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Wine of the Week for week ending 20 Sep 2009
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Nga Waka Riesling 2003
Martinborough, New Zealand

Last week, I ranted about the versatility of Riesling as my ideal drink - that is if I had been told by a doctor that I had to limit my wine intake to one only variety for the benefit of my health.

As well as the reasons I put forward - foremost the versatility of Riesling styles - I forgot to add to that Riesling is one of the grape varieties that has wonderful potential to age. With just a little age, an ugly duckling austere dry Riesling can morph into a beautiful drink while a medium sweet Riesling starts turning into nectar. Some Rieslings can age magnificently over decades of cellaring and experience has proved that Riesling will most likely be the star at any "past-it" cellar clearout - and not "past it" at all.

This week I had the opportunity to taste a selection of Rieslings dating back to 1993 with Roger Parkinson (pictured) from Martinborough-based Nga Waka Wines. One I was particularly looking forward to tasting, was the 2003. This was one of my Riesling 'finds' last year when tasted at a showcase of Martinborough region wines.

Nga Waka Riesling 2003- A gorgeously appealing bottle-aged Riesling character on the nose - rich, weighty, all that you expect aged dry Riesling to be. Very dry, almost ethereal - floats on the palate - juicy grape / honeysuckle / toasted citrus. Rich, full and long with a spicy zesty zing to the finish. A simply fabulous wine. I rated it 19.5/20.

Well, it is still just as delightful but garnering even more complexity with another 11 months of age since that October 2008 tasting.

Still very dry but now peach is joining the toasty citrus characters and there's just a hint of that 'kero' character peeking through. The aromas hint of the dry wine in the glass but also offer a spicy, succulent juicy sweetness. I love the texture of this wine - creamy, almost buttery in the nicest possible way - and an intense rich finish with haunting memories of apricot, nectarine and mandarin-like citrus.

This wine will continue to develop beautifully, particularly abetted by the screwcap closure - the first of the Nga Waka Rieslings to use a screwcap but no way the last. The 2003 also signals a change in bottle shape - from the Bordeaux, high shoulder bottle, to the more common Riesling bottle that you can see in the photo.

The Nga Waka Riesling 2003 is still the current release according to the Nga Waka website but is probably limited as the 2004 is hitting the stores. It has an RRP of $25 a bottle but is $22 a bottle if you print the order form off the website and send it through. Retail distribution in New Zealand is through Glengarry Hancocks so you'll find it at least in Glengarry Stores.

The Nga Waka Riesling grapes are sourced off the home block where vines were planted in 1988 on their own roots. Roger, whose family founded Nga Waka, has observed that the warmer the vintage the more citrussy the wine will be in its youth with kero characters coming in early on the aging arc. Cooler years produce more floral characters when young and garner more honeycomb and toast characters with age. The 2002-2003 season had almost perfect flowering conditions to set an average sized crop. The latter part of spring and all of the summer was dry then the autumn was cooler than average but dry. The 2003 Riesling shows characters from both the warmer and cooler spectrums - ideal really.

© Sue Courtney
16 Sep 2009

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