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The sommelier suggests… Riesling by Melody Wong

We invite a leading sommelier to pick a go-to, personal favourite grape variety or wine style.

Melody Wong is director of wine at The Peninsula, London. With more than a decade’s experience as a sommelier and wine buyer, Melody has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels throughout the UK, including the Four Seasons Hotel and the Carlton Tower Jumeirah in London. Her innovative approach to curating wine lists saw her nominated as Best Sommelier of the Year by GQ in 2022.

My love for Riesling comes from fond memories of living in the Swiss Alps, where we would often sit down and enjoy traditional cheese fondue with locally produced charcuterie, accompanied by a glass of Riesling. It was the perfect hearty meal on a cold winter’s day. Years later, having explored a wide variety of wines from across the world, Riesling still holds a special place in my heart.

This white grape is known for its clean, powerful scent and flavours, characterised by apple, lime and honey, and bright acidity. Sweetness and residual sugar are key elements to balance the wine and reflect the terroir and style – although this does not indicate the overall quality of the wine. Because the grape’s distinctive aromas and flavours have so much to offer it is rarely blended with other varieties and, to preserve its brightness, is not exposed to new oak.

Cooler-climate regions such as Mosel in Germany have a long history of growing Riesling in some of the world’s steepest vineyards. In Australia, the Clare and Eden Valleys offer stunning examples of dry, crisp Riesling with freshness and high acidity, which have become a benchmark of the country’s production.

Riesling’s natural acidity confers exceptional ageing potential. Mature examples often exhibit notes of smoke and honey, as well as an unmistakable petroleum-like character that many Riesling lovers seek.

Riesling’s endless diversity makes it particularly versatile when it comes to pairing with different cuisines. Spicy dishes such as Chinese kung pao chicken or Thai red curry balance nicely with German kabinett or spätlese. Roast chicken pairs perfectly with Alsace grand cru Riesling, which, when followed by apple crumble served with a glass of trockenbeerenauslese, makes for the ideal Sunday feast. The possibilities are endless – you can choose between bone-dry, off-dry, medium-sweet, botrytised or ice wine.

Riesling is a well-known secret within the wine world, but remains largely underrated among consumers – perhaps due to its German spellings, classifications and label requirements, which can often be confusing. However, once you familiarise yourself with the different options available, the doors are opened to the world of this fantastic grape. Having tasted wines from the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York, the smaragd wines from Austria’s Wachau and Kusuda Wines’ Riesling from Martinborough, among others, it’s clear to me that Riesling is a grape that delivers purity and truly expresses its origins, while continuing to excite and surprise with every sip.

Discover Riesling: Melody’s three to try

Knoll, from the Wachau, is one of my favourite producers in Austria. Weingut Knoll, Loibner Riesling Smaragd 2022 (£31 Lay & Wheeler) is a dry, powerful, rich and complex Riesling that can age for long periods. Try it if you’re after a full-bodied wine without the taste of new oak.

Weingut Knoll, Loibner Riesling Smaragd

Trimbach, Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2017 (£56-£60 Eton Vintners, Hennings, NY Wines) is a gorgeous wine from a historic producer, family-owned in Alsace across 13 generations. It’s from vines with an average age of 45 years and matured for a number of years, producing a wine that is full of personality, concentration and beautiful minerality. On the palate, it is very balanced and pairs well with seafood, poultry and cheese.

Trimbach, Cuvée Frédéric Emile Riesling 2017

Canadian Icewine is another gem not to be missed. Peller, Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2019 (£48-£55/37.5cl Amathus Drinks, Fareham Wine Cellar, The Great Wine Co.) from Ontario is made with grapes that are naturally frozen and harvested by hand at temperatures of at least -10°C, maximising the concentration and sweetness of the fruit. Lusciously sweet and incredibly pure, with flavours of tropical fruits, orange blossoms and delicate spices, it’s best served chilled and enjoyed with desserts such as summer trifle.

Peller, Signature Series Riesling Icewine

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