Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Vinous bout of self flagellation – Wine of the week

It’s been said that good things take time, which must mean that this first, slow column of 2021 was worth the wait because it has certainly taken far longer than this writer ever hoped. I blame Covid. If it hadn’t been for the global pandemic, my occupational overuse syndrome would have taken a lot longer to reveal the full force of its painful symptoms (and need for surgery), both of which came into their own in the small dark hours of morning, post Covid lockdown, when, instead of sleeping soundly, I was a awoken rudely by the intense feeling of burning fingers, as if in a clamp. Numbness and tingling have never felt so painful. Both  classic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It started years ago, of course. Behind every overnight diagnosis, there is 20 years in the making. So I am writing this column with one hand and a laptop microphone. It’s a slow process. Much like the development of a good wine. Which reminded me one day last week of a wine that is now 10 years old and was made for the long haul as part of 12 wines produced for the first and only New Zealand Riesling Challenge, in 2010. One winery provided 48 tons of Riesling grapes, all handpicked at 22 brix on 23 April that year. The challenge was accepted by 12 winemakers from around the country; all charged with the task of turning those grapes into their best expression of Riesling.

The 12 wines produced as a result of the challenge all spanned the gamut from bone dry and austere to intensely sweet and luscious. One night last week when it was 35° at 8pm, I decided to open the driest of them, made by Central Otago winemaker Duncan Forsyth, who describes his 2010 New Zealand Riesling Challenge Waipara Riesling as “a vinous bout of self flagellation in its purest form – floral and citrus aromas are enhanced by aromas of lemons, limes and stonefruit, underpinned by mineral characters and refreshing acidity.”

This wine seemed like the leanest and meanest of all 12 wines made for the New Zealand Riesling Challenge but it has turned out to be my favourite of them after 10 years. That said, I do still own many of the others, which I have tasted and retasted over the years, so who knows? Perhaps New Zealand’s king of spatlese (Mat Donaldson of Pegasus Bay) will win again but in the meantime, if you want to taste what great, old, dry Riesling is all about, check this one out -buy two and keep one for at least a decade.

Wine of the week


2018 Mount Edward Riesling $27

Duncan Forsyth is a Riesling lover in the true sense of the word; he goes the extra mile to enhance this outstanding white grape’s long term aging appeal, without fear of its youthful austerity. This wine is Central Otago Riesling at its best, thanks to stainless steel ferment with wild yeasts and no temperature control followed by three months aging on lees. All of which enhances the refreshing citrusy aromas and steely acidity of this great grape when young, allowing it to shine with time. Buy at least two bottles from Mount Edward Wines here.