This Week at the Shop: Aging Riesling

Riesling is one of the noble grapes and to many is the best white wine grape. No other white grape can produce the astonishing variety of delicate and persistent aromas and flavors or keep its freshness and develop for years and decades with such modest alcohol levels.

Riesling is a hardy grape and will grow in some of the coolest grape growing climates of northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. Its tight little bunches are very susceptible to noble rot and that makes its ideal for the production of sweet wines, with the German Pradikat system having three levels indicating grapes affected with botrytis (Auslese, Beerenauslese, and Trockenbeerenauslese). It is also great at expressing terrior, making Riesling from different regions significantly different. For some notes on those differences, check out The Wine Society’s How to Buy Riesling Guide.

Riesling can age magnificently. Whether you are talking about Germany or Austrian examples or New World bottles from Australia or New Zealand, will have a freshness and wonderful primary fruit (apricot, nectarine, peach, apple, pear, lime, pineapple, lemon) in their youth but will soften into secondary characteristics as they age. Those secondary notes include everything from honey and beeswax to petrol and lanolin, while the primary fruit has become a lovely subtle background.

Recently at the Shop, I was lucky to be able to purchase some aged Riesling. It is Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2013 from New Zealand. Lawson’s Dry Hills has been around for 25 years and is a leading producer of Sauvignon Blanc, having been named the world’s best producer of it in 2013. Their tasting note for the 2013 Riesling says “off-dry and has lemon blossom, lime and nectarine aromas with bright acidity and flinty minerality balanced by just a hint of sweetness.” Yet, after a couple of years aging, its secondary notes of petrol and lanolin have developed alongside the minerality and nectarine that gives it a depth of complexity that it did not have just after bottling. We bought out the vintage, so get it while it lasts!

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