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Barlow & Co

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Tale of a King

Once upon a time, a king of wines was born. No one is sure exactly when, but first mention of his name is to be found in 1435, in the inventories of a German count, which mentions the cost of a purchase of vines it calls ‘Rießlingen’. It is, of course, the mighty Riesling, and if an inauspicious start for a king destined to conquer the world, then it fits well with a story of humble beginnings, of misunderstood character, and of a late and great flowering.

Thought to have wandered in from the wild, we now know that the king also comes from cultivated stock, his parents including lowly Gouais, father of many a fine white grape, and ancient Traminer, forerunner to Savagnin blanc. A late developer, he preferred cool sunny climes, and was most particular about exactly where he put down roots. This being so, while liked for his light, crisp and flowery freshness, he was an uneasy friend, hard to please, and stubborn.  He was overlooked in favour of young pretenders.

Unperturbed, the king found solace among the people of Mosel and Rheingau, of Pfalz, and of Nahre. Here, he had all the sun he needed. He stood on steep, well drained slopes. It was not too hot and it was not too cold. He was loved, and he loved back, his character changing and reflecting perfectly the different parts of his growing kingdom, his ability to age bettering even many a long-living Bordeaux.

And so it was and so it is. Vanquishing before him all that have taken his name in vain, the king marched and marches on, settling in other parts of Germany, in Alsace, in the Wachau Valley of Austria, in New Zealand, in California, in the Clare and Eden valleys of Adelaide, in Washington state, in Finger Lakes New York, and as a most fine icewine in Ontario, Canada. All hail Riesling, king of all the grapes. You came, you saw, you conquered – eventually.