Friday, December 10, 2010

1995 Beamsville

1995 Thirty Bench Riesling

1995 Thirty Bench Semi-Dry Riesling, Beamsville

A piece of Niagara wine history, golden in the glass. I was able to pick this up on my last visit to Thirty Bench in November. Told that this was the last bottle held by the winery, I immediately said yes, yes, yes . . . I want it! And she hadn't even told me price yet. What else is one to do when presented with a rare bottle of Niagara riesling but to recklessly go all in?

Made by the previous owners and winemaking team at Thirty Bench, this certainly presents a different interpretation of riesling. I've tasted a riesling from this team once, a 1999 I believe. I distinctly remember a wine tasting remarkably like battery acid . . . although made (I'm sure) with the best of intentions, its sole redeeming factor was its rarity. Had much higher hopes for this bottle. Made in an off-dry style, these wines always age in a better way. And plus, I had nothing to lose - at worst, it would be a fabulous look into an early era of Niagara wines and Beamsville.

Cork drawing cleanly, gold in the glass; very fragrant and floral in bouquet. Slightly reminiscent of a Rheingau wine, lanolin and baked apples. Falls apart in the palate - the obvious chaptalization is this wine's undoing. Sugar additions are tasting very clumsy, awkward. Not unpleasant, but amateurish in execution. And at a listed 12.8% abv, these errors are compounded, becoming almost medicinal in flavour. Finish drops.

Nevertheless, an interesting look into Niagara's past. This wine makes me appreciate the new team in place at Thirty Bench. With a focus on making high acid, low alcohol wines with minimal intervention, the wines from 2005 on are, in my opinion, going to age in a good way. At the very least, the wines have stopped resembling a back-shed weekend project, but true wines representative of region and vintage.


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