Robert Stein 2019 Dry Riesling
If you’ve ever been to a wine appreciation night or wine club meeting, you’d be well familiar with the “blind wine” or “wine options” challenges that entertain, beguile and often confuse those sampling the vino on offer.
These games, in which a bottle of wine is wrapped in alfoil to conceal its identity and then the samplers are left to taste and attempt to guess the grape, region and even winery, are a staple at most wine events.
At times, the varietal is easy game to even an amateur palate, but at times even the most experienced of connoisseurs gets it wrong – especially when the grape is riesling!
Reisling is a grape that is cultivated and vinified all over the world and the results in the glass are probably more diverse than for any other varietal.
In Germany, the aromatic style is crafted in a highly perfumed apple blossom range of sweet, dry and semi-dry wines that bear little resemblance to those that we see from Australian producers – perhaps that’s because of the slightly diesel characters that emerge on the middle.
The cool climate in the Mosel and Rheingau regions makes for distinctive rizzas that can have a floral and rose petal nose and a sweetness through the palate yet still finish dry due to extremely high acidity.
On the other hand, over in Austria, their rieslings are also extremely dry on the finish but are far more mouth-filling and full-bodied than those of their near neighbours.
Over in France, the Alsace region is world famous for their rieslings – wines which tend to show more peach than apple characters and which are often made into late harvest styles that can be served with dessert or with less residual sugar, even as a partner for spicy Chinese dishes.
But you could easily confuse them with any number of other aromatic varietals if you weren’t looking at the label on the bottle!
And here in Australia, we also have a divergence of styles amongst our native rieslings. The Clare Valley in South Australia has become synonymous with the varietal, producing world class wines from Watervale, Polish Hill and Sevenhill.
But the Eden Valley also has claims to the title as does Tasmania and even Mount Barker in WA. But one unlikely region in New South Wales could also have a crack at the mantle for best Australian riesling region if their wines continue on the upward trend of recent years. The Mudgee Region is perhaps best known for its cabernet and shiraz, but their leading winemaker, Robert Stein, is making rieslings that are winning accolades across the globe.
The Robert Stein 2019 Dry Riesling is on the shelves at a $40 price point and is deserving of the awards and medals that adorn its label. It’s more about citrus than apple or pear, and relies more on zip than power.
Up-front there are hints of jasmine and honeysuckle on the nose but on the palate there are layers of Granny Smith skin, mandarin and cumquat. On the back end there’s a slight spritz and ample acidity that suggests that it will get better with age (if you can be patient). If you ask me, it’s as good as anything that South Australia brags about and a worthy contender for higher honours in our very best fine dining venues.
But for the wine aficionados out there, the Robert Steiner carries good news – the racy acidity and lemon and lime give it away as a riesling; and you won’t have too much trouble picking it in a line-up!