As Sonny Fodera almost said, “Give Me A Riesling”. Of course that’s a bit silly – who wants just one Riesling? Riesling is known as one of the most terroir-transparent grapes around, i.e. the aromas, flavours and texture of the wine are very dependent on where it is grown. Wine-making techniques to influence the style of the wine are used sparingly – oak influence is rarely seen, for example – but there is one major decision that winemakers take: to vinify the wine dry or to leave some residual sugar. Here are two excellent Rieslings which showcase different styles:
Disclosure: both bottles were kindly provided as samples, opinions remain my own
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2016
Petaluma is a premium wine producer located in the Adelaide Hills, just east of the city of Adelaide. They were founded in 1976 with the aim of making excellent wines from the regions and vineyards most suited to each variety. Their range has expanded gradually and now includes:
- White Label (everyday wines): Dry Rosé, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
- Crozer Sparkling: Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling, Adelaide Hills Non Vintage Sparkling Rosé, Piccadilly Valley Vintage Sparkling
- Petaluma Project Co. (experimental bottlings): Barbera, Malbec
- Yellow Label & Specials (top tier range): Hanlin Hill Riesling, Cane Cut Clare Valley Riesling, Essence Botrytis (Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend), Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, B&V Vineyard Adelaide Hills Shiraz, Coonawarra Merlot, Evans Vineyard Coonawarra (Cab Sauv / Merlot / Shiraz blend), Tiers Chardonnay
Clare Valley is in South Australia, almost due north from Adelaide and at the top of the Mount Lofty Ranges (Australia’s literal naming convention strikes again). Even within this small region there are significant stylistic differences, most easily illustrated by Grosset’s Polish Hill and Springvale Rieslings.
Although Riesling is the king here, there are red wines made from varieties that are more closely associated with warmer climates: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. This apparent departure from the norm is because of the high diurnal range which gives the black grapes enough sun and heat but cools down enough at night to keep the Riesling grapes happy.
This Riesling – as the name suggests – is from the Hanlin Hill single vineyard which sits at 550 metres altitude. At four years from vintage it still pours a pale lemon colour. Lime and slate open the aromas along with grapefruit and peach stone. There’s a very light whiff of kerosene but its lack of intensity shows that this wine is till fairly young.
On the palate this wine is very clean (but not Clean!) and fresh, but still pithy and with some body. It’s very dry (probably technically dry, i.e. as dry as fermentation could take it) as is the norm in the Clare Valley, but the mid-palate has plenty of fruit sweetness with peach and grapefruit joining racy lemon and juicy lime.
This bottle opened up more as I returned to taste it over several days; if consuming in one sitting I would actually recommend decanting it, not something I would usually think of for Rieslings. And I liked it so much, I think I will definitely find some more of this…and hopefully taste it with some more age!
- ABV: 12.5%
- RRP: €31.95
- Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2017
I’ve already explained the subregions of the Mosel in a recent post, so I won’t repeat it all here. You may remember my reference to “the famous sundial vineyards” of the Bernkastel District…well the German for sundial is Sonnenuhr so we have one of those here!
Selbach-Oster is a very traditional producer based in Zeltingen in the Middle Mosel, with a family history in wine spanning four centuries (to date!) The business has two sides: a negociant operation J. & H. Selbach which uses bought in fruit, and the estate proper Weingut Selbach-Oster. Their vineyards amount to 24 hectares in total and are located in Zeltinger itself plus Wehlen and Graach:
- Zeltinger Himmelreich
- Zeltinger Schlossberg
- Zeltinger Sonnenuhr
- Wehlener Sonnenuhr
- Graacher Domprobst
The biggest giveaway as to the style of this wine is the alcohol: 8.5% abv. The relatively low alcohol – even for a northerly country such as Germany – indicates that some of the sugar in the grapes has not been fermented and so is present as residual sugar. The trend in Germany is for drier wines, even Rieslings which have usually had some sweetness to them, so this is very much a traditional style.
I was unable to find a residual sugar figure for this wine so my best guess as to its sweetness would be medium – definitely sweeter than off-dry but not into dessert wine territory. However, due to its thrilling acidity, the sweetness is received by the palate as fruitiness more than sugariness. Although sugar isn’t volatile (i.e. smellable) there are sweet notes on the nose of this wine. It isn’t that complex though…just totally delicious!
- ABV: 8.5%
- RRP: €20.45
- Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie
Tasted back to back these two wines are remarkably different, yet share some vital things in common: citrus aromas and flavours, lifted aromatics and the minerality plus racy acidity that typifies Riesling. The Mosel example is easier to like but the Clare Riesling is more cerebral; pick the one you feel in the mood for!
And for those who might recognise the song alluded to in the title, here’s Sonny Fodera ft. Janai – Give Me A