I was very fortunate to meet them in an extraordinary tasting held at The Australian in NYC where they pulled out all the stops and very generously shared a decade of their fine Rieslings, from 1997 to 2008, in three levels, Classic, Reserve and their very fine Steingarten.
Let me tell you about the wines.
The story starts in 1847 when a young Bavarian immigrant by the name of Johann Gramp planted grapes in what was to be the first commercial vineyard of the now very famous Barossa Valley. Today, Johann’s original cellar is still standing on the banks of Jacob’s Creek. It’s a testament to his enduring passion for wine.
Their Rieslings are made at three levels Classic, Reserve, and what they call Steingarten. They are all wonderful. Of the 12 wines we tasted my favorites were the 1998 Classic, 2002 Reserve, and 2002 and 2007 Steingarten.
Unlike European style Rieslings, which are generally sweet and sweeter, Australians are dry and semi-dry they display great citrus fruit, lemon, lime and grapefruit. The newer wines can have grassy flower tastes. As they age, other flavors emerge, gooseberry, quince, honey and toast and much more. Any sweetness is from the natural flavor of the grapes, not from late harvesting.We tasted the 1998 Classic and 1997 Steingarten. These wines are no longer available unless you find them in a friend's cellar, or perhaps on auction. Tasting these older vintages proved how great this Riesling can become with time. Interestingly, I thought the 1998 Classic was better that the 1997 Steingarten. It had great smooth body, soft underlying sweetness, deep apple, toasted hazelnut and some bitter orange.
The 1997 Steingarten was very fine, but for me a little less interesting. In fairness I
The 2002, 2006 and 2007 vintages of the Steingarten were all spectacular. The 2002 Still can be found in US wine shops, several in New York or New Jersey.It is perfect now. The later vintages I would buy and cellar for a few years to experience their full potential.
The wine is named after the Steingarten vineyard established in 1962 by Orlando Wines on a steep east-facing rocky outcrop on the western edge of the Barossa ranges, less than one and a half miles from founder Johann Gramp’s original vineyard. It is made from a small number of hand selected ‘cool climate’ grapes.
Of all the vintages tasted I thought the 2002 vintage was the best. This growing season was one of the coolest on record, perfect weather for these wines. A "once in a decade" year for Rieslings in Australia, although I am told the 2009 vintage promises to be very good as well.
The 2002 Classic, Reserve and Steingartent were all exceptional. The Classic had very lively sensations and flavors with deep citrus. The Reserve was fuller with great honey toast, lemon, lime, peach and delicate rose aromas.
The Steingarten was all this and had a wonderful minerality that I loved. The 2002 Steingarten can be found on wine-searcher.com. Later vintages of Classic and Reserve can be found their as well.
This tasting totally transformed how I think about the Riesling grape. Enjoy Australian Riesling in place of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Let it age, some can go for as many as 10 or more years.
These Rieslings at what ever price point is right for you are all very good.