FOCUS ON DRY AUSTRALIAN RIESLING

By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 17 October 2015

It is astonishing to think that Australia has one of the largest plantings of Riesling in the world, after Germany and France.  Australia is of course thought of as a warm climate wine country and Riesling is considered a cool climate grape – yet there is a synergy here in certain specific microclimates down-under.

First introduced by the Silesians to South Australia back in 1840, Riesling used to be much more widespread across Australia, but for many years it was planted in the wrong spots.  Now growers are focusing on key microclimates in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to focus on achieving world renowned Rieslings.

So what should we expect from an Aussie Riesling.  It will more than likely be dry – very dry.  So that is easy for us to understand and we know what to expect in the bottle.  Whilst many have the characteristic lime and toast of Aussie Rieslings, they can – as our tasting showed – also be quite austere in their youth with a different tone to German or French Rieslings.  Just as there is a difference between Rieslings from Germany’s various regions, so we find the same down-under with a distinct difference between Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Barossa Valley (pictured below), Margaret River and beyond.

Eden Valley and Clare Valley north of Adelaide are certainly the key hot-spots for Riesling in Australia.  Eden Valley is higher altitude and cooler producing a more Germanic (Mosel Valley) floral-like scent with lots of natural acid so the Eden Rieslings tend to be more vibrant.  They tend to show a little easier in their youth with a lovely fragrance.

Clare Valley is slightly warmer – the Rieslings here tend to have a creaminess and more ripe limey flavours which I personally love – and they age very well to a lovely toasty richness.  The key in Clare is that although it is a Shiraz region – there is a lot of variation in Clare’s microclimates with its series of gulleys running east to west with its terra rossa limestone soils with slatey base – so even from specific valleys like Watervale and Polish Hill, the Rieslings can vary.

Western Australia’s regions of Margaret River and Frankland are less well known for their Rieslings.  They tend to be a bit more delicate than southern Aussie Rieslings, but with lovely natural acid.  Tasmania has just a few available in the UK, but again in the lighter, more fragile style.

All the Rieslings in our tasting were young – many from the warm 2014 vintage – but if you are patient enough to keep a bottle for several years (some from Clare can last 10 or 20 years) you will find the flavours mellow beautifully in bottle and become richer, honeyed and toasty.


CLARE VALLEY

EXQUISITE COLLECTION CLARE VALLEY RIESLING 2014 (£6.99 Aldi)
So much cheaper than others in the tasting, but it stood its ground quite well.  Limey, citric juicy & fresh – made by Wakefield.  A good bargain Aussie dry Riesling.  Alcohol 12%   VALUE BUY
                                     

JIM BARRY ‘THE LODGE’ RIESLING 2014 (£14.99 Majestic Wine; Co-op)

A very high scorer with our tasters.  Very limey aromas, lovely balanced ripe fruit with a firm steely minerally edgy style and hints of spice and cream on the palate.  Jim Barry bought the Lodge vineyard back in 1977 speculating that this area of the eastern ranges of Clare Valley at 480 metres altitude would create a lively steely style which he was particularly looking for.  Alcohol 11.7%  STAR BUY

MITCHELLS WATERVALE RIESLING 2014 (£12.99 Laurence Smith, Edinburgh; Adnams, Suffolk Tanners Wine Merchants, Shrewsbury)
Popular with tasters for its brightness, elegance and refreshing juicy limey fruits, some enjoyed its sweet ripe fruit on the palate (note the alcohol) whilst others preferred other drier or more delicate Rieslings in the tasting.  I liked its long textural length.  Andrew Mitchell’s vineyard at Watervale, 15 km south of Clare, is known as Alcatraz, where workers go and do penance in the winter.  Alcohol 13% 

SKILLOGALEE RIESLING 2014 (£14.95 Abbey Fine Wines, Melrose; Valhallas Goat, Glasgow; Eskview Wines, Edinburgh; Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews)
Not so popular – quite sharp and austere in character with not as much fruit as others in the tasting.  I enjoyed the limey aromas and lemongrass and papaya notes on the palate – it might improve with a little bottle age.  Alcohol 12.2%


BAROSSA VALLEY

BAROSSA RIESLING 2014 (£10 Marks & Spencer)
Popular with some tasters who thought it Sauvignon-like in style, so appealed to those who were not so keen on Riesling.  Even the bottle shape was different from other flute-shaped bottles in the tasting, this Riesling is in a Bordeaux-shaped bottle.  This comes from a warmer region, with deep orange colour, rich orange blossom, lemon zest flavours, crisp, dry.  Smells like Semillon and tastes like Sauvignon Blanc, but has Riesling’s delicacy and moderate alcohol.  Alcohol 12% 

 

Australian Dry RieslingEDEN VALLEY
                                     
HILL & VALLEY RIESLING 2014 Peter Lehmann (£12.99 Fine Wine Co, Edinburgh; Gloagburn Farm Shop)
A popular bottle with tasters.  Many remarked on the fruit purity and lovely minerally undertones.  It has good limey, green fruit aromas and a distinct crispness on the palate; could improve with more time in bottle.  This is a single vineyard wine made from early picked grapes from Eden’s eastern slope.  A great deal better than the standard Peter Lehmann Riesling bottling.  Alcohol 11%

PEWSEY VALE EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2014 (£13 Oddbins)
Fresh pineapple, wild flower and herby aromas, lovely broad texture with limey fleshy fruits on palate with vibrancy and length; popular with our tasters.  This vineyard is one of the best in the Eden Valley today, originally planted in 1847 by high altitude cool climate planting pioneer Joseph Gilbert.  Today Louisa Rose. winemaker for Yalumba, looks after this 16 hectare single vineyard site (450m altitude with its special coarse yellow podzolic soils) where she focuses here on just Riesling.  Alcohol 12.5%   STAR BUY

HENSCHKE ‘JULIUS’ RIESLING 2014 (£21.50 Exel Wines, Perth; Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews)
In a class – and price – above many in the tasting.  Very stylish with a lovely limey scent, sleekness, minerality and beautiful balance.  Quite pricey, but beautifully made with a fine long finish; showed most potential for cellaring out of all Rieslings in the tasting.  Made by Stephen and Pru Henschke, the current premier grape grower/winemaking family of Eden Valley.  Alcohol 11.5%

 

McLAREN VALE

WOODSTOCK ‘MARY McTAGGART’ RIESLING 2013 (£11.99 Inverarity One to One, Glasgow)
Current owner, Scott Collett’s great great grandfather was a McTaggart from Argyll who sailed to Australia in 1852 – this wine is named after Scott’s mother Mary McTaggart.  Tasters thought this lacked the zippy quality found in other Rieslings in the tasting, but others noted it was a very presentable limey New World style Riesling.  Some found it a little short on the finish.  Alcohol 11.5%

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

YELVERTON RIESLING 2014 (£8.09 www.laithwaites.co.uk)
Everything being kept secret about the provenance of this Riesling – it apparently comes from one of Margaret River’s top wine estates whose flagship wines usually sell for about £30.  Somehow Laithwaites snapped up this parcel of limey, very dry minerally Riesling – at a rather good price.  Alcohol 12.5%

SNAKE & HERRING ‘HIGH & DRY’ RIESLING 2013 (£16 Marks & Spencer)
A bit lighter and tighter in acidity despite being more mature.  Bone dry, floral and limey example from Porongurup elevated vineyard site.  An average scorer at our tasting.  Alcohol 12.5%       

(Main image: Matt Turner Australian Wine Council)


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