This week I thought we'd move way south from Europe to the Antipodes, and more specifically Australia. While probably best known for its 'sunshine in a bottle' Chardonnay and Shiraz wines, today I am going to explore one of its lesser-known styles – Australian Riesling. When we think of Riesling wines, we probably immediately think of Germany, Alsace or maybe even Austria. But did you know that after Germany, Australia is number two when it comes vineyard acreage planted to Riesling.
Riesling is considered by many (myself included) as one of the greatest white grapes in the world. Intensely aromatic, floral and fruity, the wines have mouth-watering acidity and are made in off-dry and sweet as well as dry styles. Riesling wines age amazingly. With even a few years in bottle they develop the most interesting (and heavenly) complexity with intricate honeyed, earthy and petrol notes.
Already, three regions in Australia have developed well-deserved International acclaim Riesling. They are the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia, and Frankland River, in Western Australia.
North East of Adelaide, the Clare Valley, is stunningly beautiful. Undulating hills, trickling streams, gum trees and vineyards are in perfect harmony in this pastoral rural environment. Eden Valley, further south, is located just east of the Barossa Valley, and is home also to considerable eucalyptus groves. Moving way west, (indeed coastal Western Australia is nearer to Asia than it is to the rest of Australia) is Frankland River, part of the larger Great Southern region. Here immense granite outcrops, called the Porongurups, are visible for many miles, representing a physical landmark of great magnitude and beauty.
So, what do the wines taste like? Simply said, they are delicious! First, they are dry and un-oaked. They have fabulous racy acidity that while mouth-watering, is elegantly balanced with abundant ripe fruit (think peach, apricot, citrus) aromas and flavors. When made from grapes grown on slate soils, the wines also display lovely mineral notes. Do they differ? Yes, Clare Riesling tends to be more lime zest, Eden, more grapefruit and having eater austerity in youth, while Riesling from Frankland River often finishes with a delightful herbal or spicy note.
Above all Australian Riesling is at home at the table. Some of my favorite pairings at the moment are the soft shell crabs, that have just arrived at my fish market, ramps – simply sautéed, freshly shucked oysters, char-grilled asparagus with shaved parmesan cheese, and a variety of aged hard cheeses, such as Gouda or Manchego. In particular, Riesling wines work wonderfully with Asian cuisine, where the wine's high acidity and ripe fruit character creates the perfect foil for the spice and heat of Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and even Indian dishes.
Today, many Australian Riesling wines are available across the United States. Some of my recently tasted favorites include:
• 2006 Leasingham, Bin 7 Riesling, Clare Valley - $11-$14
• 2006 Grosset Polish Hill, Clare Valley - $25 to $30
• 2006 Pewsey Vale Riesling, Eden Valley - $17-$20
• 2006 Howard Park Riesling, Great Southern - $15 to $18
• 2006 Plantagenet Riesling, Great Southern - $14 to $16
Stores that carry a good selection of Australian Riesling wines include:
• Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PA)
• Astor Wines (Manhattan, NY)
• Winerz.com (Orange, CA) - web only
• Total Wine & More (various cities, FL)
• Sam's Wine & Spirits (Chicago, IL)
• Grapes of Norwalk (Norwalk, CT)
• PJ Wine (Manhattan, NY)
• Englewood Wine Merchants (Englewood, NJ)
• Southern Hemisphere Wine Center (Huntington Beach, CA)
So until next week (when we will explore some red wine regions), enjoy some great Aussie wines!
State Shipping Laws
Each week we will cover a different state
New York - Direct Shipping is allowed in New York State. However, restrictions do apply. Wineries are required to have a number of permits and file tax returns. Also, there is a limit on the volume of wine that a single winery can ship to a consumer in a given period – New York has a limit of 36 cases per individual per year (combined onsite and off-site sales)
For more information on wine shipping in New York go to www.abc.state.ny.us
For more information on Direct Shippping of wine throughout the United States visit Wine Institute, Free the Grapes or Ship Compliant.
(Image: Matt Turner for Wine Australia)