On The Tasting Table Issue No.2
Welcome to the second Community Wines Newsletter of 2018. In the last issue I mentioned that I would follow up with some of the amazing reds I had the pleasure of consuming over Summer. But I am going to put that on hold for another issue because I got to attend Riesling Riot yesterday, a celebration of all things Riesling!
It was held under the Sydney Town Hall and also had a public session in the evening. If you knew about it and got along to try some Rieslings…well done.
To say it was a great experience is an understatement, it was a showcase of most of the Rieslings available on the market today. Before anyone thinks Riesling, why would anyone drink that, I need to be upfront. I am passionate about Riesling, some of the top Rieslings produced in Australia are in fact some of the best wines we produce.
To be honest we produce some of the best Riesling in the world but it gets a really bad wrap. A long time ago some very bad winemakers made some very bad overly sweet wine and called it Riesling and we as a nation have never really gotten over it. But anyone who has tried Riesling in the past decade would know that dry Riesling is just that – dry and flavoursome and nuanced with delicate textures and flavours. Because Riesling is so underrated it also presents a great value opportunity. No-one will pay a lot for Riesling so it never quite reaches the premiums that other top reds and whites do. For example Grosset Polish Hill is possibly one of the top Rieslings in Australia and retails for about $50 in most places, Giaconda Chardonnay (one of Australia’s best Chardonnays) if you can find it – starts at $125, Moss Wood Cabernet over $100, Heschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz $250 plus.
So today’s newsletter is all about the amazing Riesling I got to try. But I will only do highlights as I tried about 50 Rieslings and did not manage to see everything and do not wish to bore you describing 50 Rieslings.
Note: references to grams of residual sugar means grams per litre
First off the bench was Grosset.
I will be honest Grosset has not always been a favourite, some years it has been amazing and other years I have not understood the fuss. 2017 was an amazing year. If I have had to pick previously the Springvale Riesling ($40) has always been my pick as it is generally more approachable, the Polish Hill offering up searing lines of acidity that I just don’t enjoy. This last vintage was completely different, the Springvale had the big acid and lower residual sugar, but the Polish Hill – OMG what a wine, delicious completely fruit dominated flavours with acids hiding somewhere in the background. If you ever get a chance try the 2017 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling ($55).
Next was Helm Wines from Murrumbateman near Canberra.
I have been a fan of Helm for some years, I am not sure what I am more in love with…their Cabernet or their Riesling. But the Riesling does rock.
There has always been a delicacy around Helm Rieslings that is not common, more often than not Australian Riesling is made in a more boisterous fruit forward fashion. Not Ken Helm. His wines are exercises in delicacy of flavour.
The Helm Orange Riesling ($24) is a great example of a) fruit from the Orange Region and b) high altitude cool climate Riesling. It was all about delicate fruit notes (citrus) and then dryness.
The Helm Classic Riesling ($33) came in two parts…fruit, then dry. An amazing wine with about 5g residual sugar, I am not sure I saw it on its best day among a couple hundred other Rieslings, but Iook forward to seeing it again.
The Helm Premium Riesling ($43) was balanced with lemon blossom on the nose and a lime minerality across the palate finishing dry, a great wine that will taste even better in 10 years.
RieslingFreak made lots of noises last year, picking up National Trophies for best wine, Young Gun Winemaker of the Year 2017 and lots of rave reviews. I have been pushing this wine to anyone who will listen, and those that did thanked me. I can say the 2018 vintage is expected to be amazing. On offer was a full range of Rieslings including a Sparkling Riesling.
As Sparkling wines go, the No.9 Sparkling Sekt Riesling was something different the aromatics of the Riesling fruit and the bubbles combined to present some ethereal flavours. Quite aromatic and rich fruit on the palate the wine finished quite dry which will come as a shock to anyone drinking commercial sparkling wine or champagne.
The No.3 Clare Valley Riesling (the award winner) I have enjoyed a few times and each time it has evolved further, this is rich and textured slightly round on the palate with mainly lime citrus flavours and an underline of chalky minerality.
The No.4 Eden Valley Riesling was similar in style to the No.3 but instead of lime think Grapefruit and you have it.
