The multiple faces of Riesling
Alsace Riesling “Hugel”, France, 2006 CI$20.95
Alsace is the driest wine region in France, effectively sitting in a rain shadow in the north east of France. Protected by the Vosges Mountains, it enjoys a micro-climate which is particularly conducive to producing fruity, dry wines. This is because the climate enables the grapes to ripen slowly to full maturity, giving the wine great finesse of aroma and intensity.
Vines have been cultivated in Alsace for more than 2,000 years, and brought great prosperity to the region, particularly in the Middle Ages. The first traces of the Hugel family in Alsace can be traced back to the fifteenth century. After the First World War in 1918, a handful of farsighted and courageous winegrowers, including Frédéric Emile Hugel, took steps to save the vineyards of Alsace. This pioneer devoted his entire life to the promotion of high-quality wines from noble grape varieties and his family carry that tradition on today.
Lee Royle, wine sales professional with Jacques Scott reflects on Hugel’s 2006 vintage: “This wine has a fresh, lively bouquet, and has light fruit notes. It is dry, refreshing and easy to enjoy by itself.”
Tasters enjoyed Mezza’s splendid appetiser roasted aubergine with herbed goat’s cheese. Had the goat’s cheese been by itself or perhaps with crackers it would have paired nicely with the wine, as the Riesling’s high acidity would have cut well through the goat’s cheese; however the sweet soy sauce and ginger with which it was served was thought to pair better with a sweeter wine.
Lee says: “This wine is worth drinking now to enjoy its fresh fruit character, or within three years with shellfish and seafood, cold starters, mixed salads and goat’s cheese.”
Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2004, Australia CI$24.99
The Wolf Blass winery was named after its founder who was born in East Germany in 1934. After studying and working in the European wine industry for 13 years, Wolf Blass migrated to the Barossa Valley, South Australia in 1961.
Wolf Blass is currently the Ambassador for Wolf Blass Wines International, participating in promotions, overseas development and maintaining the quality style of the winemaking production.
Wolf Blass Gold Label wines are a bold statement of their winemaking team’s commitment to innovation and excellence, celebrating region and variety throughout the range.
The wines created for the Gold Label range are ever-evolving, employing emerging varieties, groundbreaking techniques, and the most progressive regional styles are incorporated into the range as they become available. All the Gold Label wines – besides the Sparkling and Botrytis – are bottled under screw cap.
Although this wine was also on the dry side of the flavour test, the wine was in complete contrast to the Hugel because of its age.
Paul McLaughlin, retail sales manager for Jacques Scott explains: “The Wolf Blass has been allowed to age for six years and so there is a concentration of aroma and flavour that has developed over time. The nose is classic Riesling with elements of beeswax and even gasoline giving way to an intensely fruity and complex flavour.”
A wine to be savoured by itself rather than paired with food, the dishes tried were either too sweet or too spicy to enhance the wine’s complexity any further.
Grove Mill, Marlborough, 2007 New Zealand CI$21.99
Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s most well-known grape growing regions, situated on the north east of New Zealand’s south island. Grove Mill was established in 1988 by a group of local growers and remains privately owned. The team is led by enologist David Pearce, and works with a core group of growers to source the finest fruit from vineyards in Marlborough’s Wairau and Waihopai valleys. David is regarded as one of New Zealand’s pioneering enologists, and has been with Grove Mill since inception and has played a decisive role in developing its critically acclaimed style.
Grove Mill is committed to making award winning premium quality wines with minimal environmental impact. In 1999 the winery launched a rehabilitation programme for neighbouring wetland, home to the protected Southern Bell Frog that adorns the Grove Mill label. More recently the winery has achieved several environmental accreditations most notably the CarboNZero certification. By ensuring there is no net carbon dioxide gain arising from production and shipment of their wine, Grove Mill is working to counteract the harmful trend of climate change. This continuous improvement through increased energy efficiency underscores Grove Mill’s commitment to the environment through the preservation and regeneration of native landscapes.
The 2007 Riesling is intense on the nose with citrus and floral aromas and fruity lemony notes on the palate. It is just off-dry and as such proved to be versatile with the dishes tasted, pairing nicely with a range of dishes, from the jerk chicken fettucine to the crab cakes with a chilli kick. The Moroccan spiced seafood couscous was another flavourful dish which stood its ground nicely with the Grove Mill.
Schloss Johannisberger Riesling 2007 Spätlese, Germany CI$44.99
Schloss Johannisberg is located in Germany’s Rheingau or Rhine District, the hill country on the north side of the Rhine River. Riesling grows here under the cover of mild skies between the Rhine and the vine-clad slopes of the western Taunus foothills. In the heart of the Rheingau, Johannisberg ascends majestically from the riverbank – a hill that is a monument to German and European wine culture.
Schloss Johannisberg has been producing Riesling for hundreds of years. In 1720 the entire domain was planted with Riesling, becoming the first vineyard in the world planted exclusively with Riesling. So did the winemaker’s reputation grow in production excellence that in 1971 under the German wine law, Schloss Johannisberg was declared an independent appellation that required no additional geographical designation.
This particular Riesling displayed lush aromas on the nose and equally lush fruit flavours on the palate, markedly sweeter than previously tasted wines. It proved to be the most food-friendly out of all the wines we tasted, standing in great stead next to Mezza’s delicious rustic duck and chicken liver pâté, the sweetness of the mixed fruit chutney served alongside the pâté blending in harmony with the sweet notes of the wine.
Meat lover Sergio Serrano, senior wine associate with Jacques Scott, enjoyed this wine as it paired admirably with his ordered dish of Mezza’s succulent pork belly, an apparent favourite menu choice for Sergio. It was indeed a brilliant pairing.
At the other end of the meal, the wine also paired nicely with Mezza’s rich sugary-crusted crème brûlée.
S A Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 2006, Germany CI$41.99
Prüm is generally considered a leading winemaker in the Mosel region of Germany and the Prüm family has been tending vines along the banks of the Mosel since the 17th Century. However the S. A.Prüm estate only came into being in 1911, when the family vineyards were divided into two.
Family-owned S.A. Prüm was founded by Sebastian Alois Prüm and has been in the hands of Raimund Prüm, head winemaker and Sebastian’s grandson, since 1971. Under Raimund’s leadership the property has earned a reputation as one of the most successful wineries in Germany’s celebrated Mosel wine region.
Lee gives some background to the wine: “This estate-bottled, single-vineyard Riesling is produced from grapes grown in the famed town of Wehlen which is where the vineyard is located. The Sonnenuhr (German for sundial) vineyard is in Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. It gives off a highly aromatic melon and apricot aroma and is medium bodied, complex and refined, with rich fruit flavours.”
Rating this wine tops alongside the previous wine, Sergio says the ideal pairing for this wine would be Mezza’s duck and chicken pâté.
“The rich sweetness of the pâté needs a wine to match its flavour levels and the Prüm does that perfectly.”
This wine also did a magnificent job pairing with Mezza’s decadently delightful chocolate lava cake and therefore proved itself to be versatile enough to be a winner both with appetisers as well as desserts.