New York Riesling Diary: Day 18 – My Moment of Global Revelation (thank you Paul Grieco!)

Last night at Freeman’s restaurant in Freeman Alley on the Lower East Side (see it suddenly struck me that so far I’ve avoided telling the story of how STUART PIGOTT RIESLING GLOBAL came into existence. That’s a serious mistake, because it is as much the reason that I’m here in New York until the end of January as wanting to have fun. So here is the story of my moment of Global Riesling Revelation:

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 12th in Queenstown/Central Otago in New Zealand I was struck by lightning. It was half way through a 49 day long round-the-world trip which a conference in Sydney had justified (thank you Frankland Estate of Western Australia for organizing it!) Cornelius Dönnhoff of the famous Dönnhoff wine estate in Germany’s Nahe region had also attended that conference and four days later we met up again at Queenstown airport to spend several days together tasting NZ wines. Like me he’d been to the Land of the White Cloud several times before – “the first time I was here I tried all the extreme sports,” he told me – and we both felt sure that we knew what NZ wine was all about.  How wrong we were!

We checked into our hotel and set off straight away for the tasting rooms of the local wineries, deciding on route to play at being normal tourists. I would justify my note-taking by saying that I was a wine geek; a role I’m rather good at playing. We also decided to stop at the very first winery we came to, which shall remain nameless since the wines there were all as correct as they were mediocre. In the tasting room we were first surprised to find a handful of Rieslings on offer – we both had a figure of about 400 hectares for the area planted with Riesling in NZ in our heads – then it hit us. Everywhere were posters and shelf-talkers promoting the Summer of Riesling. During our short stay we found them all over the place, also in Queenstown as the above picture shows. In Central Otago, one of the most remote regions on Planet Wine!

By this I don’t mean that the Summer of Riesling which Paul Grieco’s Terroir wine bars have been celebrating in New York since 2008 and which went Coast to Coast in 2011 or the Summer of Riesling in Sydney/Australia which is currently happening for the third time had reached NZ. The NZ Summer of Riesling not only had a very different approach (more educational) than either of them, but the promotional material Cornelius Dönnhoff and I saw also had a very different look. For example, the T-shirts were black with white logos; the colors of the national rugby team, the All Blacks. In the US and in Sydney/Australia the Summer of Riesling is mainly for restaurants and bars, whereas in NZ it is primarily for wine producers and wine merchants.

We quickly learnt the reason for this was the rapid growth of the area planted with Riesling in NZ to around 1,000 hectares. So the Summer of Riesling had not only gone viral, but also mutated to adapt to local conditions. I was in a state of delighted shock so the significance of all this didn’t hit me until I reached New York two weeks later (via San Francisco, Monterey and LA in California, Washington DC, then Middleburg and Richmond in Virginia). On the afternoon of Monday, February 27th at a tasting of Rieslings from the Finger Lakes in New York State at Hearth Restaurant on 12th Street at 1st Avenue, it suddenly hit me: Riesling is now a global phenomenon and New York is the place I can best get a grip on it. 

As soon as I got home I commissioned the masthead at the top of this site, and began planning its complete overhaul. I was in a hurry, because I felt that I had been too slow to pick up on this. I am now in the process of turning this into both a book and a movie. Any help, advice or information you can give me is much appreciated. WATCH THIS SPACE!



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