By JOHN ROZENTALS
WINE: 06 AUGUST 2016
Let's hear if for riesling ... a great Australian drink
Now, I fully realise that bottleshop proprietors and managers are simply doing their jobs by responding to demand, but it still gives me pangs of heartache when I browse bottleshop shelves and see so much pinot grigio (gris) and sauvignon blanc and so little riesling.
It isn’t that I have anything against the former varieties as long as the wines are well crafted, and made from well managed vineyards where yields have been kept in check.
What hurts is that riesling, undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest white grape varieties, with only chardonnay as its equal, is sometimes relegated to that rather anonymous section of shelving designated ‘Other Varieties’.
I realise, too, that the variety’s problems largely rest with the past sins of winemakers, who often labelled blended, quite ordinary, sweetish white wines as ‘riesling’.
Do many people still view rieslings as ordinary, often sweet wines that they don’t dare put in front of guests or be seen imbibing in their local bistro?
Surely it’s time to put that notion behind us. Many are bone dry, delicate and fragrant wines that sit most comfortably with dishes of fresh seafood or salad. They are simply delicious.
I was reminded of just how delicious, when I sampled a couple of recent releases (see notes below) from Leo Buring, now part of the giant Treasury Estates portfolio but once the eponymous label of a man who loved riesling and, using material from South Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, fashioned some of Australia’s greatest and longest-living whites.
Winemaker Peter Munro obviously shares Buring’s passion and relishes the challenges thrown at him by Mother Nature, especially during Clare Valley vintages such as 2016, where the season started off exceptionally hot and dry but then moved into much milder days and delivered rain at just the right times.
Above: Peter Munro ... shares Leo Buring’s passion for great riesling.
LEO BURING 2016 CLARE VALLEY DRY RIESLING ($20): Shows off the lovely limey and floral aromas of excellent Clare Valley rieslings, and there’s a delightful cleansing minerality on the palate. Stock up for the coming summer. The wine is a Watervale blend sourced from Buring's own vineyards and those from long-term-contracted growers. Visit https://www.tweglobal.com/brands/leo-buring.
LEO BURING 2016 LEONAY WATERVALE RIESLING DW T18 ($40): Leonay is Buring’s flagship and it’s almost a shame to drink this now, because it has the classic structure that will see it slowly develop into one of the world’s greatest wines. The grapes were harvested from two blocks on the company's Carlsfield Vineyard, the highest in Watervale, one of the Clare Valley's premium riesling sub-districts. Visit https://www.tweglobal.com/brands/leo-buring.
NINTH ISLAND 2015 PINOT NOIR ($24): Ninth Island is part of Kreglinger Wine Estates, which is based in northern Tasmania and also has Pipers Brook in its portfolio. This is an excellent, gamey, early-drinking pinot to try with duck. The name refers to a tiny island in Bass Strait, a windswept conservation area offering refuge to penguins and endangered seabirds. It lies within view of Kerglinger's Pipers Brook Vineyard. Visit http://kreglingerwineestates.com
PIPERS BROOK 2015 PINOT GRIS ($34): Skin contact of the juice prior to fermentation and some barrel-fermentation have ensured that this dry white is definitely in the fuller, more complex gris style, rather than in lighter, more straightforward grigio style. Look to Alsace for comparisons rather than to Italy. For food matches look towards more full-flavoured white meat dishes such as roasted chicken or risotto. Visit http://kreglingerwineestates.com