Preparing for my trip to Australia I asked my friends what kind of wine they liked. When we worked together years ago at the Chateau Tongariro at Mt Ruapehu in what for me would be termed a 'gap year' before tertiary study, I didn't drink wine - what I tried was rather nasty and it put me off wine for years. While they were rather partial to a Mateus Rosť, I preferred Steinlager or Bacardi and Coke.
"You know what I like," said Helen, who popped over for a visit in May.
"I like sweet wines best but will drink most," said June.
Time for a Riesling tasting to pick out a medium to medium sweet style. Neil pulled half a dozen wines out of the box - nothing of them gave any indication of sweetness level on the label. Turned out that most of them were dry.
However we came across a beauty that we later enjoyed on our own because I was sure a wine like this would be wasted on my Aussie friends.
It was Valli Old Vine Riesling 2007 made from Central Otago's oldest Riesling grapes planted in 1980 at the legendary Black Ridge Vineyard in Alexandra. It's not the current vintage but it is definitely starting to hit its straps right now.
Valli Old Vine Riesling 2007 has a light lustrous gold hue. An intensely citrussy smelling Riesling - it is full of the zest and juice of mandarin, lemon and juicy lime with an overlay of talc. Such a bright, fresh, zesty little number - it dances a whirl of lime sherbet and a touch of ground coriander spice on the tongue - perhaps a hint of kero too - and an earthy steely intensity with the vinous impression becoming richer and richer. The intense citrus lingers nicely for such a long time and there's a momentary suggestion of tangelo and coriander with a honeyed sweetness. Racy acidity kicks in again to temper the momentary sweetness with lemon and honey the lasting impression. It has 13% alcohol and cost $26 on release.
Valli Old Vine Riesling 2008 is the current release. It's a lighter gold colour and smells so dry - dry, earthy and full of the scent of lemon pith - the inside of the peel not the outside. Some sweetness to the flavour - probably quite high residual sugar to balance the high (7.24g/l) acidity - and even though the label says the wine is dry it's all about perception. Some herbal nuances - lemon grass / lemon balm / lemon thyme - and a oiliness to the texture that overlies the slightly grainy backbone - if that makes sense. With 13% alcohol it is a rich, weighty style of Riesling - but the acidity is a little more screechy at this stage of its life and it doesn't have the x-factor that the 2007 has. Price has increased to $28 a bottle.
Both these wines are wines made to last - I'd love to have the opportunity to taste them in 8 to 10 years time (hint hint Grant, if you ever read this). Both wines have screwcap closures. Check out www.valliwine.com for more.
I'm now back from the trip and now I know a well made, well balanced, hitting-its-straps dry Riesling, like the Valli Old Vine 2007, perhaps would not have gone amiss. As it was I took the slightly sweeter Palliser Martinborough Riesling 2007, which was quite divine with our fish and chips and later when we tasted a dry Clare Valley Riesling, June - the sweet wine drinker - did not even blink an eyelid at the fact it was dry.
© Sue Courtney
3 Aug 2009