AUSTRALIAN and NEW ZEALAND RIESLINGS...BLIND-TASTING
Starting the new year with something a bit "different," we assembled a
set of Rieslings made by wineries in Australia and New Zealand.
Most local consumers associate Riesling with sweet wines, but there are many
wineries vinifying it as to total dryness.
Having been a fan of Australia's Pewsey Vale "Contours" Rieslings, we
thought it would be interesting to have a look at the wines from other vintners.
The tasting was quite nice, but I, frankly, did not find anything as soulful and
complex as the eight to ten year old vintages of Pewsey Vale. Of course,
the wines in this tasting were quite young. Not having any experience with
these as well-aged, nicely-cellared wines, it's difficult to predict how they
One wine was clearly ahead of the pack and nearly universally-liked. Even
with one last place vote, the wine was way ahead of the rest. Similarly,
another wine was a bit behind the rest of the field despite having a single
first place vote (yes, the same fellow had a whale of a 'delta,' the difference
between his rankings and the group's).
Here's what we found:
2016 Clare Valley
The Lodge Hill Dry RIESLING
2016 Clare Valley
2014 Adelaide Hills
2015 Marlborough NZ
2016 Margaret River
Art Series RIESLING
2016 Clare Valley
Hills & Valleys RIESLING
2015 Clare Valley
The Merle RIESLING
2015 Central Otago, NZ
Red Bank Vineyard
8th Place: LEEUWIN ESTATE 2016 Margaret
River Art Series RIESLING
Clear in appearance and medium straw in color, the fragrances here were
light and showing hints of pear-like fruit. The wine was off-dry and
showed ample acidity. It simply lacked depth, being a lean and skinny
little wine. Shallow, well-vinified, but offering no special character of
the noble Riesling grape. I gave it a half-star rating on my three star
scale, no stars being a standard quality wine.
7th Place: PIKES 2016 Clare Valley "Hills
& Valleys" RIESLING
Medium straw in color and clear in appearance, there was a mildly fruity
fragrance at the start which seemed to offer a faintly yeasty element as the
wine warmed a bit. This was off-dry and fairly crisp on the palate, being
medium-bodied thanks, I believe, to its slight bit of residual sugar. It's
balanced, overall, with modest Riesling character. I gave this a
6th Place: JIM BARRY 2016 Clare Valley "The
Lodge Hill" Dry RIESLING
Light straw in color and clear in appearance, this was another standard
quality little Riesling. The nose was mildly fruity, but not terribly
expressive. It is dry and nicely crisp. On the palate it's merely
vinous at this stage and there's not much there there as Gertrude Stein might
It's a bit empty as a young wine...No stars presently.
5th Place: TWO PADDOCKS 2015 Central Otago
"Red Bank Vineyard" RIESLING
Clear in appearance and medium straw in color. It's really bright,
fresh and young on the nose with nice Riesling fruit. Floral.
Lime. Citrus. It's dryish on the palate and quite crisp.
Medium bodied. I found this to be a more complete wine on the palate than
many of the others. It's perhaps not particularly complex, but it does
seem to have some layers of flavors and does show classic Riesling notes.
I gave it one-and-a-half stars and expect this to become more complex with time.
4th Place: KANTA 2014 Adelaide Hills "Balhannah
Medium straw in color and clear in appearance. I pegged this as
having a bit of bottle age as it seemed more developed than others. Sure
enough! It's dry, crisp and very tangy on the palate. Medium bodied,
there's an odd flavor reminiscent of caraway seeds and/or rye bread. I
also found, despite its crisp acidity, there's a flat quality on the finish
which dropped this down a bit. It's somewhere between a half star and a
one star rating. I'd be interested to try this with a meal and see how it
It's made in collaboration with German winemaker Egon Müller
and Michael Andrewartha of East End Cellars and they've been making this for a
number of years now.
3rd Place: PIKES 2015 Clare
Valley "The Merle" RIESLING
Light straw in color and clear in appearance, I suspect this is one of
the wines in the tasting which may develop quite nicely. It's got a good
nose with plenty of floral tones and fruity elements. There's a touch of
grapefruit pith/spice, too. Dry on the palate and crisp.
Medium-light bodied presently and it seems nicely energetic and zippy on the
palate. Very fresh.
I gave it three-quarters of a star at the moment, but will be interested to see
if this doesn't blossom with several years of cellaring.
2nd Place: JIM BARRY 2016 Clare
Valley "Watervale" RIESLING
Light straw in color, the nose of this was nicely complex. It's
mildly stony and floral/fruit with a vague hint of petrol. The wine is
close to dry and has plenty of snappy, fresh acidity. Medium light bodied,
the flavors offer lime notes and, again, fresh, crisp Riesling. One star
presently, it will be interesting to see this in a year or two.
1st Place: LAWSON'S DRY HILLS 2015
Medium+ straw in color and clear in appearance. The fragrances
here were of ripe fruit and an odd note of oatmeal? Or is that baked
apples? The wine was close to dry, with a touch of sweetness, but zesty,
crisp acidity. Medium bodied. The wine had a lush texture and good
Riesling flavors without relying on residual sugar to give it weight and
length. It's not a profound bottle of Riesling, but it delivers
pleasurable character. Even better, as it turns out, it's got the best
quality-to-price ratio. I gave it one-and-a-half stars...not a
world-beater, but it's a nice glass of wine. It probably won't develop as
much complexity as some of the others, but for immediate drinking, it's quite
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