My own Summer of Riesling

In the US Paul Grieco and friends at the Terroir Wine Bar has been doing a fantastic job promoting the best white wine grape in the world under the slogan “Summer of Riesling”. Paul started the initiative in 2008 in the smaller of his two bars in the East Village. Last year he expanded the theme to incorporate both his establishments and this year they really have taken it to a whole nother level!

I just love the initiative. No other white wine combines the freshness, the sheer purity of the grape and the marriage of the fruit and the land it has grown on (terroir baby!), or has the longevity of the great Riesling wines (be they dry, halbtrocken, half-sweet or luciously sweet). One thing is certain: we do not nearly drink enough Riesling either here in Sweden or in the US (or the rest of the world for that matter)!

In Sweden we do not have the luxury an offical “summer of riesling” but I (me, myself and I) have done my best to celebrate the greatness of Riesling on my own and promoting it through my blogs, facebook and twitter. And as a lucky coincidence a whole bunch of great Rieslings recently were released at Systembolaget – the Swedish wine and spirit monopoly. Wines that really proves the point! Great Riesling can really the best wine in the world!

Australias Tim Adams in Clare Valley does one of my favourite aussie Rieslings. Their Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling 2008 combines the New Worlds lucious fruit and upfront tastes of lime and citrus with an almost european-like acidity and elements of kerosene and honey. It is bone dry, fruity and delicious to drink right now but you could also age it with grace.

Weingut Franz Künstler in Rheingau is antoher classic Riesling-producer from a classic region. Their Künstler Hochheimer Stielweg Riesling Old Vines trocken 2009 shows no mercy with it’s hard uncompromising but also focused and delightful europan style. The nose is floral and astonishingly fruity for such a young wine with loads of apples, apple pie and minerals. But the taste is very fresh, young and acidic with an almost bitter smokey minerality and elements of citrus and petroleum. The aftertaste is already incredible but it needs another 3-5 years in bottle to open up with all it’s beauty.

For many Mosel is the quintessential Riesling wine. When Rhein gives you power and structure – Mosel is the epitomé of style and elegance, lighter and more fragrant than it’s German sister wine. I can’t remember that I have ever tasted any of Clemens Busch wines earlier but their  Clemens Busch Riesling vom roten Schiefer 2009 and Clemens Busch Marienberg GG Fahrlay Riesling trocken 2009 are botjh magnificent.

The first one is a bit closed at the moment with gunsmoke and mineral aromas. On the palate it is painfully fresh with citrus, minerals and honey. The elements are not quite balanced yet but it shows true class and will develop in to something wonderful in the years to come. Keep it for at least three to five years before you open it!

Clemens and his wife Rita took over the family estate in 1991. And they got some fantastic vineyard sites in Marienberg and Nonnengarten. Clemens Busch Marienberg GG Fahrlay Riesling trocken 2009 comes from a tiny 1 hectar site in Marienberg. GG is one of those awkward and bewildering quality designations that often confuses the consumer. It is short for Grosses Gewächs witch roughly translates “great growth” and is used by members of the organisation VDP for dry wines from a selected site.

In this particular instance the grapes has been grown on blue slate soils. It feels a lot more developed than the one from the red slate soil above. Still it is hard and young on the palate. It has an almost steely, mineral laden and spritzig taste with green apples, citrusfruit and petroleum. The concentration is astonishing. Light, yet powerful and with a length that defies logic. It has an aftertaste that never ends and it is such a great example of great riesling that I want to cry: “Lets continue the Summer of Riesling forever!”

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Sparkling shiraz – they must be crazy!

For a European it almost sounds like a joke bordering on madness. If you take one of the worlds most full bodied, deep coloured and potent red grapes and make a sparkling red wine out of it – then you just can’t be sane! Can you!?

Those were the sentiments and thoughts of many european wine snobs not so long ago (and it is still quite common). But as always – the truth is in the glass!

Okey – I must admit – that most sparkling shiraz that I have come across has been rather… eh uninspiring. And definitely more interesting than good. But this wine might change that perception for ever. For Seppelts Show Sparkling Shiraz 1990 (Great Western, Victoria) is just awesome!

It is single vineyard and begins it’s life as a red wine that gets 18 monts in big old oak. Second fermentation in bottle and six and a half years on the lees before it is discorged. 26 g/l residual sugar and only 5,0 g/l in total acidity (and therefore often a bit “funky” in style).

