Food and wine writer Ursula Heinzelmann will be a guest speaker at this year's Terroir Symposium in Toronto on the 29th of May.

Food and wine writer Ursula Heinzelmann will be a guest speaker at this year’s Terroir Symposium in Toronto on the 29th of May.


Ursula Heinzelmann is in Toronto next week as a guest speaker at the 2017 Terroir Symposium.

We caught up with her ahead of her Toronto appearance to pick her brain about one of her favourite grapes, the mighty Riesling.

For more details and tickets for this year’s event, click here.

Good Food Revolution: Hello Ursula. I’ll start of by asking why Riesling? What makes that grape so special for you?
Ursula Heinzelmann: Never mind that I grew up with it in Germany, so that it smells and tastes like home to me more often than not, it is also so wonderfully transparent, reflecting whatever happened to the vines and the grapes and the must. And therefore a great gateway into a new region , such as Niagara, where I am right now. 
GFR: Can you remember your first impressions of the grape? Was it love/lust at first sight? Or more of a gradual affair?
UH: Totally love at first sight, although the sweeter, botrytised versions took a bit longer to win me over. I used to think, they are sooo sweet, how can you drink this, what’s all the fuss? Until I experienced a bottle-aged TBA, a 1937 from JJ Prüm… Yeeeha!
GFR: It’s still often said (in Canada at least) that Riesling is more of Sommelier wine, and that selling it to the general public is always a bit of a battle. Do you feel there to be any truth in this matter?
UH: Can’t really comment on this, as I never had to sell Riesling in Canada. But my secret weapon (trick?!) for anything perceived as below popular is to pour it blind and let people decide if they like it, independent of any preconceptions (which we all carry with us). Usually that works pretty well if the wine is any good. And there is a lot of super good Canadian Riesling!
GFR: What are your impressions of Canadian Rieslings? Both BC, Ontario, and elsewhere?
UH: See above. So many diverse stylistics, and everything from bone dry to deliciously sweet… It is a great addition to the Riesling world into which I grew in the 1990s in Germany. 
GFR: How do you feel about the argument that New World Rieslings have the potential for perhaps being more “traditional” than their Old World counterparts?
UH: Not sure I understand the question, in fact not sure what new and old world and traditional really mean. With a new generation of winemakers, who are so wonderfully connected, transcending national and continental borders, the wine community fortunately, hopefully is above that. Tradition needs to be continuously renewed. 
GFR: The world of Rieslings is incredibly diverse. Which styles do you feel we do best here in Ontario?
UH: I think – and mind you, I only started tasting here – you are only finding out. You are still so much at the beginning, and that is wonderful – the world is yours! But – I’d like to see more (serious) bubbly… 
GFR: How do you feel the growth of the “Natural” wine movement has impacted the varietal? For better or for worse?
UH: I haven’t tasted any “natural“ Riesling here so far, but would love to. Other varietals have been gorgeous surprises.
GFR: You are also part of discussion regarding terroir and what it means for different people. What is your personal definition of terroir, and does the human element play a part in it in relation to traditions and the like?
UH: Absolutely. Vines grow on their own out there, but wine as such does not happen (that’s vinegar, and not very good one as that). Humans decide where and what kinds of vines will grow how, and what will happen with their grapes. Terroir is a cultural concept, not a natural one, although it is, should be, based on natural givens. We mustn’t forget that landscape is a cultural product, so to say. People have shaped the land, over centuries and millennia. Preferences in consumption, for instance, are as much part of the picture as soil and climate.
GFR: Ursula, thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Good Food Revolution. We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto next week.

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’ll be at Terroir as a guest this year!