A summer of riesling

January 19, 2012, 9:33 am Sam Kim of Wine Orbit Yahoo! New Zealand

Why you should give this wine variety a go this season

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It was one of those moments I wish had lasted forever.

Location: Pegasus Bay Winery Restaurant. Occasion: In Praise of Riesling, an event celebrating this exciting grape. Food & Wine match: Goat's cheese soufflé paired with off-dry Rieslings. They were stunning together - divinely delicious, seamlessly enhancing each other.

Riesling is a fabulous drink all year round but summer brings out the vibrancy of the wine so brilliantly. All right, it's not everyone's favourite. It doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it from time to time though.

Recently launched 'movement' Summer of Riesling is inspiring wine lovers to talk more about this grape and find excuses to try new ones. We do need encouragement from time to time discovering new flavours and delights.

It all began with Paul Grieco from Terroir wine bar in New York where he decided to serve Riesling as the only white wine by the glass during summer. Now a global movement, we have our own Riesling ambassadors: Angela Clifford (Wiapara Valley Wine Growers) and Duncan Forsyth (Mount Edward, Central Otago). There are many restaurants and retailers involved promoting this delicately sensual grape over the next few months (check out the Summer of Riesling website for details).

Here are some of my favourite ways to enjoy Riesling.

Dry Riesling

These are elegant and pristine with mouth-watering acidity. It's great as an aperitif, even better with light seafoods - salt & pepper squid; pasta with pesto and garlic prawn; pan-fried fish with summer veges or salad; and the beach favourite, fish & chips.

Off-Dry Riesling

I like to call it "whispering sweetness" or "delicate sweetness" rather than off-dry. Many New Zealand Rieslings have subtle sweetness yet finishes crisp and dry. These are perfect with dishes showing more flavour intensity, especially with mild spices or Asian flavours.

I often make a big batch of dumplings for freezing which can be cooked in minutes for a quick meal. The filling includes pork mince, grated ginger, coriander, spring onion and egg, and they're served with soy sauce and toasted sesame seed oil. It's a family favourite and is sensational with an off-dry Riesling. Off-dry Riesling is also great with the above mentioned cheese soufflé or quiche.

Medium Riesling

Now we can go up a notch in flavour richness especially when combined with gentle sweetness in the dish (apple sauce with pork roast, for example). Yes indeed, roast pork and crispy-skinned pork belly (and many other pork dishes for that matter) are just gorgeous with Riesling that has some sweetness. So are sticky honey-soy chicken nibbles.

Sweet Riesling

This unctuous, luxurious and decadently sweet wine is a classic match to a cheese board, as well as elegant desserts such as creme brulee. And it can also be served at the beginning of a meal with pate or terrine. This sweet and savoury match is one of the most gratifyingly delicious experiences.

Summer has arrived with hesitation for many parts of the country but I reckon a cool glass of Riesling is all you need to make the summer truly memorable, whatever the weather.

Te Whare Ra Marlborough Riesling 'D' 2011 $25.00 (Dry)

This is a stunning beauty. The bouquet is delicately perfumed displaying floral, lemon/lime, white peach and a hint of flint. The palate is precise and detailed with elegant weight and a linear finish.

Vidal Estate Marlborough Riesling 2010 $21.00 (Dry)

A beautifully styled Riesling with appealing citrus and stone fruit notes with a touch of floral. It's juicy and lively with crisp acidity, finishing long and very tasty.

Woollaston Nelson Riesling 2010 $19.00 (Off-Dry)

A very likeable Riesling showing ripe stone fruit and citrus flavours with beautifully infused honey notes. It's lush and rounded with an elegant dry finish.

Akarua Central Otago Riesling 2010 $25.00 (Off-Dry)

It's delicately perfumed with lemon/lime, apple and floral characters. The palate is nicely fruited showing subtle sweetness, fine texture and bright acidity. Very approachable and seamless.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Riesling 2009 $28.00 (Medium)

This is a powerful expression of the variety, full of peach, tropical fruit and citrus flavours with a concentrated palate, yet remains perfectly poised and balanced. A New Zealand classic. They also do a charming dry Riesling Bel Canto $32, and lusciously sweet Aria $37.00, and the super-sweet Encore $37.00 (375ml). The very popular Main Divide Riesling 2009 $20.00 (off-dry) is made by the Pegasus Bay team, and offers great drinking and value.

Forrest The Doctors' Riesling Marlborough 2011 $22.00 (Medium)

Drink this now or in 10 years. A fabulous wine exhibiting white flower, lemon, peach and a touch of flinty characters. The palate shows excellent concentration and fine texture combined with appealing sweetness which is brilliantly balanced by the racy acidity.

Framingham Marlborough Noble Riesling 2011 $35.00 375ml (Sweet)

A magnificent sweet wine with honey, dried apricot, marmalade and floral characters. The palate is richly textured with impressive sweetness which is perfectly countered by the bright acidity, finishing long, crisp and satisfying.

Sam Kim is a senior wine judge and author of Wine Orbit magazine (wineorbit.co.nz). You can follow him via Twitter @wineorbit.

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