Riesling is highly under-rated. There. I said it. Often disregarded when parting with your hard earned, it often comes second to a no-brainer Sauvignon Blanc and the popular Chardonnay. Unfortunately, Riesling doesn’t get a lot of airtime in the race for the white wine consumer dollar.
Whether that stems from a lack of knowledge about the varietal or the regions its grown in, not knowing how to pronounce the word (its reez-ling in case you are unsure), uncertainty of what it tastes like or not recognising a label, it appears to be a crowd favourite more so with the wine geeks among us.
The spectrum for Riesling is massive – from the eye watering, mouth puckering, dry and acidic end through to the late-ripening, ultra sweet, slippery examples. Riesling is very rarely oaked, but rather comes to life in steel tanks. It’s an aromatic varietal displaying floral tones and in cool growing regions like those found in Germany, the wine has the appearance of green apples.
In the warmer climates where the wine develops more sugar (think the Alsace district in North Eastern France, bordering Germany), the wine tends to have more stone fruit (peaches and nectarines) and oranges. At this end of the world, Australian Riesling has the distinct characteristics of lemons and limes, while also being quite floral and chalky.
One of the most kick ass things about Riesling that I absolutely love is its ability to be cellared. Good quality aged Riesling is awesome and if you can get your hands on some that has been looked after well, you are in for a treat.
Now this will sound really weird, but one of the characteristics that you can find in certain aged Riesling examples is the presence of a petrol or kerosene notes. Yes, you read that correctly. Wine nerds can’t get enough of it, but if you’re not partial to a bowser of unleaded or like your wines more fruity, it could actually be a little bit off-putting.
Riesling is a really versatile food wine and depending on your preference for the dry acidic style, or the sweet, fruity examples, there is an endless array of food matches available to you.
If you’re a dry Riesling kinda fella and your meal is of Asian origin with chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, or fresh herbs in it, Riesling will be an absolutely banging accompaniment. Try it with things like Thai Beef Salad, Pad Thai, or a plate of hot dumplings.
Should Asian cuisine not be your deal, it goes equally well with prawns, chicken, salad and fish curry. Whatever sort of dish you choose to drink it with, make sure your bottle is chilled nicely to begin with and watch the drink unfold in the glass as it warms up.
What To Buy
When it comes to Reisling it pays to be adventurous – especially if you are new to the varietal. Try the Aussie stuff, try the German stuff, and try the Alsatian stuff. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Australian Riesling is absolutely world class and the most prominent regions would almost certainly be the Clare and Eden Valley’s in South Australia. That said, many of the cool climate regions here like Tasmania, pockets of Western Australia, Canberra and the Henty and Grampians districts of Western Victoria are all fabulous in their own right.
If your budget doesn’t stretch much beyond $20, look for wines from Jim Barry, Pewsey Vale and Leo Buring. If you feel like splurging a little more, producers like Pikes, Riesling Freak and Some Young Punks crank out great quality booze year after year.
When it comes to showing off or impressing someone who knows a thing or two about wine, the wines from Ken Helm and Jeffrey Grosset are iconic and will most likely run to $50+ while being completely mind blowing.
For those looking for something from overseas, producers like Dr Loosen, Robert Weil, and JJ Prum are well worth a gander.
A local grown beauty, the 2014 Clonakilla Riesling is tight, clean and acidic. It’s chalky, floral and jammed packed full of juicy limes with pops of lemongrass and other citrus notes. It would be the perfect counter-balance for chilli prawns, a BBQ chicken salad, or a variety of aromatic Asian cuisine. The current vintage is 2015 and is fairly easy to get your hands on for around $30.