Okay WineHunters, let’s talk Riesling. In the late 20th century and the early part of this century, lots of punters turned away from it. There is no one reason for it losing some of its popularity but it’s worth digging into it so that a) you don’t miss out on some truly top shelf wine and b) you have a thing or two to share about it when the topic comes up.
The wine industry opened up quite a bit in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. This was the period when vineyards started popping up all over eastern Washington in response to the popularity of California wine and, to a large extent, imports from places like Australia. Consumers, many of who were new to wine, were figuring out their palates and many started with sweeter varietals. In response, sweet Rieslings popped up. The thing about palates though, they do mature. The sweet Rieslings and other varietals that seemed appealing, lost their luster and people gravitated to wines with expressive fruit, rather than sugar, sweetness. Varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Gris started to overshadow Riesling: not because they are superior, but Riesling had become – you guessed it – sweet.
Well, that didn’t happen in Australia. We’ve always loved our dry Rieslings. Not because they’re dry; rather because their natural acidity perfectly balances the fruit which is a reflection of its place. (Terroir if you must). In terms of residual sugar though, dry as an outback creek bed.
We show aged Rieslings at a lot of tastings and there has certainly been an uptick in interest in the last couple of years. Often the initial query, “but isn’t Riesling sweet?’ is followed by, “this isn’t a Riesling!” Yes mate it is, and do yourself a favor and grab some while you can.
Yes, I said aged Rieslings. Another misconception is that whites can’t age well. Not only can Riesling (the right quality fruit in good hands) age, it develops handsomely. And we Aussies turned to screw cap closures 20 years ago so aging wines became less of a gamble. One of our top selling Rieslings is a 2008 vintage. Wrap your laughin’ gear around that gem and you’ll wonder what you’ve been doing all your life.
So, Riesling. Misunderstood and, to an unfortunate extent, misrepresented: until now. Give it a crack.