Long Flat Eden Valley Riesling 2004 Tasting Notes
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Long Flat Eden Valley Riesling 2004 Tasting Notes

This is a $12 wine whose drinking generates mirthful comment. South Australia's Eden Valley (so easy to confuse with California's Edna Valley), lies parallel to, adjacent to, just east of, and higher than the state's famed Barossa Valley, so renowned for its Shiraz. Riesling is the Eden Valley's major grape, especially at its cooler higher altitudes. Although the wine is unquestionably dry, the ripeness of the characteristic lime juice fools the palate into thinking sweet. This, to my mind, is the best sort of sweet; with little real sugar involved, it cannot cloy, it can only inspire as it is chaperoned by a racy, and confident, acidity. The wine presents a slight spritz.

It would be a shame to leave the wine's excellent finish to the end. It is tri-furcated: the acidity of citrus and tropical fruit, a warm minerality, a certain note of biscuit and toast. (“biscuit” in wine terms is a Briticism, the British “biscuit” referring to what Americans call a cookie, I assume the type of demure crisp tan cookie they serve in England when you order tea.)

The wine's minerality demands more than a word. My first word was “rubber” (I think here of the movie Malaya, with Spencer Tracy and Jimmy Stewart), but no. I played with “tar,” then there came of course “petrol” (another Briticism), then “flint,” but it isn't flinty, “stone,” but it isn't stony, until I realized that the minerality doesn't present itself a capella, but is part and parcel of the wine's autolytic quality, the “biscuit and toast” I mentioned earlier. The minerality hence is the minerality you get from good local water, into which you dissolve yeast, add flour, bake bread. The minerality is integrated into the wine as the water becomes part and parcel of the bread.

On the nose and palate I get notes of what I call “topical lime,” but also a rich orange, a slightly bitter orange peel, the floral note of orange blossom, pineapple, banana, and even some kiwi, a true jump from the Riesling grape's origin in Germany. They harvest these grapes at night and keep the entire winemaking process cool. This resulting wine is clean, honestly clean, and if there is a commonality with its old world antecedents (other than the minerality and the tethered acidity), it may be a note of just picked pear. As the better German Rieslings near demand you plumb their depths and hence enjoy yourself in drinking them, this Aussie entrant is no less insistent on waiting until you let your hair down, loosen your tie, and come to do things its way. The geographic stretch involved only highlights the fact that Riesling is a truly great grape.

Verdict: Kick Off Your Shoes First
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It is a joy to follow the Riesling grape around the world; if the grape keeps speaking long enough, it may overcome some of its bad press. My suspicion is that it will endure.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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