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Michael Cooper's top riesling picks for 2019

The cool conditions from which this variety springs produce a light wine that’s especially enjoyable in the heat of summer.

Riesling, the great grape of Germany, is a favourite of many winegrowers here, especially those producing this famous “cool climate” variety in the South Island. Styles range from bone-dry to unabashedly sweet, but most rieslings are medium-dry, with just a sliver of sweetness balanced by mouth-watering acidity. During summer’s heat, its typical lightness of body and crisp, penetrating, lemon-apple flavours make riesling a top choice.

Amisfield Lowburn Terrace Central Otago Riesling 2018 •••••

Distinctly Mosel-like, this low-alcohol (9% alc/vol) style is light and lovely with strong, vibrant, citrusy flavours, gentle sweetness, balanced acidity and excellent depth, delicacy and harmony. $30

Ataahua Waipara Riesling 2018 ••••½

Instantly appealing, this attractively scented wine is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol) with strong, citrusy, peachy, slightly appley flavours and a lovely balance of moderate sweetness and mouth-watering acidity. $26

Aurum Central Otago Dry Riesling 2018 ••••½

This is a weighty (13% alc/vol), dryish rather than bone-dry wine with vibrant, peachy, lemony flavours and is youthful, crisp and lingering. $28

Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Natural Light Riesling 2019 ••••

Freshly scented, this wine is light-bodied (9% alc/vol), but there’s no shortage of flavour. Tightly structured, it is vibrant, lemony and appley with an off-dry, mouth-wateringly crisp finish. $22

Ceres Black Rabbit Vineyard Central Otago Riesling 2018 ••••½

This invitingly fragrant wine is light (10.5% alc/vol) and vivacious with strong lemon-lime flavours, gentle sweetness and fresh acidity. Already delicious. $28

Clark Estate Classic Marlborough Riesling 2018 ••••

Enjoyable young, this Awatere Valley wine is light-bodied (10.5% alc/vol) and crisp with slight sweetness and generous, ripe, peachy flavours. $19

Dashwood by Vavasour Marlborough Riesling 2019 ••••

Offering top value, this light-bodied wine (11% alc/vol) is freshly scented with vibrant, citrusy, slightly appley flavours, gentle sweetness, appetising acidity and very good depth. $16

Giesen Gemstone Limited Release Marlborough Riesling 2018 •••••

Partly fermented in large granite tanks, this is a rich, characterful, gently sweet riesling. Light to medium-bodied (10.5% alc/vol), it has a welcoming fragrance and delicious depth, complexity and harmony. $20

Domain Road The Water Race Bannockburn Central Otago Dry Riesling 2017 ••••½

Highly perfumed, this vigorous, youthful wine is dryish and medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol) with penetrating, citrusy flavours, firm acid spine and obvious cellaring potential. $25

Dry River Craighall Vineyard Selection Martinborough Riesling 2018 •••••

The latest release of this regional classic is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol) with intense, lemony, appley flavours, hints of spices and ginger, lively acidity and a long, tight, fractionally off-dry finish. $50

Giesen New Zealand Riesling 2019 ••••½

Instantly attractive, this vivacious wine is light-bodied (9.5% alc/vol) and gently sweet with an array of fruit flavours and a finely balanced, smooth finish. New Zealand’s biggest-selling riesling. $17

Felton Road Bannockburn Central Otago Riesling 2019 •••••

This gently sweet style has deep flavours woven with fresh acidity. Still very youthful, it is light-bodied (9.5% alc/vol) with intense peach, lemon and apple flavours and a crisp, lasting finish. $39

Greenhough Apple Valley Nelson Riesling 2019 •••••

Delicious young, this light-bodied (9.5% alc/vol), gently sweet wine is attractively scented. It has intense, peachy, citrusy flavours and shows excellent freshness, delicacy and harmony. $22

