Wine Down Winemaker Series
Last night we had the Double Bill Masterlcass tasting with Dr John Forrest of Forrest Wines and Gerald Roberts of Cellarworks Wines at Queenstown Resort College to share their knowledge. John presented his range of Rieslings compared with their European counterparts and Gerald presented a tasting of regional Italy with seven wines from across the boot.
John is, in my opinion, one of the countries experts on Riesling. He makes nine, from bone dry to very sweet. He loves to talk about the subject and I thought it was a great chance to show four of his wines with four similar styles from Germany, Austria and France. Here are the wines we tasted:
Forrest Dry Riesling 2009 with - Pfaffl Terrassen Sonnleiten Riesling 2004, Austria
Forrest Brancott Riesling 2009 with Domaine Schlumberger Les Prince Abbes Riesling 2006, Alsace, France
Doctors Riesling 2010 with Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer Kabinett 2003, Rheingau, Germany
Forrest Botrytis Riesling 2009 with Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarton Auslese 2003, Mosel, Germany
The first pair were put together to compare dry Rieslings. John sources this from his Wairau vineyard, which is scattered with alluvial soils, giving the wine purity and, in John’s words, a ‘wet stone’ minerality. The wine is made in a very precise and judicious way by picking the grapes at night, only using the free run juice and keeping the crop very low at 5 tonnes per hectare. He is after cleanness, minerals and a drying finish which is a real feature of the Forrest Rieslings. Even the sweeter wines finish with a mouth-puckering dryness.
I paired it with the Pfaffl Riesling as I have always enjoyed Riesling from Austria. They are generally dry and tend to be full bodied. It drank well and was a good indication that the style can age well. John often releases the Dry Riesling at 7 years old as a library release, just when it is starting to develop a little honey, kerosene and the palate starts to broaden.
The Forrest Brancott Riesling is a different beast entirely. John was inspired by the wines of Alsace. Rieslings are made in almost in the opposite way to the method that John traditionally uses. As in the Wairau wine, New Zealand Riesling is usually made in a very protective way, making sure only the free run juice is used to retain purity. Alsatian Riesling is often pressed for longer, with the inclusion of ‘phenolics’ or material from the skins, a method we are more familiar with in red wines.
This gives the wine a drying finish and an extra textural freshness that may be perceived as acidity but is in fact phenolics. The wine is broad, with a steely, lime skin dryness even though the wine is actually medium dry.
The Schlumberger Les Abbes wine is made in this style but also aged in large, inert large barrels with some lees aging. Alsace Rieslings tend to be bone dry, full bodied and very steely. This was a pretty good example of the region.
The next wine, Doctors Riesling, is now New Zealand’s top selling Riesling, a marvellous achievement, considering it is quite sweet, very light and low alcohol. It is based on a German Kabinett which is what we matched it with.
Kabinett is a specification given to quality Rieslings in Germany that are picked at between 17-20 bricks. This is the lightest of the six ‘Pradikats’, which get riper up the scale.
Kabinett wines can be made dry to sweet but are often around 7-9% alcohol with residual sugar at between15-30 grams per litre. The Doctors Riesling is 9% with 35 grams of sugar, and there are many of these styles now on the New Zealand market.
The success of Johns is the site, mainly from the Wairua, the alluvial soils gives the wine a minerality that dries the finish off and makes the wine moorish, not sickly.
The German version from Prinz was quite developed so difficult to compare, but had a similar weight. These styles can age quite well, as there is plenty of acidity as well as sugar, two great preservatives.
The final wine was the hardest to match up, but was no less interesting and a good example of the great value of New Zealand dessert wines. Trying to get a Trockenbeerenauslele (a fully botrytised sweet wine) from Germany is difficult and very expensive. So we matched it with an Auslese, two notches up the scale from Kabinett, sweet, but not very sweet and little botrytis.
Forrest Botrytis Riesling 2009 is extremely sweet with lots of botrytis. It is in my mind one of the best he’s made. It’s unctuous, rich but has an underlying acidity which freshens the wine and gives it balance.
Though we are comparing many different things here, it was a good way to illustrate more clearly John’s philosophy behind the Rieslings he makes. We hear many winemakers talking about their wines being ‘Burgundian’ or ‘Chablis-like’ but how often do we actually get to test it?
2009 Forrest WairauDry Riesling – Pure lemon and lime, tight and focused with stoney minerality and a dry, mouth-puckering finish. Great with oysters and will age well for 7-10 years.
2009 Forrest Valleys Brancott Riesling – Off dry with stone fruit and lemon, a steely texture and a very unusual drying finish that really livens up the palate. A very unique style for New Zealand, and it’s absolutely drinkable.
2010 Doctors Riesling – Like biting into an apple, which reflects the ripeness and cool climate it grown in. It’s understandable why this is now in cult status. It really is about the finish, a masterstroke in balance, with the fruit, sugar and acid perfect harmony. I’d like to see it with a little more spritz.
2009 Forrest Botrytised Riesling – Lime marmalade, apricot, and crème brulee with a plenty of noble rot, ash-like aromatics on the nose. Delicacy, lusciousness and freshness in complete harmony. Get some.