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Four great Rieslings to pair with seafood, Asian spices and Alsace classics

Rieslings from Aldi, Wittmann, Zinck and Immich-Batterieberg

First published in The Irish Times, 11th May, 2019

Having missed a connecting flight from London home to Dublin a few weeks back, and utterly exhausted, I treated myself to a reviving glass of Pewsey Vale’s The Contours Riesling, from Australia, and some potted shrimp with sourdough toast. It wasn’t cheap, but it was by far the best airport food I have had in years. It also reminded me just how good Riesling is with food.

Riesling is a contender, alongside Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, for the greatest white grape variety, with or without food. The food-matching side is all down to the acidity; white wines (and red) with good acidity tend to go well with food.

The best Riesling comes from four places: Alsace, Austria, Australia and Germany. Alsace and Austrian Riesling tends to be richer, higher in alcohol and dry. Australian Riesling, from the Clare and Eden Valleys, is light, bone dry and laced with lime and citrus. German Riesling varies, but if it has the word “Trocken” on the label, as many do, it will be dry (or just off dry) too.

Alsace Riesling goes really well with Alsatian food, such as coq au Riesling, choucroute garnie and other pork dishes, including belly of pork, as well as with all kinds of creamy sauces – try it with pork chops in a creamy mushroom sauce. A glass of Alsace Riesling is almost mandatory with onion tart, one of my favourite posh lunchtime dishes.

Riesling, particularly the German type, is very popular in Scandinavia as a partner for cured, smoked and lightly pickled seafood. Farther afield, it provides the perfect balance of light fruit and crisp acidity to match raw seafood – oysters, tartares, sashimi and ceviche. German Riesling tends to be lighter than others in alcohol (although not always these days), and I love it with fresh crab (sometimes with slivers of apple, matching the wine’s green-apple fruits) or with plainly grilled white fish.

German and Australian Riesling also work with Asian food. Try Aussie Riesling with crab cakes, pad thai and seafood salads, as well as with dishes with ginger, coriander, basil, lemongrass and green chillies. I once came across a memorable Mexican match of halibut ceviche with coriander leaves on a taco with a glass of Aussie Riesling. Heaven.

As you may have realised, much of the above is merely a ploy to get you to drink more Riesling. Over the past month I have enjoyed a bottle at least once a week. Most have been German Trockens, including several bottles I had aged for a few years. All have been brilliant, including a few glasses of the I Love Mosel Riesling (from Wines Direct, €18.25) that I couldn’t quite fit in below.

Aldi Exquisite Clare Valley Riesling 2015, Australia
13%, €9.99
Crisp lime zest and green-apple fruits, with mouthwatering acidity and a dry finish. Pair with prawn noodles, Thai crab cakes or spicy, herby Asian seafood dishes.
From Aldi, aldi.ie

Wittmann Riesling Trocken 2017, Rheinhessen, Germany (Organic)
12%, €22-€25
Luscious nectarines and peaches, a touch of honey, with a vivid streak of lemon zest. Perfect with crab salad, stir-fried prawns, seared salmon or chicken tikka.
From Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; Red Island Wine, Skerries, Co Dublin; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie

Riesling 2017, Domaine Zinck, Alsace (Organic)
12.5%, €22.90
Delicious crisp, light dry riesling zinging with green apples and lemon zest. Try it with plainly grilled sea trout, onion tart or roast chicken.
From Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin, ely64.com; siyps.com; McCabes @ the Gables, Dublin 18, mccabeswines.ie

Immich-Batterieberg Riesling Detonation 2017 (Organic), Mosel
11.5%, €26
I love everything about this wine: the pristine fresh peach and zingy lemon-zest fruits, the wonderful cleansing mineral acidity, the whiff of smoke and the excellent length. Pair with fresh crab salads, sashimi or simply cooked scallops or Dublin Bay prawns. From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Loose Canon, Dublin 2, loosecanon.ie; Lilliput Stores, Dublin 7, lilliputstores.com; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie

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Selbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

Selbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

10WGER002-Selbach-Riesling-InclineSelbach Riesling 2014, Mosel

11.5%

€13.95 for March 2017

Fresh crisp green apple fruits, with a zesty citrus edge and a nicely rounded finish. Delicate and delectable wine.

