St Hallett Eden Valley Riesling 2008
In the heart of the Barossa Valley, Australia's best known wine region, lies St Hallett, one of the country's premier wine producers. Established by the Lindner Family in 1944, for many years St Hallett's winemaking focus was, like many local wineries, on producing fortified wines. However, during the seventies and eighties, St Hallett turned to explore the true potential of the Barossa through premium table wines. This has resulted in St Hallett's status as one of Australia’s best producers.
St Hallett is renowned for crafting full-flavored, textured wines entirely from Barossa Valley fruit and is credited with producing benchmark wines of the region such as the iconic St Hallett Old Block Shiraz, made from vines aged up to 100 years old.
Winemaker and General Manager, Stuart Blackwell spearheaded the commissioning of the new winemaking facilities in 1988 and the installation of some of the world's most advanced fruit processing and handling equipment. Despite this modern approach, traditional winemaking techniques prevail at St Hallett as they are best suited to the winery's classic style.
Higher in elevation and topographically more dramatic than the Barossa Valley floor, Eden Valley abuts it to its south and east. While it is a bit of an extension of Barossa, Eden Valley is topographically different than the pastoral Barossa Valley, and is composed of rocky hills and eucalyptus groves.
Recognizing Eden Valley’s potential with Riesling in the 1960s and 70s, producers started to move their Riesling production from Barossa to these better sites where schist soils on hilltops would produce more steely, tart and age-worthy examples. A most famous site, planted by Colin Gramp, called Steingarten, today produces one of the most outstanding Australian Rieslings. Youthful Eden Valley Rieslings express floral, grapefruit and mineral, while with time in the bottle, they become increasingly toasty and complex.
Riesling isn’t the only grape the region can grow; undeniably at lower altitudes Shiraz does very well. Mount Edelstone is a notable vineyard as well as the Hill of Grace, which boasts healthy Shiraz vines well over 100 years old. This is the only Australian region where Merlot has a made a name for itself and Chardonnay can be spectacular, particularly from the High Eden subregion in the southern valley.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.