Jilly Goolden on the return of the German wine, Riesling
PUBLISHED: 15:56 11 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:56 11 August 2014
This month, wine expert Jilly Goolden heralds the return of Riesling, a much underrated wine
It seems surprising that the fickle finger of fashion is capable of flicking a wine out of the limelight into obscurity. Just as audiences turn away from television programmes at the click of a remote, so wine buyers just stop buying certain types of wine. One casualty of the recent past is Riesling. “Riesling?!” I hear you cry in disdain – no, it has nothing whatever to do with Liebfraumilch, a German concoction centring on a grim grape variety with not a shred of Riesling’s class. But the same pendulum of taste which swung so strongly away from the manufactured sickly sweet style of Liebfraumilch and its like, mistakenly swung away from Riesling as well.
Essentially we fell out of love with German wines. But Riesling, the finest German grape, which is also grown throughout the wine-making world, is an aristocrat. It is up there with Sauvignon Blanc as a (lesser-known) international star. There was a big Riesling tasting in London recently, with 50 exhibitors showing hundreds of different Riesling wines from around the world and it proved how astonishingly versatile the grape is. In the UK our first encounter with Riesling was probably the sweeter German styles, such as the quality Spatlese and Auslese wines, soft and honeyed with floral notes and racy acidity.
In Germany these wines are enjoyed on their own as aperitifs. They don’t partner food very naturally – in Germany steins of lager would wash the hearty food down after the delicate aperitif. But they are not the types I’m heralding here. The new(ish) wines on the block are the bone dry steely Rieslings made in Australia’s Clare Valley. OK, I admit that some are actually a little too dry for some tastes, with a marvellous rapier-thrust directness to them, but they are floral, subtle and soft, albeit with a little suggestion of petrol about them. Jim Barry Wines’ Lodge Hill Riesling 2013 is just such a beast! A single vineyard wine from the Clare Valley, it’s bone dry but mouth-filling with a note of freesias and fleetingly mashed strawberries. You can get it for £9.99 from the Co-op, Tesco online and Majestic.
The Wine Society, if you’re a member, have a good one too at a bargain £7.95, Blind Spot Clare Valley Riesling which is less rapier-thrusting with the characteristic petrol tinge, but overlaid with honey scents and a hint of dahlia. On the slightly more generous palate it has a little mille feuille suggestion and bright lemony acidity.
Straying back to Europe, don’t overlook Alsace; the only place in France permitted by the French to grow Germany’s top grape. Some gorgeous ones abound made by famous names such as Zind Humbrecht and Trimbach, but a lesser known gem is stocked by The Secret Cellar (Wadhurst, Tunbridge Wells and online) Vieilles Vignes 2009 from Caves de Turkheim at £12 delivers all the Riesling panache and is delicious!