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Wine of the Week for week ending 6 May 2007
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Felton Road Riesling 2004
Central Otago, New Zealand

Sometimes you taste a wine that just blows you away by its exceptional aroma, taste and all round feel of well being and satisfaction that comes after the wine is swallowed. I had one of those wines on Friday night and it was so crisp, clean, fresh delicious with just the right amount of sweetness, I can still remember the taste quite vividly.

The 'team' had got together for a Wine Options practice but with one team member struck by a throbbing toothache at the last minute and a visit to the emergency dentist, our plans for our original practice were changed. After all, why go to the trouble of tasting some serious wine option contenders if the whole team was not there to taste them?

"I've got a Riesling and Tinkerbelle's got one too," said the Captain. So I found a couple of Rieslings to take along to make the numbers up to four. Later, when the wines were revealed, we found we had ended up with four Rieslings from two countries that spanned four different regions. Two were moderate to high alcohol for Riesling and almost bone dry while the other two were medium sweet, one with moderate alcohol and the other much lower. We couldn't have done better if we had planned it.

A super line-up of Rieslings, but one particular wine stood out above the others. In fact it was so exceptional I gave it 19.5 points out of 20, and that's not an easy mark for me to dish out. But it was so good, I could almost have been convinced to give it more.

It was the Felton Road Central Otago Riesling 2004, the middle wine in their three Riesling portfolio. It sits between the Felton Road Dry Riesling and the super sweet Felton Road Block 1.

Three years after vintage Felton Road Central Otago Riesling 2004 has taken on a bright citrine-coloured hue with a cut gem lustre under the halogen ceiling lights - in fact in the light refracted onto the table, you could see the facets.
Slightly kero on the nose, but mostly an aroma of sweet and sour with the sweetness of nectar and limey acidity making a presence too. Rich, ripe, zesty and totally flavoursome, fleshy apricot combines beautifully with crisp apple and concentrated lime in the palate - you sense the sweetness rather than taste it because the Riesling acidity is pure, clean and piercing, it makes the finish seem almost dry. There's a smidgen of botrytis and the merest hint of 'kero' too.
This wine simply has impeccable balance, a gorgeous mouthfeel with a light viscosity to the texture, the most seductive Riesling flavour, unbelievable power and sensational length. Just 9.5% alcohol by volume, a wine that is a pleasure to simply drink.

Want to buy this? Donít hold your breath. But if you have it in your cellar, or know someone who does and can convince them to share it with you, you are in for one of the most amazing Riesling experiences of your life.

"I've only got one bottle left," said the Captain lamenting that he had only bought two and wished he had bought more.
"Are you on the mailing list?" I asked.
"No," he said, adding he bought them at a tasting, possibly when winemaker Blair Walter came to town.

I looked up my note on this wine, last tasted January 2005. "Pale coloured, fruity smelling, lightly floral, quite tangy in the palate and a little spritzy on the tongue, like sucking fizzy fruit lifesavers. Juicy, bright and spicy with a myriad of tangy, fresh citrus flavours and a delectable infusion of honey, a wonderfully pure Riesling, a classic example of the style and a treat to try."

Back in 2005 it cost $28-$30 dollars a bottle. A cheap investment for a wine of this rarity. A rarity because of its exceptional flavour but also because of that freezing cold season down Central Otago way. Obviously the Riesling grapes excelled.

As I was searching my computer for a tasting note of this wine, I came across a document I started in November 2000. It was a document entitiled "Thoughts on my favourite Riesling producers." I wrote, "I am fast coming to the conclusion that certain New Zealand Rieslings take my fancy for their consistency over the years. These are the ones I make a beeline to - these are my favourite New Zealand Riesling producers." For Central Otago I had written Felton Road and in six and a half years, that view has not been swayed.

Want to try and get hold of the latest Felton Road Riesling, then check out the Felton Road website -

The other three Rieslings tasted on Friday night were . . .

Melness Canterbury Riesling 2005
Lovely purity of Riesling - fragrant and floral with honeysuckle and rose petal scents, a medium sweet style with a richness of orange and lime in the palate underpinned with a honeyed botrytis that imparts viscosity to the texture. Beautifully balanced, fresh and long. 18.5/20. 11.5% alc. $20.

Isabel Estate Dry Marlborough Riesling 2006
There's a hint of Europe in the rich oily, nutty, marzipan-like and orange zest aroma and the oiliness carries through to the richly textured palate. Oily but dry with a grainy, almost pithy character, the oily texture and the citrus acidity gives the wine a zingy intrigue. It's smells sweeter on the nose that it tastes, it is incredibly dry but has a mouthfilling richness nevertheless. I like this wine. It's interesting and it grows on me because it is so intriguing. There's feijoa in there too. The next day the oily character has almost turned to petrol. Definitely a wine for petrol heads. I imagine this would cellar exceptionally well. 12.5% alc. $23.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Eden Valley Riesling 2006 - South Australia
Water pale in colour, crisp, dry and lemony, itís a stony, flinty style - like sucking on river stones that dry out your mouth - it's extremely young and tight. Dry, crisp and clean with apples on the nose and the slightest hint of 'kero', limes and lemons fill the palate until the green apple flavours take over again on the finish. Almost bone dry, I feel it needs a little more time to blossom, like I know the Gold Label Rieslings can. 12.5% alc. About $22.

© Sue Courtney
29 Apr 2007

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