The colour is orange-red almost brick. The nose is evolved and funky with a lot of secondary fruitaromas, dried fruits and farmyard notes. Spicy and stunning.
On the palate light to medium bodied with great mousse. Notes of leather, tobacco, herbs and dried fruits. Definitely funky  – but in a good way. Complex finish with loads of fruits (strawberries), herbs and spices.

Australian Riesling – OMG such great wines!

If I say Australia most swedish customers and wine drinkers probably thinks of easy drinking sometimes heavy, full bodied Shiraz or wooded, powerful and luscious Chardonnays.

In some ways Australias wine producers have got themselves to blame. The focus on brands have been so successful (think Lindemans, Penfolds and Rosemount) that they tend to overshadow and dominate every other take on the continent. And the focus on great fruit rather than regionality has also played a part.

But if you ask me the variety among australian wines is at least as good as that in most if not all european countries. The range of wines in Australia is mindblowing and goes all the way from light, delicate and elegant whites to blockbuster reds and fortifieds.

This last weekend I had a great opportunity to test this great variety. I participated in a Master Class on Australia at Gustibus Wine And Spirits Academy led by Justin Knock MW. And for me one of the highlights were the first three tastings on the first day. In focus the best grape in the world: Riesling!

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2009 (South Australia) 12,5%
Light golden with a greenish tint.
Quite big fresh, green nose with notes of beewax, petroleum, lime and honey.
Fresh, up-front and concentrated taste with lots of citrus/lime, tropical fruits and flowers. Long and focused finish with a little bitter note. Lots of mineral flavours.

Comment: Pewsey Vale usuallly makes fantastic and great value rieslings. This wine is no exception. It’s delicious!

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2009 (Frankland River – Western Australia) 12%
Ligth golden colour.
More closed on the nose with tones of minerals, chalk, grapes and citrus.
Light, fresh and mineralladen wine with flowers and green fruit on the palate. Delicate and a bit closed in stile.
Comment: Feels defenitely lighter, younger and greener than Pewsey Vale. Could need som bottle age for it to open up!? First one I have ever tasted from this winery!

Penfolds Konunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2010 11,5%
Greenish yellow.
Big aromatic and a bit spicy nose with lots of tropical fruits. Mango, passion fruit and papaya. Is it really a riesling?
A delicate but more broad fruity taste of tropical fruits (mango, papaya, passion fruit). Aromatic and almost a touch of sweetness. Great “grapey” finish! 3,5/5p

Comment: The Autumn riesling is made in a style that was popular in the 70’s. The wine includes about 6-7 percent gewürztraminer which quite obviously has a lot of impact on the nose and palate. Exciting and interesting and most definitely a wine for those moments when you want to combine the freshness and minerality of riesling with gewürztraminers aromatic tropical flavours.

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Wigan Riesling 2005 (South Australia) 11,5%
Greenish golden in colour.
Big quite developed and evolved nose with ripe fruits, petroleum, minerals and honey.
Fresh, still  young and a bit acidic taste of mature ripe apples, citrus/lemon, minerals, petroleum and honey. Long youthful and delicious finish with loads of citrusflavours. Will keep for years!

Comment: This wine used to be called Riesling Reserve and is apparently a real wine show-winner in Australia (i.e a winer of lot of medals). Peter Lehmanns wines usually shines and this one is fantastic!

Leo Buring Tamar Valley Tasmania Riesling 2005 (Tasmanien)
Golden yellow.
A bit more developed and “smoky” (a cross between gunflint/gunpowder and fudge) and aromatic odours with ripe fruit, minerals/petroleum and herbs.
A medium bodied more developed and round (mellow) taste of ripe fruits, honey, orange, petroleum and nuts. Long complex aftertaste and a supberb finish!

Comment: Leo Buring (now owned by Fosters) is a classic rieslingproducer in Australia and is most famous for Eden and Clare Valley rieslings – the Leonay Eden Valley being the producers top wine. This wine comes from Tasmania – a region that’s showing good promise for cool climate rieslings!

Leo Buring Clare Valley Riesling 1999 (South Australia)
Golden yellow.
Evolved and developed nose with tones of bees wax, hazelnuts, fudge, orange marmelade and apricots.
Still fresh showing good acidity and a concentrated palate filled with blood oranges, grape, fudge and minerals. A hint of oxidization with nutty flavours but the fruit is still luscious. A long and complex aftertaste with hints of smoke

Comment: Probably the first time I have tasted an australian riesling with more than ten years bottle age. And if you thought that New World rieslings is only for early consumption – thing again! Australias best rieslings has an ageing potential in class with most european riesling wines.

