This week I thought I would feature a handful of those brave Rieslings who are daringly taking on the mass-market and battling it out with the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs of this world in our supermarkets here in the UK.
As an aside, I should say that I am a staunch believer that we should all support our local wine merchant. I have seen too many local independent businesses (and the sense of community which comes with them) go to the wall over the past few years just to stand by idly and watch this happen to what I view as my second home.
But the reality is that many of us have increasingly busy lives and I am sympathetic to the fact that the convenience, competitive pricing and longer opening hours of the supermarkets offer an attractive (and, often on weekdays, the only viable) option.
With that in mind, the good news is that whilst quietly stalking the wine aisles of our supermarkets as of late, I have noticed an increasingly impressive selection of high quality but affordable Rieslings on show.
There is no question that Riesling continues to struggle with its reputation – the scars inflicted by the proliferation of “cheap and sweet” German wines back in the 1980’s run deep. But if Riesling wants to raise its profile among the masses, there is no better place to do this than on our supermarkets’ shelves.
So here are 7 of my favourite Rieslings that are currently being stocked in some of our major supermarkets in the UK. And for those Revolutionaries residing outside of the UK – whilst you may not be able to find these particular wines in your country, keep an eye out for the producers as they are all top notch.
1. Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2007, South Australia, 12% abv, £10.29 from Tesco
If you want to get an idea of what Aussie Rieslings are all about, this is the perfect place to start. The Tim Adams Clare Valley has textbook petrol aromas on the nose – not overbearing but at the same time you certainly won’t need a schnoz like a Basset Hound to pick them up. On the palate, it is bone dry, has refreshing acidity and piercing citrus (lime) flavours. At 12% abv this wine is well suited to living-room quaffing, but would also be a worthy companion with food (especially fish and shellfish).
2. Tesco Finest Tingleup Riesling 2010, Western Australia, 12.5% abv, £8.68 from Tesco
A winner at the recent Decanter World Wine Awards, this Aussie gem breaks away from the traditional bone dry Aussie style slightly in that it has a smidge of residual sugar. It is also a refreshing reminder that top Aussie Riesling doesn’t have to come from the Clare or Eden Valleys. The Tingleup is jammed packed with zesty citrus fruit and lively, energetic acidity. This wine would work brilliantly with seafood but its just off-dry character means that it could also become great friends with mildly spiced dishes. Superb value for money.
3. C ono Sur Bio Bio Valley Reserva 2010, Chile, 13.5% abv, £8.49 from Tesco
The Bio Bio region has a cool climate which makes it particularly well suited to growing Riesling and at £8.49 this cracking little number is an absolute snip. Citrus flavours (lemon and lime) dominate on the palate but it also has good balance and surprising elegance for its heftier 13.5% abv. The high acidity and citrus flavours could work brilliantly with your Friday night fish and chips.
4. Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Awatere Valley Riesling 2010, New Zealand, 11.5% abv, £8.99 from Sainsbury’s
Despite a poor showing in Decanter magazine’s September 2011 issue, I maintain that New Zealand is producing some really great Rieslings which provide a welcome alternative to their ubiquitous Sauvignon Blancs. With 15g/l residual sugar, this wine is just off-dry but its lively and energetic acidity balance the sweetness beautifully, making for a zingy and thoroughly refreshing wine. Similar to the Tingleup, this would go really nicely with something spicy.
5. Leitz Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2009, Germany, 11.5% abv, £13 from Sainsbury’s
If you have any negative preconceptions about German wine, I can guarantee that thisbottle will change your mind. The key to all great German Rieslings is the balance between residual sugar and acidity and this wine, simply put, nails it. It is just off-dry and displays a powerful explosion of fruit (citrus and a hint of apple) on the palate, with trademark Rheingau high acidity that races down your throat like a stream train. It may be a little dearer on the wallet, but it is well worth the extra dosh.
6. Dr “L” Riesling, Loosen Bros 2010, Germany, 8.5% abv, £7.99 from Asda
This fun-loving wine never fails to put a smile on my face. Be aware that it is medium sweet, but it is bursting with frivolity and lively acidity and shows a lovely forward fruity (apricots and stone fruit) character. Don’t be afraid of the residual sugar – at 8.5% abv this is unpretentious drinking in its purest form – perfect as an aperitif or for idle quaffing in the garden on a sunny afternoon. It’s medium sweet character also lends itself brilliantly to being paired with hot and spicy foods such as curries and stir-fry.
7. Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2009 Nelson, New Zealand, 10.5% abv, £13.29 from Waitrose
It’s not every day you’ll have the opportunity to try a sweet Riesling from New Zealand. But make no mistake about it – this is self-indulgence at its very best. Like all great sweet wines, the Sweet Agnes is beautifully balanced – the sweet citrus fruit and honey never become cloying thanks to the presence of refreshing acidity. In store distribution is limited but for those London based Revolutionaries, the Sweet Agnes can be found in the Canary Wharf and Oxford Street foodhall branches. This wine is seriously good value for money and I urge you all to get out there and snap up a bottle.
As always, don’t be shy in letting us know what you think if you try any of the above. Sharing is caring, after all.