When I was a young lad just setting out on my journey of wine discovery (many bottles ago) I had a very fortunate encounter.
The true value of that encounter was not fully realized until some years later and it has stayed with me ever since. There is little doubt I would have had a similar encounter later in life anyway, but the early timing had the added benefit of creating a life long impression.
Would you like to know the encounter in question?
It was a wine encounter of course – a meeting of minds (and tastes) with an aged Riesling.
As a young man I was friendly with the son of an emerging wine maker in the Barossa Valley region of South Australia. (No names will be mentioned to protect both the innocent and the guilty.)
On occasion, a group of friends would spend the weekend at the winery homestead and be exposed to great wines and European style food. It was both a fun and an educational time.
While young men of my age swigged beer and scoffed hamburgers with peer pressure to consume more of the former than was wise, I was more attracted to the nuances and complexity of wine appreciation.
At this stage I should say I have never been a wine snob although I have encountered many over the years (that is the subject for another day).
However wine appreciation is an insidious pursuit because it lures you with the certainty of your existing knowledge, and then spits you out when your true ignorance is displayed. So it was with aged Riesling.
Riesling is one of the three most popular white wine varieties in the world, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Rieslings are very much at the mercy of local conditions and rarely is oak required to influence aroma and taste.
In many parts of the world Rieslings are drunk young and chilled on a hot summer day. The fresh fruitiness of young Rieslings is well known and enjoyed. But an aged variety is something else.
I recall my first encounter well – there was a distinctive aroma of what could only be described as being like kerosene. That is how it was confirmed to me at the time and the broader petroleum association was something I found very appealing.
In the years to follow I learned that not everyone appreciates this distinctive petrol-like bouquet and in fact many people claim there is something wrong with the wine.
The positive aspect of this distaste is that quality aged Rieslings can be bought at very reasonable prices although not every bottle is a winner.
There is the occasional wine that has not lent itself too well to aging but the sheer delight of drinking a glass of aged Riesling which is right on song is hard to beat.
Those Rieslings produced as table wines which age well tend to be made from fruit which is very ripe and from dry and sunny environments. These are not necessarily the same conditions which produce the Riesling dessert wine known as noble rot which is a totally different product.
If you are yet to encounter an aged Riesling I suggest you explore this variety further. Even if you find it not to your taste it will be yet another page added to your personal wine appreciation book. On the other hand, if (like me) you love the old wine then have a glass tonight!