The Drop with Olivia Evans – spring fling with riesling
Today I had a craving for a bunch of sweet lilies and the tang of lime juice on the rim of a margarita. I wanted to roam through a field on a just-warm day, where the air carries the scent of fresh grass to your sensory bank. A moment sat by a river that runs over stones baking under sunlight that, when you truly think about it, creates a scent that is undeniably mineral. There’s a feeling of anticipation as the drone of bees fill the backyard and your skin begins to show pink from the day. In shorter words, spring has arrived and what I crave is a glass of riesling.
Riesling is one of those grapes that I like to describe as a ‘Vegemite wine’ – you either love it or you hate it. For those who are deterred from riesling because of its connotations of sweetness, rest assured that this isn’t always the case. The unexpected nature of wine trends sees styles dance in and out of the limelight but, for the most part, dry is ‘in’ these days. Riesling has the rare ability to be equally dazzling as a bone dry, slightly sweet (off-dry) or sweet expression.
The variety hails from the Middle Ages in Germany where a variety called weisser heunisch evolved into the probable riesling vine, first documented in 1348. For those chardonnay lovers out there, weisser heunisch is also its parent vine, which is remarkable, but makes sense considering their alikeness. They have similar acid levels and palate structure, and both have the ability to translate a vineyard’s environmental traits into a glass. It’s what makes these varieties so fascinating to wine lovers. It was Germany who made riesling king, however it later prospered in Alsace and, in the 1850s, German immigrants established the variety in South Australia.
There’s a profound difference in expressions of riesling that come from two prevalent regions, for example the Clare Valley in Australia and its most distinctively associated region, Mosel in Germany. Vineyards that run along the Mosel River sit on cliff-like slopes of slate soils that make for the most unbelievable farming sites. Although it is extremely cold, the slate soils absorb the heat of the day to keep the vines warm through the night. This helps the fruit reach a level of ripeness, yet it is the mineral expression from the soil and the freshness of acid from the cool climate that makes this region so notable. The wines often sit at lower levels of alcohol (between 9–11 percent ABV). The style of German Kabinett riesling often has that little touch of residual sugar that parallels the flavours of an elderflower lemonade and the crunch of apple cider poured over ice. The ideal bottle for a picnic basket and the desire for day drinking in the sun.
If it simply must be dry, the German style of Trocken is a great place to start, but the Clare Valley also has you taken care of. Commonly known to Australians as ‘rizza’, these wines propose a medium body due to the unquestionable effects of penetrating sunrays. The Clare is a series of gullies, with hills rising to more than 400 m, which gives significant variations in temperature with cool nights and low rainfall. It’s no Mosel, but its limestone and slate soils create a friendly home for this very choosy vine. One sip will have your mouth watering with fragrant lime juice and longing for a salad with goats cheese to munch your way through the afternoon.
The world of wine choices is vast and wonderful but, like cocktails, there is nothing wrong with revisiting the classics. A slender bottle of riesling may perfectly sum up how you’re feeling about the change in season. Light, fresh and full of excitement for the warmer days ahead. It will never be a crowd pleaser, but frankly, there’s only enough of the really good ones for those who truly crave it. Happy spring sipping!
Please note – two glasses of riesling were consumed during the creation of this article.
Bottles to try:
Koerner ‘Gullyview’ riesling (dry) – Clare Valley, South Australia
Melsheimer ‘Trocken’ Riesling (dry) – Mosel, Germany
Kühling-Gillot ‘Nierstein’ Riesling Kabinett (off-dry) – Rheinhessen, Germany
Jumping Juice Riesling (dry) – Gippsland, Victoria
Eva Fricke Rheingau Riesling Trocken (dry) – Rheingau, Germany
Rieslingfreak ‘No.4’ Riesling (dry) – Eden Valley, South Australia
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