china daily wine column #34

Riesling is one of the world’s classic white grape varieties. Yet it has been ignored of late in favor of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

I have no quarrel with chardonnay, which produces some of the world’s great poetic wines in France as Chablis, and manifests as a wonderful evocation of terroir in places like the United States and Australia.

Sauvignon blanc is another matter. At its best it has some character, as in the wines of Sancerre in France, with aromas of pineapple and mango if ripe, and lemon and lime in less sunny regions.

But at its worst it smells of cat’s urine and newly-mown grass. This latter manifestation tends to come from parts of New Zealand where mass production of grape juice gets precedence over quality and flavor.

Riesling, sad to say, went out of fashion as people embraced sauvignon blanc – probably because of the power of the marketing machine over human intelligence and taste. But Riesling should not be ignored because it is a true classic.

As a young wine, Riesling is fresh and vibrant and partners beautifully with seafood. It offers aromas and flavors that range from citrus to floral.

But it is best consumed with half a decade of bottle age. Over time the wine changes color from pale green to yellow and gold. Flavors and aromas also change. This is one of the magical qualities of Riesling: while young it is acidic and light but with age it produces the most wonderful aromas of honey and toast. It also offers an aroma of what the cognoscenti call “kerosene” though this is more a reflection of the intensity of the previously mentioned aromas.

Peter Flewellyn, winemaker from the Pettavel winery in Geelong in Victoria, provided a review example of aged riesling from the Geelong region: the 2007 Sandbar Estate. This is a new label for China. Chinese wine drinkers tend to prefer red wine over white by a factor of nine to one. But they should consider riesling because of its intense flavors and the fact it would partner so well with a range of Chinese dishes.

Sandbar Estate produces wine from premium grapes from selected vineyards around Victoria. Winemaker Flewellyn said the Sandbar Estate range consistently “over delivered in terms of wine quality and value”.

By accident I left an opened bottle of Sandbar riesling in my cupboard for more than a week. Yet it was still fresh and full of flavour. The same could not be said for a range of other wines that had also been abandoned for week.

Flewellyn also offered for review a bottle of 2006 Angustum shiraz viognier from the Geelong region. Some critics are suggesting that Australia’s best red wines will come from a blend of shiraz and viognier. Hence the interest in producing this type of wine.

Ralph Kyte-Powell, wine scribe for the prestigious The Age newspaper in Melbourne, believes the Clonakilla shiraz-viognier blend from the Canberra region is one of the best in the country.

This could explain why Flewellyn has crafted this elegant wine. The blackberry flavors of very ripe shiraz merge elegantly with the perfume and soft velvety textures of the viognier. The Angustum shiraz viognier can be enjoyed now or cellared for half a decade. In the latter case you would enjoy increased complexity and softer tannins.

In either situation, the consumer is the winner through this new range of wines. Prices were not available as we went to press.

* “Time Rieslings occupied pride of place on the table” in China Daily, 9 April 2011, page 12. Find a link here.

Categories: China, Not home, wine

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