The Australian style of Riesling varies from light and delicate to more powerful, but all share winemaking techniques of no oxidation, low-temperature fermentation in stainless steel, and early bottling. What you get is the unalloyed character of the grape. In the Eden Valley the wines are more scented and immediately beguiling than in Clare; plantings have moved up here into the hills from their traditional place on the valley floor. Coonawarra and cool-climate Victoria makes some good examples.
Australian style of Riesling varies
Tasmania’s are fragile and delicious, and Great Southern and Frankland River in Western Australia are showing good, citrus form, particularly when made in a relatively low alcohol style. Some sparkling Riesling is also produced.
The finest sites for Riesling are the granite, gneiss or mica-schist terraces of the Wachau, where the climate is cool and the soil free-draining, and irrigation is both necessary and permitted. However, it accounts for only a small percentage of total Wachau plantings, and has only attained even that amount since the Second World War. It demands, and gets, the best spots: they include the Steinertal, Kellerberg, Schütt and Loibenberg in Loiben; the Tausendeimerberg, Singeriedl and Hochrain in Spitz; and Steinriegl, Achleiten and Klaus in Weissenkirchen. Alcohol levels are usually over 13 per cent – sometimes too high, so that the wines lose aroma. They often have a firm, minerally core and arresting, taut but spicy fruit and scent.
The styles, and soils, of the Wachau continue into the western part of Kremstal; elsewhere in Austria Riesling is more prevalent, and usually good, though less racy. The hilly region of South Styria, however, produces wine with good taut acidity, and Vienna itself makes some appetizing examples. Most Austrian Riesling is made dry: there is a little botrytis-affected Riesling made in that haven for botrytis, the shores of the Neusiedlersee, but it is vastly outplanted there by the totally different Welschriesling.
Riesling was introduced to the country in the early 1970s and is steadily on the increase. The cool climate is ideal for making wines of greater lightness and delicacy than are produced in Australia, and acidity levels are good, but all too often, except for a few thrilling and scented wines from South Island, the wines inexplicably lack excitement. That is not the case, however, with the late-harvest sweet wines, which have great concentration and raciness. Marlborough is a leading area for both sweet and dry styles, with Canterbury and Central Otago also good; Nelson also has a reputation for dry and late-harvest Riesling.
While dry Rieslings here are of good quality and weight, it is the sweet Icewines for which Canada, and in particular Ontario, is most famous. They have greater breadth than German Eiswein, and balance slightly less finesse and complexity with greater weight and an impressively direct sweetness.
Riesling has been enthusiastically uprooted in California, though plantings still exist across the state, with good wines from Mendocino, Napa, Monterey and Santa Barbara. Oregon makes some pleasant examples, but Washington State has become a real Riesling expert in recent years, its reputation greatly helped by the involvement of German Riesling wizard Ernie Loosen in joint ventures. The same can be said of the Finger Lakes in New York State where sharp, citrussy, scented styles are probably the USA’s finest. There are a few sweet botrytis examples in the USA