Erik Neilson on March 16, 2017 0 Comments Riesling is one of the most divisive wines on the face of the planet. There are just as many people who absolutely hate Riesling as those who adore it, and the vast majority of those who think they don’t like the grape have only been exposed to overly sweet versions of the wine. The fact is that Rieslings can vary dramatically in sweetness, with some finishing bone dry and being the perfect complement for cuisines that are typically hard to pair. While most people associate Riesling with Germany or even the Finger Lakes region of New York, one of the hotbeds of the grape is actually quite far away from both of these areas—Australia. Australian Riesling is fast becoming one of the next “big things” in wine, and for good reason. For those who have sworn off Riesling due to bad experiences with sweeter varieties, the dry Rieslings of Australia are just what the doctor ordered. Here are a number of bottles to seek out, all of which represent excellent value and are fully indicative of the current Australian take on Riesling. 1. Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling Some wines serve as the face of entire regions or movements, and it’s difficult to get by just how much of an impact these can have on the industry. Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling is such a wine, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better example of Australian Riesling at this price point (around $35). Since 1988, the family behind these vines has been making wine and leading the way in terms of educating Australians about Riesling production. With a limey, mineral-laden palate that carries through waves of citrus, honey and smoke, this wine finishes bone dry and tangy. Those who have trouble enjoying Riesling in the past need look no further than this bottle, as it’s the polar opposite of the sweet, saccharine Rieslings that dominate shelves in America. 2. Tahbilk Riesling Victoria’s Goulburn Valley is a highly unique wine production area, and one that has been putting out plenty of great wines lately. Tahbilk Riesling is certainly one of the most exciting to check out, and at around $15/bottle, it’s reasonably inexpensive to do so. Sitting somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between sweet and dry, this medium-yellow colored Riesling shows a nose of key lime juice and wet stone. With ripe flavors reminiscent of lemons and more limes, the citrus notes in Tahbilk Riesling are off the charts. It finishes just slightly sweet, with a lick of honey at the very end. 3. Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling Anyone who has an affinity for Australian Riesling knows that Peter Lehmann is at the very top of the game. Lehmann has a wide-reaching line of Rieslings available, many of which are cover the gamut of different sweetness levels. There is no Riesling in his line, however, that can compare in overall quality to Wigan. This is a bright, young Riesling with smoky aromas of kerosene and limestone. Its intense French toast-type aromas are impossible to ignore, and the taste gives way to juicy oxidized limes and phenolic minerality. One of the most “forward” Rieslings on this list, and certainly one worth tracking down. 4. d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling It must be said that just because a Riesling happens to be light and sweet doesn’t mean that it’s “bad.” Sweet Rieslings can be a slippery slope, but those which are made with care can be quite delicious — enter d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling. With its pale lemon color and limey, citrus-laden nose, this wine is light, airy and ideal for drinking on a warm summer evening. It’s not sweet so much as it is off-dry, and the good amount of acidity in the wine’s backbone is enough to support what residual sugar is there. Finishes with honey-soaked minerals. 5. Pewsey Vale The Contours Museum Reserve Riesling Eden Valley Riesling is quickly beginning to gain a lot of attention, and the extensive Pewsey Vale vineyard (owned and operated by the Hill-Smith family) is truly one of the area’s most prized possessions. There are plenty of great wines coming out of Pewsey Vale, but The Contours Museum Reserve Riesling utilizes the finest fruits in the vineyard, and it shows in the flavor profile of the wine. Lemon curd, custard and toasty limes all come through to create a creamy, zesty experience in the glass. Any sweetness is quickly subdued by the wine’s racy acidity, which allows for a multitude of different pairings to be approached. At under $40/bottle, this is one of the most incredible values in Australian Riesling. 6. Pikes The Merle Riesling Clare Valley’s Polish Hill River district is home to two brothers that have changed the face of modern Riesling production, Neil and Andrew Pike. The Merle is their best offering, and perhaps one of the best expressions of slate soils available from Australia today. There are tons of Lychee notes happening in this wine, with musky characteristics framing the fruit and preventing any real sweetness from coming through. Instead, aromatic minerality is the star of the show, coming through in ways that give this wine good potential for aging. 7. Chalkers Crossing Riesling New South Wales’ Hilltops region is home to Parisian winemaker Celine Rousseau, who is doing a great deal of good things with the Riesling grape. Chalkers Crossing Riesling is on the light and dry side of things, presenting vibrant lemon aromas and secondary flavors of toast and honey. The color is on the pale side, but it maintains a strong “glow” that makes the wine look mysterious in the glass. Given its acidity, there’s a good chance this wine will continue to age for a long period of time. Still, it’s drinking very well fresh — don’t hesitate to open now. Just because Rieslings can be sweet and intolerable when they’re cheaply made doesn’t mean that there aren’t great examples of the grape out there, and clearly, many of these are coming out of Australia. Start with one of the bottles above, and don’t hesitate to branch out from there.