Riesling for a taste of summer


A gleam of green in the glass and fresh vivid floral aromas – Riesling is the perfect garden wine, writes JOHN WILSON

I AM A FRUSTRATED gardener. I grew up in a house with a large back garden and two very knowledgeable and enthusiastic parents. So I know what I should do; I just never seem to find the time (the classic excuse) and don’t have much room anyway. My small shady back garden is probably large enough for a small flower garden. That doesn’t stop me planting far too much; it is currently crammed with broad beans, courgettes, lettuces and salads of various descriptions, with a large number of brassicas waiting to be planted whenever space permits.

I also have a wide-ranging selection of very healthy weeds. But a disheveled overgrown garden does not deter me from sitting outside in the shade with a glass of chilled wine. In the peace of the evening, or before starting the dinner, it is one of my favourite times of the day.

There are a great many wines suitable for sipping al fresco; crisp fruity white wines and rosés are best, although a light red, served cool, is another option. However, one grape variety provides the complete garden wine; Riesling. Riesling is aromatic, floral and refreshing, the perfect wine to drink on a summer’s evening seated in the shade, relaxing after a hard day’s work, or as a remedy for stiff back brought on by too much weeding and digging.

A number of regions produce great Riesling; the three “A’s” comprising Austria, Alsace and Australia in particular, but no other country can compete with Germany for the quality, range of styles and sheer gorgeousness of their Riesling. These are the most delicate, ethereal yet complex wines of all. Some go very well with food, but all of them, from dry to sweet, are perfect on their own. They are sipping wines par excellence.

Many consumers are put off by the idea that all Riesling is sweet. In fact, many these days are dry. In any case, an off-dry wine can be much more pleasant drunk without food. A Mosel Kabinett, fresh, floral and satisfying, yet still only 8-9 per cent alcohol may well be the best garden wine of all. However, in an effort to row in with the current obsession with dry wines, I will leave those aside for today and concentrate on the drier style.

Dry German Riesling will have the word “trocken” on the front or back label. Most are around 11.5-12 per cent alcohol. They are relatively expensive, starting at €12 a bottle if you are lucky, but usually €15-€20. Given the quality, I think they offer real value.

As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of Riesling. There is a gleam of green in the glass, wonderful fresh vivid floral aromas; the palate is a glorious mix of sharp acidity, sweet fruit and honey. Low in alcohol, thirst quenching and appetising, what could be better on a summer’s day?

If you fancy really spoiling yourself, go for one of the top single-vineyard wines from Wittmann or Emrich-Schönleber; they are as good as the finest white Burgundy and considerably less expensive.

Geil Riesling Trocken 2011, Rheinhessen 12.5%, €13.65-€13.95This was delicious summer drinking. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather have in my glass; fresh crisp and light with a touch of sweetness on the finish, this is perfect light Riesling at a great price. Stockists: 64 Wine, Glasthule; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries; Power Smullen, Lucan; Martin’s Off Licence, Fairview; On the Grapevine, Dalkey; Corkscrew, D2; Probus Wines, Fenian St, D2; Donnybrook Fair, D4; Lilac Wines, Marino, D3; WA Wines, Dundrum; McHugh’s, Raheny Kilbarrack; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Wicklow Wine Co; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Redmond’s, Ranelagh, D6.

Sybille Kuntz Riesling Trocken 2009, Mosel 12%, €19.99Classic dry Riesling; a lightly floral nose, pristine crisp green apple fruits and citrus acidity. Fresh as a spring morning and a delight to drink. Stockists: Corkscrew, Chatham St; Red Island, Skerries; Baggot Street Wines; Drinkstore, D7; Wicklow Arms, Greystones; Deveneys Rathmines; Parting Glass, Enniskerry; Fallon Byrne, Exchequer St; Hargadon’s, Sligo.

Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Trocken 2010, Nahe 11.5%, €18.95One of the brightest young winemakers in Germany, Frank Schönleber is responsible for some of the very best Rieslings. This Riesling Trocken is a fantastic garden wine, lightly aromatic with pristine lively succulent peach fruits, and a wonderful harmonious finish. Stockists: Corkscrew, D2; Redmonds, Ranalegh; Probus Wines, Fenian St, D2; Donnybrook Fair; W A Wines, Dundrum; 64 Wine, Glasthule; La Touche Wines, Greystones; Wicklow Wine Co.

Wittmann Riesling Trocken 2011, Rheinhessen 12.5%, €17.99Wittmann is another of the great names in German wine. This Riesling Trocken is a delicious medium-bodied wine brimming with ripe peach and orange fruit, balanced by a fine mineral acidity. This is quality wine at a very reasonable price. Stockists: On the Grapevine, Dalkey, onthegrapevine.ie; Cabot Co, Westport cabotandco.com; Morton’s, Galway.

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