Riesling Wine – The beauty of age!
Riesling is not a new grape for me. For a while, I have been drinking it and praising its acidity, fruitiness and versatility with food. Riesling wines are amazing with all kinds of cuisine but especially with Asian ( Vietnamese and Thai comes to mind). Personally, I am more experienced with the bottling of Alsace rather than Austria or Germany.
Alsace is one of France’s most special viticultural regions. This picturesque stretch of land on France’s northeastern border has switched hands back and forth between Germany and France, and this is obvious to the eye in the architecture and wine styles. A long, narrow strip running north to south, Alsace is located in shadow of the Vosges mountains, protected from any rain, making it the driest region of France.
Alsace Rieslings are generally preferred to be consumed soon after purchase while their fruity characteristics, and lively acidity are showing their best However, in some cases Rieslings can be cellared for a number of years- the extra aging can give them a complex dimension But, this is very dependant upon the winemaker, vineyard location, vineyard philosophy and the vintage year.
To have an old Riesling is an unforgettable experience. When aged, Rieslings become golden or amber in color and develop their trademark notes of petroleum, like kerosene, gasoline or naphthalene. Also they develop other complex nuances such as ginger and honeysuckle.
Also, is cheaper to age Riesling than Burgundy or Champagne. A good bottle of Riesling from Alsace or Germany can cost you as little as $40 and can age for a decade or two, under proper cellar conditions. Compare this, to a bottle of Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet or Chevalier-Montrachet and you are looking to spend between $70 to $500 or more.
Recently, I had the chance to experience the different shades of aged Riesling. In the company of Frédéric Raynaud, general director of La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim, I tasted Rieslings spanning 5 decades. The invitation was a courtesy of their Canadian importer Philippe Dandurand Wines. The wines presented included the Riesling Pfaff (1974-1978), the Jupiter Cuvée 1983, Grand Cru Goldert (1985-2010), Rebgarten (1989-2000), Grand Cru Steinert (2005). What’s so surprising is the value of these wines, going from $15 to $30.00). Below my top picks of the tasting:
La Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim is the cellar in Alsace that has been awarded the most medals from the Concours Général Agricole de Paris. Founded in 1957 in the village of Pfaffenheim (Haut Rhin), Cave des Vignerons de Pfaffenheim holds a prestigious record – it has won the highest number of medals at the Concours Général Agricole de Paris, ahead of all the other producers in Alsace.
The Pfaff 1974 was stunning, spinning my tastebuds with its exotic spices such as saffron, ginger and leather. Racy, mellow and very long in the palate. Equally fascinating, the 1978 vintage was intriguing with its perfume of lemon brioche, black pepper and gasoline. Despite its 40, it was youthful and vibrant.
The Riesling Cuvee Jupiter 1983 was a delight with its notes of black cumin, mustard seeds and chamomile seeds. Powerful and quite elegant. However, a titan of wine was the 1985 Riesling Grand Cru Goldert, firm with notes of white licorice, fennel, camphor, orange peel and butter. Ample and sapid with a still razor acidity.
The Pfaff Riesling Cuvée Jupiter retails in Quebec for $15.95 ( SAQ # 00914424) and in Ontario for $15.60 ( LCBO # 475046).
Champagnes for the Christmas season
As a appendix for my previous article in Champagne, here are my three recommendations from the traditional bigger houses that I tasted that at la Grande Dégustation 2017:
Pol Roger Brut Champagne SAQ # 00051953 $62.25
Classic Champagne flavors such as brioche, mineral, white flower and green apple notes. The mousse is creamy and refreshing. On the palate, pleasantly dry and lemony with an elegant finish.
Taittinger Réserve Brut. SAQ # 10968752 $59.75
Fine and elegant Champagne with aromas of lemon brioche, orange zest. Round with a creamy mousse with flavours bringing to mind dry apricots. Very smooth finale.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve. SAQ # 10653347 $67.00
Nice expressive nose of sugar meringue and french pastries. On the palate, soft and round with very delicate flavours of pear and apple blossom. Caressing finale.
In wine, the shape of a glass can drastically influence the aromas and taste of your drink, so when it comes to Champagne, take the time to make the right choice to maximize your experience.
Exceptionally with Champagne, I rather choose a premium quality wine glass made with crystal and hand made if possible. For instance, if i am paying top dollar for a vintage Champagne, it is expected that it show at its best. My choice of glass will have a large bowl, so it can pick up as many nuances at its can. Also, the base of the bowl should be pointy, so my Champagne can develop a fine torrent of bubbles. My final criteria is the material. A crystal made glass is a good compromise between lightness and durability.
With these criteria in mind, I recently reviewed the Riedel Fatto a Mano Champagne Glasses. Fatto A Mano combines the sophistication of handmade glass in the style of the ancient Venetian tradition with the latest technology in glass making technology.
Fatto a Mano which means hand-made in Italian, was Riedel new glass introduction for 2017. Hand-made in Tiroler Glashütte, at Riedel’s headquarters in Austria, this new stemware has the typical attributes of a Riedel product: varietal specific, thin blown, unadorned, and standing tall on slender stems.
The Fatto a mano Champagne glass really charmed me with its hand crafted feel, and its colourful red stem. It made my bubbly look sleek and tasted it much better than a traditional flute. I recommend this glass next time you are serving a Champagne. They carry a retail price of $100 per glass or $540 per set of 6. It is the perfect holiday gift for yourself or a loved one that enjoys fine wine. You can acquire them at the Bay or Linen Chest in both Quebec and Ontario.