Why is it that so few off-dry Australian Rieslings manage to taste properly balanced?
Sure, it’s a rhetorical question, but one that is annoyingly hard to full answer.
On the one hand, you could say that we don’t have the conditions for truly great off-dry styles, with many of our best Riesling vineyards planted in warm climes (especially compared to the Mosel or Wachau). You could also say that the lack of great off-dry Rieslings is a style thing, with our Riesling growers still hamstrung by the lingering bad taste of generations of bad sweet Rieslings from decades ago.
But there are rebuttals for both of those points. Tasvegas, for one, has sites that are as chilly as, say, vineyards in the Pfalz (though not the slate and slopes of Mosel), so the climate thing is more about what’s currently planted (and where) than anything else. Similarly, the rash of sweeter styles on wine lists around the place suggests that the old mantra – that people talk dry and drink sweet – is still absolutely true.
Regardless, there is still a gaping hole where ‘good off-dry Australian Riesling’ should live. Some have tried to fill this hole – and special mention to Xabregas and Pressing Matters in passing – but generally, even the much lauded Prima from Pewsey Vale and Alea from Grosset remain slightly too sweet and harder to drink.
All of which makes me glad to find this La Linea Riesling.
Made by David LeMire MW (man of many hats who is often found spruiking the wares of Shaw + Smith) and Peter Leske (who’s made wine just about everywhere), this white comes from Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills (hardly Riesling territory) and is crafted in an ‘innovative weinstyle‘ (according to the label) that theoretically sits at circa feinherb or low kabinett level and carries 25g/L residual sugar.
Importantly, what it doesn’t do is taste sweet. Not at all. Doesn’t smell sweet either, for that matter. Instead, it smells of freshness – of lemon, grapefruit and straw, the handpicked fruit showing a just picked, snap chilled definition that suggests mighty healthy fruit and careful winemaking. It’s just starting to get a little of the first dribbles of enrichening bottle maturity on the nose, but the florals and sprightly primary fruit is still on full display.
Underneath all that, there is more lemon, more grapefruit and more delicate fruit, the acid bracing but not about to shoot you in the mouth, that acid softened by the soothing effect of just enough sweetness with just a dash of tropicals like a shot in a bucket of punch.
Ultimately, why this works is that it doesn’t try too hard. It’s understated, delicate, fragrant and, well, forgiving. The sweetness here is a background influence. The whole is what keeps you coming back for more.
Tasted: Dec 14
Score: 18.5/20, 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes. But forget me, the ultimate litmus test was giving this to my mum (mum’s know best), who is particularly sceptical of sweeter Riesling. She liked it too.
Buy online: La Linea website