2007 Niagara Vintage - 1st Impression - Over-rated!
After reading all the latest hype/write-up pertaining to the 'supposedly best Niagara vintage EVER - 2007'. For a BYOB mid-autumn festival Chinese dinner last weekend, I brought along a bottle of Niagara Featherstone limited production (100 cases ) Riesling 2007 as well as a German Studert-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling 2006 ( for comparison purpose ).
The Niagara wine was highly recommended by the LCBO wine consultant where I bought it from, thus resulting in high expectation by everyone at the party. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a real dissappointment!! Delicious?! - Kind of, but really nothing special. However, the German Mosel has remarkable depth with fresh, floral and honeyed applelike flavour and zesty acidity. Great balance and length. A side by side tasting simply blew the Niagara wine away. BTW, both wine cost around Can$30.
People should think twice before commenting that the 2007 Niagara vintage made 'Best ever, great, world class white'. Guess best ever for Niagara might not be good enough when compared to other world's best?!
I've had so many "recommendations" to buy ontario wines, with LCBO reps, critics, and magazines singing the praises of Ontario wines. I've been disappointed time and time again.
As one person commented, it is fair to compare wines of similar price, and I agree. Having said that, if I picked a highly recommended Ontario wine of that price, I could pretty much guarantee I could throw a dart at a board of all $25 Spanish, Argentine, Chilean wines (and many others) and would inevitably get something better. I'm disgusted that the vineyards from Ontario think they can charge such inflated prices for sub-standard or mediocre wines. It seems that the costs of many of the vineyards ornate buildings and grounds is used as a justification of the price of the wine produced.
I'd rather drink my wine at home. Therefore my major concern is the price/value for the wine, and since I've been disappointed so, so many times, I've all but given up on Ontario wines. For now and the forseeable future, I'll look to other countries which produce excellent and predictable values for very fair prices.
Isn't rather early to write off an entire vintage? Not only are many of the wines not yet released, but to compare a German Riesling side-by-side with one from Niagara is folly! (So, too, it to compare a German Riesling with one from California, for that matter.) The two have far more differences between them than they do commonalities.
Besides, you have tasted (or at least "reported" on) ONLY ONE WINE! How can you write off the entire vintage on the basis of one wine? Even in great vintages like 1982 in Bordeaux (for example), some specific wines SUCKED! And yet, 1982 is a fantastic vintage! Every GREAT year has some duds, just as every POOR vintage has some great exceptions!
Lighten up, and keep tasting . . .
First, I'd like to say that my road to wine enjoyment began years ago in London by attending a Riesling wine tasting of the great 1971 German vintage. Subsequently, I am hooked to this noble grape and have started a fair collection of '71, '76, '83, '88, '89, '90.....to present, of not only German Riesling, but Alsace and California ones as well. I'm also privileged to be a friend of winemaker-Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch's fame so I think I am safe to say that I know a thing or two about Riesling!
When initial reports start surfacing from the Niagara region claiming that their 2007 Riesling vintage will be the best ever and can rival any 'World Class' Riesling, obviously expectation is high! Then, when they start charging the newly released 'LOCAL WINE' the same price as their distant German cousin for the same catagory and level of wine, one's expectation is raised even higher! So I would naturally expect a bottle of 'local' Niagara Riesling costing $30 to be superior than a $30 bottle of 'overseas' German Riesling!
Now if you go back to my original posting and read the title, I did write ' 1st impression'. Anyways, a whole month has passed and I have since tasted three more supposedly great representation of this vintage. Well, my initial remark still stands! They are just not up to snuff when compare to their German counterpart of similar pricing. Overall nose, taste, complexity and finish all lagged behind the German Riesling of the 2005/06 vintages!
I'm not sure how difficult it is for you to lay your hand on some Ontario/Niagara wine in California? Otherwise, it would be most interesting to hear what another fellow CH thinks after a few comparative tastings?!
re: Charles Yu
>>> so I think I am safe to say that I know a thing or two about Riesling! <<<
No one is questioning your ability to say ANYTHING.