By itself or with mildly spicy Asian fish dishes; that lemon and lime acidity works really well with many Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

I am a big fan of Riesling and was very happy when a friend served me a glass of this before dinner recently. Low in alcohol and refreshing with a touch of sweetness (as with many white wines these days) it is the perfect aperitif wine.

Available from O’Briens

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Lidl French Wine Sale Part One – White Wines Preview

The Lidl French wine sale starts on the 12th September. As usual, quantities are limited, so some will sell through fairly quickly. There are, I think, fewer wines this year, but the overall quality was pretty good with some impressive wines. As in previous years, Bordeaux features strongly with a nice range of wines at around €10.

Prices are indicative and will be confirmed closer to the event. Today, I review my favourite white wines, to be followed by the reds next week.

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Ernest Wein Riesling 2015, Alsace (around €10)

Very recognisably Riesling with plump apple fruits, a little residual sugar, but it works very well. Nice wine.

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JP Muller Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Berbieten 2013 (€13-15)

Bigger, richer and riper than the Riesling above, with good mature honeyed fruits, nice concentration and a clean finish. Well-made wine and very good value.

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Bestheim Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2015, Alsace (€8-9)

A pleasantly herbal nose and palate with decent plump fruit. Perfect sipping wine at a very good price.

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Sancerre 2015, Vigne de la Taille aux Buis (€14-16)

I am not usually a fan of cheap Sancerre, but this was an exception. Light crisp and mineral with some elegant green fruits.
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Touraine Sauvignon La Chardoise 2015 (around €10)

Looking for an inexpensive sipping Sauvignon? This should do the trick. Light elderflower aromas rich rounded green fruits. Fine at the price. By the way, I am not sure this is the correct picture above – there were two on tasting.

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Adrien Marechal Reuilly 2015 (€11-13)

If you haven’t tried a Reuilly before, this is your chance. This small appellation in the Loire valley produces some very good Sauvignon Blanc. This was one of my stars of the tasting, a lovely lightly aromatic wine with concentrated stony green fruits and a crisp dry finish. Lovely wine.

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Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2007

<strong>Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2007</strong>

IMG_4795Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2007
Around €45-50 from independent wine shops – I got mine fro €40 from La Touche in Greystones.

Light and elegant, with intense honeyed fruits, a strong mineral streak and a bone dry finish. A mere 12.5% in alcohol, but packed with flavour. Drink with crab or other shellfish.

A wine that may seem expensive but I still reckon it is a bargain. The wine pictured beside it, Clos Sainte Hune, a great wine made by the same producer, from a single vineyard, costs well over €100 a bottle if you can find it. Cuvée Frédéric Emile is made from two grand cru vineyards, although it doesn’t say it on the label. To me, it is one of the great wines of Alsace. It lasts forever too; I am hoarding the last few bottles of a case of 2002 – a brilliant wine.

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Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2012, JJ Prum

<strong>Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2012, JJ Prum</strong>

IMG_4463Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2012, JJ Prum
10%
€34.50 from 64wine, Glasthule.

If you fancy giving yourself a real treat, chill a bottle of this wine, sit down in the garden and slowly sip and savour with a friend. Pure essence of peachy Riesling with honeycomb and fine zesty acidity. Sublime wine.

J.J. Prum is one of the legendary producers of the Mosel and Germany, producing a string of brilliant sweet and medium-dry wines. Mosel Kabinett is one of the great wine classics, where refreshing acidity meets fine delicate fruits to produce perfectly balanced sipping wine. I admit to having drunk an entire bottle one evening many years ago. The name may be long and confusing to some, but Graach is the town, Himmelreich the vineyard, translated as Kingdom of Heaven) Kabinett the level of sweetness (or original must weight to be technical) and Riesling, of course, is the wonderful grape variety. Enjoy!

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Easter Weekend – the wines

It was my birthday on Easter Sunday, so I felt justified in opening up a few nice elderly bottles from my stash.

