Top Rieslings for springtime sipping – and a cheeky whiskey for St Patrick’s Day!

Olympian Louis Smith

Irish whiskey

Craic on and pour a new whiskey for St Patrick’s Day today (March 17)!
Redbreast 12-Year-Old Single Pot Still Whiskey, Ireland; Master of Malt & Amazon, £42.50

Redbreast Whiske




Irish whiskey is in fine fettle with palpable love from the US. Global sales soared from 60 million bottles in 2010 to 144 million in 2020. It’s a big hit in America with sales last climbing 16.3 per cent, or $185million, to a record $1.3billion. Redbreast 12 year old is a cracking single pot still whiskey from Jameson’s Midleton distillery in County Cork, and it’s brilliant with crème brûlée. Think apple, pears, dried fruits, spicy vanilla, mocha and tropical fruit. Sláinte!

Riesling wine

To also toast last Sunday’s International Riesling Day, James Viner discusses the delights of this ancient German grape, which boasts endless variation and is a favourite among wine aficionados. Grab a glass and enjoy…

Cold-hardy – making it ideal to grow in regions with cold winters – and late-budding, Riesling (pronounced reece-ling) makes aromatically complex, food-friendly, rarely oaked/blended wines that are typically high in acidity that, like Pinot Noir, express exactly where they were grown. It can make dry, sweet and sparkling wines – talk about versatile! Here are five of my incisive drier favourites for warmer spring days:


1) Zingy, bargain, must-try supermarket steal from Canada
2019 The Falls Canadian Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario; Aldi, £9.99 (10.5%) 

Canadian Riesling

Like Cabernet Franc and Vidal – the French hybrid much grown for Icewine –Riesling is comparatively tolerant of very cold temperatures, making it suitable for the severe winters of Canada’s Finger Lakes and Ontario. Riesling lovers should check out Aldi’s revamped offering. It has caught all the desirable flavours at modest alcohol (10.5%), adding another level to its charm. Only available online. A headline bargain.


2) Classic, intense, dry Riesling from a peerless biodynamic Mosel grower
2020 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Qualitätswein trocken, Mosel, Germany; £19.70-£21 (12%)

German Mosel Riesling





Germany is the homeland of Riesling, covering around a quarter of its total vineyard area, and easily the world’s largest producer of this relatively frost-resistant white grape variety. Not all German Riesling is sweet. Like this one, wines labelled ‘trocken’ are dry (up to 9 g/l residual sugar). Tingling with life, well-judged acidity and plenty of extract, it’d be superb with Thai-accented spicy dishes, dressed crab, a doner kebab or smoked salmon.


3) Riveting South African Riesling (just 40ha in the whole of the country!) from an iconic property in cool-climate Constantia, Western Cape
2017 Klein Constantia Riesling, Western Cape, South Africa; Cape Wine & FoodThe Champagne Company, £15-£17.85 (13.5%)

 Klein C Estate Riesling





South African wine goes from strength to strength. Beautiful Klein Constantia (Little Constantia) is part of the famous Constantia wine estate founded in 1685 by the then governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel. This top-notch piquant Riesling bursts with lime juice, Granny Smith, stone fruit and citrus blossom from the first whiff through to the mid-palate. Zippy and dry, with a breezy line of acidity, the result is a Riesling that will be likely savoured before its due time (positive bottle development over the next five years is assured).


4) Pure, crystalline, crunchy, limy, must-try Aussie Riesling
2020 Ministry of Clouds Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia (SA); Pip of Manor Farm, £26 (12%)

Riesling Ministry





Some of Australia’s cooler areas, especially the pastoral Eden and Clare Valleys in SA, have established a standing for fashioning a remarkable dry Riesling original. Pristine and pure, this Riesling pulses strongly with its flavour profile of kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, preserved lemons and chalky, lemon-scented, bath salt-like acidity. Briny/savoury nuances further add complexity.  Dim-Sum, lemongrass, lime and ginger sea bass, ham joints, Vietnamese noodle salads, smoked fish or seafood anyone? Lovely to drink now, or later – bottle development (delivering notes of toast, honey and petrol) will be fascinating if one can resist now. Vegan-friendly.


5) For the connoisseur, a dazzling, food-friendly, dry Riesling from a matchless grower on the limestone soils at Ribeauvillé, Alsace
2012 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Maison Trimbach, Alsace, France; The Wine Society, £42 (13%) 

Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile





The Wine Society has many late-release vinous stars, but this one from warm, sunny, exceptionally dry Alsace particularly stands out. Unlike neighbouring Germany, here the style is typically dry and medium to full-bodied. Made from low-yielding old vines, the extra bottle age on this benchmark Riesling from an inimitable, terroir-conscious grower has brought an element of finesse with it. This vintage of ‘Freddie’ is starting to show tangible nutty and honeyed development on the bouquet with flavours of peach, baked pear, lemongrass, lime and red apple. Long, evolving magically and thoroughly admirable, this has all the expected length and drive of a world-class dry Riesling. Perhaps skate, caviar, oysters, the local eggy onion tart or coq au Riesling?  I’d drink some now, the rest five or more years down the track.

Tipple Tip

Is my Riesling dry or sweet? Check out the alcohol level. If it’s 12% or over, your wine will be dry. Dry and off-dry Riesling is amazing with most Thai food. Hello, Kai’s Kitchen!

Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine


Main photo: © Amarosy/

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter