Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling 2016
Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island is a young region, the first wine being made in 1987. In just over thirty years, it has established itself as a premium region for world-class Pinot Noir - and 75% of the grapes planted there are of that variety. The climate is cool continental, with warm days and intense sunshine during the day turning into cold nights as soon as the sun sets. These are perfect conditions for Pinot Noir, the long growing season producing intense, structured wines.
But it's not all Pinot Noir. When I was in Central Otago last year, I visited Felton Road, probably the region's best producer. As well as Pinot Noir, they make superb, ageworthy Chardonnay and outstanding Riesling. Owner Nigel Greening argued passionately that Central Otago can produce Riesling as good as anywhere else, drawing a comparison with the Mosel's climate and soils. Like the Mosel, the Riesling is grown on steep, rocky, north-facing slopes covered in schist which receive the intense sunshine during the day and cool down during the night. The resulting wines are high in acidity, with a fruity body.
Felton Road's Riesling is made in a Mosel style. It has 63g/L of residual sugar, but the high acidity balances the sweetness - the wine is rich but far from sickly. It has a pretty, floral nose, with jasmine, honeysuckle, and chamomile, with ripe aromas of lemon, lime, peach, apricot, pineapple, and lychee. There's a stony, smoky, steeliness to the wine, indicating that the wine will develop further complexity with time.
Riesling is not an easy grape to work with, but Felton Road and a handful of other producers demonstrate that it has the potential to excel in Central Otago, just as Pinot Noir has done.
Grape Variety: Riesling
Region: Central Otago, New Zealand
Food pairing: spicy Asian food