Kahurangi Estate Mt Arthur Reserve Nelson Riesling 2017 •••••

Already drinking well, this fragrant, tightly structured wine is medium-bodied (11% alc/vol) with strong lemon-apple flavours, gentle sweetness, lively acidity and a long finish. $25

Greywacke Marlborough Riesling 2017 •••••

This very refined, youthful wine was partly barrel-fermented. Medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it has strong, peachy, citrusy flavours and a finely balanced, persistent finish. $29

Main Divide North Canterbury Riesling 2016 ••••

This good-value wine is a gently sweet, medium-bodied style (12% alc/vol). It has generous, citrusy, slightly spicy flavours, a hint of honey and plenty of current-drinking appeal. $21

Loveblock Marlborough Riesling 2018 ••••

This is a weighty riesling (13% alc/vol) with generous, ripe, peachy flavours, a hint of honey, a distinct splash of sweetness and plenty of drink-young appeal. $22

Māori Point Single Vineyard Central Otago Riesling 2018 ••••½

Highly expressive in its youth, this is a medium-bodied (11.7% alc/vol) wine with punchy, citrusy, slightly appley and peachy flavours, gentle sweetness and a crisp, lengthy finish. $28

Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling 2015 •••••

Drinking beautifully now, this Bendigo wine is finely scented and medium-bodied (11% alc/vol) with rich, vibrant, citrusy, peachy, appley flavours and toasty, bottle-aged notes that add complexity. $28

Mondillo Central Otago Riesling 2018 •••••

This is an impressive wine, with lovely freshness, drive and harmony. Medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it has concentrated, ripe, citrusy flavours, hints of peaches and spices and a long, basically dry finish. $28

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Big John Marlborough Riesling 2017 ••••½

Made in a medium-sweet style, this vivacious, light-bodied wine (9% alc/vol) is appetisingly crisp with citrusy, appley flavours and shows excellent freshness and intensity. $27

Mount Brown Estates North Canterbury Riesling 2018 ••••

Enjoyable young, this medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol) wine is gently sweet with good intensity of citrusy, peachy flavours, hints of apricot and honey and appetising acidity. $17

Rock Ferry Trig Hill Vineyard Central Otago Riesling 2015 •••••

Certified organic, this highly fragrant wine is medium to full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol). It has concentrated lemon, apple and spice flavours, bottle-aged complexity and an unusually dry finish. $33

Seifried Nelson Riesling 2019 ••••

From a local pioneer of riesling, this latest vintage offers good value. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol), it is crisp and dry with vigorous, citrusy, slightly appley flavours and shows very good depth. $18

The Doctors’ Marlborough Riesling 2019 ••••

Crafted in a low-alcohol style (9% alc/vol), this light, lively wine has citrusy, appley flavours, a distinct splash of sweetness and finely balanced acidity. Good summertime sipping. $22

Terrace Edge Liquid Geography North Canterbury Riesling 2018 ••••½

Certified organic, this gently sweet wine is delicious young. Medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol) with a slightly honeyed fragrance, it has concentrated, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, finely balanced acidity and a rich, long finish. $20

Three Miners Central Otago Riesling 2017 ••••

Invitingly scented, this is a light-bodied (10.5% alc/vol) wine with lively, citrusy, appley flavours. It shows excellent depth and a slightly sweet, finely balanced finish. $23

Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Riesling 2019 ••••

Already enjoyable, this medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), off-dry style has strong, crisp, lemony, appley flavours. It shows excellent delicacy and length. Top value. $15

Wither Hills Marlborough Riesling 2018 ••••

Offering fine value, this scented, vibrantly fruity wine is medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol) with generous lemon-lime flavours, slight sweetness and excellent balance. $18

Wild Earth Central Otago Riesling 2017 ••••½

Fragrant and medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), this single-vineyard wine has strong grapefruit and lime flavours, a hint of spice and an off-dry, lingering finish. $27

This article was first published in the November 16, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.