Wine and hemlines are both susceptible to the whims of fashion. In recent years, the Riesling grape suffered from a dowdy reputation. During the big red wine boom of the ’90s, it was shunned as a pale wallflower.
These days, Riesling is gradually re-emerging as a buzzword among wine cognoscenti. It possesses a kind of antihero appeal — so resolutely unhip that it’s cool. Reisling now appears on wine lists at hot California restaurants like San Francisco’s Slanted Door and the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. Sleek, new-wave Rieslings are turning up in wine shops in Japan.
If you have not tried Riesling lately, there are good reasons to find out what its comeback is all about. Riesling is often a superb choice to accompany the Asian fusion cuisine that influences restaurant menus from Sydney to Los Angeles. Classic Asian fusion fare is charged with spice. Tannic red wines undergo a numbing battle with spicy heat, while Riesling’s bright, citrusy acidity just dances with it.
The new-wave Rieslings from places like New Zealand and Australia are often bone-dry. But don’t scorn the peach-and-honey richness of classic Rieslings. In a good Riesling, the grape’s acidic zest prevents its fruity character from being cloying. That sweet-sour tang gives the wine its succulence. Best of all, Riesling still offers good value.
Our top pick is the 2000 Palliser Estate Riesling from Martinborough, N.Z. Peppery lime flirts with marmalade and honey flavors in this bright, floral-scented white wine. It’s a great buy at 1,650 yen from Groceries & Bottle Shop Kito in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, (03) 3991-0118, or by mail-order from Village Cellars, (0120) 106-876 or e-mail email@example.com
Another Kiwi favorite is 2000 Lawson Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling, a flinty, ultra-dry wine with cantaloupe, tangerine, lime and mineral flavors, priced around 1,800 yen (see above sources).
For a classic Alsatian expression of Riesling, try the 1988 Joseph & Christian Binner Kaefferkopf Riesling Cuvee du Cinquantenaine. A deep, buttery gold, this wine is as savory as chicken broth, with lemon tea, earthy mineral and smoke flavors. At 2,980 yen for this 13-year-old beauty, Riesling again hits the sweet spot where value and quality converge.
Wine-tasting fans are in luck this November. Many importers and retail shops hold events as they gear up for the yearend holidays.
Le Vin Vivant wine shop in Mita, Tokyo, will hold two free, new-arrival tastings Nov. 6-7, 5-8 p.m.; no reservations required. A 5 percent discount will be offered on all tasting wines. For a fee, some special items will be poured Nov. 6, including 1959 Ch. Terte de St. Mayme from Monbazillac (a dessert wine) and 1987 Louis Latour Beaune Cuvee Rousseau Delandes/Hospices de Beaune. Special wines on Nov. 7 include 1975 Chateau Pavie and 1999 Francois Mikulski Mersault 1er Porezots.
For Japanese information, see www.lvv.co.jp/home/event/siin6/index.html For English-language inquiries, call Naoko Saito at (03) 3454-3033.
Le Vin Vivant Ichihara Bldg. 8F, 4-13-2 Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Eat magazine is hosting its Wine World Cup tastings with dream teams of 40 wines in total (five-a-side for eight different countries). The Osaka semifinal will be held Nov. 10 at Daidaiya, Higashi-shinsaibashi, (06) 6282-0228. Competing teams are Italy, Spain, Australia and Chile.
The Tokyo Grand Final is on Nov. 17 at Le Petit Bedon in Hachiyama-cho, (03) 5457-0086. Tastings run 2-5 p.m. Admission for each event is 5,000 yen (includes 20 wines, bread and cheeses). To book, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, call (03) 5484-6680 or visit the Web site: ( www.i-eatsite.com/en/00ww/f_ww_main.html ).
Village Cellars, the Australian/New Zealand wine specialists, is offering two tastings in Tokyo. On Nov. 16, an Aussie tasting will take place at Japan Architectural Hall in Shibuya (1,000 yen/person), 6-8 p.m. On Nov. 28, the company will hold a wine-tasting dinner at the Akasaka Prince Hotel (8,000 yen/person). For reservations, call toll-free (0120) 106-876 or fax (0120) 288-788.