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Wednesday 27 April 2022

Young or old: the eternal riesling conundrum

Riesling - one of the world's great grape varieties. Versatile and usually affordable. 

From Alsace to Australia, however, there is one great conundrum for wine lovers: when to drink their rieslings? 

Young rieslings, particularly from Australia, are usually dry and high in acid. 

Give them a couple of years and they retain their citrus fruit flavours but soften. A few more years in bottle and they develop honeyed, toasty or kerosene characters. 

This is also true of the delicate, less ripe rieslings from Germany and Austria, and slightly sweeter styles from New Zealand. 

In the first 12 months of their lives, Aussie rieslings offer lashings of lime, lemon and grapefruit flavours and searing acidity. 

A decade or so on they are completely different beasts; mature and mellow. 

To explore the many facets of riesling, Henschke, Howard Park and Taylors Wines hosted a recent Museum & Current Release tasting. 

The wines involved were the Henschke 2007 and 2021 Julius Riesling from Eden Valley; the Taylors 2012 and 2019 St Andrews Riesling from the Clare Valley and Howard Park 2010 Museum Release and 2020 Mount Barker Riesling from Western Australia. 

The wines were offered in tiny tasting-sized bottles by Trust In Taste (above), so were not able to be tasted with food afterwards, or sampled a day later. 

We were joined by Justine Henschke, Mitchell Taylor and Richard Burch from Howard Park; all of whom are passionate about quality rieslings. 

All three producers use screw caps to ensure their wines maintain integrity. 

"One of the intriguing thing about these wines is that they retain their freshness under screw caps," says Henschke. "There is a richness, oiliness and opulence to our 2007, while in maintains fruit character.

"We  believe aged riesling is a style with celebrating and we have found we can't release enough to keep our customers happy." 

Mitchell Taylor noted the "secondary aromatics, toast and honey" in the 2012 St Andrews and said: "We are holding back greater volumes of older wines to meet a growing demand from collectors."

Likewise, Burch says older Howard Park rieslings are "a revelation", still concentrated and hitting their stride at 10-15 years of age. 

Call me a philistine, but while there is a definite place for older rieslings - particularly with food - I just love the exuberance and vitality of younger rieslings, perhaps at 1-2 years of age. 

The 2021 Julius is dry, aromatic, floral and wonderfully pure; the St Andrews has a delicious line of limey acid in its adolescence and the Howard Park 2020 definete regional minerality and textural appeal. 

And the winners consumers offered the choice between such contrasting styles.    


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