What is Riesling?
Australia is a leading global producer of Riesling, the world’s fifth most planted white wine grape. Clare Valley and Eden Valley in particular are renowned for this noble variety, making some of the best there is, so why generally amongst Aussie wine lovers is Riesling still so misunderstood? Let’s find out, and while we’re at it we’ll answer some of the other questions you may have about this classic white wine like…is Riesling a dry or sweet wine? And what is a good food pairing with Riesling?
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What type of wine is Riesling?
Riesling is a late ripening, aromatic white wine with high levels of acidity. The style of Australian Riesling these days is not sweet and fruity but is instead dry and citrussy. Riesling is all about preserving the pristine purity of the grape. Reach out and discover the delights of Riesling and you will be rewarded.
Riesling white wine is a late-ripening, aromatic with high levels of acidity.
Australian Riesling pairs well with seafood and spicy foods.
How long does Riesling last? Riesling can cellar for up to 10 years.
Australian Riesling is light-bodied and tends to be drier than European examples.
Did you know that German Rieslings are some of the most expensive white wines in the world?
Where is Riesling from?
Riesling's exact origin is hard to pinpoint. Its spiritual home is Germany, but Alsace in France 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.
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.
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.
Best Australian Riesling wine regions
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 Riesling varietals. Tasmanian Riesling has great length, with citrus and mineral characters with high levels of natural acidity.
What does Riesling taste like?
How would you describe Riesling wine? A remarkable quality of Riesling is that it, along with Hunter Semillon, is one of the only white varietals that ages gracefully. Zesty and citrussy young, it can develop in the bottle to show gorgeous honey, toast characters after a number of years. Riesling was the varietal that led our screwcap revolution. As was discovered in these instances of ageing, cork is an inferior closure to the Stelvin cap and so, in 2001, the Riesling growers in the Clare Valley united and bottled the entire Riesling vintage under screwcap.
Is Riesling Sweet?
While European Rieslings like those from Austria, Germany and some areas of France tend to be on the sweeter side, most Australian Riesling is now made in a dry style. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t off-dry styles out there, plus Late Harvest and Botrytis Riesling are luscious dessert wines.
Dry wines have had all or almost all their sugar converted to alcohol during fermentation. Sweet wines typically retain high levels of their residual sugar – as much as 230g/L in some instances. Off-dry wines, however, have a mildly perceptible sweetness, with moderate levels of residual sugar from around 12g/L and up.
The fact that it is so versatile and can be made in these different styles is one of Riesling’s great assets, however, at the same time, one of its great frailties – several factors including canopy management, timing of picking, contact with skins, time on lees, can determine the style of Riesling, be it sweet, dry or everything in between.
When should you drink Riesling?
Should you drink Riesling young and fresh, or is it best to cellar it? The simple answer is…both. Young Riesling typically shows citrus and apple fruit aromas and flavours, with varying degrees of floral and mineral characters and high levels of fresh acidity. How long does Riesling last? While they drink beautifully on release, many also have good cellaring potential with ageing up to 10 years. 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.
What are the best food pairings for Riesling wine?
So, what do you eat with Riesling? With its high levels of acidity and citrussy characters, Riesling is a perfect match with a variety of seafood dishes and is also a super food-friendly wine to serve with spicy Asian-style dishes like Thai and Korean, plus deliciously moreish Middle Eastern. Here are some delicious recipes that pair well with Riesling.
Tasting Panellist and Riesling aficionado, Adam Walls, offers the last word on Riesling – “If you have to pick only one variety to sip in the sun, then with its guaranteed refreshing characters, Riesling has to be it.”
Explore our delicious range of Rieslings now to discover your new favourites.