Riesling's exact origin is hard to pinpoint. Its spiritual home is Germany, but Alsace and Austria have produced Rieslings of distinction for centuries. Riesling is said to express its origin, or vineyard better than any other grape variety. William Macarthur planted Australia’s first Riesling at Camden Park near Penrith in 1838. Riesling then spread throughout Australia and was embraced by the German settlers in South Australia. The Clare and Eden Valleys have consistently produced superb, age-worthy Rieslings over a long period of time and are widely regarded as Australia’s benchmark regions for the variety. Some superb Riesling is also produced in pockets of Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania which are worth seeking out.
Riesling is a late ripening, aromatic white wine with high levels of acidity. Generally speaking, Australian Riesling is drier than German, Alsatian and New Zealand examples. Australian Riesling was revolutionised in the 1950s, when Orlando’s Colin Gramp pioneered the use of refrigeration, which allowed winemakers to preserve the variety’s delicate aromatics and fresh fruit flavours.
The best quality Australian Rieslings are grown in suited cool regions, which have an extended ripening season and cool nights, for acid retention. These conditions allow the development of delicate aromatics, a greater range and concentration of flavours, moderate alcohol and high acid levels.
Young Riesling typically shows citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavours, with varying degrees of floral and mineral characters and high levels of fresh acidity. While they drink beautifully on release, many also have good cellaring potential. Bottle age enables their acidity to soften and the development of complex toasty and honey characters. The Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings, along with Victorian examples have provided many great aged Rieslings. Australian Riesling is largely to thank for the screw cap closure, as Clare Valley winemakers initiated the use of this closure in the 1990s. Riesling also benefits from positive botrytis influence and there are several excellent examples of Australian botrytis Riesling.
With a long history of producing distinctive, age-worthy Riesling, the Clare Valley is Australia’s greatest Riesling region. Within the region there are defined sub-regions that consistently produces characteristic Rieslings of outstanding quality with the ability to develop with cellaring.
The high altitude and cool climate of the Eden Valley is suited to Rieslings which are typically elegant, fragrant and finely structured. The best examples are capable of long ageing and developing toasty overtones.
The Grampians has a long history of producing some age-worthy Rieslings. To the south, Henty produces some of Australia’s finest examples, which typically start out lime scented and develop complex toasty characters.
This Western Australian region has staked a claim as one of the best in the country, producing Rieslings with intense purity of lime juice and herb flavours, developing gradual complexity with bottle age.
The cool climate of Tasmania has a great ability to produce Alsatian varietals. Tasmanian Riesling has great length, with citrus and mineral characters with high levels of natural acidity.