Category Archives: Australian Riesling

Australian Riesling Round-Up: The Exciting(?) Conclusion

Wakefield and Grosset Riesling in a bike basket

Australian Riesling Round-Up

I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day every time I wrote an Australian Riesling tasting note.  “Minerals, acidity, lemon-lime, dry as a Brit’s sense of humor”—yes, most of the wines had some or all of these qualities.  If you like this taste profile, try these wines.  I found them to be very good to excellent in quality, and aside from one bottle, extremely reasonably priced.  If any of the wines are sold-out through my links, try wine-searcher to check for bottles around the country, or the next vintage if the one I reviewed is no longer available. Unfortunately, I have looked back on a few bottles I tasted and discovered they are now tapped out completely in the American market.

After tasting 9 Rieslings, I conclude they offer the following:

  • Reliable quality and flavor profile.  Across the board, these wines are very consistent in palate.  For the wine buyer who doesn’t like to purchase brands they don’t know, this is a good thing. I was a little surprised not to find more variation between the wineries or even Clare and Eden Valley, but at least you know what you are getting yourself into if you can’t find the specific bottle you want. This is also good for Australia—their wines need to achieve regional identity to attract more admirers, and this is aided by consistency.
  • Good value.  I found many of these wines on sale, most likely because the American wine drinker doesn’t value them.  Very few people are storming the stores looking for Australian Rieslings, as evidenced by my inability to find them in local shops. I also imagine the casual wine buyer searching online, for say, white wine on sale on wine.com is not aware that for Australian Riesling, older vintages are better—this goes against the norm of white wine; shoppers may be disinclined to order them, mistakenly thinking they are over the hill.  Which brings me to the next suggestion:
  • Look for older vintages.  The fresh-out-of-the-vineyard wines are full of acidity and could use a year or three to even begin to mellow.
  • No need to drop a lot of cash.  You can reap the rewards of Australian Riesling in the lower price bracket, as they are well-made wines.  If you do splurge for prize wines (Grosset), get the oldest vintage you can find or hold it for several years, to really get the most bang for your buck and enjoy the qualities that make aged Riesling special.

I hope this enlightened some of you to the joys of Australian Riesling.  Comments or suggestions are welcome, particularly if you have another bottle to recommend or an idea for the next Untapped Region Series!

Sunglasses reflecting a wine glass in the Hudson Valley

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Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Museum Reserve Riesling, Eden Valley 2006

We have reached the final wine in my Australian Riesling review—Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Museum Reserve from the Eden Valley; the most prestigious bottling in the winery’s narrow line-up.  The winemakers hold this wine back for an impressive 5 years before it hits shelves, making 2006 the most recent vintage available.

You would never believe this juice was bottled nearly six years ago.  The wine exudes freshness and bursts like a citrus-y pop-rock on the tongue:  zippy and bright with grapefruit, lemon, lime and green apple.  As the wine opens and warms, toast and a touch of honey shine through with hints of Marcona almond and key lime pie.  Clearly this bottle can endure many years of wine-ownership, if you have the storage space and the self-restraint.  $26.99 at K&L Wines.

LET’S DRINK THIS IN IBIZA, SPAIN!

Late-nights at mega-clubs, drunk Brits and chicks, Euro boys in tight clothes and party sunglasses—this is the European version of Jersey Shore, and for many first-time visitors to Ibiza, their only taste of summer on the island.  But with a car and a companion, one can discover all the secrets of this intriguing place— hidden, romantic restaurants; the wild, herb-scented shores of the rocky north coast; gorgeous beaches found by following a footpath coupled with curiosity; and historic villages in which the original islanders still reside.  After a day exploring, let’s unscrew a bottle of The Contours, watch the sun set and toast to taking the road less traveled.

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Dandelion Vineyards, Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling, 2010

Dandelion Vineyards, Wonderland of the Eden Valley, may have a whimsical label and name, but their grapes have serious history.  The vineyard was planted in the early 190o’s—some speculate late 1880’s—and grower 90-year old Colin Kroehn has tended his grape babies nearly his whole life.  Wha? No pension and gold watch for the farmer?  I admire someone committed to the longevity of his passion, as did the Dandelion team, a young winemaking group who chose his grapes for their Wonderland Riesling.

