The Riesling Chronicles, Vol. I

Tim's Wine Market

A couple of weeks ago Eric Asimov,  wine writer for the New York Times, wrote about Riesling and how profound the wines from this grape can be.  While reading I started thinking, “when was the last time I drank a bottle of Riesling?”  To be honest, it has been far to long.  So I gathered up a half dozen samples and took them home to re-ignite my passion for this grape.

Now first let me address what many of you are thinking, “Riesling? Why the fuss?”   The fact is, the grape is certainly the most sophisticated of white wine options.  It is far more aromatic and complex than Chardonnay, not needing exotic yeast strains or the crutch of oak for most of its flavor.  Good examples are generally better balanced and less extreme as Sauvignon Blanc, although in this grape I find a good argument.  After that the list of world class white grapes drops off quick.  Some would argue Chenin Blanc but there are far too few really compelling examples.  Most of the wine bottled as Chenin is picnic wine, which is a shame because it is a superb grape when grown in the right spot and made properly.  What’s left?  See my point.
So the first wine I grab is the Buitenverwachting Rhine Riesling from South Africa, specifically Constantia.  I choose this first because I have never had the wine before so when I pull the cork I have no idea what to expect.  The first smell reveals (yes this is written in real time) some pretty racy lime and tangerine/grapefruit notes, with an undertone of Granny Smith apple.   As the wine is opens it is revealing more pea shoot, earthy qualities, still wrapped around the citrus and apple flavors.  The texture is lean, almost austere, as the fruit appears to be stretched tightly across a frame of minerality/acidity.  For those who think Riesling is sweet, here is one that appears bone dry.   In reality it holds about 8 grams of sugar per liter, but with a searing 3.16 pH and 9 grams of acid per liter.  That is enough sugar that 75% of us would notice it, but with the acid so high it is virtually transparent.  In the end it all boils down to chemistry, which in turn is built on math.  Who knew?  
As I sit here contemplating dinner I regret not picking up shrimp at Costco today (they had their roadshow) but chicken grilled with a curry glaze and mango chutney will probably work too.  Then again, the bottle is almost gone so something from Mellow Mushroom?  More later.