Australian Riesling Winemakers generally drink either Crawford River Riesling from Henty or they drink Vickery Riesling. Both with good reason. Crawford River makes some of the best Riesling in Australia and deserve consideration by anyone who says they are a Riesling fan.
The 2017 Young Vines Riesling ($32) was rich and fruit forward with floral notes and spices. Really easy drinking, very difficult to spit.
The 2016 Crawford River Riesling ($46) is either the best Riesling I tried yesterday or the most memorable. The winemaker related that she had difficulty finding fruit flavour at picking but once it went into the ferment the change was monumental. This is not what I expected to taste. The nose was florally lemon honeysuckle, but the palate was something else entirely. The front palate was this ethereal essence of great citrus flavours quite rich in fact but did not stay in place long enough. It was a palate of two halves front and back. There was zero obvious acid on the palate, but it finished cleanly dry at the back. No puckery acid just a dry finish.
The 2010 Crawford River Riesling ($78) was similar in flavours, but the fruit flavours were more obviously developed and the underlying minerality presented in lines of developed chalk.
The 2006 Crawford River Riesling ($96) was a great wine, a real showcase of what a well-made 11-year-old Riesling should look like rich and flavoursome without a hint of it falling over.
Pewsey Vale is one of those wines that you either love or hate, it has a huge cult following because of the Prima Riesling and the Contours Riesling is also widely celebrated but these wines can let lost among the other great wines out there.
The Prima Riesling ($28) is 22g residual sugar and that really makes itself known from the start. I am not such a huge fan of “Off Dry” Rieslings but this is an interesting example of the style and it is very well made.
The 2017 Pewsey Vale Estate Riesling ($27), wow it is really effing dry and at 0.9g all I got was searing acidity. The fruit is there but beyond lemon lime citrus notes I did not get much.
The 1961 Block Riesling ($33) is a relatively new release and celebrates the first vines planted in Pewsey Vale in 1961 but making a single block wine from a selection of those vines. The 1961 Block is in complete contrast to the Estate Riesling and I would have to say it was one of the best/most memorable Rieslings of the day. It has 0.06 g of Residual sugar and is therefore drier than the Estate, but the difference is Night & Day. There was so much fruit on the palate it came in waves and the acidity was mostly hidden. This is a real WOW wine and if you have the opportunity get some of this Riesling and try it. It sells for less than the Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling but on the whole, I would consider it a far better wine.
Which brings me to the Contours Riesling ($38) which had a residual sugar of 2.2g which makes it dry, but you really noticed the fruit sweetness after the 1961. Acids were also more prominent. This is a well-made wine and will live for decades.
Sons of Eden
Sons of Eden have been around for a few years and make consistently good wines but their Rieslings are always worth a look.
The 2017 Freya Riesling ($24) showed very “limey” citrus and an underline of chalk with quite a good finish. My own notes were yum! It also has great length.
The 2012 vintage Freya was more aromatic and developed with big notes of lemon and lime throughout. In addition, it is quite a textural wine offering a mouth filling experience The 2013 Freya was similar but offered more acidity
If you are curious about dry German Rieslings the Dr Burklin Wolf wines are my suggestion to start. Made in the Pfalz region these wines celebrate dry aromatics in a way we have not quite achieved in Australia. These wines are celebrated by wine experts throughout Europe.
The Burklin Wolf Riesling ($31) is both a great value proposition and is a perfect example of a dry fruit driven but balanced Riesling. The palate was full of citrus and great texture but the acid driving the dryness was hidden and integrated.
The Burklin Wolf Wachenheimer Riesling ($39) was quite dry but the citrus flavours reminded me of fruit tingles from when I was a kid – really enjoyable.
The Burklin Wolf Wachenheim Altenburg Premier Cru Riesling ($66) was dry with a more compelling fruitier palate but the acids were almost more noticeable…this one is a keeper for a few years.
The Burklin Wolf Wachenheim Gerumpel Premier Cru Riesling ($58) was more fruit driven – lemon lime and vague hints of stone fruit and then finished clean and dry
The Burklin Wolf Ruppertsberg Gaisbohl Grand Cru Riesling ($106) was as good a Grand Cru Riesling that you will get anywhere. I always feel lucky to try these.
