The beauty of Australian riesling

By Campbell Mattinson

22 Feb, 2018

Riesling is kicking goals, according to reviewer Campbell Mattinson, who finds joy and surprise amid simplicity in the robust Australian landscape.

Last week, a riesling stole my heart.

I’ve been wading through wine after wine for week after week, in preparation for the next edition of the Halliday Wine Companion guide, and while I’m seeing a lot of fantastic wines, it would be fair to say that excitement left the building some time ago. Tasting wine en masse is about logistics and numbers and finding a way to get all the wines done without drowning in them. There’s no room for excitement. Excitement is for the un-busy.

Or so I thought. Until I opened a bottle of riesling, grown and made in Tasmania, by a producer and winemaker I’d not come across before.

You heard right, I said riesling. You don’t usually expect surprises with riesling. It’s dry, it’s aromatic, it’s pure… riesling is to wine what acoustic is to music. Chardonnay, on the other hand, is a full band playing loud. Riesling is unplugged, solo. You know what you’re going to get.

Or you would if Australian riesling wasn’t so healthy. Or maybe ‘competitive’ is a better word. Once upon a time, the Clare and Eden Valleys had the top spot on the dais on permanent allocation. The producers from those regions haven’t slipped an iota, but the rest of the Australian riesling landscape has jumped forward.

I’m seeing an incredible array of wines from over here and way over there. The Australian riesling landscape is vigorous. A quick scan of the wines to step forward and blow my world-weariness away: Massena’s Stonegarden Riesling from the Eden Valley for the magical way it blends texture and taste; Bloodwood’s Riesling from the Orange region for the way it takes texture and sets the dial to 11; the wild, exotic ride provided by Robert Stein’s Reserve Riesling from Mudgee; the blossomy brilliance of Gilbert's Riesling from way out Mount Barker way in WA; the incredible intensity, and value, of the Poonawatta Riesling ($28) from the Eden Valley; the year-in-year-out magic of Tim Adams' Riesling from the Clare, and the way he’s kept it priced at just $22.

And then there’s the Tasmanian wine that had me fumbling for words last week: the 2016 Kate Hill Riesling. I’m sure they make bugger-all of it and I’m buggered if I know how they make it so good. It has a trickle of sweetness to it, but the flavours explode from there; it lights up your palate like you wouldn’t believe. One sip and whoa! I didn’t just want to buy a dozen; I wanted two. One for now and one in case I run out sooner than that.

That's where Australian riesling is right now: every state is throwing lightning bolts of flavour. It's a good time to be alive.

Pick up the latest issue of Halliday magazine to read about the stellar new wave of riesling wines coming out of our nation’s wineries.