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Australian Riesling and New World Pinot Noir

by Tom Cannavan, 02/98
In a recent tasting for a magazine article I tried some moderately priced Australian Rieslings and New World Pinots Noirs. Along with several other good to very good Australian Rieslings I've tried recently (including Jim Barry Watervale, Nottage Hill and Annie's Lane) this batch suggests that Australian Riesling really is a well-priced and reliable white wine option. The wines share a zesty, lime freshness, good white fruit flavours and a pure, dry, elegant style that matches well with food. Pinot Noir is a trickier area I think. Though plenty of fine, inexpensive examples are available (including Cono Sur from Chile, Redwood Trail from California and Viñas del Vero from Spain), the trio on show here were less impressive. As it is in Burgundy, where knowing your producers and vintages is essential, New World Pinot Noir appears to be an area where seeking advice and following producers you know is recommended.
The tasting was not blind. UK Stockists and prices in pounds sterling are given.

Rieslings

Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Bin 202 Riesling 1997
Pale green/gold. Fresh and zesty nose of flowers, limes and wax. Palate is medium to full with fine, flowery flavours, citrus fruit and good grapefruit acidity. Balanced and quite long, this is simple but delicious stuff at a cheap price. Safeway and widely available, £3.99.

Wynns Coonawarra Riesling 1996
Lovely petrolly, waxy nose - even soapy with delicate, rose-petal notes. Palate is very full and luscious with good, vibrant, tropical fruit character but maintaining an apple and pear freshness. Long and nicely balanced with unobtrusive citrus acidity. Wine Cellar, Victoria Wine and widely available, £4.99.

Tesco Eden Valley Riesling 1997
Pale golden yellow. Attractive, quite delicate nose of crisp green apples with hints of limes and candle-wax. On the palate it is medium to full-bodied and has a nicely oily mouth-feel. There is good fruit, clean and zippy with a lingering finish. The range of "own label" Australian wines from Tesco seems very well sourced. Tesco £4.99.

Pewsey Vale (Australia) Eden Valley Riesling 1997
Pale green/yellow. Attractive nose of lime zest and sweet, tropical fruit with a hints of tangerine peel. Palate is quite full-bodied with wonderfully ripe, succulent, limpid, pear and mango fruit and again, a zesty citrus note. There is a sense of roundness to the wine that is missing from some Australian rieslings, with darker fig and butterscotch notes in the background. The grapefruit acidity is nicely integrated and supports a really balanced structure into a long finish without a trace of tartness. A terrific riesling. Thresher £5.99

Pinots Noir

Valdevieso (Chile) Pinot Noir 1997
Light ruby colour. Soft, warm, berry nose with a little earthy depth and some spice. On the palate rather acidic and weedy with an angular, ungainly character. Fruit is flabby and stalky elements add a bitter edge. The picture here is not a happy one - try the Cono Sur Pinot at a pound less from Oddbins or Tesco. Sainsbury £5.99.

Samuel's Bay (Australia) Pinot Noir 1997
Thin but quite deep ruby red. Fairly low-key nose with sweet vanilla, warm berry fruit and some smoky spice. Quite jammy fruit that, like the Valdevieso, doesn't quite meld with oaky tannins and fierce, lemony acidity. Reasonable length but not entirely convincing. Thresher £5.99.

Franciscan (California) Pinnacles Vineyard Pinot Noir 1996
Dark, medium-thin ruby. Earthy on the nose with characteristic pinot aromas of damp undergrowth, truffles and a little sweet, molasses note. Vanillin oak too. Plenty of ripe red berry fruit, with sweet strawberry roundness. Good, soft, tannic structure and quite well balanced. There is decent acidity and good length. This is better, as reflected in the price. Oddbins £8.49.