Australia is the world’s fourth largest producer of this noble variety and we make some of the best there is, so why generally amongst Aussie wine lovers, is Riesling still so misunderstood?
The style of Australian Riesling these days is not sweet and fruity, but is instead dry and citrussy. Riesling is all about preserving the pristine purity of the grape. Reach out and discover the delights of Riesling and you will be rewarded.
BACKGROUND OF RIESLING
Riesling’s exact origin is hard to pinpoint. Its spiritual home is Germany, but Alsace and Austria have produced Rieslings of distinction for centuries. Riesling is said to express its origin, or vineyard better than any other grape variety. William Macarthur planted Australia’s first Riesling at Camden Park near Penrith in 1838. Riesling then spread throughout Australia and was embraced by the German settlers in South Australia. The Clare and Eden Valleys have consistently produced superb, age-worthy Rieslings over a long period of time and are widely regarded as Australia’s benchmark regions for the variety. Some superb Riesling is also produced in pockets of Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania which are worth seeking out.
MORE ABOUT AUSTRALIAN RIESLING
Riesling is a late ripening, aromatic white wine with high levels of acidity. Generally speaking, Australian Riesling is drier than German, Alsatian and New Zealand examples. Australian Riesling was revolutionised in the 1950s, when Orlando’s Colin Gramp pioneered the use of refrigeration, which allowed winemakers to preserve the variety’s delicate aromatics and fresh fruit flavours.
The best quality Australian Rieslings are grown in suited cool regions, which have an extended ripening season and cool nights, for acid retention. These conditions allow the development of delicate aromatics, a greater range and concentration of flavours, moderate alcohol and high acid levels.
Young Riesling typically shows citrus and apple fruit aromas and flavours, with varying degrees of floral and mineral characters and high levels of fresh acidity. While they drink beautifully on release, many also have good cellaring potential. Bottle age enables their acidity to soften and the development of complex toasty and honey characters. The Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings, along with Victorian examples have provided many great aged Rieslings. Australian Riesling is largely to thank for the screw cap closure, as Clare Valley winemakers initiated the use of this closure in the 1990s. Riesling also benefits from positive botrytis influence and there are several excellent examples of Australian botrytis Riesling.
AUSTRALIAN RIESLING REGIONS
With a long history of producing distinctive, age-worthy Riesling, the Clare Valley is Australia’s greatest Riesling region. Within the region there are defined sub-regions that consistently produces characteristic Rieslings of outstanding quality with the ability to develop with cellaring.
Riesling was the varietal that led our screwcap revolution. A remarkable quality of Riesling is that it along with Hunter Semillon, it’s practically the only white varietal that ages gracefully. Zesty and citrussy young, it can develop in the bottle to show gorgeous honey, toast characters after a number of years. As was discovered in these instances, cork is an inferior closure to the Stelvin cap and so, in 2001, the Riesling growers in the Clare Valley united and bottled the entire Riesling vintage under screwcap.
The high altitude and cool climate of the Eden Valley is suited to Rieslings which are typically elegant, fragrant and finely structured. The best examples are capable of long ageing and developing toasty overtones.
The Grampians has a long history of producing some age-worthy Rieslings. To the south, Henty produces some of Australia’s finest examples, which typically start out lime scented and develop complex toasty characters.
This Western Australian region has staked a claim as one of the best in the country, producing Rieslings with intense purity of lime juice and herb flavours, developing gradual complexity with bottle age.
The cool climate of Tasmania has a great ability to produce Riesling varietals. Tasmanian Riesling has great length, with citrus and mineral characters with high levels of natural acidity.
With its high levels of acidity and citrussy characters, Riesling is a perfect match with a variety of seafood dishes like linguine of prawns, mussels and clams, or blue swimmer crab spaghettini with lemon and chive sauce and garlic pangrattato. It’s also a food-friendly wine to serve with spicy Asian-style dishes like Thai and Korean, plus deliciously moreish Middle Eastern.
Tasting Panellist and Riesling aficionado, Adam Walls offers the last word on Riesling – “If you have to pick only one variety to sip in the sun, then with its guaranteed refreshing characters, Riesling has to be it.”