August 11, 2008

Taste Scale to Discern From Bone-Dry to Sweet

By LORKIN, Yvonne Marie

Let every bottle count . . . for charity. -------------------- I received an email from the "IRF" the other day. At first I thought I might've forgotten to do my GST which threw me into a total spin (because their overdue fines are vicious!)

But reading on I was pleasantly surprised to see I was just having a dyslexic moment and instead of the IRD, the email was in fact from the International Riesling Foundation.

What a relief. Intrigued I was too, because although I'm a huge riesling fan, I had absolutely no idea that such a foundation existed.

Despite being (in my opinion) one of the greatest varieties in the world, riesling has battled with consumer perception problems and the rise of trendy varieties like pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

Such is my love of the stuff, I could've probably started a foundation myself - but the Americans have done a much better job.

"Riesling may be made in many styles from bone-dry to sweet, and this versatility can be both a strength and a weakness," says California wine journalist Dan Berger, who spearheaded the IRF project in consultation with riesling wine makers around the globe.

Research has shown many people still think of riesling as only a "sweet white wine" despite the wide array of tastes it can represent.

"Riesling's many styles can fit almost any taste preference, but consumers may be put off if they're expecting one taste and get another."

So what to do? Well, to combat the confusion among consumers, the International Riesling Foundation has completed the first phase of a "riesling taste scale" designed to make it easier for drinkers to predict the taste they can expect from a particular bottle of riesling.

Riesling is the fastest-growing white wine in the United States, making it a variety with huge potential for New Zealand growers. But to grab mass appeal you need to simplify things, and that's where the IRF's taste scale could seriously improve our chances - particularly in the US where the fear of making the wrong wine purchase is enough to send someone into therapy.

"The taste scale will enhance riesling's strength by letting consumers know the basic taste before they open or even buy the bottle," Mr Berger says, therefore minimising a person's "risk" of getting it wrong.

Five "taste" categories have been selected: dry, off-dry, medium dry, medium sweet and sweet. And a simple graphic design is being developed showing the five levels and a simple indication of where that particular wine falls, with the goal of having "a common, simple, consumer-friendly system for identifying riesling tastes".

So I guess it'll look like a little fuel gauge on the back of the bottle for how much sweetness the wine contains.

The riesling taste scale was first announced publicly on July 27 at the Riesling Rendezvous at Chateau Ste Michelle in Woodinville, Washington, to riesling producers from around the world.

The next major project, says the (voluntary-based) IRF Board is "to create a website portal to guide consumers to the best information on riesling", which is all part of their mission "to increase awareness, understanding, trial and sales of riesling wines through a comprehensive, integrated system of industry co- operation, research, trade education, and consumer communication". Phew.

The health-giving benefits of moderate daily wine consumption are well documented, but did you know it can also help the kids?

One good spin-off from increased riesling sales, is the amount of extra screw-caps that could end up on the market.

And that bodes well for the latest fundraising campaign adopted by the Lions Club for Kidney Kids NZ.

Right now there are around 1300 children in New Zealand requiring dialysis treatment or additional support from the Kidney Kids Support Group.

Lions Clubs around New Zealand have been collecting the aluminium "tabs" from soft drink and beer cans which, when recycled, return $3.80 per kilo, and since the project began the Lions have been able to contribute around $20,000 to Kidney Kids.

Rather than paying for actual dialysis, the money goes to support the children and their families with the ongoing financial burden of having kidney issues.

But now wine drinkers can also contribute.

The screw-caps off wine bottles can now be saved and recycled, along with the tear tabs off Mac's beer and the Bundaberg ginger beer range. So long as it's aluminium, it'll do.

So next time you're about to put out your glass recycling, keep the caps to one side and call your local Lion's Club for details about how to get them collected.

And local businesses - get in on the act too.

Perhaps you could be the drop-off point for your customers, staff or local sports group. Every bottle counts - cheers!

(c) 2008 Evening Standard; Palmerston North, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.