Shaw Isabella Riesling 2009

Australia is world-renowned for its amazing, razor-sharp dry Riesling styles. So of course there’s currently a resurgence in off-dry Riesling. I jest – I think it’s great that producers are experimenting with styles, and it will be interesting to see if some regions and sites are better expressed with some residual sugar. 

To this wine then, a Canberra Riesling from Shaw Vineyard Estate and, according to the label, both Reserve and Handpicked. I’m feeling a warm glow already (or is that just the Verdelho from before?). I must admit I failed to read the back label before tasting, so was surprised at the rich, confected fruit aromas that emerged from the glass. A quick sip confirmed this as a decidedly off-dry style. The aroma profile comprises fake banana flavouring, candied pineapple and a range of other lively notes. It’s quite expressive and fun, though whether you will warm to its lolly store bent is a question of personal preference. It may also be showing its youth, and indeed some time in glass has seen the more aggressively confected aspects of the aroma blow off, to reveal fresher fruit versions of  pineapple and citrus notes, and some more floral, perhaps even mineral, dimensions too.
The palate is richly flavoured, with more candied fruits and a refreshing acid line. In an off-dry Riesling, the balance of acid, sugar and fruit intensity seems to be of the essence; here, there’s perhaps slightly too much sugar relative to the character and assertiveness of the acid, which translates to a broadness on the mid-palate. On entry, though, a lively and very fruit-driven experience, with sweetly preserved fruits and bubbly acidity moving things through to the mid-palate. Here, the palate widens and becomes really quite generous, almost relaxed, teetering on the edge of simplicity. A twist of phenolic bitterness on the after palate pulls things back into line, and balances the riper tendencies of the flavour profile, bringing a welcome freshness to the wine. Pretty decent, fresh finish.
A worthy attempt at a more “German” Riesling style, and one that has improved after several hours. From a regional perspective, I enjoy the delicate floral, talc-like flavour profile of many dry Canberra Rieslings, and it’s an open question for me (for now) whether this character adapts itself well to a moderately off-dry style. It’s certainly there in this wine, but its very delicacy sits uneasily against sweet fruit notes. I should add this wine responded exceptionally well to a robust pasta dish, its more candied fruit tendencies tamed and its structure more than adequate. 

Shaw Vineyard Estate
Price: $A28
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

2 thoughts on “Shaw Isabella Riesling 2009

  1. I recently read that it was “dangerous” for Australia to be flirting with these off-dry Rieslings as it had (apparently) worked so hard to convince people that Oz Rizza was not a sweet wine (after the days of mislabeled casks of “Riesling” made from sultana grapes I guess).

    I’m all for experimentation with styles and I’m not convinced it’s going to set dry Riesling back. To some extent it remains a “wine enthusiast’s” grape. Just look at your recent experience with the 2008 Drumborg.

    Any thoughts?

    • I hadn’t thought of that angle but I can see the logic. A lot of local drinkers still equate Riesling with sweet white wines, so I think the image is still very much there. And a bunch of crap sweet Rieslings isn’t going to help redefine the variety’s image as a noble grape.

      My, perhaps naive, take is that quality will win in the end, whether sweet or dry. The question flowing from that is: with our dry Rieslings so often acknowledged as great wines, is there any point exploring off-dry styles en masse?

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