Riesling and oysters have a lot in common. You either love them or hate them. There is no middle ground. If you love riesling, you will know that it is the best-value wine made in this country. My top 10 rieslings from the excellent 2021 vintage average just over $34 a bottle. That’s peanuts when you consider that they are all world-class wines. 

Why doesn’t everyone love riesling? The two most common objections are sugar and acidity. Riesling is a high-acid grape variety. Firm acidity needs to be balanced by a little sweetness. The resulting sweet/sour contrast creates a delicious, mouth-watering tension much loved by riesling fans. 

Why are South Australian rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valleys all bone dry? Because they don’t have to work with high acidity. Tasmanian rieslings, on the other hand, are more likely to be at least slightly sweet because they have the benefit of crisp acidity. 

What is the best food match with riesling?

I like to match riesling with dishes that are noticeably acidic, such as seafood garnished with a squeeze of lime or lemon. Acidity in the dish slightly moderates the wine’s acidity, making it mellower and softer. Young parmesan cheese or goat’s cheese are both good matches because they have high natural acidity. 

Does riesling improve with age?

Riesling is one of the most age-worthy white wines, thanks to its high natural acidity. I would expect that, with the benefit of careful storage, all of my top 10 rieslings would still offer pleasure after a couple of decades. As it ages, riesling becomes mellower, toastier, and more complex. 

Bob’s top 10 2021 rieslings from dry to medium

I have chosen my 10 favourite wines from the generally excellent 2021 vintage and displayed them below from driest to sweetest. The residual sugar of each is shown, to provide some measure of sweetness, which is also influenced by the level of acidity and pH (acid strength). 

The name of a retailer is shown, with current prices. 

2021 Felton Road Dry Riesling, Central Otago  

Mouth-watering bone-dry riesling with saline/oyster-shell, lemon blossom and wild-flower characters. Intense, linear and lengthy. Textural wine with impressive weight and a lingering finish. A wine of two lives: full of youthful vigour now, but expect added toasty complexity when it hits maturity in a decade or so.
Stockists: Felton Road, Central Otago, $33; Whisky and More, Waikato, $34.99.
Residual sugar: 6 grams a litre

2021 Mondillo Riesling, Central Otago

Off/dry riesling with lime/citrus, saline/wet slate and wild-flower flavours plus a hint of stonefruit supported by delicious mouth-watering acidity, which perfectly balances a touch of sweetness, building some nice tension in the wine.
Stockists: Advintage, Hawke’s Bay, $27.99; Point Wines, Auckland, $30.
Residual sugar: 7g/l

2021 Hawkshead Riesling, Central Otago 

From selected blocks in the Lowburn sub-region, this is crisp, tangy riesling in an off-dry style with flavours that suggest lime, green apple, oyster shell, white flowers and apricot blossom. Deliciously tangy acidity balances a hint of sweetness to give the wine mouth-watering tension.
Stockist: Kinross, Queenstown, $31
Residual sugar: 7g/l

2021 Palliser Estate Riesling, Martinborough

Vibrant, off-dry riesling with lime zest, passion fruit, apricot and white flower flavours. The wine has an appealing sweet/sour tension and a lingering finish. Delicious now but it should develop extra flavour depth and complexity with bottle age.
Stockists: Palliser Estate, Martinborough, $25; NZ Wine Boutique, Auckland, $25.99.
Residual sugar: 7.8g/l

2021 Three Miners Herringbone Riesling, Central Otago

Delicately aromatic riesling with lime, orange blossom and saline/oyster shell flavours. A hint of sweetness is balanced by tangy acidity to give the wine energy and mouth-watering tension. Good now but should age well.
Stockists: Three Miners, Otago, $25; blackmarket.co.nz, Auckland, $24.99.
Residual sugar: 20g/l

2021 Te Whare Ra “M” Riesling, Marlborough

Medium riesling showing the benefit of relatively old vines (the oldest riesling vines in Marlborough), with impressive concentration and deliciously juicy acidity. The wine achieves a mouth-watering sweet/sour tension. Tones of lime, oyster shell and white wild flowers.
Stockist: Te Whare Ra, Marlborough, $29, or check your local fine-wine store, as this riesling has just been released.
Residual sugar: 23g/l

2021 Framingham F-Series Kabinett, Marlborough

Selectively hand-harvested on taste from three riesling vineyards. Moderately sweet wine with lime, orange blossom, oyster shell and apricot characters and a suggestion of honey. Nice sweet/sour tension and an impressive backbone of taut acidity.
Stockist: Framingham Wines, Marlborough, $39.99.
Residual sugar: 50g/l

2021 Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling, Central Otago

Taut yet luscious riesling with moderate sweetness balanced by juicy acidity to give the wine a delicious tension. Wonderfully pure with a mix of citrus and stonefruit flavours and a hint of mango.
Stockists: Felton Road, Central Otago, $33; Finer Wines, Bay of Plenty, $36.95.
Residual sugar: 56g/l

2021 Framingham Select Riesling, Marlborough 

An initial suggestion of sweetness is quickly restrained by racy acidity to produce a dry-ish wine with wonderful tension and a lingering finish. Great purity and power. This is a true classic, with lime, floral and oyster-shell flavours.
Stockist: Framingham Wines, Marlborough, $34.99.
Residual sugar: 60g/l

2021 Felton Road Block 1 Riesling, Central Otago

Luscious tropical fruit flavours remind me of a visit to the Tropical Nursery at Kew Gardens in London. That heady scent mingles with sharper citrus and mineral notes and lingers long after the wine has been swallowed. An ethereal texture and exquisite sweet/sour tension complete the picture. A great riesling.
Stockists: Finer Wines, Bay of Plenty, $54.95; The Winery (Arrowtown), Otago, $62.99.
Residual sugar: 69g/l 

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