Archives for category: Wine 101


Oz Clarke dishes the dirt — minerality? — about Riesling with Matt Kramer and Kevin Zraly. Feel the love.

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It should be obvious by this point that we have a major thang for Riesling. Don’t get us wrong, we love other selections too — Riesling just happens to be the wine of summer! To prove our appreciation, we want to share this fantastic white blend, which just so happens to have Riesling in it.

Bodegas Amalaya 2011 Torontes-Riesling (Calchaqui Valley, Argentina $10.95, 270470) is a well-priced Argentinian wine which offers a bouquet of floral, apricot and juicy apple notes with a hint of cinnamon. On the palate, the racy wine showcases mineral, lime and melon. Its lingering pear finish will make you crave strong cheeses or white fish.

So to sum up? We love our Rieslings sparkling, sweet, dry, with food or, even, in a blend.  We just can’t get enough.

First Impression: The taste of a fresh and fruity Riesling is less intimidating for many consumers.

Working at a tasting bar, you learn the tricks of the trade: What makes peoples mouth water. What heightens their experience. And, what makes them buy wine. I quickly discovered that the average customer is looking for wines that are easy to appreciate and understandable. They are not necessarily looking for complexity, but rather for characteristics they can identify.

Ontario Riesling is easy to enjoy because it is fresh, fruity and less intimidating than oaked Chardonnays or complex Pinot Noirs. Whenever someone told me they liked Riesling, I was delighted because it made my job easier. I didn’t have to worry about convincing customers that they liked the wine or confusing them with wine-speak. The wine always sold itself.

Having something people can relate to makes it more approachable — that’s a big part of Riesling’s charm. Not only is it honest and truthful, it’s relatable and easy to love. I mean, who can resist the refreshing characteristics of apples and peaches? Certainly not me. ANDREA FUJARCZUK

The Alsace region is known for its intricate white wines and because of its close proximity to Germany, it has strong German influences. They produce similar grapes and also label them by the varietal (which most of France does not do) but where Germany is known for its sweet Rieslings, Alsace typically adopts a much drier style.

Lucien Albrecht 2009 Cuveé Henri Albrecht Riesling (Alsace, 23.95, 281402) is a delicious dry white, which is a great representation of its picturesque border town. It is a well-integrated Riesling created with copious amounts of intriguing layered flavours.

Delicate aromas of pear, apple, spice and honey and flavours of melon, mineral notes, nuttiness and smoke come together in this complex wine. The long finish of nutmeg rounds out the racy Riesling. Offer this white to your red wine loving friends, it might be the bottle that has just enough substance to open their eyes to new options.

Angles Covered: Riesling vines are right at home on a slope in Mosel, Germany. Photo by Friedrich Petersdorff

Riesling is the most common varietal cultivated in Zell, a town in the Mosel, Germany. Zell’s 331 ha of vineyards makes it the second largest region in the Mosel, after Piesport.

Got Rot?: Wine made from botrytis affected Riesling tastes much better than the bunches of grapes used in its production

As grapes ripen In the vineyard and clouds and fog roll in, those bunches are at a fork in the road. Like a choose your own adventure book, they have the potential to become the hero or the villain. If the moist conditions clear up and the grapes become dehydrated, noble rot is formed. Alternately, if the wetness persists, another kind of rot — the not so noble sounding grey rot —sets in and formerly beautiful bunches are ruined.

What makes one rot beneficial? So-called noble rot (aka Botrytis Cinerea) shrivels the berries. That loss of water means the grape’s other components, such as sugar and acidity, become more concentrated, creating the ingredients for a deliciously, decadent sweet wine.

Although noblely rotten grapes can be used to create different wines, we like to think of Riesling as the grape that raises the bar for botrytis. Because of its super power of high acidity, it can effectively balance the highly concentrated sugar contained in the shrivelled grapes.

“Riesling is rowing back. After years of repetition (especially by Jancis and me) that Riesling is the best white wine grape of all – or at least equal first with Chardonnay – it’s getting a grudging acceptance in a market super-saturated with Sauvignon Blanc.

