Vail wines: Australia makes some great whites
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Last month, I left Colorado’s Vail Valley and spent a week in Australia’s Barossa Valley, a region that’s home to some of the world’s oldest pre-phylloxera vine, many of which are 75 to 100 years old.
Most of the old vines are Shiraz plantings that produce many of the country’s most famous wines. As you look to the east, you see the rather unimposing Mount Lofty Ranges. This area is home to (what I consider) some of Australia’s greatest white wine vineyards, in the form of the Riesling grape.
On the upper plateau of these hills lie the towns of Clare and Watervale, the anchoring towns for Australia’s famous Clare Valley. Several of the better vineyards in this region grow at altitudes of 1,300 feet or higher.
However, the key to the region’s great vineyards is that they are planted in the right places. For example, vineyards in the Polish Hill River area are known for their racy acidity which is attributed to the slate soils of the area.
Clare Valley Rieslings are known for aromas and flavors of lime, grapefruit, and citrus peel. The wines can develop tropical fruit flavors when planted in the region’s warmer microclimates, which often have a nervy elegance similar to that found in good German Rieslings.
Outstanding Australian Riesling is also produced about 75 miles south of Clare in the Eden Valley. The Eden Valley is slightly cooler than the Clare Valley and receives higher annual rainfall.
The key difference is that there are older Riesling plantings located in the Eden Valley. These Rieslings are also characterized by their lime fragrance, but can also develop complex tertiary aromas and flavors with age such as honey, lanolin and toast. Generally, the wines from Eden Valley are lighter bodied than those from the Clare Valley with more mineral qualities and extended longevity.
Because of the naturally high acidity, clean fresh flavors and distinct lack of oak intrusion, Australian Riesling is an excellent wine to pair with light summer dishes such as grilled fish, sauteed prawns, salads and vegetable stir-fry.
Sean Razee is the beverage director and sommelier for Spago at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain. He currently holds the Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Razee is one of 96 Master Sommeliers in the United States and the only person in the Vail Valley that holds the distinguished certification.