If I had to pick one style of wine to enjoy for the rest of my life it would be Riesling.
No, seriously, it would be Riesling, I’m almost certain that the world would be a better place if more people drank Riesling, there’s even several unconfirmed reports of Riesling curing illnesses….again, seriously.
It’s one of the greatest joys in wine, and yet it’s still one of the most misunderstood wines, mainly because acidity is easily misinterpreted by our tongue and brain as sweetness. Riesling was the top white variety way back in the 70’s, where it was all about sweet and aromatic or heavily oaked wines were the style of the day. I think it’s this old style that everyone remembers and is the reason they avoid Riesling like the plague.
I have a strong belief that riesling will have a long awaited, and much anticipated, revival in Australia. Strangely enough though, I think the revival in riesling will be linked to the popularity of sauv blanc. Just as our tastes changed from wanting riesling to chard, then chard to a sauv blanc, we will move on to something new to tingle our tastebuds, and this is where I see the revival of riesling.
Back in the chardonnay boom it was a big jump to go from a big oaky and buttery chard, to a high acid, minerally, crisp Riesling. But from the crisp, fruity and aromatic sauv blanc’s to a riesling? Well, that’s only a small step.
Riesling is about as honest and bare as a wine can get, and although its homeland is definitely Germany, Riesling has had a long and considerable history in Australia, with our warmer climate producing thicker skinned grapes, sometimes seven times the thickness of German grown grape. The days of super sweet Rieslings have past, that’s not to say sweet Rieslings, especially sweet Riesling blends, aren’t out there and enjoyed, but 85% of the bottles on the shelves will be made as dry wines. That’s where the winemaker has fermented all the sugars in the crushed fruit, leaving barely any residual sugar, which then has a dry finish on the tongue.
It’s that varying amount of residual sugar in Riesling, and the fact that there are different claims on the many labels that make it hard for consumers to choose. That’s why the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) has developed a useful “dry vs sweetness scale” for winemakers. Wines are placed on the scale from dry, through medium-dry, medium sweet and sweet
The team at Leo Buring, part of the Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) empire, have embraced the International Riesling Scale, as it takes into account pH, acid and sweetness of the wine, giving an actual perceived sweetness result not just how sweet the wine would be based on residual sugar. This has been a great decision by the team at Buring, with the beauty of it being in the simplicity. Pick up two bottles, check the dots system and it tells you what you will be getting on your tongue, without having to know what words like “malolactic fermentation”, “whole bunch pressed” or “extended time on lees” are. It’s a great idea and one that more Riesling makers will embrace as the years go on.
The Leo Buring name is synonymous with embracing change, and using those changes to knock out great booze. Buring himself lived from 1876 to 1961, with his winemaking legend taking shape in 1945 when he bought his first vineyard and began building what became Chateau Leonay. Today there are four wines, only Rieslings, in the Buring line-up: entry level Clare and Eden Valley Dry Rieslings; the Leopold, a Tassie Riesling; and at the top is their flagship reserve, the Leonay Reisling.
A couple of Leo Buring’s together with another superb Treasury Riesling – the Seppelt Drumborg 2016.
Leo Buring Clare Valley Dry Riesling 2016 – lime, green apple and a touch of sweet florals, a classic example of Clare Riesling. On the tongue the lemon really comes through, more as lemon curd though, full of flavour on the tongue. It’s acidic and tangy, with light smoky/gunmetal/slate aftertaste that gives a fantastic finish. $15
Leo Buring Leonay DW T18 2016 – Every Leonay bears a bin number: for example, the newest release is 2016 Watervale, the DW stands for dry white, and the third alphabetic letter moves with the vintage, so the 2017 will be DW U-something, with the Watervale’s being numbered 18, the Eden Valley’s numbered 17. It’s crisp and seamless on the palate, slippery and smooth on the tongue, tangy and fresh. Acid in balance with the fruit. Tried this last year and the extra year in the bottle has done wonders. $33
Seppelt Drumborg Riesling 2016 – an absolutely amazing wine here, it has it all, mouthfeel and flavour, finesse and elegance. It’s built around a steely minerally, acid backbone, with wonderful fresh fruit flavours, pronounced lemon lime florals, citrus zest. With careful cellaring this will hold well for the next 20 years, perfect if you are thinking of something a little different to celebrate a birth of a child, wedding etc