Part 1: Spotlight on Riesling
One of the oldest winemaking traditions in the world
Riesling has one of the richest and oldest winemaking traditions in the world, dating back to the 1400s in Germany and the early 1800s here in Australia. It is exceptionally good at expressing terroir and sense of place, which is one of the many reasons we are in love with it at Patrick of Coonawarra.
Riesling is an aromatic white wine grape variety that originally comes from the Rhine River region in Germany. Riesling is grown in cool climates around the world, including in wine regions in Australia, France, northern Italy, Austria, USA, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
Riesling can range from bone dry to sweet, varying greatly depending on the vineyard soil and location. Each wine expresses the soil, nutrients, climate, and production methods used.
The earliest reference of Riesling is from 1402 in Worms, Germany. The variety steadily became more popular across Europe, and by the 1850s, riesling had become a highly sought-after wine, commanding higher prices than Bordeaux and Champagne.
Riesling was first planted in Australia in 1838 by William Macarthur near Penrith, NSW. It has since become one of Australia’s popular varieties, with renowned vineyards in Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Victoria, Mudgee, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia. Riesling was the most planted white grape in Australia until the 1990s when Chardonnay took over in popularity.
Australian winemakers are actually the second largest producer of Riesling in the world, second only to Germany, where it is the most widely planted variety in the country.
The best quality Australian Rieslings are grown in cool climates with an extended ripening season and cool nights. These conditions allow the development of delicate aromatics, a greater range and concentration of flavours, moderate alcohol and high acid levels.
Unfortunately the misconception that Riesling is always sweet has clouded its reputation among Aussie wine lovers since the 1970s, when white wines containing various grape varieties were mislabelled as Riesling. This misunderstanding has been changing with more educated consumers, and major strides in technology to create cleaner, more vibrant styles.
Technological advancements date back to pioneering various forms of refrigeration in the 1930s and 1950s, through to 2000 when winemakers in the Clare valley led the screw cap revolution to improved quality control.
Riesling is one of the few white wines that are excellent at ageing. Its naturally high acidity and bright fruit, citrus and floral characters provide the perfect framework for maturation, over time taking on complex honey and toasty characters, and sometimes a petrol note developing in high quality wines.
The best Rieslings can be cellared for decades. Some German Rieslings that have been tasted are hundreds of years old. The townhall in Bremen, Germany, stores Riesling in barrel back to the 1653 vintage. Today, Riesling has emerged as one of the most collectible white wines for wine lovers around the world.
Patrick of Coonawarra winemaker Luke Tocaciu recommends pairing Riesling with seafood such as fresh oysters or fish, right through to spicy food such as a spicy Asian salad or an Indian curry.
We create four very different styles of Riesling at the winery - our fresh early release Two Blocks Riesling, the more complex full-bodied Aged Riesling, a small batch Botrytis Riesling, and our newest limited edition Riesling, Méthode Skinny.