Tasting Panel – Riesling

, from Issue #44. November 15, 2013
Tasting Panel – Riesling

The Dish Tasting Panel assesses Riesling

Varietal/Style: Riesling

Tasting Date: September 2012

Entries: 138

Judges: Jane Boyle (wine consultant); James Rowan (winemaker, Westbrook Winery). Panel led by Dish wine editor Yvonne Lorkin.

(NB: All wines are judged blind and the scores of winemaker judges for their own wines cannot exceed those of other judges.)

Notes from Yvonne: It was an intense day of judging and the standard of Riesling from our hero regions of Martinborough, Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago was predictably high – however, a couple of excellent wines from the up-and-coming North Otago nugget known as Waitaki proved there are exciting times ahead for them. But what’s really amazing is that when you look at the Top 10 you’ll see wines from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 – proving that well-crafted Riesling will not only stand the test of time, but can also wow the crowds even when it’s only been in the bottle a matter of weeks. 

“I love the way the best examples are so evocative and have such fragrant and uplifting aromas,” commented judge Jane Boyle, “and it’s so varied in terms of style and flavour that there’s something to suit all tastes. It was exciting to see that some producers had been able to twist the accountant’s arm and hold back wines to give them a few years bottle age – hopefully there will be enough wine lovers out there who will see the merit in this and be prepared to pay a little more for the privilege of experiencing some pretty special wines.” 

“Like many other varieties, you can make an approachable wine for a certain ‘shelf-life’ but you can’t make the assumption that all Rieslings will age,” adds fellow judge James Rowan. “The fruit quality has to be there first, but the wine needs body and structure to carry them through. Riesling is that one variety that can traverse the whole spectrum of feminine to masculine styles and still have determination, direction and verve.”

Our tasting proved there’s a plethora of punchy, crisp, clean and incredibly flavoursome examples out there, that along with ‘verve’ are showing real purity and presence. 26 wines achieved a 4 Star or higher ranking. 

Top Wines of the Tasting

1. 2008 Dusky Sounds Waipara Valley Riesling ($16-$18) ★★★★★

“Unanimous gold!” fist-pumped our judges when their scores for this wine were read out. All three judges independently giving a wine the highest accolade possible straight off the bat is a rare occurrence and it means the wine in question has got to be something rather special. So you can imagine the double-wow when it was revealed you could pick this up from your local supermarket for as little as $16, putting it straight to the top of our ‘Great Value’ list too. 

“Yum! What a lovely wine,” commented Jane Boyle, “incredibly youthful for its age.” Gorgeous buttered toast notes, juicy citrus layers and a silky-dry finish made this wine stand above the rest. “Beautifully toasty,” remarked James Rowan. “It has really nice, lemony length and is holding together really well.” Sourced from Waipara in North Canterbury, the wine also boasts lovely floral intensity, poise and balance. Further investigation revealed this wine has been popping up online for under $10 in some cases, so if you move fast you may just score yourself the Riesling bargain of the year.  

2. Felton Road 2011 Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling ($33) ★★★★★    

A splash of sweetness, lifted florals and delicate spicy, apple strudel characters made an immediate impression on our judges. “This is quite a sophisticated wine,” remarked Jane Boyle, “with European characteristics, but a mineral edge.” Cleansing lemon and lime notes give the wine buoyancy and beautiful length of flavour.

3. Spy Valley Envoy Riesling 2009 ($29.95) ★★★★★

Sourced from fruit grown in Marlborough’s Waihopai Valley, this three year old wine is already showing deliciously developed oatcake and wet stone aromatics, combined with refreshing, succulent citrus and green apple notes on the finish. “A rich, well-balanced wine,” commented James Rowan, “And really textural,” added Jane.

4. Maude Mt Maude Vineyard East Block Riesling 2012 ($25) ★★★★★

Very light, lifted, pretty jasmine florals and bursting with green apple and lime, this is a tangy, crunchy style of Riesling that will really appeal. The judges commented that the wine had: “Good lines, elegant and seriously lengthy,” and also noted “juicy sherbet”. Incredibly pure and bright, this brand new wine from Wanaka-based Dan and Sarah-Kate Dineen has an exciting future ahead of it.

5. Forrest John Forrest Collection Riesling 2007 ($29)  ★★★★★

“I love how fresh, elegant and youthful this wine is after five years in the bottle,” commented Jane Boyle, “that buttered toast character is a real delight.” This is a deeply flavoursome example of how great fruit and skilful winemaking can create something really special. It has presence and wonderful persistence of flavour.

6. Wither Hills 2010 Kerseley Riesling ($25)  ★★★★½

The judges were wowed by the rich, textural, deeply drinkable nature of this Marlborough Riesling.  Winemaker Ben Glover and his team at Wither Hills have produced a wine with aromas redolent of panettone, beeswax and toasted nuts, while the palate has grapefruit and lime flavours with a splash of butterscotch on the finish. It took the judges by surprise to see such biscuity notes in a young wine, but they were divine.

7. Framingham 2011 Framingham Select Marlborough Riesling ($34.95)  ★★★★½

If you’re looking for a Riesling with racy acidity, fresh-cut apple and lime-laden intensity, a splash of sweetness and an edge of steely minerality, then this is it. There’s a lovely layer of waxy complexity beginning to show through and the judges were all impressed with the texture and cleansing length of flavour.  

8. Greywacke Riesling 2011 ($29.95)  ★★★½

A rush of powerfully aromatic spices and florals burst from the glass and are followed by a rich, silky, citrus-sorbet mid-palate and a toasty, textural finish. A splash of wild yeast ferment and a bit of maturation in older oak has added unique character and depth to this really pretty wine.

9. Ribbonwood 2011 Ribbonwood Riesling ($19.95) ★★★★½

The judges were taken instantly with the poise and elegance of this deliciously dry example.  “Lean”, “ultra-refreshing”, “tangy” and “fleshy” are just a handful of the descriptors our judges used when evaluating this wine. It’s a crisp, bold example with classic rose apple and lime flavours riding a wave of tongue-tingling acidity along an impressively lengthy finish.

10. Framingham 2010 Framingham Classic Riesling ($24.95) ★★★★½

Honey and hints of apricot merge with toasty, crushed seashell and mineral notes on the nose, while in the mouth there are attractive, thirst quenching white peach, mandarin and lime flavours. It’s a wine that constantly changes in the glass, offering something different with every sip.

Great Value – The Top 4 Under $20

These are the wines that rated highly (over 4 Stars) and retail for $20 or less. 

2008 Dusky Sounds Waipara Valley Riesling ($16-$18) ★★★★★

(See above for why we love it)

2011 Ribbonwood Riesling ($19.95)  ★★★★½

(See above for why we love it)

Dogs Do Roam Bannockburn Riesling 2010 ($17.50) ★★★★

“Very drinkable,” announced Jane Boyle, while James Rowan thought this wine had real character and finesse. Granny Smith apple and fruit wax notes combine with good minerality and cleansing, sherbet-like notes on the finish. Produced by former All Black and food and wine TV personality Grahame Thorne, it represents great value for money indeed.

Echo Riesling 2011 ($10-$17) ★★★★

A lovely, elegant, bony, dry-ish style, this bargain wine has really impressive acidity, delicate florals and lip-smacking mineral notes. Superb value for money for those who like the drier side of life.