Category Archives: Australian Riesling

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: Billy Button and Mayford Wines – Putting the Alpine Valleys Region on the Map

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By

Two very talented winemakers, Jo Marsh of Billy Button and Eleana Anderson of Mayford, are neighbours and good friends in the beautiful Alpine Valleys wine region, an area that covers the foothills of the Victorian alps and borders with King Valley to the west and Beechworth to the north. Last week the pair shared the stage at a very interesting masterclass at Different Drop in Pyrmont.

We were welcomed with a glass of the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Torment’ Riesling (King Valley) on arrival. This is the only wine from Jo’s extensive range made with fruit not sourced from the Alpine Valleys.

Jo MarshJo said that she couldn’t resist the opportunity to put her own stamp on one of her favourite varieties when offered a parcel of grapes from an excellent well-established vineyard in King Valley’s Whitlands.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts, the juice was given time on full solids to add texture and flinty, savoury notes to the wine. But the fuller bodied style didn’t detract from the pristine citrus flavoured fruit, which was buoyed by a laser-like acidity. An unusual style of riesling and one of my favourite wines of the night.

Another highlight was the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Feisty’ Friulano.  Jo explained that she first came across friulano, a grape that originates from the Friuli-Venezie-Giulia region of North-East Italy, when she took up the position of Head winemaker at Feathertop, one of the Alpine Valleys oldest wineries. (Jo was previously head winemaker at Seppelt.)


Billy Button range

‘The Feisty’ Friulano is made in a style which also lends texture and complexity to a very fruity variety. Approximately two-thirds of the wine, for example, was barrel fermented in old French oak. When the 2014 inaugural vintage of this wine was released it attracted a number of standout reviews.… Read the rest

Jun 06 2014

Australian Riesling: The Best Value Wine Variety/Style in the World!

Posted on June 06, 2014 | By

Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown considers South Australian riesling one of the world’s best value wines

The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown recently wrote that “If I had to name a best value wine grape/style from Australia that readers will find hard to beat with competition from anywhere else is the wine world, it is undoubtedly South Australian riesling.” (Lisa Perrotti Brown, Australian Wine Values: Everyone Loves a Bargain, Wine Advocate, May 2014)

Her thoughts must have seemed like music to the ears of South Australian riesling producers at a time when the high Australian dollar and heated competition from lower priced competition have hurt Australian wine exports.

Perrotti-Brown believes that one of the reasons why riesling is a bit of an unsung hero is because some people, including myself I admit, find riesling  less approachable than more popular white wine varieties like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

Riesling wonderfully complements Thai and Vietnamese food

Riesling is a wine that is probably best appreciated with food. No so long ago, my husband and I enjoyed a David Franz Eden Vally Riesling 2013 over dinner at fermentAsian on a trip to the Barossa Valley. Its lime juice aromatics, mouth coating texture, complex citrus flavours and balanced acidity was a perfect match for the delightfully fragrant and deliciously flavourful Vietnamese inspired food. (David Franz is the son of Peter Lehmann, who also designs the most exquisite labels for his artisan wines.)

Perrotti-Brown argues that one of the upsides of rieslings limited popularity is that you have to be “a complete riesling-nut to want to grow it, which keeps the benchmark high.” Lower demand also helps to ensure good availability for even the finest examples and  tends to keep prices down.

Australia is the world’s second largest producer of riesling

Australia is the second largest … Read the rest

Aug 08 2013

50 Wines to Try in 2013: Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling

Posted on August 08, 2013 | By

With all the interest at the moment in rieslings from Australia’s cooler climates – WA’s Great Southern region, Tasmania and the Canberra District, in particular – critics and consumers alike may be tempted to overlook the fact that South Australia is still the epicentre for Australia’s finest quality rieslings, and the region responsible for putting Australian riesling on the map. Indeed, when the Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker rated Australia’s top riesling producers back in 1999, not surprisingly all of them were from South Australia, with the standouts almost exclusively from the Clare Valley and including such legends as Clos, Tim Adams, Grosset and Kilikanoon. (Rating Australia’s Best Producers of Riesling, Wine Buyer’s Guide 5th Edition 1999).