What Rieslings are we buying, though? Not the crystal-pure, infinitely varied interpretations from its natural home, but strangely typecast versions from Australia, a slightly bizarre blend (or so it seems) of lime juice and kerosene.

Does the reason lie, perhaps, in the infinitely varied interpretations? ‘I thought it would be sweet’ is what I hear nine times out of 10 when I trick a friend (yes, it’s that bad) into tasting one of my favourites from the Mosel or Rhine.”

Hugh Johnson (Decanter Magazine, August 2010)

Juice Fast: Filling the press can be painful work for crush crews

While working a harvest last fall at a winery on the bench in the Niagara Peninsula, I would leave work with new cuts and scrapes each and every day. I didn’t take much notice until the day the Riesling grapes started rolling in and I wished I could turn back time and rid myself of every open wound.

Working with a bladder press requires you to climb on top and manually push the bunches in. Sounds easy right — grapes are easy to squish! In theory it is. But there’s a little matter of the grape’s acidity, which seeps into open wounds turns this simple task into a strategic operation.

Riesling has so much acidity that if you stick a hand with an fresh cut into a press full of it, it’s like squirting lemon juice into a fresh paper cut. Since Band-Aids don’t stick, your only option is to try to avoid using that part of your body. From personal experience, I can tell you this technique usually doesn’t work.

It’s painful, to be sure, but it’s a small price to pay for a delicious glass of refreshing Riesling. ANDREA FUJARCZUK

The new issue of VINES includes a feature about talented Niagara winemakers who are working outside of the established norm. They don’t own vineyards. They don’t own wineries. But they have figured out ways to follow their passion and produce stellar Ontario wines. One of the four, Charles Baker Wines, only makes Riesling. Here is an excerpt of the article, explaining how Baker is making it work.

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Baker’s Choice: Charles Baker produces two distinctive Rieslings from two contracted growers in Niagara.

“There is a big difference between myself and the other three being featured (in the article),” Charles Baker said on a break from our photo shoot. “They are bona fide winemakers… I am enabling these vineyards to be put into bottle. I am the one facilitating the introduction of somebody’s vineyard to a bottle and, after that, to somebody’s glass.”

All four of them share the same desire to find new ways of putting Niagara into a bottle, he added. Baker has just bottled the seventh vintage of the Picone Vineyard Riesling. Two years ago, he added a second site to his portfolio – the Ivan Vineyard, located near Tawse Winery in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation.

“The ambition is to capture Riesling from different vineyards from across the peninsula,” Baker says.

“I only work in Niagara. I have to work within the parameters of my daily life. I have to work within the building where I am employed at Stratus, who are amazingly generous to allow me to do this. But I am not stopping it at two vineyards. The idea is to look for different expressions from different appellations.”

Baker doesn’t have a timeline for expanding his network of superior Riesling sites. He hopes that serendipity will play a role. “I think in time I will meet other grape growers who will want to work in the same vein.”

Charles Baker Wines 2010 Picone Vineyard Riesling Vinemount Ridge $35 The warmth of Niagara’s 2010 vintage is evident in this ripe, concentrated Riesling that still manages to showcase the expressive mineral, floral and savoury notes common to the Picone Vineyard. Ripe citrus and a hint of honey on the palate are nicely balanced by the wine’s natural acidity and a slightly minty/herbal note that lingers on the finish. The wine comes across as dry, which is a significant departure from the 2009 release, but is merely a reaction to the weather conditions of the growing season. 440 cases.

Read more at vinesmag.com

News reports that Australia is losing its thirst for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has local experts hoping that there is a growing appetite for other white varieties, especially the steely, rapier-sharp style of Riesling popular Down Under.

“Riesling is a lot more serious than Sauvignon Blanc but it does take some appreciation,” Julian Alcorso, managing director of Winemaking Tasmania, told The Mercury.

“Hopefully this is a graduation process.

“You can put a Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar for 12 months and you’d want to throw it out but a good Riesling will last forever.”