Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Contrast in styles and attitude

Lately, I've been drinking a lot of rieslings. Not that I've suddenly fell in love with them - it's just that the weather's inducing me to drink more white wines, and I was really impressed with the quality of Niagara rieslings, so naturally, I want to explore more of them, in particular those from Germany.

Let's start with a comparison of two New World rieslings. One, a Finger Lakes riesling, and one, a Niagara riesling. Both regions claim to produce world class rieslings, so let's see if it's true or just a load of shit. And excuse me once again for the atrocious pictures.

First bottle - a 2006 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY. We had this wine at Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine (click to read my post). I was told this producer was the best in the region at producing rieslings, along with Dr. Frank, so I was excited. Also, it was $36, so a reasonable markup.

Let me get straight to it - I was disappointed. Americans like sweet things. Sweet, cloying, obnoxiously simple wines. This was anything BUT a dry riesling. And not that there's anything wrong with that - most German rieslings are slightly sweet. I expected some residual sugar, but to me, this sweetness was unbalanced. Adequate acidity in the wine, but it was more than overshadowed by the sugar. Other than that, some minerality, some tropical fruits, not a lot of complexity, I just don't see how this is the best Finger Lakes riesling. Cloying in the throat.

Don't get me wrong, it's a well made wine. It's just I don't see any regional typicity, not a lot of character. I can think of several rieslings we tasted on our last Niagara trip that easily are more memorable than this one.

The next bottle was a 2006 Flat Rock Cellars Riesling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench. This is their estate riesling, $17.35. As you know, I really love this producer, especially with their pinot noir. I've also tried their unoaked chardonnay, which was interesting. I tasted this riesling at the winery, and came away very impressed. I was hoping that it would show even better in the bottle.

This is still very young, and for me, the acidity levels in Niagara wines make them excellent candidates for aging. Would have loved to taste this wine a few years down the road, but couldn't wait!

On the nose, a lot of varietal characteristics - fragrant, grassy, petrol - everything you'd associate with riesling. So fresh on the palate, but with excellent weight and presence. Nice creaminess, but none of that obnoxious flabby quality you get with over-manipulated white wines. Just delightful. And the finish!! A long, crisp, dry finish, that cleanses your palate so nicely. A subtle sweetness that lingers, definitely makes you reach for another mouthful.
So, it should be pretty obvious which of the two wines I liked more. Niagara wines are much truer wines - true to their variety, true to the land and climate. There isn't over-manipulation, which I loathe. Just an honest interpretation of the fruit, in a style that isn't designed to be mainstream and bland. A uniquely made wine, that forces you to pay attention.

Of course, the Finger Lakes riesling has its good qualities as well - it's just that it's an ordinary wine. Its the same as any ordinary riesling produced in Australia, California, wherever. The future of New World riesling? Niagara, Ontario, Canada.

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