Crisp and dry – a perfect summer wine

January 12, 2022 BY

The Clare Valley is one of the flag bearers for Australian Riesling. Photo: SCOTT DAVIS/CREATIVE COMMONS

Riesling was one of the early grape varieties in Australia to be produced in the crisp, pristine dry manner that has seen them become one of Australia’s iconic wine styles.

The move towards this style is attributed to work around the 1950s when cold, pressurised fermentations were introduced to maintain temperature and keep oxygen out.

Early bottling further protected the wines from developing any oxidative characters. This was driven out of the South Australian regions of the Clare Valley and Eden Valley primarily, and they remain the flag bearers for Australian Riesling.

There is little use of fermentation vessels outside of stainless steel, ferments remain cool and ageing is usually brief with none of the techniques you might see with other grapes like lees stirring or malolactic fermentation to alter texture.

These are crisp, dry linear wines with primary fruits of citrus, some tropical notes and maybe some floral characters too. It’s hard to go past a producer that only makes Riesling, over a dozen of them in some vintages. Rieslingfreak sources fruit form across both the Clare and Eden Valleys bottling in varying styles based on the characteristics of where they are grown.

The Riesling No. 3 ($25) from the Clare Valley is sourced from their ‘home’ block so they keep a close eye on this one. The soils here generate quite bold fruit expression, there are some floral characters in the background but this all about the fruit stretching from the ripe lemon and lime that provides a nice spine of refreshing acidity through to the mouth filling fruits that venture into the tropical spectrum. Great intensity of flavour and a delicious glass of Riesling.

Sweetness – the mention of sugar or sweetness in white wine often sends people running. Particularly so in Riesling where wines throughout the 1970s and 1980s pushed the sugar to an unbalanced, obtrusive level, producing wines that were cloying and sickly without sufficient acidity to balance out that sugar. Equally so was the use of other grape varieties in wines that only had Riesling on the label, so wines that had a significant portion of grapes like Gewurtraminer ended up giving Riesling a bad name.

We are long past those days and for the most part Riesling that has residual sugar left in the wine, has it there for a reason – balance. You need sugar at times to balance high levels of acidity that would otherwise come across as being too tart or shrill and equally acid is there to cut through an residual sugar and a wine that may taste fruity or sweet on the front of your palate with finish with a completely clean dry impression thanks to the delicate balance between these two factors.

To take some baby steps in to this world the Fritz’s Riesling ($24) from Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen region of Germany is a great value option made in an off-dry style with a little residual sugar. It’s ripe and juicy at the fore with green apples and peach, zesty lemon and then any perception of fruity sweetness begins to fall away as a clean refreshing finish takes over with a gentle mineral/ stone character to it.

Or to jump in a little further the Heroes ‘Das Helden’ Riesling ($28) from the Otway Hinterland which has 70 grams of residual sugar, it is more evident and obvious in the wine but works beautifully with very high natural acidity present in the fruit from such a cool climate.
At no point do you get the feeling that the sugar is too much or cloying, again it finishes with mouth-watering fresh acidity.