This is the year to be getting into (or back into) Australian Riesling.
I hate broad vintage generalisations in Australia (which is too massive and varied for any sort of generalisation to hold), but for many of the prime Riesling growing regions in SA, WA and Victoria, this is a year that could suit dry Riesling production.
In the Clare and Eden Valleys, for instance, a very late, cool season has helped deliver wines that (again, excuse the generalisation) are notably more acid shaped and less opulent, the structures all primed to produce wines that – if you could avoid the pitfalls of disease – are built for the long haul.
Well that’s the theory at least, and as this small sample pool (and what I’ve otherwise tasted – have a squizz here for a taste) shows, there is promise in this Riesling crop (sorry).
More than just the usual suspects, there are gems here from all over the country. The two Robert Stein Riesling releases below, in particular, are delicious.
Robert Stein Riesling 2017
As ever, this is such a star wine. A powerhouse dry Mudgee Riesling with a nose of sherbet, lime juice and grapefruit. Less lime cordial, more lemon juice, and with a powerful line through the middle. Long, driving acidity finishes everything off. Power packed and a great wine. Best drinking: 2017-2018 or wait until 2022+. 18.5/20, 94/100. 11.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2017
Another standout from the Barry family. Was still in great shape on day 2, too. Has a classic intensity of flavour here that is all Clare Valley. More lime juice than anything else, a flourish of juicy, almost peach flavour through the middle and perfectly natural acid finish. A strong Riesling vintage and in good form already. Best drinking: 2017-2018, then wait until 2021+. 18/20, 93/100. 12%, $24. Would I buy it? Yes.
Robert Stein Half Dry Riesling 2017
10g/L residual sugar and the sugar is very well balanced. Lemon green, the lemony nose doesn’t give away the sweetness, the lovely juicy palate is effortless and nicely balanced, just a little softness on the edges, with power and modulation. Such delicacy. This is just so well composed. Like an Aussie feinherb. Delicious. I slightly prefer the more defined dry Riesling but this is tasty. Best drinking: 2017-2027. 18/20, 93/100. 11%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Adelaide Hills Riesling 2017
Super sharply focused aromatics in the Lost Watch this year. Cool year writ large. Super tight, grapefruity palate is still bound up in ferment esters but packs some impressive, mouthwatering acidity behind it. Laser etched grapefruit acidity, but not hard, the purity top class. Linear, tight, perhaps a little too restrained for now, but such length and purity. Quality. Best drinking: 2018-2030+. 18/20, 93/100+. 12.5%, $24. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Bailey Wine Co. Bryksy Watervale Riesling 2017
This is From Tim Bailey, who is also winemaker at Richard Hamilton/Leconfield (hi Tim), with grapes grown by Greg Bryksy. Ultra pure and acid shaped, with delicate lemon juice characters and sky high acidity. Fresh, unforced and maybe too acidic for the moment, it’s a coiled beast, needing years to show its best. Come back in 5. Best drinking: 2022+. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 11%, $25. Would I buy it? I’d like to see this in a few years time.
Skillogalee Riesling 2017
Tight and limey Clare Valley Riesling in a steely mode. Locked up palate is almost fizzing with acidity, but it doesn’t feel necessarily unripe, just firm. That said, the acid isn’t harsh and refreshment is excellent, the finish lip-smackingly fresh. Definitely still coming together though. Best drinking: 2018+. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Next year.
Warramate White Label Riesling 2017
Just to prove that the Yarra can make Riesling. Sharply citrussy style, this has a lovely tang to it – good drive, if just a bit firm edged. There’s a soapy edge to the grapefruit fruit, that makes it a bit softer, but its still pretty linear. Lots of refreshment here if not quite the volume. Best drinking: 2017-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
And a few more Riesling to pass the desk recently:
Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2012
Lovely toasty wine at this point. It’s quite forward actually, generous and toasty with acidity that comes later than some vintages. Ready to drink now. Nice wine, as ever, if just a little rounder than say the 2011. Great length though and a lovely drink. Best drinking: 2017-2027. 18.2/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $37. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Jeanerret Big Fine Girl Riesling 2016
Big boned Clare Riesling and already a little toast over the lime juice. Good concentration though – a real depth of ripe citrus through the middle which really makes it. Enjoyable, if just a fraction forward. Best drinking: 2017-2028. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Bailey Wine Co. Bryksy Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2016
A slightly lighter wine than the ’17, with light grapefruit nose on a quite neutral palate. Lemon citrus flavours are still opening out in the bottle, and even three days later it looked a little lean. Hold for later. Best drinking: 2018+. 17.5/20, 91/100.11%, $25. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Mitchell Wines McNicol Riesling 2008
Such an odd wine. Who lets Clare Riesling get this ripe? It’s ripe, full and warm, with a punchy, overripe lemon flavour through the middle that stirs into the toast for a big wine, the alcohol adding further sweetness. What width! Plenty of flavour, but not classic and just a little hard to drink. Best drinking: 2017-2020. 16/20, 87/100. 14%, $37. Would I buy it? No.
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I’ll be stuffed if I know why people don’t like Riesling.