The recent 50th anniversary of Jacob’s Creek Steingarten vineyard, situated in the upper Barossa ranges, was a welcome reminder of just how long South Australia has been making some of the world’s best riesling.

A strong German heritage among South Australia’s winemakers partly explains the interest in the grape. The Steingarten (German for stone garden) was first planted in 1962 by Colin Gramp, the great grandson of Jacob’s Creek founder John Gramp. As Sarah Ahmed explains in a article on the history of the vineyard, Gramp took his inspiration from Germany’s Mosel Valley. (Jacob’s Creek: Steingarten, Reserve and Classic Riesling Verticals Impress, Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective, 8 July 2013)

Gramp followed the German practice of choosing an elevated site (at its highest point the Steingarten rises to 450 metres above sea level) with low fertility stony soils, in this case composed of schist and slate. The vines are closely planted on a precipitous incline, also in keeping with Mosel Valley practice. Jacob’s Creek’s Chief Winemaker Bernard Hickin believes that these vineyard characteristics along with its east-facing … Read the rest

Oct 10 2011

Tasmania Shines at Canberra International Riesling Challenge: Waterton Vineyard Riesling 2009 wins top honours

Posted on October 10, 2011 | By

On Saturday I attended a tasting for the 12th annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge at the Albert Hall in Canberra. The tasting was a great excuse to make the trip from Sydney to Canberra with one of my oldest friends and it also gave us an opportunity to squeeze in a visit to the Fred Williams retrospective at the National Gallery. (A quick aside – Fred Williams: Infinite Horizons is on until 6 November 2011. Not only does it confirm Williams’ place as one of Australia’s greatest landscape artists, but also demonstrates his amazing talent as a portraitist!)

Anyway, back to my other great passion – wine. The tasting itself proved to be quite a challenge. Over 440 wines from 10 different countries were available to try. Wow, where to start? With our Riedel riesling glass in hand, we headed over to the winners’ table.

The overall winner this year was the Waterton Vineyard Riesling 2009 from the Tamar Valley in Tasmania. It picked up four awards: Best Wine of the Challenge, Best Riesling From Tasmania, Best in Australia and Best Dry Riesling. Fruit forward with delicate citrus flavours, its lively acidity was balanced by a slightly silky texture and good length.

When I got home I checked James Halliday’s rating for the wine. Interestingly he had only scored the wine 89 points in the 2011 edition of Australian Wine Companion. But as Chairman of the Tasmanian Wine Show, he re-tasted the wine in January of this year. Here’s his glowing review:

This is well composed and balanced; it has smooth lime/citrus flavours of very good length and balance; a complete wine that has improved out of all recognition in the past 12 months. Top Gold Tasmanian Wine Show 2011. 11% alc; screwcap; 
Rating: 96 points Drink: to Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Wine Education: The benefits of the Screwcap Closure

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By

When I was researching my post on Australian aged rieslings, Buy Wine Ideas: Australian Aged Reislings: Beautiful Expressions of Terroir 28 July 2011, I came across a very good explanation about the merits of bottling wine under screwcap on the Pewsey Vale website.

James Halliday notes that Pewsey Vale was the first winery to bottle its riesling under Stelvin screwcap in 1977. Unfortunately the screwcap was not well received by the public and the initiative was put on ice for almost 20 years. Now, of course, use of the screwcap in Australia, especially for white wines, is considered best practice!

Below is a description of the benefits of the screwcap with respect to Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling, one of Australia’s best rieslings, which is only released after five years of bottle age. It is made by Yalumba’s Chief Winemaker, the multi-award winning Louisa Rose. According to Halliday, “Pewsey Vale never lost faith in the technical advantages of the closure. A quick taste (or better, a share of a bottle) of five-to-seven year-old Contours Riesling will tell you why.” (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011 Edition).

