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.

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Hot Sun, Cold Riesling: Having a great long weekend. Wish you were here.

“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)

Rabl 2011 Steinhhaus Riesling pairs well with a winning hand.

Riesling Bottles:

You gotta know when to hold them and know when to drink them.

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

Two-crust caramel apple pie: An American classic that tastes heavenly with late harvest Riesling.

Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) pie
Serves 8

This apple pie is sort of a cross between a French apple tarte Tatin and a traditional apple pie. By first caramelizing the sugar and then stirring in the apples so they soften just a bit, you get an evenly sweetened pie, with excess juices thickened by the caramel so that they stay in the pie as you slice it and don’t run over the bottom of the pie plate.

1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough, chilled
3 Tbsp (45 mL) rolled oats
¼ cup (60 mL) water
1 cup (250 mL) sugar
2 Tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
6 cups (1.5 L) peeled and sliced apples, such as Mutsu or Granny Smith
3 Tbsp (45 mL) unsalted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon

For Brushing:
1 egg
2 Tbsp (30 mL) water
Turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Pull the chilled pie dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. Lightly dust the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate with flour, and place it on a parchment- or foil-lined baking tray.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disc of the pastry to just under ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Lift the rolled dough, line the pie plate with it, and sprinkle the pastry with the oats. Roll out the second disc of pastry to ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Cut a 1-inch (2.5 cm) hole in the centre of the pastry (so steam can escape as the pie bakes). Chill both the lined pie plate and rolled top crust while preparing the filling.

Preheat the oven to 400°f (200°c). In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepot, bring the water, sugar, and lemon juice up to a boil without stirring. Continue to boil the sugar without stirring, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water, until the sugar caramelizes, about 3 minutes. Add the apples all at once and stir to coat. Add the butter and cinnamon, and stir. Once the juices return to a simmer, remove the pot from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.

Pull the chilled pie shell from the fridge and pour the apples and all the juices into it (the juices will absorb into the apples as the pie bakes). Top the fruit with the second rolled piece of pie pastry. Trim excess dough and pinch the edges of the pastries into an angled, even pie crust trim.

Why It Works With Riesling
“I would serve a late harvest Riesling because it’s not as sweet as Icewine,” says Food Network chef Anna Olson. “I like that late harvest Rieslings have a tree-fruit character to them, reminiscent of pears or apples and the acidity balances out the buttery pastry.” She also recommends Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy. “I judged an apple pie contest a while back and the winning pie had Calvados mixed in with the apples!”

Featured on the Spin Sip page of VINES‘ latest edition is a food and wine pairing that will get any sushi lover’s heart fluttering. David Gelb’s documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is the only way most will ever experience Jiro Ono’s celebrated restaurant Sukiyabashi. Located in a Tokyo subway station, the 10-seat establishment has been awarded a Michelin three-star review and is the destination for sushi lovers from around the world. Enjoy with the attractive and refreshing Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2010 RieslingCoonawarra, Australia $17.95 (528216)

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

Sunday, Sunday

Good Times: A chilled bottle of Riesling takes centre stage at Sunday dinner. Could life be any sweeter?

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.”