Riesling revival

The Egon Müller estate in Scharzhofberg. Bernard Massard

No, this is not about a sudden and dramatic market swing to riesling. It is closer to home than that.

I have, for at least the past 40 years, been a card-carrying member of the riesling lovers club. Confession: no such club exists but if it did, I would be a member.

The turning point came when a friend shared a precious bottle of Egon Müller Kabinett Riesling. What a magnificent wine!

My love affair began in the late-1970s with a two-month tour of the Mosel wine region. I visited many wineries and even managed to get a job as a grape-picker, which was a rude awakening (1977 was a challenging vintage). If you see a bottle of Schloss Schönborn 1977 Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett at your local auction house – don’t buy it.

The sweet spot for riesling lovers, I discovered, is Colmar in Alsace—close to the German border. I recall visiting a German winery and asking the winemaker what he thought of Alsace wineries. “Ach, zey ave no control over zer vinemaking,” he replied. The same day I visited an Alsace winery and asked the winemaker a similar question, this time aimed at German wineries. “Zer wines are made in chemist shops’,” he snorted.

Returning to New Zealand with rekindled passion I probably hit the high point. New Zealand was starting to make some seriously good riesling and it was possible to buy a good selection of wines from top German producers such as my hero, Egon Müller. Best of all, riesling was relatively cheap and, with the advent of screwcaps, consistent.

The bubble didn’t exactly burst, it just sort of deflated as it made a gentle farty sound. My wife had never liked riesling, resisting my attempts to get counselling. I hate wasting wine and don’t like compromising wine quality by keeping opened bottles in the fridge.

The turning point came when a friend shared a precious bottle of Egon Müller Kabinett Riesling. What a magnificent wine! My memories of other great bottles came flooding back.

Riesling has returned. It feels as though it never left.


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