Sealing a bottle under a screw cap removes the variability and taints associated with cork. A screw cap also ensures that the wine in the bottle will age under the best possible conditions. The perfect seal of the screw cap ensures that no air or oxygen can enter the bottle. In these reductive conditions the wine undergoes “pure bottle aging” where the fresh citrus flavours remain, and are overlaid with flavours of toast, lemon grass and eventually some honey and possibly marmalade. Since there is no oxygen getting in to the bottle, there is no oxidising or “drying out” of the wine. This means that the colour, while it will deepen into Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Buy Wine Ideas: Aged Australian Riesling – Beautiful Expressions of Terroir

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By

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 … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

Great Southern, WA: The New Centre for Australian Riesling?

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By

On Tuesday I attended the Wine Industry of Western Australia’s Taste of Western Australia at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. Rieslings of the Great Southern wine region were the focus of one of the very insightful masterclasses with wine critic Peter Forrestal.

The majestically scenic and wildly remote Great Southern is the largest wine region in Australia.  So large, in fact, that the five already designated sub-regions of Frankland River, Mount Barker, Porongurup, Albany and Denmark only cover 50% of the land mass.

Last year James Halliday named Larry Cherubino Wines “Winery of the Year.” The Cherubino Porongurup Riesling 2009 was Halliday’s top-rated riesling (97 points), beating out some serious Clare and Eden Valley competition. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)

The gloriously picturesque Porongurup mountain range, 30 km south east of Mount Barker, is also home to Castle Rock Estate. Robert Diletti of Castle Rock makes elegant yet intensely flavoured rieslings, admired for their complexity, great length and ageing potential. The 2010 vintage we sampled in the masterclass was excellent – clear, pure citrus fruit characters superbly balanced by a minerally acidity imparted from the rocky, infertile soil of the ideally situated hillside vineyard.





Dilletti also makes the wines at boutique winemaker 3Drops in nearby Mount Barker, another Great Southern sub-region that’s developed an exceptional reputation for its delicately floral, elegant rieslings. The beautifully balanced Gilberts Mount Barker Riesling 2010, which we also sampled, won Best Current Vintage at the prestigious Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

X by Xabregas Fig Tree Riesling 2010 was another stand-out wine from Mt Barker. Made by winemaker Martin Cooper for the Hogan family-owned winery, the winery specialises in single vineyard wines that very much speak of their place and are in an off-dry style that distinguishes them … Read the rest

Jan 01 2011

Putting Canberra District Riesling on the Map

Posted on January 01, 2011 | By

“Ken Helm’s Rieslings took my breath away – why hadn’t I heard of these wines before?”

UK Wine Critic Sarah Ahmed of The Wine Detective recently named Helm Wines Premium Riesling 2010, Canberra District, New South Wales, one of the top five Australian wines of the year. Here’s her glowing description of the wine:

Ken Helm’s Rieslings took my breath away – why hadn’t I heard of these wines before?  This, his flagship single vineyard Riesling, is positively tensile ‘n tightly coiled, with a flinty quality to its brilliant bright but subtle lime on the palate.  Very, very good with incisive length and great precision. (My top five wines of the year: Australia by Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective, 28 December 2010)

Recognition for Helm Wines rieslings is certainly growing. The Premium Riesling 2010 won top gold in its class at the prestigious National Wine Show of Australia. Just as Tim Kirk’s Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier focused international attention on cool-climate Canberra District shiraz, Ken Helm may be on the way to achieving the same lofty status for his Canberra District rieslings, which Ahmed regards as among Australia’s best and one of “Australia’s best kept secrets!”

Ken Helm has been making riesling at his family-run Canberra district winery for 34 years

Helm may well have riesling in his blood. He is a fourth generation descendant of German vinedressers from the Rhineland, who established vineyards near Albury and Rutherglen in the 1860s. He has been making riesling at his family run winery in Murrumbateman for over 34 years, sourcing his grapes from four separate terroirs that range for volcanic rocky soils over limestone to volcanic rock soils over red ironstone.

The Premium Riesling, first made in 2004, is a small production (400 cases only) single vineyard wine sourced from neighbour … Read the rest