What is Riesling Wine?
Riesling is a white grape varietal from which Riesling white wine is made. Originally from the famed Rhine region of Germany, Riesling has historically been made as a sweeter wine.
Until recently, owing to incorrect classification and bulk production practices, Riesling in Australia had a reputation as a simple and unsophisticated wine. Riesling was previously considered to be a crowd pleaser without complexity and hardly worth serious consideration. However, envious growing conditions and the dedication of Australian winemakers seeking the potential of this grape has made Riesling one of the benchmark wines in Australia.
Riesling wines, carrying characteristics of region, climate and the signatures of winemaker input are the unsung superstars of the Australian wine industry. No other grape variety can be at the top of its game and yet so affordable.
Common Riesling Wine characteristics
Australia is internationally recognised, along with Shiraz and Cabernet blends, for the Riesling it produces. Riesling grapes grown in Australia are characterised by pronounced acidity and sugar levels. While flavours can be delicate from these grapes, the aromatics are often sublime.
Classic examples predominantly come from the Eden and Clare Valleys in South Australia and the New Eden Riesling is one of the great examples of affordable and very varietal style displaying soft citrus flavours with hints of green apple dominate the palate.
Dry Australian Rieslings tend to display a pale colour, almost watery at times and occasionally with a greenish tinge. Young Riesling aromatics are often described as an exotic perfume, a musk or oriental in character. Expect lemon, limes, green apple, blossoms, potpourri, musk sticks and minerality as general descriptors.
The palate can show a variety of flavours but texturally Australian Riesling is steely and flinty due to the almost laser-like acidity. Flavours range from citrus fruits, green apple, white pear and lemongrass as well as Thai spice and riper tropical fruits.
Pairing food with Riesling Wine
Match a crisp, zesty Riesling variety with sashimi, shellfish or other light seafood. Another excellent Riesling food pairing, when the wine has developed, is Asian food or roast chicken.
Goat’s cheese is great match for a dry Riesling. The stony fruit flavours pair perfectly with tang of the cheese. Feta is also in the same category, taking advantage of the stone fruit. A different option is a mild blue cheese as it can really open up to the aromatics present in the Riesling.
Notable Riesling Wine regions
The German grape is ever present in the Rhineland. Riesling is Germany’s most popular grape and while the origin of Riesling is disputed with neighbours in Austria and Alsace, the association with Germany could not be stronger. In Germany, Riesling wine is often sweet although as winemakers respond to changing tastes in various markets, more dry wines are being produced.
Alsace, on the border with Germany, in France is a notable region for growing Riesling grapes. Rieslings from Alsace typically have higher alcohol content than their Rhineland equivalents. Riesling is permitted in the controlled blend associated with the region along with Muscat and Pinot Gris.
Riesling is grown throughout Australia with varying success. The best regions are cooler regions including the Eden and Clare Valleys. Other notable regions are Central Victoria, Tasmania, Frankland River and the Canberra District. Wineries producing some of the finest examples of Australian Rieslings include Grosset, Halliday favourite Petaluma, Mockingbird Hill, Dolan, Mclean’s Farm, Black Wattle and the inimitable Jim Barry.
The future of Riesling Wine
Riesling still somewhat suffers the residual, negative stereotyping it earned in the 1970s. However, wine growers and winemakers in Australia have been diligently chipping away at this reputation with high quality practices and production. Australia is now known internationally for high quality Rieslings from Eden Valley and other regions including Tasmania and New South Wales are following suit.
- White Wine
- Clare Valley
- Eden Valley