The results of the TiZwine.com / Joellethomson.com Riesling Tasting held at the Wine Central offices in April 2015
With names like ‘Remarkable’ and raw material like Riesling, this tasting may seem (to fans of Riesling, at least) like a fait accompli. The wines entered did attract high scores because they taste so well balanced, however, there were stand out wines with powerful concentration while others did well on the basis of their refreshing lightness; still others could have done with slightly more acidity.
Our findings revealed that whilst Riesling may seem like sunny day picnic wine at best, and overrated highly acidic white, at worst, its quality in New Zealand has never been higher and the wines are showing great balance; made in response to the climates in which the grapes in them were grown, mostly New Zealand in this tasting.
The cooler the climate, the more likely the Riesling will have retained residual sugar and lower alcohol content. Conversely, in warmer climates, Riesling producers tend to make bone dry or drier styles with higher alcohol percentages. But climate change is taking its toll on this traditional wisdom, with many German producers moving towards making drier styles.
This tasting was a New Zealand line-up, with a couple of international Rieslings here from Germany and Australia.
Our top wine in this characterful and maverick line up was the medium sweet, gold medal scoring 2013 Pegasus Bay Riesling, which received a unanimous high score from all judges for its powerful intensity of flavour, assertive acidity and balancing freshness.
Kaye Morganty: “It was a pleasure to taste these Rieslings. Some are going to be outstanding with time and some are just a bit youthful at the moment. I quite liked the Aronui, which I gave 18.5 but the Pegasus Bay, Glasnevin and Main Divide are really outstanding top of the line wines, which really stood out for us all when we were going through the blind line up.”
Jon-Paul: “All of these wines were pretty new releases showing great potential for years to come. The fruity apricot and floral aromas nicely balanced with the acidity, botrytis notes and honeysuckle coming through as well in many wines.”
2014 Black Estate Riesling - 4.5 STARS Both of the Black Estate Rieslings entered in this tasting emerged as stand-outs, but the 2014 shone brightest – dry, full bodied, greatly concentrated with lovely lemon zestiness and an interesting freshly roasted nutty flavour. It’s a fantastic Riesling, which is so beautifully balanced that it will woo in many white wine lovers.
2013 Black Estate Riesling - 4 STARS This is a dry North Canterbury Riesling with crisp, high acidity and other cool climate characteristics; lemon juice, a hint of ‘terpene’ but in a clean, full bodied style; it is still youthful and needs food (fresh seafood would be ideal) or time, to give its best. Riesling purists will adore it now as well as for its potential aging ability.
2013 Domain Road Dry Riesling - 4 STARS This Central Otago Riesling is very refreshing, very light bodied and medium dry in style with intense flavours of juicy fresh tropical fruit, balanced beautifully by a long, lemony finish.
2014 Aronui Single Vineyard Riesling Nelson- 4 STARS This Nelson Riesling is super refreshing with light freshly picked apple flavours and lovely balance in a medium dry style, with lingering intensity.
2014 Johner Riesling Wairarapa- 4 STARS Lively acidity drives this wine with its zesty, zingy and beautifully balanced refreshing style. There is great potential for aging in this wine; at least up to a decade, but only if you can resist the temptation to enjoy it now – or soon.
2014 Pike’s Traditional Riesling- 4 STARS A lively bone dry Australian Riesling with super intense flavour, a lovely clean citrus taste and a long finish. It has great aging potential for up to 10 years.
2013 Babich Family Estate’s Cowslip Riesling- 4 STARS This wine slid straight into silver with its intense floral aromas, great concentration of flavour, wonderful potential for aging and lightness of body; all the qualities of outstanding Riesling. And this one cruises in, like so many here, at such an affordable price and made in relatively decent quantities. Josip Babich would have been proud of his family, who celebrate 100 years of Babich Wines this year.
2013 Domain Road Riesling- 4 STARS The deep southern Riesling is a style departure from other wines here with its super light body, extremely pronounced flavours of lemon zest, its high acidity and overt youthfulness. While some of these factors might polarize white wine lovers right now, this wine has outstanding potential to age and, as history of good Central Otago Rieslings show, it will flesh out to become a fascinating, distinctive white in another decade’s time; or even longer.
2012 Remarkable Dry Riesling- 3.5 STARS This Central Otago Riesling comes from a vineyard in the Gibbston Valley, opposite Peregrine Winery. It has a medium lemon colour and pronounced flavours of lemon zest, lemon skin, lime juice; high acidity and an extremely long finish. It has lovely balance but is still a babe in the bottle; its youthful freshness married to its high acidity gives it good potential to age for up to a decade, probably beyond, given it is sealed with a screwcap and is clean and fresh in style.
2014 Esk Valley Riesling- 3.5 STARS Fresh, light bodied and intense in flavour, this super lemon-tasting wine will benefit from half a decade in the bottle, given half the chance, but also drinks well now and I can’t help predicting that it will taste sensational with lemon grass-infused dishes.
