Of the great white varieties of the world it’s the variety riesling which struggles to retain buyer interest.
And that’s not because it’s poor wine – just not as hip as sauvignon or pinot grigio perhaps.
Australia makers display wonderful riesling when it ages, so do the German, French, Austrian, American, Canadian, South African and New Zealand makers of similar styles.
Age-worthy. So what. Some of the greatest wines of the world, rieslings grown in the Mosel-Saar-Ruhr region of Germany hold for decades, and for some, half a century or more.
Australian rieslings, despite an incredibly well run annual International Riesling Challenge in Canberra, an industry scholarship and wonderful annual international tasting hosted by Great Southern WA producer, Frankland Estate, still slide in popularity.
They are a fad and a relic of the baby boomer era, and probably not seen as very hip by millennial drinkers.
So here is my bit for an international group of rieslings tasted recently, and generally not holding up to the reputation of several brands; some were spoiled by bad winemaking, or better put slack winemaking when contrasted with a pristinely-made Australian riesling.
Australian makers of these light, easy oxidisable and delicate wines take great care from when the berry comes off its bunch until all the safe bottling stages have been perfected.
In this tasting I was surprised to see stale wines , or Old World examples struggling with the screw cap such that the smelly reductive characters pervaded what ought to be a good drink. Disappointing. It’s all about winemaker detail and getting it right.
Wines are described in order of enjoyment. Pale colour in the younger wines is highly appreciated.
O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2010, 12.5% (USD 21) ++++1/2; very pale, slither of green, youthful, aromas of roses and limes, rejuvenating smells rent the air, austere in the mouth, has a high acid backbone which leads to the talc minerality and slatyness, steely finish of young riesling, aging range 2018-2020. Screw cap.
Dr Burklin-Wolf Riesling Trocken Rheinpfalz 2009, 12% (USD 29.25) +++1/2; pale, peapod green, sulphur dioxide on nose, dumbing the smell, honied, very ripe fruit assortment, lots of musk on the palate, ripe riesling, bitters from the solids ferment give texture and weight, slatey acid, very high acid, light bodied and bone dry, lovely limey final flavour zip. Natural cork.
Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2008, 8.5% (USD 50) +++; ultra-pale, almost clear with pea green shadows, nose musky and sulphidic (smelly), lots of solids in the ferment driving the aroma, very sweet on entry, lightest body imaginable, Mosel palate with the lemon sherbet sensation, slatey acid-like sucking a smooth stone, some yum to finish. Natural cork.
Weingut Robert Weil Riesling Trocken Rhinegau 2005, 11.5% (USD 26.25) +++; very pale, youthful, high SO2 which dulls the nose, neutral fruit not aromatic, more spice, fruit is very forward, wine has matured, dry/austere, high acid and really chewy, hot alcohol and bone dry! Natural cork.
Kientzler Riesling Alsace 2005, 12.5%, (USD 35.75) +++; quite advanced colour, probably some botrytis at birth, nose restrained, dry grass, herbal and honied, quite mature, lots of ripe fruit, palate big and drying for such a delicate drink. High acid, defining acid but a focused finish at days end. Old fashioned winemaking which encourages phenolics. Natural cork.
Summary: New World winemaking has much to offer Old World winemaking with respect to riesling. No wonder Germany is falling out of favour as a producer so reliant on riesling plantings which dominate its surface.
In today’s consumer-led environment, pulling some riesling and replacing with pinot gris, pinot noir, pinot blanc or sauvignon blanc sounds like a better trading proposition.
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