Give me one good riesling

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Is the riesling revival just around the corner? You've probably heard that mantra so often by now that you could be forgiven for wondering which corner that might be. Yet I can't remember a time when riesling was so talked up and talked about. If sales caught up with the trade's current enthusiasm, chardonnay would be on the way out.

Is the riesling revival just around the corner? You've probably heard that mantra so often by now that you could be forgiven for wondering which corner that might be. Yet I can't remember a time when riesling was so talked up and talked about. If sales caught up with the trade's current enthusiasm, chardonnay would be on the way out.

But if riesling is such a great grape, why is it so hard to love? The main reasons given are the legacy of its image as sweet, Germanic and dull, and because its steely acidity makes it a more demanding, albeit more sophisticated, style than chardonnay. There are other theories: riesling has never been accepted as a mainstream grape variety because it's not French. And it is sensitive to nuances of location, climate and winemaking, hence it's as much a challenge to producers as to drinkers.

Being neither French nor a natural people-pleaser shouldn't deter anyone. Also in its favour is that it's a refreshing spring/summer drink and an appetising partner for today's ethnic and experimental cooking. Even so an element of discrimination is required.

I still have trouble getting my head and palate round most of the cheap, so-called new wave, dry styles issuing so copiously out of Germany. Unless the drier style has sufficient fruit quality and weight (and you generally pay for the labour involved in cultivating low-yielding riesling on slopes), I'd tend to look to Australia first for value, while Alsace and Austria often outriesling Germany in the character department. There are exceptions, though, like the well-made, grapefruity 2001 J L Wolf Wachenheimer Riesling (£8.49, available at Tesco from Wednesday.)

Shops are stocking more rieslings than before, but they're mostly the drier, fuller-bodied styles from Australia's Clare and Eden Valleys and Frankland River. At Tesco's two-week spring wine festival starting on Wednesday, the 20 per cent discount on all Australian wines is a chance to spend a little more on the fragrant, crisp and intensely limey 2000 Leo Buring Special Release Eden Valley Riesling, £9.99, and the rich, toasty, yet elegant 1998 Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling, £14.99. Safeway too is featuring a handful of new rieslings (in 83 stores), the finest of which is the 2002 Alkoomi Frankland River Riesling, £7.99, a mouthful of fresh and tangy, citrus-peel fruitiness.

In this country there's more choice of the traditional, mouthwatering off-dry and richer German styles with their delectable sweet and sour balance, than there is of the dry. At kabinett, spätlese and even auslese level, the excellent 2001 and 2002 vintages in Germany provide a number of classic examples. One is the 2002 Dr Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese, £12.99, Tesco (from Wednesday), a medium sweet, minerally riesling with peach and sweet and sour Cox's apple fruitiness. To experience auslese at its best, track down the 2001 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese (£18-£19.50 bottle/case, Charles Steevenson, Devon, 01822 616272; Hicks & Don, Wiltshire, 01380 831234; Haslemere Cellar, 01428 645081; Halifax Wine Co, 01422 256333). The wine has an exotic, delicately smoky bouquet, fresh spritz, and an unctuous, tropical grapefruit and mango-like fruitiness. Delicious as it is now, it guards great riesling's secret of getting better with age, a secret many of us would be happy to share.

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