This is the love potion of a budding fling. This is the juice of a discotech. This is the sweet and sour sauce of cheap takeaway. This the last drink of a dying man, wanting to go out with a drop of the good stuff at his lips. This is electric. This is kerosene haze. This is hot rain. The is late harvest American apple pie. This is tan lotion and liquid gold and flower sap and forbidden fruit. This is the honey that the bee tried to keep secret. This is sugar and spice and all things nice. This is riesling.
This is a salt-brushed wonder. A wine that feels as though it’s been strapped to a surfboard and only just ridden a fat wave to meet you on the pebbled sands of a beach peppered with half-nude frisbee junkies and young lovers rolling in the dunes and the sweet smell of pollen-chucking flowers and dudes smoking hash in the air. And it hits the glass as it always meant to—with you in mind.
And almost with you, with me, with us in mind do the husband and wife duo of Yoshiaki and Kyoko Sato crush pinot gris’ and noir’s and (heavenly) rieslings in New Zealands’ (and arguably the world’s) southern-most wine region of Central Otago. And crush it they do. Former bankers who moved from Japan to New Zealand in 2006 they opened Sato Wines in 2009 (with a first release of 250 cases of Pinot Noir), and continued making wine from select organic sites increasing production, garnering fans, expanding their range over the years and eventually securing their own farm in the Pisa-region (NZ not Italy) in 2016.
Their 2018 Riesling (from the Avalon vineyards where sandy loam and loess cover gravels, quartz and schist) has the right zip and zing to it that you’d expect of drier (trocken) styles of the German staple, harvested early to keep acidity tooth-and-gum-bustingly high; the under-ripe picking also encourages the fruit profile to sit firmly in the green arena with apple and pear dominating. The overall impression is crisp, is lean, is linear. The wine carries with it the lightness of touch of a hitman doing you in without suffering or mess and the cool, clean incomparable satisfaction of coming upon a natural spring after losing your water bottle on a long hike.
There’s dashi pear and a battering of citric marmalade. There’s a generous bushel of white flowers. There’s canned lychee. There’s a whiff of dill that makes me think of pickle juice. There’s the sweat-dripping bodies in the throes of a Fosse routine. There’s a little buzz at the tip of the tongue, not dissimilar to the sensual joy of szechuan chilli, the numbing kiss of the orient. I can taste the grapefruit half of a strict weight-loss diet. I can smell lemon-zest cookies with blanched almonds and a little candied ginger. I can feel cherry blossom, jasmine and dried rose. I can see the cold nights and the warm days of fecund (wine) land.
When I was in Berlin many years ago and enjoying an early lunch (I refuse to use the ‘b’ word) at a wood-walled and glamorous gaststätte, my friend and I were sat at an outside table where the wild insects and hungry birds of hot days circled the canopy and the jovial diners (our smug selves included) looked out across a small pond and large park where locals lay in the grass sunning themselves: some of them reading books, some of them smoking, some of them (on closer inspection) completely naked. Starkers. Disrobed. Nude. As god had made them. And it was normal. It seemed normal. It seemed harmless. It seemed to be exactly what you’d expect, exactly what you might do yourself, were you a local and were you sunning your pink self in the Berlin grass. I drank riesling on that day and it was piquant.
I went (back) to Sydney last year for a wedding. And whilst there I took my plus one on a day trip around the unfamiliar (to her) city. We ended up hightailing a ferry to the northern beaches, taking in the sights of the city that unfurled behind the boat and the virgin promise of foreign (to her) lands before us. Sat at a Chinese restaurant replete with rolling linens and dripping ice buckets and a heavy steam billowing out the noisy kitchen we ate oysters and duck and over the slap of sea water so close to our feet we felt the occasional splash of it about our ankles we mused on the institution of romance and the subtle art of the quick holiday. I drank riesling on that day and it was piquant.
Camping in the spring, I was reluctantly encouraged by my heavily tattooed and gold toothed friend to go fishing. We sat over the outermost edge of a long pier and drank cans and watched the unflinching line in the calm water. And as I was drifting off to sleep some hours later, with a nice beer buzz about me, the line jerked in my hand and with my mates help we yanked a fat and angry fish into the fresh air. We honoured it over smoking flames and silent prayer. I drank riesling on that day and it was piquant.
One night I was at an expensive party in a cheap suit listening to the boring monologue of a beautiful blonde. I drank riesling on that day and it was piquant.
Last week I returned some long overdue books to the library. I drank riesling on that day and it was piquant.
Today I am drinking Sato Riesling, and accompanied only by the soft light of afternoon and a challenging sudoku, it is nothing short of paradise.
tasted May 2021