We have just approved the printer’s proof for our 2010 Fairview Riesling labels and are looking forward to the release of this wine towards the end of the year. This will be the first vintage that we (and all South African producers) will be using the accurate name for the varietal on our labels.
This topic has received much press over the last few years especially from Riesling champions such as Michael Fridjhon and Jörg Pfutzner. I am not going to go into too much detail here, but… basically South African wineries have until this point needed to label real Riesling wines as Rhine or Weisser Riesling, while a couple of the bigger producers continued to label Crouchen Blanc as Riesling. It stems from a legal deal back in the day which made our local Riesling identity something of an oddity.
Suffice to say, the issue has been resolved and we will soon be labelling our wines correctly. So after the fuss that has (appropriately) been kicked up around the labelling, the question remains: Will Riesling continue to hold the reputation as a terrific wine that is terrifically difficult to sell?
The Just Riesling association has been doing some work in trying to raise the profile of the variety but it seems that it remains a secret held within the ‘wine-crowd’ circles. It has often been spoken about as a good food wine, in the same way as the equally tough to sell Semillon is. The truth is that this is very much the case, especially with fragrantly spiced Cape style dishes. It is also an ideal partner to sushi. (Sauvignon Blanc seems to be the default pairing with sushi fans, but many punchy examples overpower subtle sushi flavours altogther in my opinion.) I think that until Riesling becomes a more widely enjoyed wine in South Africa, producers are unlikely to put more effort into the variety, nor plant it on their best sites. And understandably so as the commercial pressures are immense.
We really hope that this will not be the case, based on the progress that we have seen with the grape. We planted Riesling on one of our prime sites in Darling in 2002 and these wines are starting to show real promise as the vines mature. We have a 3 hectare block of bushvines on a oakleaf soils and the vineyard has a beautiful view of the Atlantic down at Yzerfontein a few kilometres away. The recently released 2009 vintage shows the benefit of a little bit of time in the bottle and it is a popular wine with visitors to our Fairview tasting room. Let’s hope that they are seeking the varietal out when they leave the farm too!