Riesling remains one of South Africa’s most under-valued varieties

THERE ARE THOSE of us who love the good Rieslings made in South Africa, but we’re in the minority – or at least that’s how it feels, given how few of the country’s cellars include this variety in their range, given how few SA wine-lovers feel comfortable about occasionally buying it instead of the Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Chenin or white blends that they’re familiar with. A few years ago there was a concerted effort by a group of Riesling farmers and wholesalers to create some excitement around the category, but to little avail. And yet…

Paul Cluver of Elgin has trumpeted the wonders of Riesling since the get-go and is one of the very few producers to field more than one: the Dry Encounter, the sweeter Close Encounter and the Noble Late Harvest dessert wine. Particularly impressive, the 2015 Dry Encounter has received six good to very good reviews from top panels locally and on the export markets in 2016 and 2017 to date, one of the most outstanding being a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge in London.

The grapes for the Dry Encounter 2015 were mostly from 27-year-old vines, the oaking was subtle and the alcohol is a low 12%. From winemaker Andries Burger’s tasting notes: ripe green apple with beeswax and fynbos honey notes on the nose; lemon sorbet-like on the palate, with a mineral core, a lingering aftertaste. And restrained as regards those terpenes typical of the variety. More here.

The Classified Riesling producers in South Africa include Hartenberg and Jordan of Stellenbosch, Nederburg of Paarl and Paul Cluver, Elgin. Also noteworthy: Groote Post of Darling, Spioenkop of Elgin and Vrede en Lust of Simonsberg-Paarl. All of the top-rated Rieslings over the past two years here.


One comment

  • Riesling is way underrated. Our Vrede en Lust Early Mist Riesling comes from cool Elgin grapes. We bought an apple farm in 2005 and converted it to a vineyard in the south western corner of Elgin. The Caseys Ridge vineyard is located just past Appletizer, running down to the Kogelberg hydro-electric dam and bordering the Palmiet river.
    We love Elgin! Our 2 Riesling blocks are planted in the valley between the dam and the river where the cool air settles during the summer nights. Early Mist is made in a light, off-dry style, and we also make a dry Riesling for our Artisan Range.

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