It feels a little dirty to be writing about wine right now. Or maybe it’s a sense of futility – I’m that guy talking about wine while sitting on one of the Titanic’s deck chairs, banging on about phenolics and acid balance while we slowly slide into the sea.
In particular, I worry about how the slow-moving shutdown threatens the lives and livelihoods of so many in wine (and hospitality for that matter. And travel. And nearly everything. Fuck).
Still, if there is anything that’s going to help right now, then Riesling’s purity and unadulterated vitality is the answer. The tonic to soothe raw nerves during any apocalypse.
I’m not being flippant either. Wine has an ability to take you to a different place, and no other variety is more terroir-expressive than Riesling. It’s the perfect grape for when you’re stuck at home, visualising being somewhere else (in happier times).
So, for your drinking pleasure, here is a collection of delicious Australian Riesling (and more) that have passed the desk this month.
Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017
I’ve been waiting to drink this since before Christmas, the long, slender bottle glinting at me in the wine fridge like white gold. Jac and I finally had a child-free date night on Saturday and this German made a welcome cameo, its beautiful lines reminding yet again why I fucking love Dönnhoff. This GG had everything that makes the style magical too. You can skull tumblers of it and just have an enjoyable, generously framed, delightfully fresh white wine. But closer inspection reveals layers and layers. Orange juice and mandarin through the middle. Acidity that is both soft and yet taut like a rubber band wrapped in a scarf. It’s wondrously complex, yet pure and simple in what it does. I could empty cases of this. Best drinking: I enjoy this style young. Within the next 4 years. 19/20, 96/100. 13%, $130. Would I buy it? Again? Sure would. Delicious.
Harewood Estate Mount Barker Riesling 2019
I look forward to the Harewood Riesling releases every year. Consistently delicious, with my preference for ‘this year’s favourite’ the only challenge. It’s a toss up between the Mount Barker release or Porongurup for mine, and maybe the latter wins this year due to more profundity (great word). There’s a whole box full of lemon limes on the nose of this Riesling, if a slightly more rounded expression for the range. That flesh only ups the drinkability, and there is a a cascade of citrus and grapefruit before perfect acidity. Lovely, vibrant flavours, energy, acidity = deliciousness. Best drinking: now. Sure, keep it, and drink after 4 years in the cellar. But I prefer this style young. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Definitely.
Harewood Estate Porongurup Riesling 2019
What this gives up in generosity it makes up in complexity. Profound in its green, grippy fruit layers. Melon. Grapefruit. Talc. Tangy and multi-faceted. Long. Supreme dry Riesling, if just a bit stern, and utterly high quality. Best drinking: now. Or wait. See Mount Barker notes above. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Pewsey Vale Contours Museum Release Riesling 2013
Why is this not championed like a celebrity wine? Old vine Riesling, from a cherished plot, released at a great point in its life? Yeah, I’m a fan. Riper year for Contours and packs an unquestioned intensity. Lime juice, but it’s not just limey – there’s more fruit, more layers and a welcome dash of toast (but not too much) before perfectly pitched, natural acidity. The combo of lime toast meets chalky acidity is just delicious, and makes this a satisfying drink. Best drinking: no hurry. Good now, good in a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12%, $40ish. Would I buy it? If I spot Contours on a wine list I don’t go any further. Yum.
Pikes The Merle Riesling 2019
You don’t need to read much further if you’re a Merle fan. Just know that Pikes have delivered what you want yet again. Water clear, compared to your standard Clare Riesling this has an extra level of intensity with an effortless drinkability to it. Maybe a slightly more softer expression compare to some vintages but that’s hardly a problem – it just amps up the limey deliciousness. High quality. Best drinking: now or wait for 4 years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 11%, $48. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Shaw + Smith Riesling 2019
Fascinating. When I first tried this soon after release I was no fan, the grapefruit acidity a turn off. But a second bottle opened over several days now had this Adelaide Hills Riesling in fine form. Plenty of grapefruit, lemon juice and a whisper of preserved lemon. Ripe, but with high high acidity too. I rather like it. The best Hills Riesling I’ve had in years. Best drinking: sure, it was still alive on day 4 but I still would prefer this young. Or maybe after a decade for variety. 18.5/20, 94/100. 11.5%, $32. Would I buy it? Yes
Harewood Estate Frankland River Riesling 2019
The ripest wine in the Harewood range. Forward. Gentle mandarin juice palate and the acid feels more orange citrus rather than grapefruit. Open and pleasurable, if not stepping up the ladder like the Mount Barker. Another lovely wine regardless. Best drinking: nowish. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2019
Tim Smith Wines Eden Valley Riesling 2019
Always a pleasure to see one of Tim’s wines on the bench. Plenty to like about this very dry Eden Valley Riesling too. Piercing acidity contrasts with the forward mid palate (a little skin contact?) all making for something both frisky fresh and limey yet still plenty round. On form. Best drinking: good now or wait for 5 years. 18/20, 93/100. 11%, $28. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses at least.