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El Grano Chardonnay 2013, Chile
13.5%
€15.90 from 64wine, Glasthule; Baggot Street Wines; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Blackrock Cellar; Le Caveau, Kilkenny.

An organic wine made by a Frenchman who set up in the Curico Valley in Chile. Gerard Maguire in 64wine, Glasthule first put me on to this wine. It is a delicious plump Chardonnay, with great purity of fruit and a lovely freshness.


Miro Traminec 2013, Jeruzalem, Slovenia

13.5%
€20.99 from Cabot & Co., Westport or On the Grapevine, Dalkey.

Miro came over for the Knockranny Wine weekend, and put on a fascinating tasting of his wines. Included was a Traminec, or Gewürztraminer. I am guilty of ignoring this grape, mainly because I grew tired of the overblown aromas, flabby fruit and residual sugar that you so often find. Miro’s version however was lovely; lightly aromatic, spicy nose; soft textured lychees on the palate and good length. A charming wine to sup by itself or I suspect it would go nicely with Chinese or Thai food.

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Laurent Perrier Ultra Brut Nature Champagne
12%
Around €60.

We didn’t open up the bottle of Bollinger in the picture above for various reasons. The Brut Nature, has no residual sugar, unlike most Champagnes that have 9-12 g/l. It showed in the bone-dry, austere finish. I loved it, but others were a little less sure. It didn’t stop us polishing off the bottle before dinner though. Light crisp apple and brioche with an elegant bone dry long finish. Nice wine.

Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2002, Trimbach, Alsace
12.5%
The current vintage costs €50 – 60 a bottle.

One of my favourite white wines, and this bottle, the last of a case I bought, was superb. Elegant and restrained, with perfectly mature fruit. Toasty, nutty and honeyed, with plenty of acidity, I could have sipped it all evening. Despite the price (around €50) I still believe this is one of the best value white wines. It is made from several Grand Cru vineyards, and is less expensive and more consistent than most grand cru white Burgundy.

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Villa de Corullón 2001, Bierzo
14%
Around €65 a bottle.

This had been stashed away for the best part of a decade. As I had just finished a tasting of Bierzo, I thought it might be nice to try a mature version. It certainly didn’t taste ten years old with sour cherries, plums and a strong mineral streak. Good length. The leftovers were nice the following day too. Nice without every bowling me over.


Ch. Canon 1990, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classé

13%

I bought this around fifteen years ago; elegant and maturing with an attractive leafiness and some restrained plum fruits. It still had some tannins on the finish. Opened out nicely and went very well with my roast pork. Very good rather than excellent.

Ch. Coutet 1989, Barsac
13.5%

Rich marmalade and honey fruits, with a tangy long sweet finish. Very tasty, lacking the complexity to be really great, but a very nice wine.

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A Weekend’s Drinking

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A few very nice bottles over the weekend mostly grabbed from my stash of ageing wine.

Domine des Anges Ventoux Blanc 2014
13.5%

A blend, I think, of Grenache, Roussanne and Bourbelenc. Good quite rich peachy white with a bracing acidity. It cost around €13 a bottle (Cases.ie and Red Nose Wines, Clonmel), and is good value at that. Sent a few months ago as a sample, which I coravined to keep fresh.


Lettre d’Eloïse Chardonnay 2013, Coteaux Bourguignons, Bertrand Ambroise

13%

Good clean fresh, well-made Burgundy with a lip-smacking wet-stone character, light oak and a zesty lemon edge. Nice wine. Imported by Le Caveau. Sells for around €20 I think.

Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2011 Wittmann
13%

I have been drinking a lot of Riesling (and a lot of Wittmann) recently. Philip Wittmann makes some lovely wines. This I bought a year or two ago, and it has matured nicely; medium-bodied with light honey, beeswax and a subtle nuttiness finishing dry. Great sipping wine while making dinner.

Moulin-a-Vent 2008, Les Trois Roches, Domaine de Vissoux
12.5%

I love Beaujolais and this is one of the great producers. I bought six bottles of this six years ago and recently started working my way through it. Delicious light soft cherry fruits. Wish I had bought more.

