Riesling thrives in cool climates. So, if you’re looking for a bottle, your gut instinct might be to consider one from traditional Riesling-producing regions like the Finger Lakes or Germany, rather than the sun-soaked vineyards of Australia.
Australian Rieslings have their own distinctive style. They are normally bone dry, though off-dry offerings occasionally make an appearance. With rapier-like acidity and bright fruit, these Aussie bottlings can often age for years.
Clare Valley, for example, is considered by many to be Australian Riesling’s spiritual home. This may come as a surprise because the Clare Valley is generally warm and continental, which is often unsuitable for this white grape. However, the large diurnal shift (the difference between day and night temperatures) and high-elevation vineyards allow this grape to thrive and develop bright acidity.
Meanwhile, Eden Valley is home to some of the world’s oldest Riesling vines. Here, the temperatures at night plummet even lower than in the Clare Valley. Eden Valley’s vineyards often contain loamy sand, clay and gravel soils which help produce lithe Rieslings with bright fruit and delicate floral notes, paired with a talc-like texture. These wines often age well.
Great bottles can also be found in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. Here are a few Australian offerings to look out for.
Recommended Australian Riesling
Grosset 2018 Polish Hill Riesling (Clare Valley); $52, 96 points. Another exceptional Clare Valley vintage has produced a downright beautiful, textured and highly focused expression of Australia’s most famed Riesling from the master, Jeffrey Grosset. The nose is more open and fruit forward than the previous vintage, bursting with freshly sliced lime, guava, heady florals and streaks of stoney minerals. The palate is bone dry, slippery and fresh, with bright limey fruit and an endlessly long mouthwatering finish. Drink now–2039. Hudson Wine Brokers. Editors’ Choice. —Christina Pickard
Frankland Estate 2017 Isolation Ridge Single Vineyard Riesling (Western Australia); $40, 94 points. This is a pristine, ultrafocused and age-worthy example of Aussie Riesling from one of Great Southern’s leading producers. It bursts from the glass with notes of lime leaf, white pepper, honeysuckle and dried green herbs. The mouthfeel is chalky with intense acidity and fresh lime and herb flavors. Give this time to morph into a thing of exquisite beauty. Drink 2021–2034. Quintessential Wines. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Ninth Island 2017 Riesling (Tasmania); $25, 93 points. Kreglinger Wine Estates, the umbrella company for Ninth Island and Pipers Brook, snagged celebrated Hunter Valley winemaker Jim Chatto to helm their wine labels in 2017, and lucky them. This gold-hued Riesling sees some skin contact, resulting in a rich, textured style. It leads with white peach, lemon, blossoms, nougat, coconut and cashew (despite having no oak influence). Tingly acidity on the palate brightens the fruit, giving it a tang which beautifully offsets the mouthfilling texture: an intriguing food-paring wine, perhaps with spicy Chinese dishes. Little Peacock Imports. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Leeuwin Estate 2017 Art Series Riesling (Margaret River); $22, 92 points. This wine offers slightly underripe pineapple, citrus, freshly picked green herbs and honeysuckle on the nose, all backed by a prominent streak of minerality. The palate is chalky and tightly wound, sliced by fabulous citrusy acidity and juicy fruit that linger on the long finish. Drink now–2029. Old Bridge Cellars. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Pewsey Vale 2018 Individual Vineyard Estate Dry Riesling (Eden Valley); $19, 92 points. Part of the Hill-Smith dynasty that includes Yalumba, this straw-hued Eden Valley Riesling is testament to winemaker Louisa Rose’s passion for the variety. In Eden’s typical fruit-forward fashion, the nose is a restrained yet attractive combo of ripe peach, tangerine and waxy citrus fruit, with soft floral and herbal nuances. The palate is broad and mouthfilling but not creamy. Instead it’s a precise balance of lifted acidity, chalky texture and concentrated fruit. Drink through 2029. Negociants USA–Winebow. —C.P.
Living Roots 2016 Native Citrus Riesling (Adelaide Hills); $24, 91 points. This is a fruity honeyed Riesling made in an off-dry style with fruit sourced from the Adelaide Hills. It pops with lemon drops, honeysuckle, herbs and floral nuances. Crunchy acidity and chalky texture work in harmony with one another, keeping the fruit bright and balancing the sweetness. This could hold its own against the spiciest of dishes. Living Roots Wine & Co. —C.P.
Wakefield 2018 St. Andrews Riesling (Clare Valley); $40, 91 points. Wakefield’s single-vineyard Riesling is always as traditional Clare Valley as it gets and this vintage—a dry and low-yielding one—doesn’t disappoint. From grapes grown on terra rossa over limestone soil, it’s austere and very young but has all of the lemon-lime, white-pepper, chalk-dust and honeysuckle characters you’d hope for. The palate is tight, focused and bone dry, with laser-sharp acidity, a talc-like texture, fresh citrus fruit and a long limey finish. Drink 2021–2029 and likely beyond. Seaview Imports. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Thorn Clarke 2018 Eden Trail Riesling (Eden Valley); $18, 90 points. This bright, fruity Riesling neatly expresses the Eden Valley through freshly sliced green apples, lime and tangerine peel backed by some white-spice and lavender notes. There’s a burst of mouthwatering acidity on the dry palate, along with tingly juicy fruit and a chalky texture. This is a tasty easy-drinking drop now and it has potential to age into a more honeyed version of itself, so drink now through 2026. Kysela Père et Fils. —C.P.