Galafrey Reserve Mount Barker Riesling 2018
As ever with the dry-grown Galafrey wines the intensity here is up sky high, even if it’s in a bit of a development hole. Dry, firm and long, the grapefruity palate has toasty bottle age creeping in at the edges but in that weird phase when proper aged characters haven’t started and primary fruit has softened a little. Come back later. Score is a nod to the future. Best drinking: from three years time. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $24.99. Would I buy it? A bottle for the cellar.
Harewood Estate Denmark Riesling 2019
Such a different wine compared to the rest of the Harewood ’19s. Green. Really quite green fruited and tangy it’s sullen and cucumber-y. Rides in with that snappy green edged fruit but doesn’t leave behind much. Acidity is prominent though and it’s very long. Structure is classy, you can see that time is the only thing needed. Best drinking: later this year onwards. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Mesh Classic Release Riesling 2014
I could be an outlier, but most Australian dry Riesling I prefer drinking young. There are exceptions – like Contours above – but largely I like the impetuous freshness of youth. This Mesh Riesling trades in some of the toast and extra width of bottle age but I’m not sure it’s a better wine because of it. It smells more forward than it tastes, the palate a driven force of tangy green fruit. A real phenolic drive. Clean and super lean, there’s great length here though not much give. Technically, it’s spot on, hence the score, but I wavered between convinced and unmoved. Best drinking: nowish, but it will last for a decade yet, even if it might not get better. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Mesh Riesling 2019
Side by side and the younger and older Mesh look very alike. There’s that Eden Valley green melon and talc and that tang, almost to the point of being unripe. Long and lean, the acidity drives everything, but I want just a little more flavour to hold onto. Still high quality. Best drinking: maybe later this year? 17.7/20, 92/100. 12%, $32. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Pizzini Pinot Grigio 2019
One of the most consistently good, well-priced Grigio on the market. New packaging looks good too. Crunchy, varietal and well- built with just the right balance between ripe fruit and acidity, complete with subtle waxy Grigio textures. Enjoyable. Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12%, $21. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle at this price.
McGuigan The Shortlist Riesling 2013
Seven years old but still waiting for its prime. That’s my prognosis for this McGuigan Eden Valley Riesling, the style still clinging on to its primary fruit. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of lemon butter on toast richness but the pithy acidity really reigns things back in, the finish just a fraction tinny. It ends up being too cool, too reductive, too lean, yet still packing in a proper intensity. In other words, flavour, bot not enough cohesion. Best drinking: give it another few years. It will live for an age though. 17.5/20 , 91/100. 11.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pike & Joyce Riesling 2019
Taut Adelaide Hills Riesling from the Joyce & Pike families. Getting the acid balance right with Hills Riesling is tricky, although using residual sugar isn’t the answer either. This white goes for acidity with proper Warhead like sour grapefruit acidity that, while cleansing, is dominant. It makes for a wine of freshness but perhaps too lean for big points. Super pure though. Best drinking: from now, but I feel like this will continue to get better as everything resolves. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Xabregas Mount Barker Riesling 2019
Built in a more easygoing mode this year, the fruit fleshy, with cooked limes and just enough acidity. Fleshy, but imprecise this vintage. Long though. Best drinking: 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $23. Would I buy it? A glass.
Galafrey Riesling Muller Thurgau 2019
Normally a straight Muller Thurgau but a tricky harvest led Kim from Galafrey to blend in some Riesling. It helps gives this different shares too, with the black texta, musk and spice contrasting with Riesling’s perky citrus. The palate is almost painfully dry, grippy and neural – I find myself reaching for flavours here – but refreshment is high. I wonder whether it would be a better wine with even more Riesling in the blend, which is hardly a big tick for workhorse Muller. Still, plenty of enjoyment here. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $18. Would I buy it? A glass.
Gatch The White 2018
Plenty of interest with these Gatch wines. This white is a blend of Riesling, Sauv & Pinot Gris from Adelaide Hills & the Clare Valley, all co-fermented in older oak with some skin contact. The style is somewhere in between crunchy aromatic white and something more textural and filled out by skin contact. At first glance it’s fresh and lightly citrussy, the nose hard to pin down – not truly aromatic and fruit driven but still plenty floral. Phenolics then drive the palate, though maybe goes too far into mouth puckering for big love. Ultimately I like the tang and the proper refreshment, but it needs a bit more fruit to match up with that grip. Intrigue here though Best drinking: now and over the next few years. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $28. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Yalumba Organic Pinot Grigio 2018
All South Australian fruit – from the Carypidis vineyard on the Adelaide Plains. Yalumba’s reliability is unrivalled and even drinkable Grigio is not out of their remit. This is leaner, true Pinot Grigio style with some Gris ripeness. A nice flush of flavour here – pear juiciness. The palate is just a bit neutral and buzzy, finishing with grip and a little warmth but it actually means this has flavour. Good. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass.