Riesling just cant find a foothold here in Oz. Moselle in a box gave it its initial dodgy reputation. Sweet and insipid white hock with no lineage to the actual variety. My Nanny couldn’t get enough. God bless her soul.
More recently, celebrated Clare valley producers have nailed Riesling’s intensity and potential for longevity. The south of WA is yielding some crackers too. They’ve captured the variety’s zest and racy, mineral spine. Alas, still too few stock up on it as a staple. Often the steely, citric dryness is pushed discouragingly to the hilt.
Now, there are murmurings in funky wine bars of a new respect for a touch of the traditional. That being the German, Austrian and Alsatian design with a lick of residual sugar to soften the hard edges. It’s unfashionable to call anything sweet of course, but the ‘off dry’ styles from Europe seem to be less abrasive and more acceptable to a thirsty throng.
Alsace, they tell me, is a very pretty patch. It skirts the upper Rhine in the Northeast pocket of France. A bruising history of border disputes has failed to dampen the spirit of an industrious and artisanal hood.
Riesling flies the flag here, though Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner and Muscat are all formidable rivals. Each takes advantage of a dry climate offering slow ripening and abundant aromatic character. As one scribe puts it, “Alsace makes Germanic wine in the French way”. Traditionally, Alsace winemakers produced bone dry styles and left toying with sugars to the Germans. Lately, though, both regions have changed tact and the wine of Alsace has enjoyed a reputation for mastering the subtlety of sweet. Somehow the wines aren’t sweet, they have fruit ripeness but finish dry. It’s a mouth-watering result when the balance is right.
Our little Alsatian, Edmond Rentz, is typical of the region. Different vineyards with different aspects and soils offer a diversity of styles across a broad spectrum. There’s richness, volume, subtlety and a reasonable dose of downright scrumptiousness. Without disregarding the achievements of our local Riesling and Gris producers, there’s a deft shade in the wines of Alsace that perhaps is beyond our reach.