Riesling is one of those love-or-hate grape varieties. For its fans, riesling is the finest and most breathtaking wine on the face of the planet; a wine that impresses not only for its underlying fruit power but also its delicacy.
Yet many wine drinkers are yet to be convinced. Some are mystified into whether a riesling will be sweet or dry, while others find its vibrant acidity a little too bright. Whatever your take there is no doubt that riesling is one of the finest white grape varieties and is, more often than not, great value for money.
To understand riesling it is worth taking a little journey across the world to Germany, where this grape variety is the undisputed king. There cool summers bring beautifully aromatic rieslings, full of juicy floral fruit that can live for decades. The German style is often, although increasingly less so, on the sweet side, but that is because the grapes only just ripen so the sweetness is essential to balance what can be bracing acidity.
Strangely enough, Germany also played a very large part in establishing riesling in Australia almost 200 years ago. At the time, religious persecution saw Lutherans fleeing Germany to various parts of the world, with a small number taking the long journey to Australia.
They named towns in South Australia after parts of their homeland, such as Hahndorf and Barossa, while also bringing many of their customs and favourite pastimes, which included both growing and crafting riesling. Today some of those original families are still making riesling as their forefathers did before them half a world away, although in a very different, much drier and authentically Australian styles.
The Clare Valley is renowned for its Riesling grape variety
The South Australian regions of the Clare, Eden and Barossa Valleys are still the traditional home of Australian riesling and produce light-bodied wines with generous limey and floral fruits all balanced by typically crisp acidity. Elegant and bright, they are lovely aperitifs that pair beautifully with seafood.
While South Australia is riesling’s spiritual home away from home, riesling also flourishes in many other regions around the country, albeit in quite different styles. Indeed, one of riesling’s greatest features is its ability to morph into different styles depending on where it is grown.
And that is certainly seen in the broad range of Australian styles now available from many of our coolest wine-making regions. Western Australia’s Great Southern, Tasmania, Henty and Canberra have all shown themselves to be capable of making complex riesling styles and are now true contenders to South Australia’s riesling crown.
What is your favourite type of wine?