Ok, so maybe ‘forgotten’ is a little bit too harsh. Hiding in plain sight may be a more apt description. And which two horribly obscure, ‘only-a-wine-nerd-would-know’ grapes am I planning on waxing lyrical about today? Riesling and Semillon.
Whilst well known, these two styles are largely unloved by many retail consumers and I felt like discussing their plight for no other reason than that I can!
I’ll start with Sem. The least loved of the two. A mate of mine who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the wines of the world once described Hunter Valley Semillon as ‘one of Australia’s two genuine gifts to the world of wine’ (the other being the muscat and topaque -formerly tokay – produced in Rutherglen). He bestowed this lofty adulation for the fact that there is nowhere in the world that makes wine that tastes anything like Hunter Sem, both in its youth and throughout its considerable lifespan. These wines, even cheap ones, will age 15-20 years in a heartbeat, constantly developing and changing. Problem is, no one wants to buy them! You couldn’t give them away. A family member who is in wine retail in Sydney and should be able to sell the wines through parochialism alone reckons that all they do is gather dust on his shelves. And it’s not like I can stand on a soapbox either; my business Like This Love That doesn’t keep any in stock and can’t afford to if nobody wants them! If anyone is interested in trying one on for size, the Tyrrell’s ‘Belford’ is an absolute screamer at about $30, anything by Brokenwood is worth a look, and you can find the McWilliam’s ‘Elizabeth‘ for under $20 at most of those supermarket-owned liquor stores with a constantly decreasing range and terrible service. Hit me up on the facebook page if you try one and enjoy it; with the weather warming up, those wines are a great choice for food like fish & chips as their high acid will slice through the grease – a classic Australian pairing.
As for Riesling, it has a much larger fan base – but not nearly as large as it should be considering the price vs quality that’s out in the market. In fact I’d go so far as to say that riesling represents the best value for the lowest cost of any grape I can think of. Australia produces a staggering amount of fantastic rieslings from all across the country, and there are a few importers bringing over some incredible stuff from its ‘natural’ home of Germany (and beyond). The old Aussie stomping grounds of the Clare and Eden Valleys have just had (in 2012) a vintage that is being reported as ‘the greatest in a generation’ and there are some fantastic examples coming out from WA and Tassie that are just too good to ignore. Furthermore, there are a swag of imports around, some for as low as $20 a bottle, that are great introductions to a more international style. So don’t you think it’s time you drunk some more?!
Riesling is versatile, textural and spicy, but can sometimes be a little tart if enjoyed without food. This is certainly one of the reasons why it’s not as popular as it could be; but take a bottle to BYO asian and it’ll sing. If more people knew how well an off-dry (slightly sweet) riesling went with Indian curries then the ‘red wine with red meat’ stereotype would be finally finished for good. ‘Entry-Level’ wines such as those made by Rocky Gully, Wines by KT, Gunderloch, and Dr Loosen (price range from about $17-30ish) are great introductions to how good this grape can be, and will get you significantly higher quality wines than spending an equivalent amount on other styles.
I hope you all try something new and exciting this week,