Category Archives: Untapped Region

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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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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Filed under Australian Riesling, Pewsey Vale 2010 and 2011, Untapped Region

Untapped Regions – Australian Riesling

Part of the purpose of this blog is to highlight places I have been and wines I drank there. But there are literally hundreds of regions in which I have yet to step foot; so if I can’t get to the wine, let’s bring the wine to me.  After a long spell this winter without a plane ride or road trip—4 months is an eternity—I was feeling stranded on the not-so-deserted island of Manhattan, and was thus inspired to create a series on Untapped Regions.  The goal of this series is twofold:  taste through a place I have not personally visited by gathering 8-10 representative bottles, and highlight a region that is generally overlooked by the current wine consumer or marketplace.

I take cues for my wine selection from the season.  The stands at the Union Square Greenmarket are swollen with ramps, spring garlic, asparagus and rhubarb; the typically dingy city air is fragrant with blooming lilacs; the vivid hues of orange tulips and yellow daffodils, planted in Abingdon Square Park, are electrifying—for once, a wise use of taxpayer money. Yes, folks, the fleeting season of Spring is upon the city to tease our senses before slipping away for another year.  I plan to make the most of this perfect time in New York by celebrating with a review of Australian Rieslings, for my inaugural Untapped Region exposé.

I specifically chose Australian Riesling because the Aussies produce them in a crisp, citrus-y, high-acid, desert (not dessert)-dry style with serious ageability; and because Australia has completely fallen off the American wine drinker’s radar.

Come out, come out wherever you are…

Australian wines were prolific in the American market for many years, but in the last decade, they have virtually disappeared from the shelves from many wine stores, notwithstanding the soulless mega-brands like Penfolds, Jacob’s creek, Wolf Blass, Lindemans, Rosemount (you can thank Foster’s for many of these) and the most popular slop, Yellow Tail.  If you don’t believe me, go to your nearest wine or liquor store and you can probably count on one, maybe two hands, the number of non-mega-brand wines that they carry.  In fact, it is kind of eerie.  I took the picture below from a medium-size, highly regarded wine shop in Manhattan.  I have tried to disguise the photo, as my point is to merely highlight that there are only 14(!) wines from Australia, and only one (top left corner) is a Riesling.  It happens to be the most expensive one available in our market, and one that I taste during this trial.  There are double the number of wines from the south of France, located next to the Australian section, encroaching on Aussie shelf territory.  Jeesh- no love for our winemakers down under.

So, what happened in America (because the Brits and Europeans are actually drinking this stuff)? Two things: Yellow Tail for one, and the blown-out style of Shiraz, for the other—both of which flooded our market. “Cheap and cheerful” as a marketing platform for Wine Australia dulled our palates to their products; they tried to corner the market on affordable wine, and as a result painted themselves into a discounters corner.  At the higher-end of the spectrum, too many wines were made in an overripe, alcoholic and over-oaked style (I am referring to Shiraz), that blasts taste buds and doesn’t go well with food.  What Australia failed to do was distinguish its wines regionally—think Napa Cab or Burgundy Pinot.  Wine drinkers will believe in the value of the product when certain factors are promoted—a sense of place, that the wine can’t be recreated anywhere else; specialization in producing a few varietals really well; and a history of wine production: the vines in Southern Australia are phylloxera free and many Riesling plantings are up to 120 years old—Pewsey Vale has been producing for 164 years!  Australians have made wine for more than a century, so I can’t believe it is all bad down there.

Riesling by the Region

Clare Valley and Eden Valley are the iconic regions for Riesling production, both located in the driest state of the driest continent in the world. The miracle of water!  Clare Valley is north of Adelaide and West of Barossa, in a high altitude pocket.  Riesling is the dominant varietal and nearly every winery makes one.  Eden Valley is located in the Barossa Zone (known for big Shiraz), but has a cooler climate and higher elevation than Barossa Valley, making it perfect for the varietal as well.

Unfortunately, because of the backlash to the perceived crappiness of the Australian product, specialty importers shuttered their shops and gave up on the U.S. market.  This means less diversity of wines from boutique and medium-size wineries, making it harder to find great breadth of examples of Clare and Eden Valley Riesling.

The bright side…

Because Australia’s market share in America has declined, there are actually great deals on the wines when you can find them, especially online.  I sourced from 3 sites since each one had more than a bottle or two in their inventory, and I didn’t want to pay shipping 9 times from 9 different stores. I found, Sherry-Lehman and K&L Wine Merchants to have enough to fill my need.  I believe I tracked down a good cross-section at multiple price points and vintages.

The players:

2006 Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia

2010 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia

2011 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia

2010 Dandelion Vineyards, Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling, South Australia

2008 Wakefield Riesling, Clare Valley, South Australia

2008 Mesh Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia

2007 Loomwine Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia

2010 Grosset “Polish Hill”, Clare Valley, South Australia

2007 Frankland Estate, Isolation Ridge Vineyard, Frankland River, Western Australia

Drink this here…

In addition to tasting the wines and offering my impressions, I will also suggest travel pairings.  It may seem unusual, but if you are like me, you appreciate a little travel titillation with your wine.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

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