One thing I found when trying some of the Western Australian Rieslings was that the citrus notes on the wine were more grapefruit than anything else. South Australia and the East Coast is very lemon & lime, but the West is all grapefruit. I had the pleasure of trying the Plantagenet and Howard Park Wines.
The Plantagenet 2013 Riesling was good quite balanced with great texture and mouthfeel, the acid was there but really playing hide and seek. Flavours were definitely more Ruby Grapefruit than lemon lime.
The Plantagenet 2006 Riesling had a great nose with lots of floral notes with hints of dusty chalk bright acidity was obvious and I think that will be the case with Stelvin aged wines, the acidity which usually melds into the developing toasty notes of the older Riesling does not have that opportunity any more -flavours were more grapefruit than anything else.
The new release Plantagenet 2017 Riesling Angevin ($24) displayed light honeysuckle florals which came in layers combined with notes of grapefruit. A wonderfully balanced easy drinking young Riesling.
Howard Park came next, I must say I do enjoy their wines.
The Howard Park Flint Rock Riesling ($26) was textured – round & fleshy a nicely balanced Riesling with easy fruit flavours
The Mount Barker Riesling ($31) was a bigger nose with wonderful aromas and the palate was pure citrus, more grapefruit.
The Porongurup Riesling ($32) had a very light nose with prominent citrus flavours but it was totally balanced. Acids were quite prominent.
The award for delicate wine of the day goes to Lark Hill an old favourite of mine and once upon a time the highest vineyard in Australia. The Riesling is another showcase of great cool climate Riesling.
The Lark Hill Riesling ($39) offered delicate acids in balance with lemony lime citrus flavours and aromas yum!
Last but certainly not least came Vickery, John Vickery is one of the most celebrated Riesling makers in Australia who made wines for everyone else and everyone drank his wines because they were extremely good. He came out of retirement at 80 to start his own label and has been on fire ever since.
The Vickery Watervale Riesling ($24) was rich textured and round with masses of citrus leaning toward lime & grapefruit but there was no acid in sight it was totally integrated. An Amazing Wine!
The Vickery Eden Valley Riesling ($28) was a bigger richer more integrated example than the Watervale Riesling wow what a wine!
Well that’s it for this issue, next time will probably be some notes about the release tastings that are coming up.
Some ideas if you are on the lookout:
Chardonnay: De Beaurepaire Wines “La Comtesse Chardonnay” 2016 $30– a recent discovery from New South Wales made in the Chablis style 50/50 old oak/stainless steel ferment but a lot richer and more stylish than a Chablis. If you like your fruit but are not a fan of oak then this is for you!
Sauvignon Blanc: Le Fou Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Pays D’Oc $20 – not from Marlborough but done in a similar if toned down style its grassy and herbaceous with hints of gooseberries. It has tropical fruit like Marlborough Savvy but not as pungent.
Pinot Gris: Harvest Pinot Gris by Unico Zelo 2017 Adelaide Hills $20 – with six hours on skins this Pinot Gris evokes lemons and bananas against a background of pink flowers. Very easy to drink this has rich pear flavours and is quite textural though not oily.
Pinot Noir: Clarence House Pinot Noir 2016 Tasmania $33 – probably one of the best Tassie Pinots I had the pleasure of drinking last year, at this price it is value.
Shiraz: CRFT Wines Fechner Vineyard Shiraz 2014 Eden Valley $45 – One of those special shiraz from amazing fruit that goes into better known wines and should not be priced here but it is. This wine has such depth and intensity, you will not forget a glass of this.
Cabernet: Reschke Rufus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra $23 – classic Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, drinking beautifully.
Rosé: Hanhndorf Hill Rosé Adelaide Hills $20 – Ornages and red fruit on the nose against a backdrop of spice the palate is big red fruit raspberries cranberries and currants. With zero acid this wine is smooth as silk. With a great finish.
Sparkling: Gratien & Meyer NV Brut Rose Loire France $28 – yes you can get great sparkling wines in France outside Champagne! This is one, definitely worth a look if you like sparkling or are mad for Sparkling Rosé.