As the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman notes “Australia makes a unique style of Riesling that shows off the lovely stone fruit character of the grape, often weaving in floral, citrus and mineral flavors, hanging them all on a dry frame.” (Tasting Highlights: Australian Riesling by Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 23 February 2005)
Australia’s reputation as a great producer of dry riesling was forged in the 1980s and 90s with the emergence of wonderful rieslings from the Clare and Eden Valley, produced by top names including Grosset, Henschke, Annie’s Lane, Jim Barry, Tim Adams, Petaluma and Pewsey Vale. But in recent years, excellent riesling has also been made in Victoria (Crawford River, Jasper Hill), the Great Southern region of Western Australia (Larry Cherubino, Howard Park, Abbey Creek Vineyard) and the Canberra District (Helm Wines, Clonakilla).
More than any other white wine, the best rieslings benefit from bottle age. Some will last 25 to 50 years! Over time, the primary fruit flavours are complemented by toasty, honeyed tones and accented by a waxy, minerally range of flavours that impart a richness and taste complexity not evident when the wine is in its youth.
In 2000, the Clare Valley riesling producers became the first in the world to bottle their rieslings under screwcaps. (Now almost all of Australia’s white wines are bottled under screwcap). By all accounts these wines have aged beautifully, with the screwcap protecting the freshness and delicacy of the wine.
Another hallmark of riesling is its ability to transmit its terroir. Well-made riesling distinctly expresses the characteristics of its place. At Grosset’s Spingvale vineyard, for example, rich red soil over limestone produces sturdy vines, big berries, chunky bunches and a lime green fruit. The grapes are bigger than those at the Polish Hill vineyards, where the vines have to work harder to draw sustenance from the less generous shale and clay soil. Consequently, the Grosset Polish Hill Riesling is more austere and leaner than the Grosset Spingvale Riesling, which has a noticeable fullness and richness as well as more pronounced riesling fruit flavour. A wonderful example of how the nuances of the terroir in the Clare Valley can create superb and uniquely individual wines!
A good selection of aged rieslings can be found on the Cellarit Wine Market.