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 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.


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


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


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


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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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?


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


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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Loomwine Riesling, Eden Valley 2007

The fruit for this wine came from a 45 year old, dry–farmed, single vineyard in the Eden Valley.  The grapes were molded by winemaker Steve Grimley for the Loomwine label which seems to be a collective of family owned wine companies based in McLaren Vale.  Strangely, that is all I know about the brand, and their website is worthless.  When combing the Wine-Searcher database for further clues, I could only find the 2007 vintage available, and only at Sherry-Lehman. However, if you are intrigued by my review, you can still buy a bottle from them online.  In an effort to suss out the extent of S-L’s inventory—I mean, am I reviewing a wine nobody can get or do they have plenty available for all you readers—I put 50 cases in my cart and I was sent to checkout!  So, either their online system is not up to speed with inventory OR their buyer put all his chips on black with this wine, and now they are offering hundreds of bottles at the incredible value of $12.95 at Sherry-Lehman.

As for the juice, the nose explodes with a burst of lemon so fresh you would think Mr. Clean himself just wiped down your kitchen counters.  The palate is full of schist and tongue tingling citrus fruit with a hint of roasted pineapple that just barely penetrates the minerality of newly quarried rock (think rock quarry swimming hole from your high school days).  The wine is vibrant and mouth-watering, yet has more edges than a Herve Leger dress—the acid may be a bit too rough on this one, but at $12.95, I would drink it again.  Perfect for a barefoot beach soiree with steamers and clams dipped in broth and butter, shared with friends on a tight booze budget.


Writing about fresh shellfish served beachside reminds me of the pine scented, rocky shores of Maine and the abundant crustaceans that troll the local sea floor.  I imagine a summer weekend spent inhaling unspoiled air and scouring the coast for the world’s cheapest and tastiest lobsters—seriously, how do they charge $28 for this sh!t in New York City when they are giving the stuff away in Maine.  Sidebar—I shall never eat another lobster roll in NYC again (probably). Back to our weekend—let’s crack open a few steamed, whole lobsters and twist open a bottle or two of Loomwine; seated on beach-side picnic tables, we grind our toes into the sand and dig for sweet flesh to dip into hot, runny butter.  The citrus and acidity from the Riesling will complement the butter-soaked shellfish we pop into our mouths.  I would suggest repeating this formula at least 4 times before returning home.


Filed under Australian Riesling, Loomwine 2007, Untapped Region

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2010 and 2011

To kick off my Untapped Region: Rieslings from Australia series, I decided to open the 2010 and 2011 Pewsey Vale bottles, and do a side by side vintage comparison.  Pewsey Vale winery is located in Eden Valley, in the Barossa Zone of South Australia.  The vineyard has an impressive history having been established in 1847 by an Englishman who named the winery after his ancestral home.

Before I move on to my tasting notes, I want to make a point about Riesling from Australia.  These wines are not meant to be drunk young, unlike the majority of white wine produced around the world (and frankly, red wine too!)  These wines are known for intense acidity which preserves freshness over the years, allowing for the fruit in the bottle to evolve into secondary flavors and gain complexity—imagine aged White Burgundy or Sauternes, but of a more modest caliber and price.  It is rather unusual to find whites that can and should age, making this exploration of Australian Riesling all the more interesting.  What this means is that both Pewsey Vale bottles are very, very young and should be considered in the context of their vintage.

First, the 2011…

Quick! First two thoughts that pop into my head: Teeth-whitening and Algebra.  The acidity in this baby could literally whiten and brighten, perhaps dissolve the enamel on my teeth.  As for the Algebra, well, that’s what I think of when I imagine taking a bite of blackboard chalk.  Sounds awful, right? Not so fast.

Day 2: After letting the wine open up in the fridge overnight, we met a less aggressive  side to this gal.  She’s still lean and tight—think Madonna in her 50’s—but has underlying substance and structure, and I can detect some citrus fruit today—Yay!  She’s got huge promise, considering the 2010 is in a drinkable state (notes to follow), but to do this bottle justice, don’t crack her open for a few years. Definitely a HOLD unless you want to taste the sound of nails scraping slate. $14.99 from K&L Wine Merchants.


No travel pairing on this one; she isn’t ready to be cracked.

Now for the 2010…

After tasting the 2011, I was nervous this wine would be too young, and harbor the same aggressive acidity, but it was actually a pleasure to drink. What a difference a year makes. The aromas in the glass feature lemon-lime seltzer, powdered rocks and the slightest hint of white stone fruit. The palate is similar to the nose, offering Meyer lemon (a cross between lemon and mandarin orange) and Persian lime (fancy name for grocery store limes), a sprinkling of white peach, streaks of minerality, and a prickly, zesty finish that lifts the wine.  Fun and refreshing, but she has room to loosen up (see tight).  I know this bottle could use more time, but you can certainly throw back a glass, or three, now.   At $14.95 from Sherry-Lehman, the wine is well-made and within wallet’s reach.


Let’s head to the Ionian island of Corfu, Greece to drink the 2010.  This bottle offers a crisp, refreshing end to a sun-filled and sunburnt day in Corfu. Imagine an afternoon at the beach, bobbing in the vivid blue sea; perhaps a smidgen of sightseeing, including a stop at the famously tiny monastery of Pontikonisi, shown above.  After returning to the hotel, toss on your maxi dress, hair and skin still salty from the ocean, and rush up to the hotel rooftop to catch the last rays of the waning sun. Parked at a table with a view, the citrus and mineral notes of this crisp Riesling are perfect for sunset sipping, paired with a few garlicky-grilled shrimp and local Greek cheese. The day ends with ribbons of pink and orange streaking the sky above the rooftops of old town, as the glittering lights of the city below flicker with the promise of an enchanting evening.

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