Author: Silas Capps
Rieslings are from Germany. Let's not argue about this fact. And I'm certainly not gonna age you with my thesis on its origins - not today anyway.
Rieslings, if kindly treated in its other homes can really uplift the soul of the drinker.
North and South America have achieved such good praise from their offerings, so too have Australia and New Zealand while Germany and France's remain comfortable on their throne.
Let's have a look elsewhere.
Riesling from Serbia? With French implications you say? Why yes. The Timok Valley in Serbia, long lost to the devastating Yugoslavian war in the 90s, not to mention the two world wars, this region so forgotten by the fleeting focus of the international wine trade more than deserves our fullest attention. Even more so, it deserves the discovery and appreciation - best done through exploration of its lush forests and breath-taking landscapes, through every twist and turn of the river Danube's riddling coils as it exits the Iron Gate gorge. The French became notable fans of this region when the dreaded phylloxera aphid decimated French vineyards, forcing them to scour the continent for quality wines - Timok wines were particularly valued because they could be used in Bordeaux blends. The region enjoyed soaring popularity in the 19th and early 20th century, and there were some 2000 hectares of vines producing serious volumes bound for Russia and Western Europe. A wine from Rogljevo village even won the gold medal at the 1907 London Exhibition. So yes, there were absolutely glorious days.
Enter Cyril Bongiraud, soil scientist and consultant for many years to the greats of Burgundy, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and wine grower wife Estelle - who had exhausted their search for an affordable site to start their own project. Driving across what became Serbia’s backwaters, the village of Rogljevo was where their car broke down and where they have since remained with roots firmly planted amid their fruit-bearing vines. A discovery of ideal conditions and soil formation on accord with his uncompromising focus.
After some breathing, the Istina - truth - in Serbian, really reveals its true light. The haze of natural aromas lift to give you brightness and intensity making this wine uber complex and very compelling indeed - agreed by all of our tasters at the previous Riesling tasting event. Straight up grapefruit and chamomile.
And what about a Riesling from New Zealand? Hiroyuki Kusuda, a.k.a Hiro, is a wanted man. Wanted for his impeccably crafted Rieslings and Pinot Noir. Ha! Rare and sought after (4000 bottles in the current vintage of Rieslings) and we had our hands on a precious few.
For Hiro, it was Pinot Noir that changed his life. An ex-lawyer/diplomat that altered the course of his life for the pursuit of making the ultimate Riesling and Pinot Noir.
This is really hard graft. To plunge into uncertainty, to enrol one's self into Geisenheim Wine University, to go through what's essentially biochemistry. But wait, there's the cavernous abyss of science, and then there's the cavernous abyss of science - in German. When you can barely count to three in the language, it's a terrifyingly tall order for the best of us. He did it. This is truly inspiring.
Having worked after graduation in the best of Martinborough's vineyards, Schubert to name one, he acquired his own land and started to make his own wines. A small family outfit that started in 2006 with just 1.2 hectares, 3 acres - tiny.
The perfectionism here is audacious. His winemaking besides being bonkers is uncompromising. Hiro, his family with any other keen helping hands, meticulously hand-sort each grape, discarding those with even a scratch on them. The result is in the wine that graces your palate. I will discuss Pinot Noir at a later date.
The Riesling is definitely an ode to the precise styles of Germany in terms of concentration, and lightness. There's definitely new world fruit that's framed by a strong beam of acidity. There's restraint in fruit and more focus on the minerals.