2016 Thirty Bench “Small Lot – Wild Cask” Riesling, Beamsville Bench VQA, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 10.6%, Residual Sugar 19.3 g/l) Winery and Website $29.95 (750ml bottle)

Whilst a few of my peers take issue with the number of off-dry Ontario Rieslings we see in market, I’m quite the opposite, and take great pleasure in a well-made local Riesling with a little bit of RS in there, especially when they exhibit the equilibrium found in this lovely “Small Lot” from Winemaker Emma Garner at Thirty Bench. I’d go as far as saying that this is one of my very favourite Rieslings from this always-reliable house, but I understand that this more Germanic take on Ontario’s White Knight varietal won’t be for every palate, especially those winelovers who shy away from a bit of sweetness in their wines.

The nose is simply gorgeous, with loads of lusciously ripe pear aromatics, beeswax, and clove-studded clementine. The palate is snappily taut, crisp, and firm, and is spot-on for countering the wine’s sweetness, making for an exemplary exercise in balanced winecraft. This vintage was fermented in both stainless and neutral barriques, with the wine in cooperage allowed to go through a “wild” fermentation using only the yeasts present upon the grapes and in the winery. The resultant wine is one of both depth and elegance. Although drinking well now, I’d like to see how this develops over the coming five years or so.

From a personal food/wine standpoint, I’ve always said that there are few pairings as picture-perfect as crisp off-dry Ontario Riesling with Chinese Five Spice pork, be it tenderloin or chops, and with that in mind, I know exactly what I am going to be making for dinner this evening.


(Four and a half apples out of a possible five)

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Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, videographer, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he loves this off-dry Riesling.