Price-friendly Riesling

Riesling is New Zealand’s best value wine – if you like Riesling. There are a number of very good reasons to like Rieslings apart from its affordability. They can be enjoyed with or without food, they mature extremely well in bottle and the best examples are world-class wines.

Riesling grown in our cool climate tends to have moderately high acidity that needs to be balanced by a little sweetness. Many develop an exquisite tension between sweetness and acidity that makes them rather exciting – to a Riesling lover like me at least. Well made medium/dry Riesling gives a first impression of slight sweetness before the acidity kicks in and the wine finishes pleasantly crisp and dry.

I tasted 142 examples before choosing my two best medium/dry wines under $20.

Woollaston Riesling, Nelson 2009 – $19

Woollaston is one of Nelson’s most exciting wineries. If you are in the Moutere area of Nelson, the region’s vinous hot-spot, it’s worth visiting this spectacular new winery. Nelson in general, and Woollaston in particular, make very exciting Riesling indeed.

My tasting note for this wine reads: “Weighty Riesling in a medium/dry style with orange zest, mineral and delicate floral flavours. Although it’s good to drink now it will reward those who can wait for at least a year or two. The wine has a density and power that hints at even better things to come.”

At $19 it’s a snip. – view on

Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling, Marlborough 2007 – $19

Run your eyes along the Riesling section of a good wine store. Most are from the 2009 vintage with a smattering from 2008. It’s a sad fact that most Riesling is sniffed, swirled and swallowed before the wine has begun to show any bottle-age character.

Lawson’s Dry Hills is currently selling this terrific wine from a vintage that was better than either 2008 or 2009 – and it is showing the benefit of bottle age. I would expect to pay a premium for such a wine. At $17 it’s about the best value wine in the country.

“Bottle-aged medium/dry Riesling with nice toasty complexity beginning to dominate citrus characters. The texture is also showing the benefit of cellaring as the acidity mellows. A good advertisement for the virtues of aged Riesling.” – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – May 2010.

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