I often think of Riesling as a breath of fresh air but today, at an incredibly raw and moving funeral, at which I was a virtual guest, I heard a far more apt description. It is like the full force of the Wellington wind on a gusty day. It’s not for the faint hearted. Its strong personality, captured in its edgy qualities of high acidity, powerful citrus aromas, often tempered with a little sweetness, is one of my favourite expressions of nature in liquid form. As I wrote this week’s column, I was reminded of the beauty of authenticity in people, expressed with strength and realness at the outstanding tribute to Matt Hayes, who passed away this year due to an aneurism while surfing, aged 43. He left behind a wife, children, siblings and both parents; who I know well and hugely respect.
This column is my weekly take on the best new wines I have tried in the course of life as a writer and wine adviser. It is with a heavy heart that I raise a big toast to a person who made a big imprint on all of those who knew and loved him – Matt Hayes.
2017 Main Divide Riesling $20.99
Okay, well it can be under $20 but for a very small fraction more, this wine offers the absolute best of Kiwi Riesling for the price. This tasty medium dry Riesling is the little brother of the famously well known and loved Pegasus Bay Riesling. Both are superlative wines and this one has freshness, body and deliciousness to burn thanks to late harvested grapes accentuating its intensity citrusy appeal.
2020 Whitehaven Marlborough Riesling $23
Whitehaven is a big winery making small volumes of Riesling in terms of overall production. And what a Riesling it is. Affordable, refreshing and leading the charge to dry styles with 7.1 grams per litre of residual sugar, which makes it off dry, but only just. This light touch of natural grape sweetness brings balance to the bracing acidity that is inherent in Riesling; its defining ingredient when it comes to brightness in youth and longevity in ageability. This wine drinks well now but will come into its own in another five years’ time.
The sky’s the limit
2019 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling $38
Bel Canto Dry Riesling is one of New Zealand’s most powerful white wines with its recognisably maverick personality and incredible potential for aging in the long term. It is made from grapes grown in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury, which were hand harvested with a portion of noble botrytis at 25 brix. This high level of sweetness makes for a wine that tastes ripe and rich in style while being fermented to as close to dry as possible, with 6 grams of residual sugar per litre. A little carbon dioxide at bottling adds a spritzy quality to this wine to accentuate its freshness. I love this wine.