Like chardonnay I feel that Australian riesling is now performing at an all time high.
For a long time South Australia's Clare and Eden Valleys dominated the quality end of Australia's riesling class, but today there is a healthy number of regions providing superlative expressions of the Australian style.
Victoria's cool Henty district, Western Australia's Great Southern (which incorporates the sub-regions of Frankland River, Mount Barker and Albany) and Tasmania are the most established of Australia's emerging riesling regions. All are consistently producing pristine rieslings which easily rival South Australia's best.
New stylistic approaches are also becoming more commonplace. Made in a Germanic style, off-dry, slightly sweet rieslings with lower alcohol which still retain razor sharp acidity are gaining in popularity. Pewsey Vale makes a leading example from Eden Valley fruit.
On top of all this riesling continues to be Australia's most under valued wine, with numerous gold medal standard wines selling for less than $20.
The rieslings reviewed here are the Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge 2008, Freycinet 2007, Grosset Polish Hill 2008, Heggies 2008, Howard Park 2008, Jacob's Creek 2008, Kanta 2007 and Peter Lehmann Eden Valley 2008. All of these wines are on the cusp of being replaced on store shelves by their 2009 counterparts. Expect 2009 reviews soon. The 2008 Freycinet has been around for a while, I just thought the 2007 was an exceptional Tassie riesling deserving of some more recognition. Unfortunately I've yet to drink the 2008 Kanta...
FRANKLAND ESTATE ISOLATION RIDGE VINEYARD RIESLING 2008
- Region: Frankland River, WA
- Price: $20-$31
The isolated Frankland River sub-region of Western Australia's Great Southern district is home to perhaps Australia's most progressive maker of riesling in Frankland Estate. Their proud collection of individual vineyard rieslings is headed by the typically intense, racy and exquisitely structured Isolation Ridge.
Backed by suggestions of lime juice, apples and wet slate, the 2008 Isolation Ridge reveals a restrained, musky fragrance with notes of apricot kernel. Its forward, juicy and oily palate lacks the thrust and precision which blessed its predecessor, but manages to deliver lime juice and pear flavours with a clean cut of schisty acids and a lingering ripe fruit aftertaste.
O Substantially riper and juicier than the magnificent 2007 (94pts), the 2008 Isolation Ridge is a minor step backwards for Frankland Estate, but riesling devotees needn't jump off their bandwagon yet. Drink to 2014.
FREYCINET RIESLING 2007
- Region: East Coast Tasmania
- Price: $22-$33
I must admit to being a big fan of Tasmanian riesling. It's a variety which one of the state's veterans Freycinet has excelled with in recent years.
Freycinet's 2007 presents a particularly flinty aroma, backed by nuances of green apple, mineral and wet slate. It shows an appealing point of difference. Its delicately clean mouthfeel and juicy mid-palate is partnered by dry, austere flavours in the mineral spectrum. A taste of apple and peach blossom is trailed by notes of lime juice, which evolves into a long, schisty finish entwined with a framework of crystalline-like acidity.
ü+ A crystal clear, juicy riesling with unique flavours bound by refreshingly cleansing acids. Enchanting. Drink to 2017.
GROSSET POLISH HILL RIESLING 2008
- Region: Clare Valley, SA
- Price: $38-$53
Make no bones about it; Grosset's Polish Hill is Australia's most prestigious riesling, standing out from the pack like an Armani suit in a Target store.
Brightly scented, the 2008 Polish Hill reveals a piercing fragrance of lemons, lime juice and musky pears with an undertone of savoury quality. Incredibly full and smooth for riesling and brimming with vibrant regional characteristics, its wonderfully long palate intensifies with sharp citric acids cutting into the mouth with definition and vitality, leaving a dry, lingering taste of lemon/lime sherbet.
ü+ Jeffrey Grosset's unwavering attention to vineyard management has once again imprinted his trademark power, texture, length and acid on his flagship Polish Hill, unquestionably one of Australia's most consistent wines. Drink to 2020.
