The first, the premier Le Fake Wine Club meet with Riesling as the theme, thanks to inspiration from the Just Riesling Association. The second, a tasting with Riesling winemakers hosted by Just Riesling. One rambunctious, one … not.
Part 1: Riesling with the riff-raff
One of the first things you’ll learn about Riesling is that it typically has a diesel, kerosene nose and taste. I hear your sarcastic ‘yum’. But once you’ve actually tasted a few, you’ll quickly realise that it has So. Much. More. to offer. With friends, family, a few pros and Katinka van Niekerk’s The Food & Wine Pairing Guide, Le Fake Wine Club explored this entirely neglected varietal as only riff-raff can – rambunctiously.
Fake pro that I am, my ‘presentation’, if you can call it that, consisted of tapping a wine glass with a bic pen, somewhat silencing the buzz of comments and laughter, and reading Riesling Factoids (my term) from Ms. Katinka’s book. I won’t type them all up here – go buy it. It’s R127,50 on Kalahari.net, and it’s not only useful but a really entertaining read too.
Riesling Factoid 2: ‘We like to describe Weisser Riesling as the ‘metrosexual grape’: it has the
self-assurance to be made into any style and carries it off with aplomb without
ever needing the aid of oaking. From bone dry to off-dry, to semi-sweet, late
harvest, special late harvest and finally, to immensely rich noble late
harvest, it will join the party in any guise.’
Riesling, the metrosexual
It certainly did join the party at our meet, and came decked out in no less than 15 different guises. Here are the wines we tried in roughly the order we tried them – brief reviews on the Wines page.
Hartenberg 2009 Weisser Riesling
Cape Winemaker’s Guild 2007 Auction Weisser Riesling (Hartenberg Wine Estate)
Hartenberg 2006 Weisser Riesling
Klein Constantia 2009 Rhine Riesling
De Wetshof 2009
Thelema 2009 Rhine Riesling
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2009, a German Riesling
Paul Cluver 2010 Close Encounters
Rietvallei 2011 John B
Perdeberg Reserve Natural Sweet 2010
**The wines I donated from the case I won from Just Riesling are in bold, the wines donated by their namesake excellent, friendly wine estates are in orange, and the remaining wines were brought along by the knowledgeable and generous Hennie (@Batonage), Maggie
(@BlackDelilah) and Elmarie (@choccobella).
The empty bottles
We also munched popcorn, Doritos, Woolies’ amazing avo dip, crackers, salsa, chicken liver paté and some Woolies chicken breasts – very Kirstenboschy picnic fair. The Rieslings went with them all (but especially the Doritos and that avo dip, nom nom nom). But there is a ‘veritable cornucopia’ of options according to Ms. Katinka …
Riesling Factoid 3: ‘Depending on style and age, you will find that it’s very appley, from fresh Granny Smiths to spiced, backed apples. There are also quince, orange and granadilla flavours, not to mention spice, honey and geranium.’
But let’s not forget some of the smells and flavours that *we* got that night: nuttiness, smelly socks/sneakers, pork rind, burnt red pepper, crème brulee, canned pears, minerality, coconut and bus tickets, cloves, banana, goat (no prizes for guessing which wine that was) and toilet spray.
Just imagine what you could pair all those with! Among many others, Katinka suggests olives, sun-dried tomatoes, seafood, cold roast meats including duck and quail, beetroot, mustard, fresh berries, sweet salads, Thai green curry, sushi, seafood, roast veggies, stir-fries, apple puddings, roast pork … almost anything except very peppery and roast red-meat dishes, and green vegetable/vegetarian-type dishes.
(Bugger, I can see I am going to type up her whole book before I know it. One last bit…)
The magic of Riesling’s ability to pair well – and age well – is its balance of acidity and sweetness.
Riesling Factoid 4: ‘A unique characteristic is the tug-of-war between its acidity and its sweetness: it is as if the wine is balancing on the edge of a sword. Is it sweet or is it
More on this in Part 2 and in the wine reviews, which will follow … soon.
My only problem with Riesling is that it’s not always easy to tell whether the bottle you’ve chosen is dry, off-dry or semi-sweet; the labels don’t always say. There was a recent discussion about a similar problem with Chenin Blanc (read up on it here: http://www.food24.com/Wine/Features/Chenin-Challenge-winners-controversial-changes-on-the-way-20110121) – a lovely varietal that people also often avoid because they don’t want to end up with a sweet wine if they prefer dry (or vice versa). With Sauvignon Blanc it’s easy. It’s dry. You know what you’re going to get.
The solution? Well apart from drinking and learning by trial and error and good times, you could post any ideas you may have here, on this blog. For example, perhaps all Riesling producers could agree to include simple terms for their wine labels that would help consumers know what they’re getting inside the bottle. Perhaps something a little more revealing than ‘off-dry’…?
And when I get to hang with the Riesling winemakers again, I’ll see if I can drop a hint or two. Yes, little ol’ fake pro me and a cellar or Riesling winemakers. I was very privileged to be invited to a tasting evening hosted by Just Riesling and attended by a bunch (pun intended) of winemakers, and needless to say, I was also somewhat terrified. But I survived it, and only really embarrassed myself once (that I know of), and even got invited again.
More of that in Part 2, Riesling with the real deals (the winemakers). Meanwhile, I wanna know – do you or would you buy Riesling?