2014 Konrad Marlborough Dry Riesling- 3.5 STARS This dry Riesling tastes super fresh and super intense in flavour with green apple, lime and lemon zest all showing up in this lively Riesling. It tasted medium dry to our panel of tasters.
2014 Anchorage Family Estate St Urbanus Riesling- 3.5 STARS This wine is nudging up a tad in taste and slots neatly into the medium sweet style camp with its pronounced juicy tropical fruit aromas, light body and long, succulent finish.
2014 Tohu Marlborough Riesling- 3.5 STARS Fresh, light and lemon-like in flavour, this South Island while would make a great everyday drink.
2014 Mud House Riesling North Canterbury- 3.5 STARS Great to taste this much intensity in such a big brand wine; prior to knowing its identity, our team describes its lemon purity of taste and and lovely balance as making it a good all rounder to drink now or soon.
2014 Mud House The Mound Riesling North Canterbury- 3.5 STARS Another solid great all round taste sensation for an after work glass (or two...); it is medium sweet in style with good balance and a medium finish.
2014 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Riesling- 3.5 STARS Lovely medium dry style which drinks well now but will benefit from time in the bottle, which will accentuate its lime and Granny Smith apple intensity, its medium body and its long finish.
2014 Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling- 3.5 STARS Light in body and aroma but intense in fresh green fruit flavours; this wine will improve and makes a balanced palate refresher now.
2014 Waipara Hills Riesling North Canterbury - 3.5 STARS Another light white in body, aroma and flavour but with a long, zesty citrus finish, which indicates it has the potential to age well for the medium term; up to 10 years. Or enjoy it now with seafood.
Medium dry Riesling
2013 Pegasus Bay Riesling - 5 STARS Our top scoring Riesling is an absolutely outstanding wine with intense concentration of colour, aroma, flavour, body and acidity; its mandarin, peach and honeyed richness and refreshing qualities counter the intentionally retained residual sugar, which is balanced. The finish is very long finish and this wine shows an exceptional response to the climate that it comes from. It has a long life ahead and score higher points than any others. Taster Kaye Morganty described it has having: “A very youthful nose, with lovely marmalade flavours; serious and very complex.” Taster Jon-Paul Hansen said: “This wine was my favourite for its great balance and intense fresh flavours.”
2012 Glasnevin Limited Release Riesling - 5 STARS Barry Johns’ vineyard in North Canterbury is home to this outstanding Riesling, which raised the bar in this tasting with its intense deep lemon colour, aroma and flavours of sweet lemon zest, mandarins, apricots, honey and limes. Its richness of flavour is beautifully balanced by zesty acidity and a long, lovely finish. It is extremely refreshing, despite the noticeable medium sweet style; as Kaye comments: “This wine’s brilliant colour, soft ripe nose, rich and powerful flavours make it a winner.”
2013 Main Divide Riesling - 5 STARS This wine is one of the best value – as well as one of the best – in this tasty line up, due to its outstanding concentration in colour, flavour, acidity and freshness. Its deep lemon colour is followed by intense ripe peach and honey flavours. It has a strong grip on the finish, drinks well now and our notes read that we see further potential in it to age well and drink even better in another two to three years’ time; knowing Riesling, that means it has at least another five years’ aging in it, due to its weight and power.
2013 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinet - 4 STARS This light bodied Riesling has a luscious front palate balanced by fresh green fruit flavours and zesty acidity. It is a medium sweet style with a moderate finish; a great first wine of the night (or last), thanks to its refreshing flavours. Wehlener Sonnenuhr, the ‘sun dial’ in the Mosel, Germany, is one of the world’s great Riesling vineyards.
2013 Konrad Bunch Selection Riesling - 4 STARS Lime, lemon zest and white floral flavours are balanced in this light bodied, medium sweet white with its fresh acidity. A delicate, pure and light wine.
2014 Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Target Gully Riesling- 4 STARS Exceptional concentration in a light bodied style; this deep southern Riesling from Central Otago has a pale lemon colour, light body and also lighter alcohol than many of these Rieslings, but it makes up for all that with balance intensity of flavour; think limes, ripe crisp apples, white honey and manuka honey. Complex and delicious.
2014 Mount Difficulty Grower’s Series Packspur Riesling- 4 STARS This is a medium sweet style, which would make a great match with cheese or after dinner; served well chilled. It has a light body, high acidity and intense white floral and clover honey flavours with a long finish.
2014 Forrest The Doctor’s Riesling- 4 STARS For a wine made in large volume in a wine region whose producers are driven by the need to make quantity, this low-ish alcohol Riesling has a significant X-factor; it is light in the mouth which is balanced by noticeable (though not high) acidity, fresh ripe lime zest flavours and a long, refreshing finish. A great style for summer and any time a refreshing is called for.
2013 Terrace Edge Liquid Geography Riesling- 3.5 STARS This North Canterbury Riesling scored a high bronze from our tasting trio, who awarded its unctuous honeyed style, moderate fresh acidity; floral and green apple flavours. A very pretty, medium sweet style.