This gorgeous wine was almost in the running for my Riesling of the Year in 2009. When I tasted it briefly at the Wine exhibition in August it sent tingles up my spine like that blonde bronzed surfer hunk did in my teens. I was hoping to taste again - away from the hustle and bustle of a trade show - and with food - before the end of the year - but the opportunity never arose - until this weekend.
We took the bottle out of the refrigerator and in the humidity and heat of the early evening, the sun still blazing intently on the outdoor scene, the bottle felt like an ice block. I hoped the wine would not be chilled beyond recognition. But it wasn't at all.
When tasted very chilled, The Crater Rim 'Dr Köhls' Waipara Riesling 2008 is all lemon meringue, apple and tropical fruit drizzled with honey and underpinned with the flavours of a lime and ginger marmalade. It's sweeter than I remember, but that underlying racy acidity checks the sweetness in its tracks and adds a delicious mouthwatering tang. There's botrytis in there too that gives the wine a toasty nuance, if that makes sense. Lime marmalade on toast - breakfast wine. There's a trickle of sprtiziness to the texture and I imagine if lightly carbonated, this would be even easier to drink than it already is. Why aren't there bubbly Rieslings? I tasted an Australian one once and that was refreshing and delish.
Oh so easy to drink, fortunately it's only 8.5 per cent alcohol - perfect for the cook's pre dinner tipple. Residual sugar clocks in at 92 grams per litre while acidity is not as high as some of the wines made in this Germanic style - just 7.4 grams per litre.
I decided to match the wine to a lightly spiced chicken dish but because the wine could double as a desert wine too I introduced fruit into the mix. Chicken breasts were sauteed with five-spice powder and then put into the oven to rest. Fresh peaches were cut into eighths and the segments were sizzled in the pan drippings together with garlic, spring onions, salt and pepper. A little of another Riesling was added to build up a jus. This food match worked a treat with the fresh peaches just perfect with this delicious honey sweet wine.
The bottle has very little information - no back label at all. But the Crater Rim website gives more clues. It informs me that the Riesling grapes came from a single low cropping vineyard in the Waipara valley. In the winery the fruit was gently whole-bunch pressed. The juice was settled during the cold of the night and then gently racked off lees the following morning and naturally fermented by wild yeast in stainless steel fermenters. The fermentation was arrested when the winemaker felt the balance between acid, extract and sweetness was perfect. The wine was left to mature on fine fermentation lees for 14 months to build complexity and palate structure, then was lightly fined and filtered before bottling in July 2009.
The Crater Rim Winery is owned by the Coles family so there's a phonetic clue for the Dr Köhls on the label. It's the name that Coles was derived from. Ben Coles, whom I met at Wine (he is the cousin of winemaker Theo Coles), muttered something about Napoleonic Wars too.
The wine is distributed by Procure Liquor so will be available at discerning retailers. It costs about $28 a bottle.
Find out more from www.thecraterrim.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
18 Jan 2010