"Liquorice staples. I taste liquorice staples in this Riesling," I exclaim.
I just loved those sweet treats when I was young - a 1-cm narrow pipe of liquorice coated with hard candy - a suckable bullet of deliciousness. It's why I love fennel, anise, tarragon, chervil, Thai basil - all those liquoricey herbs and spices. I love the excitement and intrigue that liquorice can add to a wine. And the taste of it in this Riesling was evoking childhood memories.
Winemaker Ollie Masters' words snap me back to the present. "I think it's part of the terroir of our vineyard," he says.
Interesting, I thought, as I hadn't picked it up in the Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris. But I would later find in the Pinot Noirs.
There's something about Central Otago Riesling that I like immensely, not only the liquorice I'm picking up in Misha's Limelight, but the fresh acidity and the purity of fruit flavours. I wonder how much disease pressure there is down there - purity of fruit equals clean fruit, no botrytis infection good or bad.
When I was introduced to Felton Road's almost incomparable drops I mused as to why Central Otago can produce Riesling like this. Is it because it is so cold in winter that when the vines wake up they think the season ahead could be their last? A late ripening grape, the vines losing their leaves so late in the season, getting so cold, thinking they are going to die?
Misha had two Rieslings to taste, the 2011 and the 2008. I remember when the 2008 was released - a wine with so much promise, a promise that is still being delivered. It's now developed an aged Riesling toastiness with what we call 'kero' nuances with honey in the palate and sweet lemon/lime. It has fruit weight, richness, acid balance and a long dry finish with phenomenal length.
Today the 2008 was the most outstanding match to the crayfish served alongside it. But it was the liquorice that endeared me to the young wine. Will this character still be there in four years time?
Misha's Vineyard Limelight Riesling 2011
Redolent of a citrus blossom bouquet, this is a bright spicy Riesling, just off dry, honeyed, intense lime and yuzu citrus with a touch of liquorice (liquorice staples) adding exciting intrigue. Beautifully harmonious with bright acidity and a clean crisp finish with sweet citrus/honey flavours lingering. There's 25 grams per litre of residual sugar in this wine, but because of the dramatic 8.5 grams / litre total acidity, it tastes more dry than sweet. About 14% of the juice went through older oak, although no oak characters are apparent in the taste.
Website price is $28.50 a bottle. Check out www.mishasvineyard.com to find out where else you can buy.
© Sue Courtney
9 March 2012