Here at Yapp Brothers we love our staff tastings but it is sometimes, in these days of multi-tasking and role covering, quite difficult to muster a respectable turn out. However last Friday was one opportunity when most of the Yapp team were present in Mere, so we made full use of the time to further our vinous education with a tasting based around a theme of aromatic wines. These make for wonderful summer drinking and are generally lighter, cool climate wines, usually unoaked, but big on bouquet. We tasted a flight of three Rieslings – two from our Australian producers and a classic example from the Alsace.

Our Neagles Rock Vineyards’ Riesling 2007 from the Clare valley (an area renowned for Riesling) is bottled under Stelvin® screwcap and comes in at 12.5% abv. We’ve just finished the 2007 vintage which was superb with a few years bottle age, and the 2009 compared well. This was very lively with the classic kerosene aroma, tight and minerally with plenty of lemon and lime characteristics. This would be perfect with spiced Asian cuisine (with chilli and coriander) but also ideal as a bracing aperitif.

Next up was the Jasper Hill Riesling 2009 (12%) from Heathcote in Victoria. This originates from a much warmer area of Australia, and is not currently commercially available as it is ‘dry-grown’ without irrigation and yields have been hit hard by drought over successive recent vintages. The reason wine-maker Ron Laughton doesn’t want to irrigate his vines is because as water gets ever scarcer, there will surely come a time when there will be a hefty financial charge for its use. If winemakers are already irrigating, they will either have to pay for the privilege in the future, or their vines will die because their root systems will be too shallow to reach any moisture. Again, the wine displayed a strong lemon and lime character, less minerally than the Neagles and a little more honeyed with an elegant petrolly finish.

The Alsace Riesling 2004 (12.5% abv) from Charles Schléret was much darker in colour and very interesting to note that it was much fuller and more concentrated on the nose that it’s Australian counterparts. So often it’s the other way around with other grapes. This is a much bigger wine all round – fruitier, richer, more honeyed, mellower and full of flavours of mango and lychees. A perfect food wine.

Now to the Viognier comparisons. A tricky grape to grow but well worth the effort.  Even though its heartland is in the Northern Rhône, it doesn’t mind the heat, so the Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Viognier 2009 which we have available for the first time at Yapp, thrives in the warmer climes of Victoria. It had a golden straw colour and it showed a very concentrated nose, with some oak influence and mango and peach notes prominent. A big wine (15% abv) – muscular and buttery but still nicely balanced.  We then tried the Condrieu Terrasses de L’Empire 2008 from Domaine Georges Vernay located in Viognier’s spiritual homeland. Georges’ daughter Christine took over the wine making here in 1997 s and still retains the exacting standards set by Georges when he, virtually single-handedly resuscitated the appellation during the 1970’s. Lighter in colour than the Jasper Hill, but showing the typical white flower and soft fruit nose of peach and pear. A decidedly fleshy palate of minerals and mango – very elegant and more restrained.

Two other wines which were very appropriate for the aromatic category were also from Charles Schléret - his Alsace (Tokay) Pinot Gris 2007 (14%abv) and the Gewurztraminer 2007 (14.5%abv). The former is made from the same grape that gives you the blandest versions of mass-produced Pinot Grigio, this was the opposite with a deep straw colour and a very rich nose of dried fruits and marzipan with a hint of yeast. The palate was typically Alsatian – oily and unctuous with a complex minerality in the finish. An ideal partner to foie gras. The final wine of the tasting was one of Charles’ finest – a terrific example of what Gewurztraminer should be like. A big, rich, but well-balanced wine, full of the classic aromas of turkish delight, rose petals, and lychees with a fine minerality and a hint of white pepper. Again foie gras or the pungent local Münster cheese would make for fine accompaniments.

Our taste buds were so stimulated by the aromatic wine experience, that some of us promptly ordered a Chinese that evening to experience the various flavours with food. The wines paired up extremely well with a variety of dishes. I wonder if I can book that out on expenses?