Leo Buring Eden Valley Riesling 1999 (South Australia)
Golden yellow!
Sadly a bit of cork taint on the nose (the tasting room was divided – was it really corked?). Under that first murky cellar tone butter, white flowers and fudge.
Fresh nutty taste with tones of butter and honey. Creamy texture and a long aftertaste with ripe red apples and oranges. No traces of TCA/cork taint on the palate. Just a hint of sulphur!

Comment: Would love to taste this wine again. There were a few of us that first noticed a corky/cellar-tone on the nose. But the taste was still vibrant. Today all australian rieslings are bottled under screw cap!

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Reserve Riesling 2002 (South Australia)
Greenish yellow.
Rich complex smoky nose with toasty secondary aromas. Tones of gunpowder, minerals, lime and petroleum.
Very fresh and superconcentrated taste of citrus/lime, orange, honey, nuts and fudge. Hints of smoke, gundpowder and minerals. Long a wee bit bitter and still amazingly youthful finish. Good acidity with lots of lemon and honey!

Comment: 9 years of age and still vibrant with great fruit intensity. Probably the best aussie riesling I have ever tasted! Same wine as the Wigan Riesling above (different vintage though!). The wine has been renamed!

If you are fluent in swedish – you can compare my notes wit those of Anders Öhman at Gustibus Wine And Spirit Academy here!

Australias liquid gold – the “stickies”

The “stickies” – the fortified black liqueur muscats and “ports” – has been called the Australias liquid gold. It’s where or by what it all started and even though the style is hopelessly unfashionable in a modern world ruled by table wines – it is probably one of the most egocentric and underrated wines in the world. And quite often a real bargain!

Personally I have always loved the liqueur muscats since I first tested a Morris Liqueur Muscat in the early 90’s. And I have hyped Seppeltsfield No 9 Muscat (strangely called so in Europe and called No 8 in Australia) in my swedish blog.

This last weekend I had a chance to retest Seppeltsfield No 9 against two other fortified icons: Yalumba Museum Reserve and Penfolds Grandfather. The scene was a Master Class on Australia with Justin Knock MW at Gustibus Wine And Spirit Academy in Malmo, Sweden.

These are my notes! For my notes in swedish – see Uppkorkat!

Seppeltsfield no 9 Muscat (Rutherglen/Victoria) 16,5%
Nice light orange/brown almost golden amber colour in the glass.
On the nose quite developed with muscovado sugar, raisins, dried fruits (apricots) and chocolate. A touch of orange, mint and dried herbs.
Full bodied almost oily concentrated taste with dried fruits (apricots again). muscovado sugar and raisins. Hints of chocolate, herbs and prunes. I just love it!

Comment: Almost ridiculously high levels of residual sugar – 326g/l. Made by late harvested raisined brown muscat grapes (a clone of mucat à petite grains). Fortified by grape spirit soon after the start of fermentation (at a level of 2-3% alcohol). Long ageing in large oak casks!

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (Rutherglen/Victoria) 18%
Somewhat darker i colour – orange/amber.
Quite developed nose with burnt sugar, hazelnuts, muscovado sugar, raisins and other dried fruits. Just a whiff of citrus and leather.
Medium bodied, fresh and sweet taste with a burnt nutty tone. Lots of dried fruits – prunes, citrusmarmelade, apricots and raisins. Definitely more fruity in style. Not as sweet as Seppeltsfield and with a more delicate finish with just a hint of burnt sugar.

Comment: Made from red and pink muscat (à petite grains). This wine is also fortified early in the fermentationprocess.  243 g/l residual sugar and quite a low total acidity with 4,6 g/l. Museum has been aged for 7 years in large oak puncheons.

Penfolds Grandfather Tawny (South Eastern Australia) 19%
Brown orange amber in colour.
A lot of herbs on the nose with mint/spearmint and oxididative notes of hazelnuts and something vaguely chemical. A bit “funky”.
Mediumbodied, sweet and a bit funky taste of salmiak, liquorice, dried fruits, raisins and salt. Quite a lot of burnt sugar. Definitely more oxidized than the other two with a distinctive rancio-character. But he wine has a lovely freshness as well.

Comment: The wine is normally a blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and cabernet (but Penfolds use other grapes as well). It goes in to large oak puncheons för about 8 years before it is put into a solera system (called Grandfather). There it stays on average for 12 years which gives the wine an average age of 20 years.  About 15og/l i residual sugar and a total acidity of 8,2 g/l.