Fayard 2012, Côtes du Ventoux, Domaine de Fondrèche

14%

I am not sure what sort of a vintage 2012 was in the southern Rhône but this was a very enjoyable wine. Medium-bodied with a wonderful purity of dark fruit, and hints of spice. A world away from some of the big, dare I say clumsy, wines of the Southern Rhône. I had kept it for a year or so.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2006
14%

I bought six bottles of this and the 2007 vintage a few years back, and am both, but I think I prefer the 2006. Rich and quite powerful black fruits, cherries and blackcurrants, but with a nice refreshing streak of acidity and a good finish. Will keep for a few years yet.

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TWO TOP DROPS FOR THE WEEKEND

Is spring here yet? I am never really a fan of bigger more alcoholic reds, but once the weather starts to warm up a little, I quickly switch to lighter wines. Last weekend I met up with one of my favourite producers of red wines, Matthieu Baudry of Domaine Baudry in Chinon. It was at a tasting organised by the Knockranny House Hotel and Cabot & Co, both based in Westport. It was a brilliant tasting, followed by an excellent dinner (Seamus Commons being one of the best chefs in the country). I also gorged myself on one of the best collections of Rieslings in the country (see www.cabotandco.com) including those of Klaus Peter Keller. The dry Riesling below is excellent, and the Kirchspiel is magnificent. Sadly it costs around €50 a bottle.

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Klaus Peter Keller Dry Riesling 2013, Rheinhessen
€20.99

Light and refreshing but with wonderful piercing concentrated lightly honeyed peach fruits. By itself or with plain shellfish.

Available from Cabot & Co. (www.cabotandc.com) ,On the Grapevine, Dalkey, and No1 Pery Square, Limerick.

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Domaine Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2014
€18.99

Crunchy free-flowing and fresh juicy redcurrant fruits in a lively but very enjoyable wine. Serve it cool, but not chilled, with charcuterie.

Available from Cabot & Co. (www.cabotandc.com) ,On the Grapevine, Dalkey, Listons, Camden St, Donnybrook Fair, Malahide, Red Island Wines, Skerries, Market 57, Westport and No1 Pery Square, Limerick.

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A WEEKEND’S DRINKING – four wines worth seeking out

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Domaine Begude Terroir 11300Domaine de Begude Chardonnay Terroir 11300, 2014
Haute Vallée de l’Aude 13%

Available for €17.99 from O’Briens

Made from organic grapes by James Begude in the cool climate of Limoux high above Carcassonne, this was one of my favourite white wines of last year. It appeared in Wilson on Wine 2016. 75% of the juice is fermented in stainless steel, the remainder in large 600 litre casks. The result is a beautifully balanced wine with plenty of zesty citrus, plump peaches and apple fruits, and hints of toasted nuts. We drank our bottle on its own as an aperitif, and with some roast chicken. Please don’t be put off by the word Chardonnay; this is a brilliant wine. I can also recommend most of the other wines of Domaine de Begude, which include a Gewurztraminer, a Pinot Noir, and Le Bel Ange,, his entry-level Chablis lookalike. 11300 is a postcode by the way.

Riesling Junge Reben 2013, August Kesseler, Rheingau, 12%

Available for €24.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I love Riesling but generally don’t drink too much of it over the winter months, unless it is fairly rich and full-bodied. However, I wanted something light to sip before dinner, so I cracked open this bottle and was very pleased that I had. Vivid and refreshing with delectable pure Riesling fruit. Herr Kesseler is one of the finest producers of Pinot Noir in Germany, but is no slouch with Riesling either. I think Whelehan’s are currently out of stock of the Pinot Noir, but I would certainly recommend it when it makes their return. In the meantime, you can enjoy this wine, and the excellent Rieslings Lorch (€28.95) for a few euros more.

Pie NegrosArtuke Pies Negros 2014, Rioja
14%, €18.90
64wine, Glasthule; Clontarf Wines; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Ennis Butchers, South Circular Road; Wicklow Wine Company.

