The sun is out, so put your preconceptions in the shade and plump for a bottle of chilled Riesling, writes Christine Austin

There are two difficult steps to overcome if you want to follow my recommendations this week.  The first step is seriously challenging and will require nerves of steel when you go out to buy your weekend wine.  The second step is well-nigh impossible for most drinkers, but if you rate yourself as a reasonably broad-minded wine drinker then maybe you should give it a go.


Step one – This week is all about Riesling.  Pronounced Reece-ling, not Rise-ling, this is one of the oldest, most fantastic grapes in the world.  Sadly not many people agree with me.  Riesling slumbers at the bottom of the popularity polls, providing excellent wines and great value for those who follow its flavours, but essentially it is widely ignored as possibly being too sweet, too acidic or just too difficult to say. This is a shame since it is capable of making wines that thrill the senses, sharpen up the tastebuds and can range from bone dry to lusciously sweet.  It is terrific with all kinds of foods, from simple summer salads to lightly spiced dishes, settling around the food rather than competing with it.

Its native home is Germany, on the banks of the Rhine where is still flourishes today. It is also very much at home in Alsace where it produces mainly dry wines although the depth of fruit and ripeness suggests an edge of sweetness.  Riesling has spread around the world.  A surprising fact is that Ch. Ste Michelle in Washington State is the largest single producer of Riesling.  They have teamed up with Ernst Loosen from the Mosel to make a stylish, rounded, floral partnership wine, Eroica.  Australia is also getting to grips with Riesling with major plantings in Clare Valley but with Adelaide Hills and Tasmania also getting in on this new trend.


Step two – And this really is a challenge. Instead of trying any old Riesling this weekend, I would like you to try a German Riesling.

Just the mention of these two words together can bring on an asthma attack in some people as they remember the sulphur-ridden wines of decades ago.  But life and winemaking has changed, even in Germany. The young generation has taken over, most of them have extensive winemaking experience from around the world and they are now producing wines that fulfil all the potential of the grape and their terroir.  In short, German Riesling is really rather nice.


Getting to grips with German Riesling usually requires explanations about regions, classifications and vineyards, all of which come with long difficult names and a scattering of umlauts.  So instead of trying to understand it all, the best way is to just jump in and try a few. Here are a few suggestions for weekend drinking, for Step One and the more adventurous Step Two drinkers.


Step One – Riesling


Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling 2017, Australia, Aldi £6.99

One of the best-value Riesling wines around, with fresh, floral fruit and a clean  freshness on the finish.  Good enough to drink on its own with canapés or with a summer salad.

Taste the Difference Austrian Riesling 2017, Sainsbury £8.50

From grapes gown along the banks of the Danube where warm days and cool nights protect the acidity in the grapes while allowing rounded fruity flavours. Apricot and peach notes are in this wine, with touches of spice and crunchy minerally flavours on the finish.

Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2017, Australia, Tesco £10

A step up in quality from the cool Clare Valley.  Tim Adams set the standard in this region and this lemon and lime, pineapple-tinged wine is a treat.  Chill it and pour alongside prawns, crab,  sashimi, or smoked salmon.

Cave de Beblenheim Grafenreben Riesling 2016, Alsace, Waitrose £10.99

From the sunny slopes of Alsace this has delicious light crisp flavours that make me think of white tree blossom in crisp morning sunshine. It tastes dry, with its clean zippy acidity in perfect balance with the fruit.  Pour alongside chilli-spiced salmon or chicken.


Step Two – German Riesling


Dry Riesling 2016, Villa Wolf, Pfalz, Field and Fawcett £9.75

A straightforward introduction to German Riesling with yellow stone fruit aromas and fresh citrus on the palate.  Try this with smoked salmon canapés and then move on to creamy fish or roast pork.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Trocken 2015, Mosel, Co-op £10.99

The important word here is Trocken, which means dry, so there is no chance of sweetness clouding the flavours.  This starts of with floral notes, leads into citrus freshness and  then ends with crunchy minerally flavours.  If you like top-end Sauvignon Blanc , you will probably like this wine. Try it with squid or fish and chips.


Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Kabinett 2015, Rheingau, Germany, Waitrose £13.99

A difficult wine to ask for, but the producer is Leitz (pronounced Lights) and I like every wine he produces, so you are fairly safe if you see his name. The grapes come from the famously sunny slopes of the Rheingau and this wine combines ripe apples with grapefruit and quince flavours, backed by linear freshness. Lightly off-dry, it pairs well with spiced fish and mild curries.


Stepp Riesling ‘S’ Kallstadter Saumagen 2015 Pfalz, Marks and Spencer £15

Made by Gerd Stepp who used to be on the winemaking team at M&S and now has gone home to supply them with wines from his family property.  This has sun-ripened peach notes with the backing of lime-zest and a gravelly finish.


Hermann Dönnhof Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2015, Nahe, Harrogate Wines £19.99

Harrogate Wines has quite a range from this excellent Nahe producer, so it is worth asking for advice before you buy.  The 2015 vintage was terrific and is developing well in bottle.  Look for pithy grapefruit notes with lemon and a touch of slate in the crunchy finish.

Domdechant Werner Hocheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2012, Rheingau, Ake and Humphris £22.25

Now gathering some age this has deeper flavours with ripe pear and apple notes, backed by glorious freshness and minerally acidity.  Pour alongside some serious fish, such as turbot or hake.


About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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