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Saturday 9 October 2010


A road trip from Melbourne to the Barossa Valley in early 2009 introduced two grape varieties that had, until then, not been at the forefront of my mind: Grenache and Riesling.

My fondness for Grenache has already been documented in an earlier post in support of International Grenache Day. This is Riesling's turn in the spotlight.

Living in Queensland, there comes a certain point in the year where drinking a good red becomes rather unpalatable, and thoughts turn to a nice white or a good Rose. Increasingly for me, that means Riesling.

In the week just gone, there has been much love, debate and thought about Riesling on the social networking site Twitter. In my opinion it all started with a tweet from Mount barked, WA based Galafrey wines asking "where are all the Riesling fans out there?". And really from there it spiralled. Many of the twitterati became involved in the toing and froing - really highlighting the interactivity on twitter, especially its ability to transcend borders: state or national.

The upshot of all this is that it was proposed to have a Riesling tweetup, where folks get together - online - at a set date/ time and basically share a virtual drink, share their thoughts, views and notes on what they're drinking.

It's part fun, part profile raising, part driving sales. But the fundamental point - to me - is that it would be about the Riesling varietal.

Riesling in Australia
To take the story further, I stuck my oar into a Twitter debate about whether Riesling or Chardonnay was the 'better' variety. Such online luminaries as Brad and Danny from Wineweek, Ben Moroney, Monty James, Nigel Wadsworth, and Gourmet Traveller contributor Andrew Graham, were involved.

Out of this, the biggest thing I learned - or the biggest surprise to me - was that Riesling only accounted for approx 4.6% of white grape varieties in 2008 (Source: James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2010 Edition p48).

To me, for a grape with such a reputation, and a grape fairly well acknowledged as one of Australia's eminent varietals, this was quite surprising. As an aside, crush figures were dominated by Chardonnay, accounting for about 50% of white total. Now I may have somewhat naively seen the grape harvest, and consequently wine production, as something that goes into those lovely bottles we see lining the racks and shelves in our favourite merchants and retailers. I somewhat tend to forget bulk wines, casks etc as I don't really 'participate' in that end of the market. Still 4.6% of harvest tonnage did surprise.

Historical Figures
It wasn't always this way. In the 2010 Wine Companion, Halliday comments: "...going back a further 10 years to 1980, bottled wine sale of Riesling, exceeded those of all other white wines combined".

Whilst that figure reflects sales, logically the planting and crush figures would be similarly reflected. How things change.

And hopefully with the increased focus on the Riesling variety, it will have its day again.


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