Refreshing like a cold shower after a summer day in New Orleans, Dandelion is crisp, clean and focused.  Fresh grapefruit, lemon pith and lime commingle with streaks of flinty rock,  suspended by taut acidity.  This wine exhilarates: a spa day for the palate at Guerlain, priced like a Chinese nail shop.  Loving this stuff for $14.99 at Wine.com.

LET’S DRINK THIS IN NEW ORLEANS!

It is summer and New Orleans is a swamp.  Fight these soggy dollar days (your hands sweat so much your fistful of bills are soaked) with a glass of Dandelion.  If your B&B doesn’t have AC, kick your feet up on the nearest balcony and try not to move.  Hand-held fans are coming back into vogue anyway.  If you must get out of the city, shack up at a plantation house and whittle away the day gazing into the massive trees that frame the splendid Oak Alley.  A platter of the state’s finest oysters round out a sultry afternoon.

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Grosset, Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley 2010

Damn girl, you got it going on but your tag is priced high—too many awards inflate the ego?  Grosset in the Clare Valley is considered by many the pinnacle of Riesling in Australia, including Langton’s, Australia’s leading classification authority on auction-worthy wines. It was definitely at the price point pinnacle of my Series, beating out the next highest wine by $20.  Does Polish Hill merit the big bucks?

The nose is restrained, but the palate pops with what I have learned are the hallmarks of Clare Valley—lime and stone, and is bone dry.  So what makes this bottle different from the rest? Balance, structure and intensity—Mikhail Baryshnikov posing as Riesling.  Polish Hill waltzes seamlessly between wet-slate minerality, pressed-lime fruit and crisp acidity.  While this is an impressive bottle and will age beautifully, $47 is a lot of money to drop on any wine, particularly one this young.  Buy and hold, or mark your google calendar to wine-search a bottle on July 1st, 2014 at, say, noon?  And invite me to your appointment, please.  $46.95 at Sherry-Lehmann

LET’S DRINK THIS IN BARDEJOV, SLOVAKIA!

You are probably wondering where the heck is Bardejov and why anyone would go to Slovakia besides lascivious college kids looking for a hostel bunk.  The answer is in the image, if beautiful, intact medieval villages woo you (they do me).  There isn’t much to do there besides sit around and watch the passerby, so you want to have something good in your glass.  Slovakia produces wine, but nothing great, yet, so Polish Hill will do nicely on a hot, Central European afternoon.  Plus, the dry Riesling will cut the heaviness of Slovakian dumplings and bryndzové halušky (sheep cheese gnocchi), that you will find yourself over-eating.

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Wakefield Riesling, Clare Valley 2008

Finally, a bottle from the Clare Valley!  Wakefield Riesling is brought to us by Taylors Wines, three generations of winemakers who believe the terra rossa soil (red brown loam over limestone) of the region is conducive to premium wine production. By the way, if you are looking for other Taylor wines in North America, you won’t find them—due to trademark restrictions, they have to go by Wakefield up ‘round these parts.

How does she taste?  This bottle is alive—all the energy of a red-bull without the caffeine.  Her fragrance is evocative of fresh picked lemons and chiseled limestone. The acidity is fresh, exciting and pricks the tongue like a Sichuan peppercorn.  Bursting with grapefruit and lime, delivered on a long finish, this bottle is still young at four years old—I could easily drink this for another five. Pick up a case and taste the fireworks.  $15.29 at Wine.com.

LET’S DRINK THIS IN BEIJING, CHINA!

Riesling and spicy food are a natural duo, so let’s get down to business in China—they could use a few good bottles of wine over there.  Not only can you find fiery cuisine in China, but a summer day in Beijing can feel like your skin and lungs are ablaze as well. With the sky a yellow haze that blankets your head like the breath of a 1000 smokers, a cold glass of Riesling is perfect for squelching the heat of Beijing’s midsummer days, or as a reward after a stiflingly hot hike up the steep stairs of the Great Wall.

