BC Riesling Review – Unique Aromas and Flavours Identified

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.  Lao Tzu

Riesling grapes (Courtesy Lang Vineyards langvineyards.ca/wines/grapes/)

This spring, I took my first step, with the thought that maybe the different soil types in BC affect the aromas and flavours of our grapes.  How to test that thought?  There are so many different varieties of grapes.  I settled upon testing this theory with Riesling.  It is a cool climate grape; BC is a cool climate wine region.  Riesling is not aged or fermented in oak barrels here; instead with stainless steel, which does not impart any taste to the wine.  Jancis Robinson, as well as many other wine writers, and wine makers, say that “Riesling is very terroir expressive”.

Step 2 in my thousand mile journey was to contact our BC wineries asking them for a sample of their Riesling wines.  I tried to keep the vintage to 2014 or 2013, to minimize variation due to differences in weather each year, and changes in the bottle due to cellar aging.

Step 3, I had 35 wines to sample over the summer and early fall, where I took very detailed notes on colour, aromas, and flavours.  I tasted each wine over 2 days so I could get the initial aromas and flavours, right from the bottle, as-if I were a person opening a bottle and pouring it immediately at their dinner table, and then up to 24 hours later to see if the wine’s aromas and flavours had changed, due to the interaction with oxygen in the air.  I used a Riedel glass meant for aromatic white wines.

Step 4 was to tag each wine to a vineyard in BC on a map using a Geographic Information System (GIS), and then to overlay these vineyard points on top of a digital soil map of BC.  The result of the overlay was the soil information was attached to the vineyard location, which then allowed me to aggregate the flavours and aromas by soil type; My goal of this analysis.  From the overlay I did find out that the vineyards were associated with 7 different soil types, but two in particular were favoured by vineyard owners: Eluviated Eutric Brunisol and Orthic Brown Chernozem.  You can read the full details about BC soils and vineyard locations here.

Step 5, where we are today, was to aggregate the aromas and flavours data I collected per soil type, and see if there are any differences between soil types.  To help visualize these differences, I produced a Word Cloud graphic, where words used more often would show up in larger text and those aromas and flavour descriptors, used less, would be smaller in size.  What are the results?

Unique Aromas and Flavours in BC Riesling Wines

The Eluviated Eutric Brunisol soil type had 9 wines associated with it.  The Riesling aroma and flavour profile.

Eluviated Eutric Brunisol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Eluviated Eutric Brunisol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

The wineries with vineyards with this soil type are:

  • Ex Nihilo Vineyards
  • Tantalus Vineyards (2 wines)
  • Kalala Organic Estate Winery
  • St. Hubertus Estate Winery
  • CedarCreek Estate Winery
  • Synchromesh Storm Haven
  • Wild Goose Vineyards Stony Slope
  • Red Rooster

Orthic Brown Chernozem had 18 wines associated with it, with these associated aromas and flavours.

Orthic Brown Chernozem: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Orthic Brown Chernozem: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

The wineries with vineyards with this soil type are:

  • Sonoran Estate Winery
  • Evolve Cellars
  • Lang Vineyards (Farm Reserve and Legacy Series)
  • Moraine Estate Winery
  • Synchromesh Naramata Bench
  • Upper Bench Estate Winery
  • Wild Goose Vineyards
  • Okanagan Crush Pad (Mike B Riesling)
  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve
  • Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Reserve
  • Inniskillin Estate Series
  • Monte Creek Ranch
  • Gehringer Brothers
  • Road 13 Peter’s Vineyard
  • Backyard Vineyards
  • Harper’s Trail Estate Winery
  • Fort Berens Estate Winery

The third soil type Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem, had 3 wines associated with it.

Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

The winery vineyards with this soil type are:

  • Sperling Vineyards
  • Gehringer Brothers

The other soil types had 1 vineyard associated with it, so I cannot say that there are any particular aromas and flavours that are unique to them.  I will present them later in this discussion to complete this discussion, but I would now like to talk about these 3 main soil types and the aromas and flavours from the Riesling grapes.

Major Aromas

  • The Eluviated Eutric Brunisol (EEB) major aromas were petrol, citrus, and flowers/blossom, followed by stone fruits and apples.
  • The Orthic Brown Chernozem (OBC) major aromas were lemon/citrus, orange, blossom, honey suckle, and peaches.
  • The Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem (ODBC) major aromas were lime rind with much lesser amount of stone fruit, blossom, oranges and apples.

What immediately jumps out as a difference between these 3 soil types is how prominent petrol is as an aroma for the EEB soil type. Lemon, citrus, and blossom are common to all three.  Apricots are more prominent for EEB while peaches are associated with OBC. Stone fruit is not expressed as much for ODBC, but apricots are most mentioned.  Honey suckle is more prominent for OBC, but does show up to a lesser degree with EEB.

Major Flavours

  • The Eluviated Eutric Brunisol (EEB) major flavours were blossom, apples, lime rind, peaches and apricots.
  • The Orthic Brown Chernozem (OBC) major flavours were citrus, apples, green fruit, stone fruit, lime and honey.
  • The Orthic Dark Brown Chernozem (ODBC) major flavours were stone fruit, green fruit, and peaches in particular.

Stone fruit flavours are common to all three soil types. EEB soils seem to express blossoms more than the other two soils.  Citrus is very prominent for OBC soil. OBC and ODBC are related soils, and we do see that stone fruit and green fruits are mentioned together.

Minerality in the Wines?

For the EEB soil, 6/9 wines expressed minerality in the glass.  9/18 OBC wines expressed minerality, while 2/3 ODBC expressed minerality.  The Brunisol soil type does appear to have a stronger association with minerality than the Chernozem soils. This is interesting as the Chernozem soils have in general a higher Calcium Carbonate component than the Brunisol.  I would have expected the opposite association.

The Remaining Soil Types Aroma and Flavour Profiles

As mentioned there was only one vineyard for each of these soil types, so one cannot make any confident comments about the typical aromas and flavours for the Riesling grapes produced.  View these samples below with a grain of salt.

Orthic Eutric Brunisol: Rielsing aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Orthic Eutric Brunisol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

Orthic Eutric Brunisol from Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery.

Orthic Regosol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Orthic Regosol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

Orthic Regosol from Synchromesh Thorny Vines Vineyard.

Rego Dark Brown Chernozem: Rielsing aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Rego Dark Brown Chernozem: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

Rego Dark Brown Chernozem from Mt. Boucherie Family Estate Winery.

Rego Humic Gleysol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)
Rego Humic Gleysol: Riesling aromas (left) and flavours (right)

Rego Humic Gleysol from SummerGate.

Next Steps?

I have two more steps to this study of BC Riesling.  The first is to see if cooler vs warmer climate, as expressed by latitude shows up in the Riesling aromas and flavours.  To try to answer this question I will produce a Word Cloud visualization, as I did for soil types.  And the last step will be to produce an interactive map that has all the information I produced for each wines so you can explore the data yourself.  Cheers!

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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