10 Great Australian Whites

Ageable Rieslings show white wines are a success Down Under
Harvey Steiman
Posted: October 9, 2009

Best known for its reds, Australia also makes outstanding whites, especially dry Riesling, with winemakers generally aiming for bright, jazzy flavors and refreshing textures. This group of recently released Rieslings, mostly from the 2008 vintage, represent the common style with a range of regional character.

Eden Valley and Clare Valley, both in South Australia, not far from Adelaide, top the list of regions that do well with Riesling. Usually, the bottlings from Eden have some pineapple and stone fruit flavors, while those from Clare tend toward more citrusy notes.

Both regions also make Rieslings that age well. The better wines often reach their best after five to 15 years of cellaring, softening their textures and picking up attractive lanolin notes. Pewsey Vale even ages some of its Riesling an extra five years before release under the Contours label. Only a few cases trickle into the U.S., but they are worth seeking out.

Two other regions doing well with Riesling are Margaret River, where Leeuwin has been making ageable wines for several decades, along with Tasmania, Australia's southernmost and coolest winegrowing region. Tasmania Rieslings tend to be extra-bright with acidity.

PEWSEY VALE Riesling Eden Valley The Contours Museum Reserve 2004 Score: 94 | $28
Ripe, complex and dry on the finish, a complex mouthful of pear, pineapple, peach and spice flavors that keep singing a full chorus into the long, expressive finish. Drink now through 2020. 10 cases imported. —H.S.

HEATH WINES Riesling Clare Valley Southern Sisters Reserve 2008 Score: 91 | $21
Zingy, refreshing and focused to show off its green berry, pineapple and floral aromas and flavors, remaining lively and expressive through the dry finish, which is long and generous. Better than previously reviewed. Drink now through 2018. 5,000 cases imported. —H.S.

MESH Riesling Eden Valley 2008 Score: 91 | $20
Dry and bracing, this brims with pineapple, green apple and floral aromas and flavors, tightly packed in a taut frame. Needs time. Best from 2011 through 2018. 2,800 cases made. —H.S.

MOUNTADAM Riesling Eden Valley 2008 Score: 91 | $22
Bright, tangy, focused and refined, delivering an elegant mouthful of pineapple, pear and floral aromas and flavors that persist impressively on the deft, dry finish. Drink now through 2020. 400 cases imported. —H.S.

PETALUMA Riesling Clare Valley Hanlin Hill 2008 Score: 91 | $20
Bright and tangy, brimming with lemon, pineapple and mayflower flavors, lingering easily on the generous, focused finish. Drink now through 2018. 800 cases imported. —H.S.

KILIKANOON Riesling Watervale Mort's Block 2008 Score: 90 | $20
Dry and crisp, with tightly packed, tobacco-scented green apple, pineapple and gooseberry flavors, lingering effortlessly. Drink now through 2018. 500 cases imported. —H.S.

LEEUWIN Riesling Margaret River Art Series 2008 Score: 90 | $22
Light, crisp and distinctive for its greengage plum and gooseberry aromas and flavors, finishing with integrity and length. Drink now through 2020. 1,200 cases imported. —H.S.

PIRIE Riesling Tasmania South 2007 Score: 90 | $20
Bright and vibrant, offering a lively mouthful of pear, apple, lime and floral flavors that point perfectly through the long finish. Drink now through 2017. 400 cases imported. —H.S.

TAMAR RIDGE Riesling Tasmania Devil's Corner 2008 Score: 90 | $16
Light and subtle, with modest spice and gooseberry flavors riding on a sleek structure. Drink now through 2014. 600 cases imported. —H.S.

TWO HANDS Riesling Clare Valley The Wolf 2008 Score: 90 | $30
Light and zesty, with pretty lime and pear aromas and flavors that glide easily over the polished finish. Drink now through 2015. 285 cases made. —H.S.

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