This week is all about Riesling, and possibly the best Cotes du Rhone Blanc I have had in years.
Vintage 2019 in the Clare and Eden Valleys was a shocker, a beautiful season right up until just before harvest and then the weather turned. Hail and other unexpected weather destroyed up to 60% of some growers crops. What is left is magnificent, as most winemakers and growers then nursed the remaining fruit to vintage. But if you are a Riesling fan, when you see 2019 vintage wines grab them. They will not be around when you decide to make a purchase. Either that or stock up on 2018.
First off the rank this week were two wines from Rieslingfreak winemaker John Hughes, who has vineyards in both the Eden Valley and Clare Valley. I got to have a look at the No.4 (Eden Valley) and No.5 (Off Dry). The No.3 will also be released soon.
Stocks of No.4 are about 120 dozen...thats it (normally closer to 500 dozen). The No.5 is at about 60 dozen and I suspect the No.3 when released will be between tihe two. As to his other wines, I have no information whether enough fruit was available to make these.
The nose is incredible with Honeysuckle, Lime juice, Musk Sticks and white flowers.
The palate is vibrant Lime and Elderflower, it really zings with a chalky minerally finish.
My notes: Still bloody lovely can’t get enough.
Off-Dry is a bit of a misnomer, so I should clarify.
This wine is Off-Dry in comparison to John's other wines (the No.2, No.3, No.4) which John usually makes bone dry. In general less than 3g/l of residual sugar. The No.5 has approximately 15g/l of residual sugar. Pikes, one of John's neighbours in the Clare Valley has about 13g/l.
Jeffrey Grosset's Alea Riesling (also considered Off-Dry at 15g/l) once almost found itself in the final at a dry Riesling competition.
Traditional Off-Dry Rieslings usually have upwards of 20g/l residual sugar.
So if you like a Dry but richer style of Riesling then I would suggest looking at the No.5.
The nose is musky (more musk sticks it’s a theme across his wines) with chalky minerally notes. Hints of Citrus flower & Lime.
This is balanced, super smashable and it zings with lime – sweet lime…its very Key Lime Pie like with a really dry finish.
This is more spicy Asian salad or a curry.
It has been a while between drinks but I finally got a look at the Vickery Watervale 2018 Riesling. It made for a nice comparison.
The winemakers winemaker, Vickery has turned out yet another fine Clare Valley Riesling.
Huge Lime characters show on the nose, coupled with white florals (Citrus flower maybe?). Soft and dry with a slight zing from the acid across the tongue, then chalky lime wraps itself around. At the finish leaving quite a lovely texture. To identify the flavour, the closet I can come is GI Cordial...not at all sweet but this is the memory the flavour evokes.
This wine will go with a broad range of foods, be daring and experiment with food matches.
Rotem and Mounir Saouma are a celebrated winemaking partnership in France. Mounir is the better known half of the partnership making wines under their two labels, Lucien Le Moine in Burgundy and Clos Saouma in the Rhone. A masterful winemaker and due to this has developed a cult following, for his extremely limited productions.
Personally I am not a huge fan, often finding his wines overworked, oxidative or reductive depending on the wine and sometimes both! But each year I welcome the opportunity to taste his wines, as an objective wine-taster I try to better understand his wines and potentially see what others see (I mean his wines are sought after across the globe, I am happy to accept I am missing something).
On Wednesday morning my world turned on its head. I tasted the Clos Saouma Inopia Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2016 (one of the finest years on record) and I tasted what I can only describe as the best Cotes du Rhone Blanc I have enojoyed in a decade. Clean and clear, not overworked. Evidence of a masterful winemaker working with the Rhone varieties. A wine I will happily file in my library as one of the finest Rhone Blancs I have ever tried.
Clos Saouma Inopia Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2016
Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc. A nose comprising Oatmeal, fresh flowers both white & yellow and fresh fruit - like a waft from a fruit bowl in summer.
My own words on the palate: FAARK! Amazing. A soft mouth coating of nutty dried Apricot, such delicately soft acids. Lemon pith, Lemons and Eucalypt. I could go on for hours about this wine...it was stunning. Finish is dry, long and wonderous.
As a guide the price is $58 per bottle and there is stock available but not a lot, so I am not listing it on the website. But if you would like some (even just a bottle) please contact me at the link below.
Mounir then doubled down and produced arguably one of the finest Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs of the 2016 vintage. A masterclass in blending 13 official Rhone varieties.
Clos Saouma Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2016 "Magis"
Clean and clear, on the light side of Hay. A ripe vibrant nose jumps out of the glass showing white and yellow flowers and fresh fruit. The aromatic varieties dominate the nose, Roussanne being the most prominent (though not the dominant variety in the blend). The palate was even more phenomenal than the Blanc, by a factor of 10! Amazing, zingy, buttery, nutty (roasted cashews), honey and white peaches mingling with this clean line of minerality. Interestingly for a white the tannins were prominent and gives the wine that extra something. A great finish.
Everyone thinks Chateauneuf du Pape and immediately thinks red wine, but here and there are some producers making these magnificent Whites (or technically Chateauneuf du Pape Blancs). Again another one for the library. Again at $170 is in short supply but if you are interested please contact me.
Finally a note on the By Farr Chardonnay 2018, a highly respected reviewer gave it 96 points earlier this week. One worth keeping in mind if you see it on a restaurant menu.