When it comes to rieslings, Australia has some fantastic regions now producing wines that in their own style match the quality and finesse of some of the most renowned wines from the Rhine River and Alsace regions of Europe. Aussies are also spoiled for choice, with winemakers experimenting with a wide variety of differing styles, some featuring youthful clean acidity with floral characteristics bursting from the glass, and others that present with a more layered and complex mouthfeel due to a mix of fermentation methods. Ageing typically softens their acid structure and with time the classic lime and lime-pith zesty notes enrich to a wider, fuller tasting experience.
Victoria’s sub alpine valleys are home to a number of regions producing excellent riesling fruit, including Mansfield, the King Valley and the Alpine Valleys – below the peaks of Feathertop, Buffalo and Hotham. While the Canberra region is perhaps a little more famous for rieslings due to their annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge – yes they take their rieslings rather seriously in our nation’s capital – it’s fair to say that Aussies have come a very long way in terms of quality of product. Today drier styles with mineral complexity and fine acidity lead the way, thankfully a far cry from the overly sweet commercial wines of the 1970s. These new wines are fabulous with food and pair perfectly with our insatiable desire for fresh seafoods and pan-Asian tastes. Young wines feature an acidity that makes them a fresh and lively drop in summer; and in the cooler months, the aged wines feature enough depth in flavour to warm our souls. If you thought riesling might have been forgotten, then think again, riesling is most certainly on the rise.
Darling Estate 2016 Riesling
The first thing that strikes you about the 2016 vintage wine is its clean minerality and fresh appeal. Gentle citrus aromas of cumquats and lime pith are delicate yet also uplifting in energy. The wine has a fantastic lively and complex mouthfeel layered firstly with front palate zesty lemon and lime citrus, and a striking acidity. Soft spicy mid palate notes and other subtle elements including buttered toast and honey are starting to develop due to bottle maturation. There’s also an attractive touch of kerosine oiliness, but only just so. For a wine of its vintage, it is displaying a wonderful flavour-packed fullness. Pair this with fresh barbecued prawns or perhaps a vintage cheddar. The wine’s acidity will cut through the butterfat and the added citrus flavours are sure to enhance the experience. A wine with elegance, but also power and punch. We also recommend laying a few bottles down to age, as the notes below confirm just how good bottle maturation with fine Australian rieslings can be.
Darling Estate – Darling’s Choice 2008 Riesling
Vigneron and winemaker John Darling offered us a tasting of the Darling’s Choice 2008 vintage wine in order to clearly demonstrate the quality of his aged rieslings; and we’re extremely pleased to be making the comparison to the 2016 wine. With maturation on bottle the wine’s fragrance becomes more developed, with more pronounced, deeper characteristics – now those buttery notes are much richer, fatter, warmer. With ageing also comes softening of acidity, with the mouthfeel becoming more luscious, silky and balanced. The mid palate length of flavour is incredibly generous and made wider – filling the palate with delightful mixed citrus and a wonderful back palate toastyness. John explains that with earlier harvests, his vines tend to produce more pronounced kerosine characters; and it is evident that this was the case with the 2008 vintage. This is a cracker wine and has developed into a bit of a gem. It’s also worth mentioning that a limited amount of stock is still available for purchase at cellar door.
Featuring a lively floral nose of passionfruit, jasmine plus a hint of orange blossom, it’s astonishing to experience such grand aromas elevating from the glass of this very young wine. Cleverly it also offers a gentle palate with a fresh medium acidity – not overpowering. Slight oily kerosine characters are just starting to come through; however delightful lemon and cumquat citrus drive its appeal. This is a fine example of a medium bodied riesling born of premium fruit from the Canberra region – famously known for its celebration and awards program of riesling wines.
Best pair this with fresh seafood or with zesty chicken dishes roasted with verjuice as opposed to fattier creamy chicken dishes. Drink now or put it away, as it’s sure to develop fuller flavours – if you can be patient enough! If not the a lighter-styled reward is in the bottle now ready for you to enjoy: it’s your call.
A tasting at Port Macquarie’s Cassegrain Wines is nothing short of remarkable, as it’s an unexpected delight to discover such history and skill in winemaking and to taste wines of such high quality within a sub-tropical region. Sourcing fruit from ten of the best grape growing regions across NSW, Cassegrain is one of Australia’s great boutique wineries.
Ros Ritchie 2014 Riesling
In late 2018 Mansfield winemaker Ros Ritchie opened a new Cellar Door and Function Centre within the historic Magnolia House – a late 1800s American Victorian-era kit home that was shipped to Melbourne as ballast, and on to the High Country via steam train by the owner at the time, Harry Amor of the Mansfield Courier. Constructed in 1908, the venue is a fascinating place for sampling Ros’ premium cool climate wines.
Hand picked from rows 35-64 of Barwite Vineyard, Barwite Victoria. Displaying beautifully developed aged characteristics including bright and lively aromas of cumquats, lime and ripe grapefruit – this elegant wine also boasts complex layered mineral notes and a touch of oiliness. Its colour is currently deep straw. Regardless of its age, the wine is drinking with a surprisingly clean and bright acidity. Juicy, fresh favours of lime and grapefruit linger on the palate. The finish presents with some attractive subtle mineral notes. While we suggest this wine makes a grand aperitif – given its lively acidity, pairing with cheeses and fruits would prove a wonderful match, as would grilled prawns and other seafood dishes. A wonderful wine that’s sure to continue to improve as it further ages.