David 11 September 2014
I’m a keen riesling drinker, its wonderful array of styles mean it’s always a great match for something I’m doing or eating.
Riesling is an aromatic variety, traditionally used to make some of the world’s greatest wines. Versatile, with wines ranging from dry, right though to lusciously sweet, you can enjoy it young and crisp or let it age beautifully over decades. In his book ‘The Story of Wine’ (a great read), Hugh Johnson refers to a tasting he attended in 1961, of a bottle of 421-year-old riesling. “For perhaps two mouthfuls we sipped a substance that had lived for over four centuries, before the exposure to air killed it. It gave up the ghost and became vinegar in our glass.”
Young riesling tends go a bit longer in the glass than two mouthfuls, and it's characterised by floral and citrus notes, high levels of refreshing acidity and is usually unoaked. As it ages it takes on complex petrol/kerosene characters, which sounds strange but tastes good. And best of all it’s affordable - you don't have to spend too much to get good quality.
In its homeland, Germany, it accounts for over 20% of plantings. You'll also find itin France, Australia, Austria and New Zealand.
A few months ago ‘The World of Fine Wine’ magazine announced their ‘World’s Best Wine Lists.’ 14 establishments in Australia were awarded the top rating of 3 stars, including Love Tilly Devine in Surry Hills. I love this wine bar's dedication to riesling. Check out this excerpt from their list:
Riesling is not only one of the greatest joys of the world, it is also one of the most maligned and misunderstood. So in the interests of humanity and the patrons of this bar, we present some simple, objective and irrefutable facts on this most refreshing and delicious of beverages.
- Riesling is the best drink in this bar.
- Riesling is the best drink in any bar.
- Up until the early 20th century rieslings were the most expensive wines in the world.
- Today, riesling is the best value wine in the universe.
- Riesling runs the entire sweetness spectrum - from bone dry to super-sugary.
- Made correctly, a riesling’s sweetness and acidity should always be in perfect harmony. (That means sweeter styles should have loads of acid, keeping them super-fresh.)
- Sweeter styles that lack this acidity will never be seen in this bar and in fact have no moral right to even call themselves rieslings. They bring shame and sadness to every riesling lover.
- Sweeter rieslings are typically very low in alcohol, meaning you can drink even more (which given how easy they are to drink is a huge bonus.)
Despite the best efforts of wine critics, sommeliers and wine merchants, riesling remains largely unloved in Australia. The 2013 vintage in Australia saw riesling account for 1.7% of the total (red and white) and 3.5% of the white intake. It baffles me why it isn’t more popular. So with that in mind I met up with Framingham’s assistant winemaker Andrew Brown (aka Brownie) when he was in Sydney a few weeks ago. The estate grows several varieties, but their stellar reputation has been built on riesling, which they make in a diverse range of styles, from dry through to lusciously sweet and unashamedly inspired by Germanic styles. Their skill with the variety is widely acknowledged, Jancis Robinson MW describes them as “New Zealand’s finest riesling producer” and “one of the most skilled practitioners of riesling anywhere in the world.” UK wine writer Tom Stevenson regards them as “one of New Zealand’s ten greatest wine producers.”
Framingham is located in Marlborough on New Zealand's south island. By far the largest wine region in NZ, accounting for a staggering 73% of New Zealand’s total wine productionin 2013, Marlborough is synonymous with sauv blanc. It’s reputation for pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling though is gaining fast.
The estate’s original vineyard was planted by engineer Rex Brooke-Taylor (no connection to The Goodies), on phylloxera resistant rootstock in 1981, making it now the oldest riesling vineyard in the country. Other varieties have since been added to their stony soiled vineyards. Framingham released the first riesling under its own label in 1994.
Winemaker Dr Andrew (Doc) Hedley’s goal is to make “wines with a bit of new world purity and old world complexity.” Accordingly, this small and individualistic producer has neatly dovetailed pragmatism and creativity to produce its Framingham and F-Series wines. The Framingham range of wines aims for purity of fruit, while the F-Series includes more complex and textural wines. “F-Series wines give us the freedom to push boundaries with wild fermentation and new techniques as well as extremely small run, vintage specific wines that we only make in good years. The best of what we learn from F-Series is incorporated into the Framingham range - staying true to our original style while allowing innovation.”
Both the winery and vineyards are accredited 100% sustainable and Framingham is in the process of conversion to organic viticulture.
These guys are riesling stars - I hope they’ll help you see the light.
Framingham Classic Riesling 2011This is one of Framingham’s most popular rieslings and I can understand why. It’s a bright, fresh, off-dry style that’s such good value and a drinkable 12% alcohol. Don’t panic about it being off-dry… yes it has a little residual sugar, (about 16-18g/L) but it’s not conspicuous, due to its backbone of firm, natural acidity.
The wine had 2-3 months on lees (dead yeast cells) giving it a bit more weight and complexity than your average riesling. Light gold in colour, you’ll find lime, melon, blossoms and honey on the palate - classic riesling flavours. A line of pure acidity keeps the whole thing in balance and creates a lovely crispness.
“I also enjoyed Framingham Classic Riesling 2011 Marlborough with 18 g/l residual sugar but so much racy acidity and lime juice character that it didn't seem anything like as sweet and would make a great aperitif.” Jancis Robinson MW.
“Lovely wine with an ethereal texture and a great balance of acidity and sweetness, giving some exquisite tension. Strong citrus/lime juice with some floral notes and a hint of honey. Pure and with a lingering finish.” 93 points, Bob Campbell MW, NZ.
