Cellar adventures: Clare Valley riesling

Some parts of my wine collection are meticulously organized. Other parts, not so much. So I was surprised to come across a bottle the other day of 2003 Annie’s Lane “Copper Trail” Riesling from Australia’s Clare Valley when I was rummaging through boxes in the not-so-organized part.

Riesling, of course – especially prime examples from Germany – has the reputation of aging well. Its high acidity really helps on that score. I’ve also had old rieslings from Australia that had developed nicely. But I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle, which had been stored under OK-but-not-perfect conditions.

It was amazingly good. The wine displayed fresh, pristine lime and candied lime peel flavors with a touch of sweetness and a bare hint of diesel. Its golden color showed a bit of age, but I wouldn’t have guessed from its appearance that it was 17 years old. Perhaps crucially, it was bottled under screwcap.

I found some of my notes from a 2004 trip to Clare Valley, when I tasted a number of 2003 rieslings. Annie’s Lane was one of my stops. Based on my notes, I’d say that this wine had evolved, but the evolution was much slower than I would have expected. Rather, it was still extremely youthful. The 2003 Clare rieslings were almost all sealed with screwcaps, because a group of area vintners made the switch from cork en masse in 2002.

Annie’s Lane is a brand from Treasury Wine Estates (Penfolds, Beringer, Chateau St. Jean) that’s no longer available in the U.S. When it was, it was fairly inexpensive. But I think this bottle is instructive as to the potential of any dry riesling from Australia’s two best growing regions for the variety, Clare Valley and Eden Valley, as well as some from Western Australia. During that same trip to Clare Valley, I tasted an old riesling from the Great Southern region of Western Australia that had been bottled under screwcap and was incredible at about 30 years of age.

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