Riesling was the first white grape to be planted in Australia, and is considered by most to be the great white wine of Australia. The best rieslings are grown in Clare Valley and Eden Valley, two winegrowing districts in South Australia with some serious altitude. The elevated slopes where the grapes are grown provide the tantalizing acidity that makes these wines stand out.
The first vines were planted in Clare Valley in 1851 by Jesuit priests fleeing religious persecution in what is now part of Poland. It is one of the most picturesque regions in Australia, and the network of hiking and biking trails that crisscrosses the region, known as the Riesling Trail, connects many of the cellar doors (Australian for tasting rooms) and makes for a convenient, breathtaking way to experience the area.
Clare Valley rieslings are recognized as some of the best in the world. Warm days and cold nights help the grapes develop the strong backbone of acidity that Clare Valley rieslings are known for. These rieslings also carry exotic orange blossom, lime, and green apple flavors (and pair fantastically with seafood and Asian dishes). The best wines can age for 20 years, developing toast, honey, and petrol characteristics over time. Clare Valley also produces some delicious shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, which also benefit from the cool nights, developing deeply concentrated flavors.
Eden Valley, named after the word that settlers of the region found carved into a tree, is also located in South Australia, within the famous Barossa winegrowing region. The first vineyard was planted here in 1841 by Joseph Gilbert, who called it Pewsey Vale, and it produces some of the best riesling in the country today. Rolling hills provide coveted altitude for the riesling grapes to develop powerful natural acidity, and the long growing season allows the grapes to ripen slowly and accumulate concentrated floral and citrus flavors.
Shiraz is also a big player in Eden Valley. The cool climate produces wines with smooth tannins and pronounced black fruit and sweet spice aromas and flavors (blackberry, black plum, ginger, and cinnamon).
Wines we recommend:
LEASINGHAM "Bin 61" Shiraz 2010 (Clare Valley) $20
PETALUMA "Hanlin Hill" Riesling 2012 (Clare Valley) $24
GROSSET "Polish Hill" Riesling 2012 (Clare Valley) $33
PEWSEY VALE "The Contours" Riesling 2007 (Eden Valley) $25
HENSCHKE "Mount Edelstone" Shiraz 2009 (Eden Valley) $118