Riesling: No Longer The Bridesmaid?*
Barry Weinman: 5th October 2019
Riesling has been the perennial bridesmaid of the Australian wine scene. Capable of breathtaking beauty, but routinely overlooked in favour of more overt wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and complex, approachable Chardonnay.
For as long as I can remember, experts have been extolling the virtues of Riesling, but it has remained steadfastly out of fashion with the average wine drinker. Perception about what a Riesling should taste like is at the heart of the problem.
In its native Germany, where the grapes are grown in a very cold climate, Rieslings have traditionally ranged from off-dry to sweet, with the precise acidity providing the perfect counterpoint to the sugar, leaving the palate refreshed.
In years gone by, Australian Riesling (often sold in casks and made from anything but Riesling) was insipid swill, made sweet, but without the acidity to provide balance. Unfortunately, this reputation stuck, despite many years of excellent wine being produce in regions such as Clare Valley.
Fast-forward 20 years and the situation has evolved significantly. The best Australian Rieslings have become ever finer, with Great Southern wineries now vying with the great South Australian producers for the title of Australia’s best. Leading the vanguard are producers such as Singlefile, Howard Park and Castle Rock all capable of producing great wines. Another is Cherubino, who has consistently produced exquisite wines.
But traditional SA producers have not stood still, with Grosset still staking a claim as Australia’s greatest producer.
Fine, dry and elegant, these are wines that are redefining just how good Australian Riesling can be. Now it is over to you to try them…
Grosset – Riesling – Polish Hill – 2019 (18.8/20pts – $60). Beautiful perfumed fruit, with floral and lime juice highlights. There is even a touch of aromatics reminiscent of a fine gin. The palate shows all of this, yet it is remarkably fine, restrained and elegant, with great length, persistence and near seamless palate transition. Exceptional.
Cherubino – Riesling – Great Southern – 2019 (18.5/20pts – $35). The floral aromatics are a highlight here with musk and gentle herb highlights. The pristine fruit is seamless and near ethereal, showing great depth. The mouth-feel is a highlight, with the elegant fruit perfectly balanced by the lemon-like acidity. Now – 10 years.
O’Leary Walker – Riesling – Polish Hill River – 2018 (18/20pts – $25). Steely, powerful and austere compared to the Grosset, this is a more traditional with lemon zest acidity defining the finish. There is excellent fruit tucked in behind the structure, but this needs years to hit its peak.
* This article first appeared in the Western Suburbs Weekly