The previous vintage of this appeared in my book and the 2014 is a worthy follow-on. At first it seemed a little alcoholic, but after half an hour it all came together beautifully. Arturo and Kike (hence the name) Blanco are responsible for this lovely wine. The grapes are trodden by bare feet. The wine is very different to your normal Rioja, with no obvious oak at all, and intense dark fruits and minerals with some tannins on the finish. I suspect it will improve for a year or two, or served in a decanter with food now. Great wine and streets ahead of most Reserva Rioja at the price.

Grégory Pérez Mengoba 2013, Méncia del Espanillo, Bierzo
13.5% €33.50

Available from Sheridan’s Cheese Shops

Having graduated in enology and viticulture in Bordeaux, Grégory Pérez worked in several of the top chateaux before decamping to Bierzo, up in the north-west corner of Spain. This is one of the regions where Méncia is grown. This variety makes some of the most exciting wines in Spain today; they remind me a little of Northern Rhône Syrah with their delicacy and enchanting savoury dark cherry fruits. I tasted the Pérez wines at the SPIT tasting in November and thought both red and white wines were stunning. I haven’t changed my mind. This may be expensive but it is a brilliant wine, nuanced and sophisticated, with wonderful smooth dark cherry fruits, a subtle oakiness, and a lovely finish. I see it has a small proportion of Alicante Bouschet and a white grape variety, Godello, included. Only 3,000 bottles made.

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AUSTRALIA DAY TASTING – DUBLIN

Australia was 228 years old earlier this month, or at least that is when the white settlers arrived, as Brian Walsh of Wine Australia observed. Vines arrived a little later. Wine Australia held Australia Day tastings in London, Dublin and Edinburgh. The Dublin one was well attended and had plenty of really interesting wines on show, and quite a few producers looking for homes for their wines. I spent most of the time tasting sub €20 Chardonnay and Shiraz, and found plenty to write about over the next few months.

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I also attended an excellent masterclass hosted by the erudite Brian Walsh, one of the most experienced Aussie wine hands, and John McDonnell who lent his own wisdom and a few good stories too. Great to see John back in the saddle, even if only for a day! We tasted twelve wines, six categorised as History and six Evolution. The stars for me were the first two white wines, along with a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Shiraz/Syrah from the Evolution section.

McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2004, Hunter Valley

A mere 11%abv but a stunning wine; yellow apples, lanolin and grilled nuts, with a touch of beeswax. Still fresh and vibrant. Classic Hunter Valley, one of the world’s great wine styles. An amazingly cheap €19.99, although no stockists were listed.

Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 1999, Eden Valley

It said 2010 on the tasting sheet but we were treated to a mature version, probably by the agents Cassidys Wines. This wine is an old favourite; I remember one glorious sunny morning a decade ago, sitting in the back of an old pick-up with Yalumba winemaker Jane Ferrari, eating bacon and cheese muffins and sipping mature Contours, while looking out over the vineyard itself. Yesterday the wine was wonderful, clean and bright with complex ever evolving flavours that can only be Riesling. Sadly I do not think this vintage is still available. We will have to age our own stocks (the 2010 is €25.99) for a decade or so. But it will be worth the wait.

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2013, Margaret River

Classic modern Aussie Chardonnay from one of the finest exponents. Fresh clean pure apple fruits, a lightly creamy texture and a subtle toasty touch. Good acidity and nice length. Very stylish, well-made wine. €24.90 a bottle.

Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2012, Piper’s River, Tasmania

Tasmanian Pinot Noir has improved massively over the last decade. There are now some serious wines (along with excellent sparkling wines and Chardonnay). A fresh nose with cool red cherries and raspberries and a touch of oak; the palate is surprisingly concentrated and muscular, almost trying too hard, with good just-ripe Pinot fruits. €43.99 Cassidys Wines.

De Bertoli Estate Grown Shiraz 2013, Yarra Valley

Made by Steve Webber, one of Australia’s best and most interesting winemakers, this is excellent cool climate Syrah/Shiraz with a lovely savoury elegance, some crunchy whole-stem fruit and tannins. Blanc cherries and damsons with impressive length.

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