Riesling is a great variety of wine as a result of its purity. It’s a fabulous expression of terroir (i.e. how a particular region's climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of the wine) because its flavour profile is pretty narrow; it’s potent with lemon, lime and acidity and that fresh raciness that it can offer, and there’s not a lot of wine making that needs to go into it. While a lot of other wines varieties can be manipulated in their flavour, Riesling is that pure expression of grape juice fermented and tends to be a light and fresh variety where acidity is the very backbone. Furthermore, they are known for having a long life and evolve slowly into an even more beautiful drinking wine with time.
Similarly to Chardonnay, which had a reputation of being terribly overblown, rich in fat and not made very well, Riesling had a history of being very sweet in style and produced with residual sugar. “Everyone used to think oh Riesling that’s a sweet grape! But realistically, it’s not for the majority of examples in Australia which are in fact dry – dry meaning, without sugar. Quite famously, Germany produces an array of off-dry to very sweet styles because they have beautiful acidity, and that’s what creates that balance between sugar and acidity, creating a wonderful harmony and purity”, says Crown Cellar and Co Director, Matt Brooke. However, Matt has recently noticed a shift towards new-wave Rieslings in Australia, “The pendulum in Australia has definitely swung from being extremely dry to now being able (with in the right climate, care and attention, of course) to create these stunning off-dry examples. I still battle the idea that everyone still thinks it’s sweet, where now there are some really nice off-dry styles.”
Matt’s recommendations for a must-try off dry Riesling? “Josef Chromy Delikat SGR Riseling from Tasmania translates to ‘delicate sugar’ or ‘delicate 70grams residual’, and that might not sound like a lot but that is a fair amount of sugar. There’s this beautiful acidity where you get this starburst of sweetness at the front of the palate but the acidity kicks in and you wonder if you’re drinking a sweet or dry wine, albeit with great length and complexity. The Giesen from Marlborough is another off-dry style I really like.”
If you’re looking for that perfect food pairing, pour a glass of Riesling at the start of the night. If you think about the progression of a meal you eat the cold dishes, such as seafoods and salads at the beginning and these are precisely the types of cuisine that allow a Riesling to do the showstopping. “The acidity of the wine almost acts as a vinegar based salad dressing – it pairs so wonderfully with sashimi, salads and oysters”, says Matt.
In Australia, everyone knows the Clare Valley because they’ve been doing Rieslings so well for such a long time. Clare Valley is the optimum spot for Riesling production due to its great climate, clear, pure skies and evening temperatures that drop dramatically and result in Rieslings with great flavour and natural acidity. If you’re ever in the area, Matt recommends popping into the Sevenhill Hotel; a pub spot where you can drink an array of wines from the region and see the best of it. Jim Barry are one of the bigger names of the region who have been there forever and also have a great cellar door experience, positioned with elevation so you can overlook parts of the valley as the knowledgeable staff talk you through the beauty of the region.
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