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The white grape will one day be your fave, so why not get an affordable jump start on your next passion?
I want to put this as delicately as possible: if you claim to love wine, but don’t love Riesling, I think there may be something wrong with you.
And I say this as someone who isn’t one of those ride-or-die Riesling diehards for whom every other white grape is blasphemy. You can tell me that you live for Chardonnay, carry a torch for Chenin (secret props) and I’ll happily nerd out as long as you never, ever add: “I don’t like Riesling” because such a statement is non-sensical. When made well, it has few equals in pairing with food. It’s wonderful on its own, and it can stand up to heat, both culinary and atmospherically.
It’s sweet you say? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but when properly made, its natural acidity make it a wine of near-perfect balance, and there’s never anything cloying about any residual sugar hanging around.
But I could prattle on like the most boring nerd at the party for ages. Why don’t you just try some? And to make it easy, I’ve selected a few local options that are under $23. (Another reason you need to love it is BC is excellent at making it in the way we are with few other grapes.) Seriously: nothing is under $23 these days, so you have zero excuses not to hop aboard the Riesling Express.
Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2021 $19
QG was making Riesling when you were still [insert old-timey eupemism]. And these old vines give off some fruit that make it complex in a way that few $19 wines have a right to be. The QC team really mean it when they say dry—this wine is the one to hit some loudmouth over the head with when he (it’s always a he) claims all Riesling is sweet. It’s a crisp Granny Smith with a splash of citrus on top.
Mayhem 2021 Riesling $20.87
Mayhem is a second label of sorts as well, this time to the great Meyer Family Vineyards. But instead of offering more approachable versions of their classics, this takes the form of new operation that has the same team but different goals (Poplar Grove’s Monster Vineyards works the same way). For example, Meyer doesn’t make riesling – but after tasting this low-cost effort from Mayhem…maybe they should. This is almost everything I want in a mid-level riesling—great concentration, not afraid of some sweetness but without ample acid to provide balance. And it’s juicy—and insanely good value for under $21.
Culmina Decora 2020 $23
This is an insane deal. There aren’t many labels in BC that carry more cachet than Culmina, and as such this bottle has the opportunity to convert a few “Big Red” stalwarts to our cult. When Don Triggs first planted his vineyard in Oliver, everyone said it was too far south for Riesling (East Kelowna is its natural landing pad). But Don knew a thing or thousand about wine and ingeniously went high altitude for his vineyard. The result is a wine that’s quite ripe and 14%, but that still has a lovely floral finesse and some restrained dried fruit at its core. Drinks well now, but will age like a champ. And you’ll look like a champ when you show up to a dinner party with two of these under each arm (and having spent less than $50).
Fort Berens 2021 Riesling $22
Lillooet’s Fort Berens actually makes two wonderful Rieslings, but this entry-level version features a rare round-shouldered bottle (frankly a Godsend for stacking in a wine fridge) and a flavour profile that’s a tad riper and more tropical fruit (like rambutan) and flower petals, so great for those who might want to go for a Viognier (and if you can save them, you’ve done a good deed). BTW, their other version —the Small Lots—is only $24.99 and skews a bit more stone fruit and spice.
AND A BONUS
Tantalus Riesling Lab 2021 $21.74
Well this one just doesn’t make sense. When you are an uber-acclaimed winery whose rieslings can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world and you release a limited-edition “experiment,” you’re supposed to charge double or even triple as the wine geeks trip over each other trying to source this bottled-insight-into-the-mind-of-a-riesling-whisper/head, winemaker Dave Patterson. But in full keeping it real mode, this bottle is simply stupid $21.74. I just don’t get it. The only proviso for this list is that it’s not really an entry bottle despite its price. This version:
The 11th release of this experimental wine saw the “hard pressings” (when we press a little firmer into the grape skins to extract a more textural juice) of all of our Riesling blocks kept separate and fermented wild in old oak puncheons and barriques, which previously housed Chardonnay.
There is some serious textural mouthfeel going on here and riesling freaks will love it. Many newbies will as well, but it also might be an idea to buy this now—it’ll sell out very very soon—and revisit once you’re joined the believers.