By Chris Losh

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine Chardonnay

This month Chris Losh looks at some recommended Chilean wines and applauds the revival of Riesling. The revival of Riesling Ask any wine journalist...

This month Chris Losh looks at some recommended Chilean wines and applauds the revival of Riesling.

The revival of Riesling​ Ask any wine journalist what they think is the greatest white grape variety of them all, and the chances are that over half will come up with Riesling. It's a grape with a proud past that's been overlooked for 20 years, but, at last, has an exciting future. Hard to believe in our Chardonnay-obsessed times, but 100 years ago, Germany's top Rieslings were the most highly sought-after and priciest wines on the vinous map. And while there are still some estates whose wines fetch big prices, they don't come anywhere near the sort of money demanded by Bordeaux or Burgundy's Parker-fuelled A-list. Why? Well, partly because in our ever-more red-driven culture, white wines are taken less seriously than they should be, particularly those from outside France. But largely, I suspect, because Germany as a whole has largely fallen off most people's wine radar - and that's mostly down to the L word.

Even though Riesling has nothing to do with Liebfraumilch, the latter has cast a long and chilling shadow over almost an entire industry, making it hard for this most noble of white grapes to break free and command the respect (and the popularity) it deserves. Yet help is at hand, and it's coming, ironically enough, not from the grape's German homeland, but from places like New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Africa and California. Consumers who have largely written off Germany (more fool them) are being lured back to the Rhine's best grape via the New World. This is where Riesling is different from Chardonnay. While the latter is the most peripatetic of grape varieties, Riesling has only just started to find its feet abroad. This trickiness, in fact, is part of the grape's appeal.

The fact that it's not so easy going as Chardonnay makes it attractive to winemakers looking for a challenge. You can't just plonk Riesling down somewhere hot and dry, irrigate it and get half decent wine like you can, generally speaking, with Chardonnay. Riesling, like Pinot Noir, rewards risk-taking. It requires a cooler climate, longer ripening season and an eagle eye in the vineyards. It also requires land with a bit of personality, and its character will change hugely from one vineyard to the next more than any other white grape - another reason that winemakers love it so much. Good Riesling has depth of flavour, elegance of structure and an effortless complexity. It's also, in Germany at least, usually, off-dry, with a touch of residual sugar helping to round out a palate that would usually otherwise be a little hard and metallic.

For the Auslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) wines, the residual sugar is (with a few exceptions) higher, and the concentration of flavours astounding. In the New World, the wines are softer and juicier (with little or no residual sugar) and a little less of the tautness that characterises your typical German example. They're easier to drink, but not so elegant. Rieslings can be drunk young and fresh, but all but the flabbiest examples will benefit from a few years in bottle, often taking on those classic kerosene aromas that Riesling lovers go nuts for. After several false starts (the result of wishful thinking on the part of journalists bored with Chardonnay), Riesling really is on its way back.

It won't ever experience Chardonnay's ubiquity, but it's certainly reappearing on more wine lists and supermarket shelves, which is definitely a good thing. Make sure it's on yours - and push it to your punters!

This month's recommended wines… from Chile

SUTIL CARMENÈRE 2003​ Sutil is a fairly young winery, based in Chile's Colchagua Valley. Carmenère is an odd grape (for years everyone thought it was Merlot), that is, frankly, a bit of a bugger to get right. But good examples have a real personality of their own, and the Chileans are starting to make some good stuff with it. This spicy black olive and damson wine is a good example of the varietal's character at a highly-competitive price. £72/case inc VAT @ Montague Cellars (01985 248142)

CANTALUNA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVE 2003, CASABLANCA​ Chile has a far better record with Sauvignon Blanc than it does with Chardonnay. Even so, not many reach the standard that this one manages to achieve for a steal of a price. While most Chilean Sauvignons head towards the tropical, this is more Loire-like, all juicy privet and fresh grass aromas, with a lovely acidity to balance. Good stuff. £62.20/case +VAT @ Patriarche Wine Agencies (020 7381 4016)

VIU MANENT MALBEC 2003​ Viu Manent has one of the most impressive portfolios of wine in Chile and though Argentina might be better known for the grape, these guys' Malbec is particularly good, courtesy of some of the oldest vines in the country. This is a deliciously juicy, blueberry 'n' damson jam example with ripe tannins, fresh flavours and a long, balanced, licorice finish. Again, great value. £71.40/case at El Vino Co (020 7353 5384

OLD VINES CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈRE 2002, CASA SILVA​ Some of the vines used in making this wine are 80-years-old, which is outrageous for a wine of this price. In truth, it's not as complex as it ought to be with vines this old, but it's fresh, soft, fun and highly drinkable. The sort of value for money that made Chile's name - and justifiably so. £52/case +VAT @ Jackson Nugent (020 8947 9722) as of August/Sept

CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2003,VIÑA PEREZ CRUZ​ Perez Cruz won not one, but two trophies in last year's International Wine Challenge, and seem to have moved on well from there. This 2003 Cab is bigger than the (cooler) previous vintage: a sweet, dark, silky monster that will have customers begging for more. £34.50/case of six + VAT @ Novum Wines (07958-396821)

Food and wine matching - easy summer drinking​ Summertime… and the drinking is easy. Or is it? When the mercury starts to climb, it can be hard pushing wine on punters who might prefer cooling G&Ts, chilled lagers or, horror of horrors, soft drinks to a big fat Aussie Shiraz. Certainly, the combination of sun and booze should be treated with caution. But you can do your bit to help entice hesitant drinkers in. For instance, if your wine list is stuffed with bottles with ferocious alcohol levels and big, mouth-drying tannins your customers aren't likely to be rushing to choose a first bottle, never mind re-order a second. What is needed is a bit of careful tailoring. In the same way that you wouldn't wear a big overcoat in a heatwave, your wine list needs to reflect an altered reality - of summer salads and seafood, rather than warming stews.

I'm not for a minute suggesting a wholesale rewriting of your list. But temporarily dropping an Amarone and an LBV port in favour of a juicy rosé and a cheap fizz is not a bad idea. I'd also consider offering a 'summer wines' selection to prove that you've put a bit of thought into it - maybe picking out half a dozen judiciously-chosen bottles that are designed with the warmer weather in mind. After all, even the football season takes two months off in summer.

Weissburgunder QbA 2001, Weinhaus Ress, Germany​ Weissburgunder is the unlovely German name for Pinot Blanc - a staple of wine lists everywhere, and rarely delivering much other than reliable neutrality. This, though, is great. Smoky, with red fruit and delicate brackeny aromas, it's a fine quaffing wine, but it will also match well with almost any type of food you care to put it up against. Versatile and great value. £57/case + VAT @ Mayfair Cellars (020 7386 7999)

Julius Henschke Riesling 2002, Henschke,Eden Valley, Australia​Oz is starting to get its act together with Riesling - and this is a good example. It's quite full-bodied, with lanolin, peaches and a faint whiff of the grape's trademark kerosene character.

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