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Filed under Australian Riesling, Wakefield 2008

Mesh Riesling, Eden Valley 2008

Another Eden Valley wine, Mesh, founded in 2002, is the product of two long-time South Australian winemakers—Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba and Jeffrey Grosset of same-last-name fame (not famous to you readers I assume, but he produces the most expensive and by many accounts, acclaimed label in the American market—Grosset.  Notes on his wine in a later post.)  The two tracked down 3 vineyard plots of similar altitude—apparently a difficult task in Eden Valley, a region of multitudinous hills and dales. They produce one wine each vintage through a “mesh” of visions: the season’s bounty is divided while still on the vine, the grapes are plucked and vinified separately using different but agreed upon methods, and the winemakers reconvene with the finished juice.  The bottle is filled with a blend of both, and voilà—Mesh.  Can two famous winemakers produce a delicious $19 wine?  Let’s find out.

I am surprised by the tropical breeze blowing through the glass.  The previous Eden Valley wines were razor sharp with tart citrus and acidity—perhaps anybody would find a fruity bone in this bottle?  Mesh has also had a few years in bottle, so perhaps a little Copacabana comes with age?  After a tactical pause to reset my palate, I receive the anticipated punch of acidity, but with a fleshier, weightier body than the others.  And the longer the bottle is open, the softer she becomes; in fact, after an hour, both my husband and I simultaneously suspect some degree of malolactic fermentation at play, which seems absurd for a Riesling (and my husband doesn’t even study wine).  As the wine continues to evolve, I detect notes of almond paste, and possibly Marzipan, pineapple and guava filtered through Limón y Limón (that is lemon AND lime in Spanish.) Am I nuts? Is this Eden Valley Riesling? (Can one be nuts and know it?) Regardless, Mesh delivers twists and turns, and is perfectly pitched at $19.99 on Wine.Com. (Wine.come is now showing this vintage as sold out—BOO. But they have the 2010.) So, where are we drinking this?

LET’S DRINK THIS on Playa Blanca in PUERTO ESCONDIDO, MEXICO!

I can’t write Copacabana in a tasting note and not think of a Mexican beach, which leads me to dream about a fish. Seated beneath a palapa, palm leaves rustling in the faint breeze, on a near deserted beach of pure Columbian white (aka Playa Blanca), strewn with boulders that evoke the Seychelles, and a cerulean sea beckoning for a playmate, I was served a fish.  A perfect pescado, humbly offered by a local fisherman, transcended my finest dining moments. The glistening Snapper morphed into a char-grilled masterpiece, crusted in garlic and trimmed with fresh cilantro, Mexican limes and sea salt.  On this beach, with this fish, let’s drink a bottle of Mesh, her crisp citrus and tropical notes mingling harmoniously with our simple yet sublime Snapper.

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Frankland Estate, Isolation Ridge Vineyard, Frankland River 2007

Another racy Australian Riesling, Frankland Estate is the singular wine in the Series that is neither Eden nor Clare Valley. Located in the far southwestern corner of Australia, the Frankland River area is a sub-region of the Great Southern region in Western Australia, and is located 115 miles East of its more famous cousin, Margaret River.  An area to keep an eye on, Frankland River is earning recognition for its premium wines; plus it has great Mediterranean weather and is quite isolated and free of pollution, pests, disease, and too many people. The FRR is a modern day Garden of Eden—the kind of place you wished you lived in should a nasty pandemic sweep the globe.

Despite the racy start, this wine manages a rounder mouthfeel and softer palate than the first several Rieslings I tasted.  Dry as the Namib Desert, the palate serves up crushed rocks, white pepper, a hint of petrol and finishes with fresh squeezed lemon-limeaid, like the neighborhood kids used to sell.  I also taste a fruity undercurrent from a dab of white peach and a smidgen of pineapple, making this well-rounded, piquant wine an excellent date for day or night. Pretty delicious stuff,  and full of life at five years old, Frankland should be alive and kicking another ten.  $23.95 from Sherry-Lehman

LET’S DRINK THIS IN SOSSUSVLEI, NAMIBIA!

Speaking of the Namib Desert, great wines are hard to come by in one of the oldest and driest places on earth, so let’s pack a few bottles of Frankland Estate and head into the red dunes of Sossusvlei park in Namibia.  Perhaps we can indulge in a twilight picnic, after hiking up to the crest of #45—all the dunes in the park are numbered.  Our basket holds uniquely Namibian treats: springbok salami, zebra bresaola and fresh German brown bread and mustard (Namibia was a German colony between 1884-1915—see Swakopmund photos.)  A few glasses of Riesling, game meat charcuterie and snapshots of the sunset are perfect prep for the hour-long 4×4 drive out of the park, compliments of our chauffeur, of course.

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