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Cooper's Creek Hawkes Bay Riesling 2002
An eclectic region on the east coast of the North Island, Hawkes Bay extends from wide, fertile, coastal plains, inland, to the coast range, whose peaks reach as high as 5,300 feet. While the flatter areas were historically more popular because they are easier to cultivate, their alluvial soils can be too fertile for vines. In the late 20th century, the drive for quality led growers to the hills where soils are free-draining, limestone-rich and more suited to producing high quality wines.
Over the passing of time, the old Ngaruroro River laid down deep, gravelly beds, which were subsequently exposed after a huge flood in the 1860’s. In the 1980s growers identified this stretch, which continues for approximately 800 ha, and named it the Gimblett Gravels. The zone has proven to be ideal for the production of excellent red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Today the area takes well-earned recognition for its Bordeaux blends and other reds. Expressive of intense stewed red and black berry with gentle herbaceous characters, Gimblett Gravels wines are suggestive of their cool climate origin, and on par with other top-notch Bordeaux blends around the globe.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings more redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.