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Adnams Grape of the Month - Riesling

By Dr John Forrest, also posted in News on

[caption id="attachment_13206" align="alignleft" width="200"]Dr John Forrest Dr John Forrest[/caption] Award-winning New Zealand winemaker Dr John Forrest tells us why he loves this noble grape variety, and about the important role of sugar in balancing sweeter wine styles.


No other grape so entices the wine lover - ask anyone in the wine trade and Riesling will always be in their top three favourite varieties. For me personally, I came to like Riesling first as a drinker for its delightful citrus flavour-profile, freshness in the mouth, versatility with all sorts of cuisine and wide range of styles; all made to such a high standard. Then, as a winemaker, I fell in love with Riesling. No other grape expresses the terroir from which it comes so perfectly than Riesling, nor can be made to such a high standard in so diverse styles – from bone dry to super sweet. What other wine makes your mouth so alive, challenges the senses and stimulates the taste buds? If I could give you one word to describe what Riesling possesses, the thing that makes it so exciting, challenging and rewarding to drink, it’s the word “tension”. By this I mean the sum of the contrasting sensations the wine gives your senses – freshness, acidity, flavour sweetness, mouth-weight, longevity, aftertaste. You can find out more about Forrest's Rieslings here and Adnams range of Rieslings by clicking here.

Sugar – wine’s unsung heroine!

Western culture has a perverse disdain for sugar.  Why?  I don’t know; perhaps because it has only recently been part of our culture. In Asian culture, where sugar has been a prized condiment for centuries, I see a great reverence for this jewel in our sensory crown. It forms, along with acidity, saltiness and bitterness, the cornerstone of our tasting world – no more so than with wine. So why, when it’s in wine, do we “bang on” so negatively about it all the time? Forrest Estate VineyardI’m personally sick to death of having people bag it as if trying to prove they know more about wine than someone who likes sugar, in balance, as part of a wine’s sensory pleasures. My advice to those people is to get over it; you’re showing your ignorance, not your knowledge, of wine! Ok, I’m off my soap box, so what is sugar’s role in wine? Principally sugar acts as a natural counter-balance to the acidity within grapes (6-10g/l), and the inherent bitterness of grape skins, pips, stalks (polyphenols, tannins etc). Sugar also has several other important attributes; it greatly assists a wine’s perceived weight and texture on the palate. A small addition can transform the flavour profile in any wine and it's central to a winemaker achieving “balance” in the final wine. The Doctor's RieslingNone of the above attributes of sugar are better displayed than in a Riesling! Of all grapes that make great wines, Riesling shows the importance of sugar, from bone-dry to sugar sweet, in producing wines with flavour, texture, freshness and balance. It’s one of Riesling’s greatest virtues and one of the reasons I first fell in love with it! I want to take just one example to demonstrate all that I have said so far about sugar and wine; that’s our Marlborough Doctors' Riesling (£9.99, 8.5% abv).  Here is a wine with 40g/l residual sugar, that’s 7 teaspoons per bottle! Sweet you may say; not, say I. The answer lies in sugar’s role to balance this style of wine’s high natural acidity (9g/l), low ph (2.97), citrus/green apple aromas, bitterness and stony minerality. Don’t forget this much sugar also lifts the nose of the wine helping to give a riper orange skin and apricot aroma, a weightier palate, greater length and greater age-ability. Not a bad effort from one simple little group of carbon molecules you would agree! So I hope next time you’re enjoying a glass of wine, or indeed any food or drink, give a thought to the oft unheralded role our heroine of cuisine “sugar” is playing. Bon appetite!

John's Ode to Riesling

I love thee for your many forms You stimulate my sensory norms I have you on my bucket list So you, my love, will not be missed.


Dr John Forrest