5 Stars, Gourmet Traveller Magazine, Australia.
Best Riesling Recommended, Taste Magazine, NZ
I can offer it for $24 a bottle. SOLD OUT
Framingham Dry Riesling 2005
How good is it to enjoy a current release riesling with 9 years age and guaranteed provenance from the winery? I love good aged riesling, it takes on more toasty and keroseney characters while other varieties simply fall over at this age and price point.
Looking at the colour, you couldn't guess the age - it’s still bright and clear and only slightly more golden than the 2011 Classic Riesling. But on the nose and palate you detect the benefits of age with flavours of buttered toast, pear, citrus and honey. It’s 12.5% alcohol and the skillful acid counterbalance gives good length to its dry savoury finish.
“Fine, tight wine with lime, lemon zest, aromatic kerosene and biscuit-like bottle development. Lengthy wine in a bone-dry style with reasonably solid acidity.” 91/100 Bob Campbell MW, NZ.
“Lovely aged riesling nose. Very fine. Super clean and bracing.” 17/20 Jancis Robinson MW, UK.
Top 5 NZ Riesling (No.4), Cuisine Magazine, NZ.
For this age and price, this is a steal. The winery has really done all the hard work, delivering you from temptation. All you have to do now is tuck in.
You'll find it at Merivale’s Mr Wong for $75.
I can offer it for $31 a bottle. SOLD OUT
Framingham F-series ‘Old Vine’ Riesling 2012
This is only the second vintage of this wine with the fruit handpicked from aforementioned 30+-year-old vines and fermented using wild yeasts. This one was aged on lees for 10 months in a combination of vessels; 33% old oak, with the balance in glass and stainless steel. It’s dry (6g/L residual sugar) and is 13.5% alcohol. Only 150 dozen are made.
This wine's labour intense treatment shows and not surprisingly it gets good press ...
“… the richest of Hedley's dry rieslings. I loved its nutty note and real ‘fume’ of the purest riesling. This is a substantial wine that I would happily cellar for up to 10 years too.” 18/20 Jancis Robinson MW.
“Lovely rich, concentrated riesling with a mix of lime and riper tree fruit flavours with a hint of bready yeast character. The wine has a great texture with plenty of weight and mouth feel. It’s very approachable now but will age well.” 93/100 Bob Campbell MW, NZ.
“Bright straw-yellow with golden hues, lighter on rim. This has a very concentrated, powerful and tightly bound nose packed with citrus fruits, white florals and stonefruits intermixed with minerals and a hint of smoke forming a complex aromatic amalgam. Dry to taste, the palate is soft-textured with a well-integrated core showing a full, interwoven array of flavours. White stonefruits, florals and citrus fruits intermingling with lees notes, minerals and honey. The palate is subtly succulent with an underlying power and linearity, but utterly harmonious in mouthfeel. Soft textures and ripe background acidity carry the palate to a lingering, ethereal finish. This is a very fine textured, harmonious, dry riesling with a full array of complex flavours.” 19/20 Raymond Chan Wine Review, NZ.
Framingham Noble Riesling 2014 (375ml)
This is a sweet wine that’s botrytis affected. Botrytis is a fungus on the skin of the grapes that causes the grape to shrivel and dehydrate. The result is increased sugar concentration, an added level of glycerol as well as increased flavour complexity.
The wine was fermented in several vessels including old barriques, 50L beer kegs and 23L glass jars. The various components, 12 in total, were blended together to give the final result which is 195g/L sugar and 9.5% alcohol.
Sweet and delicious, this wine is bursting with honeysuckle, citrus, and marmaladey flavours. Lighter than the following wine but you’ll still find it viscous, concentrated and just plain yummy.
The wine has just been released so there are no reviews yet, but it has good lineage. The previous vintage scooped the pools with the following accolades:
I can offer it for $31 a bottle. SOLD OUT
Framingham F-Series TBA Riesling 2013 (375ml)
TBA is shorthand for Trockenbeerenauslese, German and Austrian wine terminology for the ripest and rarest of white wines. This ultrarich, ultrasweet style is labour intensive, made from individually selected botrytis affected grapes, which often involves several passes through the vineyard.
This wine is made from 100% botrytis affected riesling grapes, picked in three tranches. It’s 6.5% alcohol and has an astounding 320g/L of residual sugar. To put this in context, Château d’Yquem has around 120-150g/L and Coke has about 110g/L.
Each of the 355 bottles are individually numbered on the neck. I’m not sure how production of such miniscule quantities is financially feasible, but I’m glad they persevere because this is an astonishing wine of mind-boggling sweetness, richness, viscosity and length. Amazingly, despite the sweetness, it doesn’t appear heavy or cloying due to its clean and balanced acidity.
The reviews of this wine are glowing…
“Very luscious and pure and glorious.” 19/20 Jancis Robinson. (This is an unusually high mark from her).
“One of the world’s great rieslings… Powerful, rich, unctuous and viscous. Rich melon, honey and apricot characters with some ripe pear. Amazing concentration and intensity. A remarkable wine that’s impossibly sweet but balanced.” 96/100 Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak, UK.
What sets this riesling (which Andrew proudly calls ‘just a mental wine’) apart is that, despite the ridiculous sweetness, it never feels heavy. Sure the viscosity of all that rich, uber sweet nectar makes this almost gelatinous in texture, but the acid is still there. It smells and tastes of sweet honeysuckle, guava and tropical fruit - sweetness at every turn. The kicker, however is the length, with the pulsating, thickly tropical fruit going and going, the finish lingering for longer than just about any wine I can think of…” 19/20 Australian Wine Review, Aug 2014.
“Silken, unctuous wine.” 97/100 Bob Campbell MW, NZ