Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eden Valley or Clare Valley Riesling?

I was reading an article by Tyson Stelzer in Decanter magazine recently about Clare Valley and Eden Valley Riesling. Of his top 15 picks from the 2009 vintage, 11 were from the Clare Valley. This preference for Clare Valley Rieslings over the Eden Valley is something I’ve noticed more generally amongst critics. Halliday’s best Riesling lists generally have about double the amount of Clare Valley. Jukes’ latest top 100 wines has 7 Clare as against 3 Eden, while Nick Stock’s Penguin Wine Guide has 40 odd Clare reviews compared to only 4 for the Eden.

The reason this broad trend has caught my attention is my preference for Eden Valley Rieslings. The lovely floral bouquets, and the minerality and acidity on the palate of the Eden generally does it for me just that bit more than the rounder, more citrus flavours of the Clare. Eden Rieslings from Pewsey Vale, Poonawatta, Torzi Matthews, and Peter Lehman have all tickled my fancy of late. Before I get into this further I want to say that I love Clare Rieslings. Recently I’ve had the 09 Grosset Polish Hill, as well as the 09 Petaluma Hanlin Hill, and both were absolutely stunning. However, in nominating a preference between these two wonderful Riesling regions, I fall on the Eden side of the ledger.

But I guess my question is what is the reason for the clear dominance of Clare Rieslings amongst wine critics? Is it people’s opinion that Clare Rieslings are definitively better than those of the Eden Valley? Is it possible that in the slightly more objective elements of wine like length, structure, and balance, that the Clare produces better wines.

Do people prefer the flavour profiles of Clare Riesling?

Is it the history of the Clare and the fact it there are possibly more historic wineries of real pedigree? Wineries like Knappstein and Grosset produce truly iconic Riesling, but are they given higher regard than a Pewsey Vale Contours or a Leo Buring Leonay?

Or is it nothing more complicated than the fact that there are more wineries in the Clare with more hectares of Riesling?

Whatever the case it’s an enjoyable conundrum. Both regions occupy a loving place in my cellar but for the minute the Eden has the edge for me . . .



Jeremy Pringle said...

Really enjoyed this post. I've noticed the same trends and pondering the reason for them is fascinating, even if it's ultimately impossible to pin down.


Anonymous said...

Eden is the best. Critics are morons :)

Red said...

GW, I have noticed Winefront gives the Eden a fairer shake of the sauce bottle (to quote our Dear Leader)

Chris Plummer said...

Personally I can't split the two, but I can be a bit like a preprogrammed robot in my quest for impartiality... However, I do have a soft spot for the clarity and chalkiness of the Eden, as well as Grosset's wines, which I believe are Australia's best. Nope, haven't answered your question - sorry Red!

What I can say is that whenever I walk into a retail store or dining venue in Adelaide, Clare riesling normally outnumbers Eden Valley riesling by a 2 to 1 count, if not 5 to 1 (what's it like in Sydney?). I've certainly noticed a rise in boutique producers of Eden Valley riesling in recent years though, which is proving very healthy for the region's reputation.

Chris P

Red said...

Chris, I'd say the difference at retail outlets in Sydney is similar. More to the point, it's often depressing how small the Riesling section is in restarants and bottle shops. Sometimes its nice just to see a Clare or Eden Riesling in amongst the Sav Blanc and Pinot Gris . . .

Brown said...


I would add that one saving grace for me is that the Pewsey Vale Riesling has a good distribution in even the smaller bottle shops. You can get the odd Watervale, Petaluma, Heggies (with Clare dominating), but as Andrew says above, the Riesling section is dwarfed by Sauv Blanc and Pinot Gris.
I have seen quite a few bottles of the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Rielsing around the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney as well (must be the cute Frog on the label :-) )


Edward said...


As you suggest, perhaps it is all to do with the number of producers in the Clare compared to Eden.

As much as I like the wines of Grosset, I think I prefer the rieslings of the Great Southern and Tasmania (though they are even more under represented on the shelves).

Red said...

Edward, I've yet to try enough Tassie or WA Riesling to have too much of an opinion on them, though that which I have tried I've enjoyed. Had a Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling a while back (I think it was the 08) and thought it was superb.

Michael L said...

I think it is that there are many more Clare Rieslingsd produced than Eden Rieslings. It is simply a numbers issue. For me it is also Eden Riesling - beautiful floral aromatics and lovely minerality.

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