FWIW, I also started with the 1971 vintage, and worked in the wine trade for 35+ years. I'm not sure what that means -- everyone here is free to post whatever . . . .
But regardless of the hype EVERY region generates, there is (and shall always be) a huge difference between (e.g.) German Rieslings and Niagra Rieslings, just as there is between Rieslings which are produced in Germany and in California . . . just as, for example, there are between those from Rheinhessen and the Saar!
>>> They are just not up to snuff when compare to their German counterpart of similar pricing. <<<
The "news" would be if they WERE. (Especially given the exchange rates!) But I stand by what I said earlier: the differences between them far outweigh any similarities.
YMMV . . .
While it is too late to potentially act as a referee, in Charles defence I should point out that it is the local (and only) retailer of these wines that is hyping the vintage as best ever (OK the producers are too).
With Riesling (especially German) being my favourite beverage, of course I agree that the local product is different. However, having tasted widely I still feel that POTENTIALLY Riesling is the best grape for Southern Ontario (and there are several good examples). But they aren't (and never will be ) German - but let's face it Ontario Icewines are often (always?) compared to the original Eisweins and saying they're different is never going to stop the comparisons either.
My first impression of the 2007 Ontario Rieslings is that they are 'over-rated' (regardless of comparisons with Germany) - which, of course was the subject line of the post.
I agree that it is folly to judge an entire region as either good or bad in any year, in great years someone is surly making bad wine and of course in difficult years others are going to make good wine, you have to get out there and try before you buy. It should also be pointed out that the “comparison” was flawed from the beginning as the German wine was a full year older than the Canadian one, if wine is worth comparing then it is worth comparing correctly don’t you think?
...I find it sad that the word "World's Best" is used so often in the States by marketing/sales people who have no idea of the big world out there. There are so many gems in the wine world that will never make it to the English speaking world because of the language barrier.
Charles, here is a link to what's up and coming in the Riesling world in Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany (in English). This will likely differ from what Wine Spectator/Parker/etc. etc. will tell you, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
If you call the vintners directly, they will most likely refer you to the relevant wine importers in the States they know.
I'll try to find something equivalent in English for the Mosel region.
from what i've read, 2007 has been a great year for niagara winemakers because the unique weather events have led to some great potential for making wines. from what i know of niagara wines/wineries in the past few years is that they've greatly improved.
i am from niagara and have always been quick to hate on their wine offerings. but more and more i am being convinced that they are capable of offering quality wines. maybe the featherstone riesling wasn't on par with the german one, but niagara is still a very young wine region, especially compared with old world varieties. i'd like to see the region develop and evolve for a few more years before anyone starts seriously judging what the area is capable of.
also, germany's name is almost entirely predicated on their ability to produce fantastic rieslings, so i don't know if that's such a fair comparison.
Certainly comparing the 'best' Ontario to the 'best' german,certainly isn't fair.
But surely comparing a similarly priced wine is completely "fair".
Doubly so when you consider that taxes and markups mean the Ontario wine has about a 30% advantage when comparing retail prices.
It always strikes me as ironic that it's cheaper to buy Ontario wines outside Canada - I'd love someone to challenge why the 'Government' (it's an Ontario fee, but collected by the Feds) applies extra charges when one brings in an Ontario wine from outside the country.
As someone who works in the Niagara wine industry, I can say that for red varietals 2007 was likely the best vintage to date (2002 and 1997 were also excellent) but for whites... its definitely a matter of personal preference. To address the original poster, 2007 was not the best year for Mosel-style Riesling. If you enjoy the floral and zesty style of Germanic Riesling, 2006 was a much better vintage for such a style. 2007 was a difficult year for Riesling, however, fans of Alsatian Riesling will find that '07 will be quite friendly to their palate. Lots of crisp lime, fresh green apple and beautiful citrus is characteristic for Riesling in 07. IMPO if you're looking for quality '07 Riesling from Niagara, try Stratus, Thirty Bench or Cave Springs for that refreshing Alsatian style. The heat in '07 made Mosel style Rieslings a rarity in Niagara and I've yet to find one close to the style you seem to enjoy.