HEGGIES RIESLING 2008
- Region: Eden Valley, SA
- Price: $15-$22
Alongside its Yalumba stablemate Pewsey Vale, Heggies' 2008 Riesling received rave reviews right across the country. Perhaps of most interest to me was when noted wine scribe Max Allen named it 'Best Australian White Under $30'.
Laced with a musky perfume of apples, white pear, peach blossom and citrus, the distinctly regional nose of Heggies' 2008 displays great poise and balance. Tightly polished, its delicately creamy apple, lemon and lime juice flavours are cut by a bracing yet deft touch of limey, mineral acidity. It finishes fresh and gentle, with moderate, if not outstanding depth.
ü+ Incredibly easy to drink and highly addictive, this is a perfect example of the delights of spotlessly clean Eden Valley riesling; however, as I find it lacks exceptional structure and length, I'm just not as excited about it as others seem to be. Ideal for medium term cellaring. Drink to 2016.
HOWARD PARK RIESLING 2008
- Region: Great Southern, WA
- Price: $22-$33
I think it'd be fair to say that Howard Park's is the most distinguished Australian riesling outside of South Australia. Recent vintages of this Great Southern icon have been fantastic. Personally I loved the pure, balanced, long and precise 2006 (95pts).
Clean and tight in its restrained aromatics, nuances of spicy limes, pear, mineral and wet slate lead into an impressively structured, full palate which contradicts itself with a most subtle flavour profile. It announces juicy authority on entry, allowing a great thrust of bell-clear minerals to push its pure citrus/stonefruit notes towards a persistent finish underscored by clean cut, chalky acidity and bright tones of grapefruit.
ü+ If Howard Park continues with superb rieslings like this, it's going to be very hard for the rest of Western Australia to consistently follow. Drink to 2020.
JACOB'S CREEK RIESLING 2008
- Region: Southern Australia
- Price: $7-$15
It might come as a shock to those who foolishly doubt the brand but Jacob's Creek is an excellent maker of riesling. Their standard and reserve releases almost always over deliver, whilst the Jacob's Creek Steingarten sits comfortably alongside Australia's best.
Genuinely fresh and varietal, especially given its price, the nose displays an attractive mix of candied lemon, lime juice and light spice aromas without complication. Round and juicy, with more than an inkling of ripe, sweet riesling flavours in the tropical fruit/apple spectrum, its clean and generous palate finishes sweet and sour with a trace of austere acidity.
ü Despite being a fraction candied (which will please some) the 2008 Jacob's Creek Riesling is great value. I continue to believe theirs is the best range of sub-$10 Australian varietals. Drink to 2011.
KANTA RIESLING 2007
- Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
- Price: $22-$33
Crafted by legendary German winemaker Egon Muller, the Kanta has taken just three vintages since its initial 2005 release to become the definitive Adelaide Hills riesling. It's already redefined what many believed the region could achieve with the variety.
Lightly floral with gentle notes of apple blossom, the 2007 Kanta reveals a restrained, oily fragrance of white pear. Taut and savoury, its bone-dry, austere palate contains a calculated balance of crisp lime juice, lanolin and brine flavours, finishing with a lengthy backbone of minerals and brittle acidity. It's certainly one of the more unique Australian rieslings I've encountered recently, but thankfully it has enough class to back up its sheer originality.
ü+ Structured and savoury, another first rate drop from one of Australia's most exciting new wine developments. Drink to 2017.
PETER LEHMANN EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2008
- Region: Eden Valley, SA
- Price: $12-$21
Together with the Yalumba pair of Pewsey Vale and Heggies, Peter Lehmann's was one of three Eden Valley rieslings from the 2008 vintage included in James Halliday's Top 100.
Steely aromas of pear, lime juice and lemon citrus define a classically tight, regional fragrance, before its juicy texture unloads bright apple/citrus fruit flavours with a clean, crisp finish marked by zesty, natural acidity and austere notes of lime. It drives in a wonderfully smooth fashion with the spotlessly clean, balanced characteristics expected of great Eden Valley riesling.
ü+ A standout 2008 Eden Valley riesling from the masterful Andrew Wigan. Drink to 2018.