours of the Framingham Riesling beautifully complemented the delicate fish so well.

They fritters weren't too expensive - I bought a 250 gram pack of frozen whitebait from the supermarket for $8.99 - and they were so simple to make. Here's how….

Break two eggs into a bowl and beat with a whisk. Add a 250 gram pack of thawed frozen whitebait - unless you have the fresh stuff,which is of course much better. Cut a fresh lemon in half and squeeze in the juices from one of the halves. Save the other half for garnish, if you can be bothered. Place spoonfuls of the whitebait and egg batter into a pan of sizzling butter and cook until the egg has set and the fish turned from clear to white. Turn and sizzle the other side for a few seconds and serve.

I'm keen to get another packet to cook up tonight to have with the remainder of the wine.

Framingham Dry Marlborough Riesling 2003 is my Wine of the Week because it is delicious on its own when served well chilled on a hot summer's day, it is still delicious when the wine warms up from the heat of the day and it goes so well with fish. It carries 11.5% alcohol by volume, 5.5 grams per litre of residual sugar, 7.9 grams per litre of acidity and is sealed with a screwcap. This is the current release and costs $26 a bottle on mail order from the winery. You might be able to find it around town for a lot cheaper as other wines from this producer, like the Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, have been specialled at ridiculous prices in a few places around town. This could be because Framingham is now owned by the industry giant, Pernod Ricard.

I hope the new ownership doesn’t compromise the quality in any way as I believe that Framingham produces one of the best range of Rieslings in Marlborough as they always do so well in my tastings - well they have done since they started using screwcaps. I love the 'Classic Riesling' which is a medium style, and the 'Select' Riesling is simply exquisite. Framingham Select Riesling 2004, (8.1% alcohol, $34), was my top choice in a tasting of Rieslings just before Christmas. Just 150 cases were made and it is only available at the cellar door.

To find out more out Framingham and where to buy the wines, check out their website, They've changed their packaging since this wine was released, and the new livery is quite impressive.

© Sue Courtney
22 January 2006

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