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Australian Riesling: Panel tasting results

Below, Anthony Rose looks at the varying styles of Aussie Riesling, and John Stimpfig comments on the results of this panel tasting. Decanter Premium members can read the full report and see all 133 wines...

Few countries outside Germany take Riesling quite as seriously as Australia, reports Anthony Rose.

Its history with the variety goes back to the first half of the 19th century, after the country’s first viticulturist, William Macarthur, travelled to the Rheingau to bring back Riesling cuttings.

Early Pewsey Vale Rieslings were described by Thomas Hardy as ‘fine, light, delicate… and nearer in type to the Rhine wines than any produced in the Colony’.

No Rhine River runs through South Australia’s Clare or Eden Valleys though, and the climate is relatively warm and dry by German standards, which makes the wines from these two valleys – the dominant terroirs for Riesling in Australia – an enigma.

Australian Riesling: the facts

Plantings 3,157ha in 2015, down from a peak of 4,200ha in 1984

Australian plantings represent 8% of the global total of 50,000ha (Germany has 45%)

Main areas Clare Valley has more than a third of all Australia’s Riesling under vine, followed by Eden Valley and Riverina
Production 28,288 tonnes in 2017 – Australia’s seventh-biggest white variety both produced and exported (5 million litres in 2016-2017)

Australian Riesling: know your vintages

2017 Cold vintage, giving structured wines of youthful appeal and fine potential longevity. Some say the vintage of the century (to date).

2016 Cool and wet year: rich-flavoured wines and high natural acidity. Balanced and structured for ageing.

2015 Ripe vintage gave charming, fruity wines but lacking 2014’s structure or longevity.

2014 Cool ripening conditions gave intense, citrussy wines with good natural acidity. Delicate and cellarworthy.

2013 Warmer than 2012 with low yields due to a drier spring, but similar structure and delicacy of cooler years.

2012 Dry spring and mild summer: a classic year with fresh, delicate, lively wines that have continued to age well.

2011 Many fine ‘European-style’ wines with botrytis complexity where rot wasn’t ruinous.

Exceptional & Outstanding Australian Rieslings from the panel tasting:

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