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Everything happens for a Riesling

Market Bulletin | Issue 104
24 Apr 2018
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Riesling is universally regarded as one of the world’s classic grape varieties and is believed to truly reflect its provenance. Riesling is the wine that winemakers love to drink. It is also favoured by sommeliers and wine writers. US Sommelier Paul Grieco once told patrons of his New York wine bar ‘Terroir’ that if they wanted a wine by the glass, they would have to order a Riesling. Grieco’s explanation was simple: ‘If you drink Riesling you will be a better person.’

Renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson calls it one of her ‘great wine heroes’ and says, ‘This is the wine to drink while writing or reading; it refreshes the palate and sharpens the brain.’

Riesling is also a favourite among Australian white wine drinkers. Wine Intelligence research on the domestic market shows that Riesling ranks fourth as Australian wine drinkers’ favourite white variety.

Source: Wine Intelligence

The positive perception of Riesling among Australian consumers is reflected in the latest retail sales figures. According to IRI MarketEdge, in the 12 months ended 4 February 2018, Riesling sales in the Australian off-trade market increased by 3 per cent, a stronger rate of growth than the two biggest selling white wines, Sauvignon Blanc (up 1 per cent) and Chardonnay (up 2 per cent).

Riesling is positioned as the most affordable premium white wine in the market, offering superior value for money. The retail figures show that more than 60 per cent of Riesling sales were priced between $15–$30 per bottle compared to around a third for both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This price segment is also the growth centre for Riesling with sales at $15–$30 growing by 10 per cent in the last 12 months. While Riesling is the 8th biggest selling white table wine overall, at $15–$30 it ranks third behind Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Versatile in style, flavour and drinking occasion

Riesling’s growing popularity in Australia reflects its versatility in style, flavour and drinking occasion. Australia makes among the best Riesling in the world in a range of styles from dry to medium dry, medium sweet and sweet.

The best Rieslings can easily be cellared for decades. The high acidity and bright fruit characters provide the perfect framework for maturation. Over time, the primary fruit characters of lemon, lime and flowers take on richer honey, nutty, toffee-like characters. High acidity aids longevity and screw caps ensure very little oxygen contact.

Credit: Jacqui Way Photography

Riesling is also renowned as a food-pairing wine, with choices for every cuisine. Kim Brebach of online wine retailer Best Wines Under $20 believes that Riesling is quite often overlooked as a wine to be paired with chicken in Australia. Brebach says, ‘Given the obvious and wonderful affinity Aussie Riesling has with chicken, it’s hard to believe that wine and food writers rarely mention the two in the same breath.’ In his blog, Brebach provides an example of an article on wine pairings for seven chicken dishes – Riesling was mentioned only once while Chardonnay received five mentions. Even Shiraz was mentioned twice. Given the popularity of chicken, especially roast chicken, in Australia, this would suggest that there is an opportunity to further expand occasions to have Riesling on dinner tables across Australia.

Australia’s growing Riesling reputation

Australian Riesling is receiving accolades internationally. Australian Riesling starred at the 2017 Riesling Masters run by The Drinks Business in the UK. Patrick Schmitt MW stated, ‘…if there was a stand-out nation in the Riesling Masters this year, it was Australia, which has managed to create wines that are for the most part bone dry, but deliver a fruity refreshment with Riesling that is rarely matched elsewhere. [Australia] should be just as famous for its Rieslings as its Chardonnays.’

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.