It isn’t news that I’m a huge fan of Riesling. I’ve gone so far as to say that it’s my favourite white-wine grape, and I’ll tell you why. It originated in the Rhine region of Germany, and it was there that this aromatic variety first gained fame, expressing itself in many different ways: sparkling, dry, sweet, and supersweet—all from just one grape—depending on how it was processed.
The range of Rieslings makes tasting them a great wine lover’s adventure, and among chefs and sommeliers, Riesling is a food-friendly favourite. Typical Riesling characters are perfume or floral aromas balanced with high acidity. Aged German Rieslings can take on a “diesel” or “petrol” character, while newer vintages offer tree-fruit notes of apple, citrus, and peach.
Riesling is very adaptable when pairing with food because there are so many style variations. The typical balance of sugar and acid allows it to stand up well to spicy Thai dishes, poultry dishes, or currywurst, for example.
This week, I’ll share a few new Rieslings that have captured my attention, starting with a couple from the motherland.
Selbach Fish Riesling 2012 ($17.95)
This much-loved low-alcohol German wine has a blossomy, citrus nose with a crisp, juicy, green-apple minerality and that sour-sweet quality of fuzzy-peach candy, balanced out with lime rind in the finish. Try this with a green Thai curry.
Rudolf Muller Bunny Riesling 2012 ($15.99)
You can’t beat the value of this German Riesling from the Pfalz region. Only 10 percent alcohol, with aromas and flavours of peaches and canned pears on a full fruit palate; a nice, quaffable match with burgers and sunshine.
As we make our way home, we can see that British Columbia aligns well with Germany (latitudewise, at any rate) and is also a fine New World home for Riesling vines. In the 1970s, as commercial grape growers began planting, Riesling was chosen for its aromatic qualities as well as its hardiness in our climate: warm summer days, cooler nights, and cold winters. One of the catalysts that inspired Riesling planting in B.C. was a study carried out in the ’70s by a German viticulture expert. The Becker Project, named for its leader, Helmut Becker, mapped out the grape varieties predicted to do well in B.C., and Riesling was one of them.
Today, Riesling continues to shine in this province, and the wineries in Kelowna that market themselves as part of the Lakeshore Wine Route are proving their neighbourhood is one of the best for this varietal. Tantalus Vineyards has vines that were planted in the late 1970s, and since launching in 2005, they’ve been elevated to the list of Canada’s very best Riesling producers.
Tantalus Riesling 2013 ($23)
This brand-new release is a crisp one. Apple aromas make way for pear in the mouth, along with a steely mineral quality with some faint effervescence and a big citrus finish. The acid makes this a juicy, mouthwatering style that loves to go with Asian food, lighter poultry, and pork dishes.
Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2011 ($40)
Made from the grapes planted in 1978, this special offering from Tantalus has a more mature nose with a touch of diesel and clean, crisp grapefruit and citrus on the palate. Like its sister listed above, this wine has a crisp steeliness running through that leaves it beautifully balanced and ready for sushi, scallops, fish, or spicy fare.
Quickly, two more new and notable Kelowna Lakeshore Wine Route Rieslings.
CedarCreek Riesling 2013 ($17.95)
For the past few years, winemaker Darryl Brooker’s Rieslings have appealed to those who like theirs crisp. Picked early, this fresh, juicy wine offers flavours of green apple and lime; the bracing acidity is met with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more. We say open the bottle and try it with fish tacos. Our tasting panel likes it with halibut when in season, with mango salsa.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Organic Riesling 2013 ($19.95)
Patio weather screams for this. Summerhill represents the area well with this low-alcohol (only nine percent), low-sulphite (more on that in a later column) organic wine. Apple and peach aromas meet on the palate with bright flavours of lemon and lime, and a beautiful, clean finish. We tried this one as a brunch wine—it was great with a spinach omelette, but it would also be great on its own. Simply delicious.