Mar 072012
 

True & Daring 2007 Riesling Bottle ShotThe oldest white wine I’ve ever tasted was a Reinhold Haart Spätlese Piesporter Goldtröpchen from the 1921 vintage.  In a half bottle.  Opened the day before.  The wine was originally in a full bottle, one of the last three the estate had in their cellar.  Owner Theo Haart opened the full bottle for his grandfather’s 80th birthday but knew we would visit the estate the following day so filled a half bottle and then gassed and re-corked it.  We tasted the wine over 24 hours later and it was still fresh, vibrant and very much alive at 80 years young.  It’s pretty amazing when you think about it considering a half bottle of newly released Fino Sherry at 15.5% ABV oxidizes within 24-36 hours of opening.  Yet another mystery of the wine world.  So why is that Riesling ages so much better than practically any other white wine, much less any wine?  I’m convinced it has something to do with the grape’s inherent high natural acidity combined with generally less alcohol found in the finished wines.  Add residual sugar to the mix in the case of the Mosel Spätlese and you have a magic recipe that will consistently result in years, even decades, in the cellar.

But the aging phenomenon is not just limited to the fruity styled wines.  I’ve enjoyed bottles from Australia and New Zealand that were several decades old and still possessed a great deal of freshness and youth.  These older dry Rieslings remind me of aged fine white Burgundies in terms of their aromatic complexity and layered palates.  And they are wonderfully versatile when it comes to pairing with food.  An old vintage of Riesling goes with practically everything except for red meat and some believe that even that gap can be bridged with enough age.  Hanno Zilliken, of Weingut Geltz- Zilliken in the Saar Valley, once told me that a good 25-30 year old Spätlese was a perfect match with venison, wild boar and other local game.  I tasted one of his older vintages soon after with wild boar carpaccio and was instantly converted.

But finding an older Riesling is not exactly an easy task.  In today’s wine world where instant gratification and quick inventory turnover are the rules of engagement, it’s challenging to find a bottle that’s had some decent cellar time.  Recently, I did come across an outstanding dry Riesling from New Zealand with five years of age.  The wine, the 2007 True & Daring, had literally just been released.  Owner Hennie Bosman was emphatic in expressing his belief that good Riesling can only show it’s best with some age.  To that end he will only release his wines after five years of age.  The 2007 did nothing to dispel that rumor.  The primary ferment was done in stainless steel and the wine shows a great deal of varietal intensity in the aromatics with the secondary vinous notes just starting to appear.  Flavors suggest white flowers, preserved citrus, white peach, kiwi, chamomile/herb and a touch of mineral.  The palate combines the rounded texture from five years of bottle time with the rapier, mouthwatering acidity.  In short, a delicious white ready to enjoy now and over the next 15 or so years if you have the patience.

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