Why don’t more people drink Riesling? The answer, according to a recent survey, is that many people (my wife among them) think that Riesling is too sweet. Most Australian Riesling is dry which perhaps explains why Riesling is less popular in this country where it is more likely to be slightly sweet. The simple explanation for this difference in sweetness can be explained by the relatively lower acidity levels in the warmer Clare and Eden Valleys where much Australian Riesling is grown. Higher acidity levels, particularly in New Zealand’s cooler South Island wine regions, demand that the tangy acidity be balanced by at least a suggestion of sweetness.
I prefer my Riesling at least slightly sweet. Sweetness in Riesling reacts with acidity in the wine to produce what I call “an exquisite tension”. It is the X-factor in the beautifully edgy wines of Germany’s Mosel Valley as well as the better wines from South Island regions, particularly Central Otago and Waipara. These wines do not need to be matched with food although they partner well with light curries and other spicy Asian dishes.
However if you prefer your Riesling dry there are many excellent local examples on offer. Dry Riesling is more food-friendly than its sweeter counterpart. Try either of my two top picks with seared scallops that have been liberally garnished with lemon or lime juice. That special combination of taste and texture was enough to make my wife, Marion, return to Riesling although she sticks to bone-dry wines. My challenge now is to move her up the sweetness scale.
Amisfield Dry Terrace Riesling 2010 – $30
Dry, but not searingly dry, Riesling with appealing mineral, lime, floral/rose petal and delicately succulent tree fruit flavours. A backbone of fruity acidity builds delicious tension in the wine. This is a great food wine that will happily match a wide range of dishes, especially seafood dishes. This is what I would choose to take with me if I were banished to a desert island with, presumably, an abundant supply of seafood, and hopefully, a small lemon tree. – view on bobcampbell.nz
Te Whare Ra “D” Riesling 2011 – $25
Pristine and pure Riesling with lovely chalky mineral and lime/citrus flavours. Fine, fruity acidity helps drive a lingering finish. This has the tautness and minerality more typical of Central Otago wines. A truly bone-dry Riesling. Marion loves it. So did the judges at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards where it earned a gold medal. – view on bobcampbell.nz
First published in KiaOra Magazine – Jan 2012.