The Summer of Riesling started officially in New Zealand on January 12. It is a global happening designed to promote and excite the public about the versatile white wine that so many people in the wine industry adore.
Why is riesling loved and pontificated over so much? If I was going to compare the current status of riesling to anything else it would be jazz. Obsessed about by its true followers, misunderstood by the masses and, in the way that jazz can seem a little self-indulgent, riesling is often thought of as being a bit sweet.
Riesling has purity, a sense of place and a great history. But if that’s too wine geeky for you, riesling grows brilliantly in NZ, suiting our cool to moderate climate and offering a range of styles from the refreshingly dry to the unctuously sweet with everything in-between.
Off dry, lower alcohol styles are great for lunch as you can have a glass or two and still operate machinery in the afternoon. Dry rieslings are brilliant food wines, especially with seafood. And if you don’t like very sweet, botrytis riesling with blue cheese, you don’t like life.
So how can you get involved, you ask?
Well, there are The Summer of Riesling NZ social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to start with, where you can find out about local events and participants. There are restaurants, shops and bars such as Wine Tastes, Fishbone, Vknow and The Rees that are involved and putting on special wine lists and tastings during the summer months. Look out for a gang of renegade local winemakers hosting impromptu tastings around Queenstown, dressed as nuns and even a Father Riesling Christmas, educating the public about riesling.
I myself will be hosting a couple of pop-up tastings outside the college in the next two weeks, harassing passers-by into sampling the wine of the summer. There’s also a Summer of Riesling tasting to be held at Queenstown Resort College this coming Tuesday at 6pm where you can taste a line-up of local and German rieslings for $10 per person. Chris Ayrson of Peregrine will also be unleashing a few older rieslings from their cellars.
To get you in the mood and give you an idea of just how lucky we are in this area to have such magnificent rieslings, here are three I’ve tasted recently that rocked my world.
Auburn Lowburn Riesling 2011: This guy only makes riesling. Clean, fresh, limey and juicy. Medium sweetness.
Mount Edward Riesling 2008: Riesling aficionados often seen dressed as blue nuns. Honeyed, peachy, citrusy and delicious. Off dry.
Peregrine Charcoal Creek Riesling 2011: The sweeter one of three styles from Peregrine. Intense, luscious, floral and crisp. Medium sweet with lower alcohol.
Paul Tudgay is the Queenstown Resort College business hospitality manager and a wine appreciation lecturer