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For several years now, we’ve enjoyed the good fortune of having plenty of wines from Down Under lining our retail shelves. Australia, a well-oiled wine marketing machine, established a foothold with its powerful shiraz and inexpensive chardonnay. But as savvy as the Aussies have been in capturing our attention, they still haven’t gotten the message across that we need Australian riesling in our lives. So what is it that Australians — and Europeans for that matter — know about this wine that we don’t? It’s that dry riesling — a varietal at which they’re quite adept — is more adaptable and complementary to food than many other white wines. And they can be had for very reasonable prices. Australia’s rieslings are made more in the Alsatian style than the German. That means the wines are dry, light-bodied, and lightly scented. Their essence is vibrant rather than luscious, and they have more alcohol and less residual sugar. These wines can have a lime, floral or mineral character, or seem slightly spicy when they are young. But thanks to the combination of zesty acidity and extract and the lack of heavy oak, riesling is a wine with aging potential. The majority of the grapes are grown in the Clare, Eden and Barossa valleys — all in southern Australia. The wine producers from these regions have become screw-top converts of late, convinced that using a “Stelvin,” a tamper-proof, long-skirted screw closure, ensures that a wine retains its freshness and avoids bottle variation and cork taint. The wines, despite their relative obscurity, are appearing on some wine lists, particularly when Asian-inspired foods are on the menu. Otherwise, consumers will have to seek them out (they are easily identified by their tall, sloped-neck bottles) or ask their wine shops to order them. The following is a sample of what is currently imported to the United States. On a recent evening, I assembled 10 tasters to offer their impressions of the wines. The wines are listed in rough order of the tasters’ preference, from most favorable to least: � Petaluma Riesling 2000 ($17). A crowd-pleaser that is aromatic with a floral and citrus nose, giving up lime and pleasing honey flavors. � Wynns Coonawarra Estate Riesling 2001 ($10). Expect flavors on the riper end of the spectrum including bright grapefruit, honeysuckle and melon. � Annie’s Lane Riesling Clare Valley 2002 ($14). Watch out for this wine, which has recently entered the American market. Winemaker Caroline Dunn uses grapes from two well-known sources: the Carlsfield Vineyard (planted in 1935) and Sevenhill Vineyard (planted in 1978.) Dunn’s free-run juice creates a balanced dry wine with tart lemon and lime flavors, mineral accents, and a surprising hint of spice on the finish. A good wine to drink with dinner. � Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2001 ($15). Bright, crisp and lively, with lime, delicate apricot and floral notes, and a harmonious, lingering finish. � Rosemont Estate Riesling 2002 ($10). Made with the juice from grapes of Barossa and Eden valleys. Tart green apple and a hint of lime meld nicely on the finish. � im Barry Lodge Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2002 ($15). Lean and mineral with lime and other citrus flavors ending in a pleasing dry finish. � Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2002 ($14). Made with free-run juice from grapes grown in both the Clare and Eden valleys. Subtle lemon and grapefruit flavors predominate in this light-bodied wine, with lime, lemon zest on the midpalate. � Penfolds Eden Valley Reserve Riesling 2001 ($10). The grapes that produce this wine are grown at a high altitude and have the benefit of cool temperatures. The subtle flavors of crisp green apple and lime linger on its lean frame. � Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Heathcote Riesling 2001 ($22). Tart and tangy citrus flavors with hints of grapefruit and lemon zest. � Pikes Clare Valley Riesling 2002 ($15). A well-distributed, light-bodied wine from southern Australia has lemon aromas, and a slight mineral character. Elisabeth Frater is “Wine Counsel,” a wine law attorney based in Napa, Calif. “Wine Counsel” can be reached at [email protected]

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