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Australian Riesling: Over 50 highlights from Riesling Riot, Melbourne

The godfather of Australian Riesling, industry legend John Vickery with fellow winemaker and godson, Phil Lehmann of Vickery Wines

Riesling is notoriously beloved by the wine trade, but something of a hard sell among end consumers.  So it was reassuring to discover that the hordes attending Melbourne’s and Sydney’s Riesling Riot Tastings were a 50:50 trade/end consumer mix.  Over 1700 tickets were sold and, on the other side of the table, 102 producers from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Alsace and Washington presented their wares.  “Marvellous to see,” said Australian Riesling legend John Vickery.

Rolling out the red carpet for Riesling at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne Riesling Riot

Having spent the first part of last week at Riesling Downunder – an international Riesling symposium and tasting – I’ll be reflecting on the current state of play with Australian Riesling in an upcoming online article for Harpers.  However, a couple of things really struck me about the event.  First, the rise of German dry styles of Riesling – they dominated the international selection shown.  Second, as you’ll see from my photos from Riesling Riot Melbourne, the Riesling families’ social media savvy younger generation were out in force which, surprise, surprise, was reflected in the audience – younger than one might have expected and, I would add, highly engaged and information hungry.

Wrapping up proceedings, third generation – Sam Barry of Jim Barry, one of Riesling Downunder’s founders

Second generation – Hunter Smith of Frankland Estate, one of Riesling Downunder’s founders

Of the ‘Old World’ wines, I must admit that the ‘high wire tension’ dry styles blew me away with their purity and persistence.  A quality I admire in classic Australian bone dry Riesling.  Three standouts, to which my mind keeps returning, were F.X. Pichler Riesling Kellerberg Smaragd 2016 (Wachau, Austria), Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Gros Gewachs (Mosel, Germany) and Dönnhoff Riesling Hermannshöle Grosses Gewächs 2016 (Nahe, Germany), the latter of which made me jolly glad I have some 2007 in my cellar!

John Hughes, Rieslingfreak

As for the Australian Rieslings, since my fortnight’s focus on Riesling 10 years ago, different descriptors have entered my vocabulary thanks to the greater diversification of winemaking techniques, notably the use of solids/lees, skin contact, wild yeasts and oxidative handling, including barrel/foudre-ageing.  Residual sugar too.  Australian Riesling can be bone dry, arrow straight and pure as the driven snow or textural, more dimensional, in flavour/sweetness spectrum too.

Below you’ll find 54 Australian Riesling highlights from Melbourne’s Riesling Riot.   The Regent Theatre’s ballroom filled up fast, so my notes from this buzzy tasting are on the brief side.  Exciting new discoveries to watch out for included Vickery Wines and John Hugh’s Rieslingfreak.  Both producers source from Clare and Eden Valleys.  Giving his name to the brand (which is owned by WD Wines), 84 year old industry veteran John Vickery was the man who, from 1955, pioneered Australia’s classic dry, pure style of Riesling at Leo Buring’s Chateau Leonay.  It was an unexpected privilege to meet him and Phil Lehmann who, together, make the wines.  Bibendum are going to be importing Rieslingfreak, whilst Vickery’s Rieslings are imported by Jascots.

Watervale Clare Valley

Vickery Watervale 2017

Phil Lehmann, winemaker for the WD Wine group

The fruit is sourced from three Watervale growers.  Very perfumed with kaffir lime, lime blossom and flavoursome and succulent lime and lychee to the palate.  Lovely fruit depth and ripeness with brightness – a generous Watervale Riesling with, I’m told, a little bit of pressings for flavour (the press cut is 500-575l/ton).  Long with a salty note to the finish.  2.5g/l residual sugar.  Delicious. It gets the green bottle (l) while the Eden valley Riesling reviewed below goes into an amber bottle (of which there seem to be more these days).  13%

Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2005 (Clare Valley)

Second generation sisters Hilary and Edwina Mitchell

It was nice to catch up again with Hilary Mitchell (left) who included this wine in a 2016 vertical tasting (my notes on the 2001 to 2015 here).  Loaded with lemon and lime with talc floral lift, this is an exceptionally youthful 13 year old Riesling with great drive and a mouthwatering finish with roasted lime.  13%

Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Expressively floral nose with hints of Turkish delight/roses petals and an open-textured, succulent palate with mouthfeel.  Very 2017.  13%

Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Mount Horrocks’ Stephanie Tooles with her son Alexander

I tasted this Riesling in London last month at Liberty’s tasting (my report here) and this second bite at the cherry confirmed its minerality.  Intensely grapefruity, with incipient grapefruit pith/oil, whetstone minerality (flavour and textural dry extract).  Firm, long, precise. 2.5g/l RS 12.5%

Wines by KT 5452 Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

I’ve not seen winemaker/owner Kerri Thomson for ages, though I’ve often borrowed her perfect description of Riesling – “a variety with a postcode.”  5452 is the postcode for Watervale, the Clare Valley sub-region from which she sources her Rieslings, working with two vineyards – Peglidis and Churinga.  Designed to be really juicy and drinkable, it’s her entry level Riesling.  An element of wild ferment, solids and 3g/l residual sugar make for a rounder, succulent style within the range.  Nicely done. 12.5%

Wines by KT Peglidis Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Planted in 1973, old vines produce a classic lime-sluiced palate with musky floral lift, subtly textural lime pith and a bony, mineral finish.  Lovely intensity. 12%

Wines by KT Churinga Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Whilst Peglidis features Watervale’s classic clay and limestone soils, Churinga has some blue slate too which makes for a punchier Riesling with more volume (a sense of dry extract) and resonance to the long, echoing lime and quinine finish.  12.5%

Wines by KT Pazza 2017 (Clare Valley)

This no added sulphur Riesling comes from the Peglidis vineyard.  The free run juice was wild fermented and aged for 12 months in stainless steel and seasoned French oak on solids.  The barrel element underwent malolactic fermentation.  It has an aldehydic hint to its creamy fruit salad palate with a glycerol-driven sweetness though, like the Peglidis, the finish is bony and tight.  12%

Wines by KT Aged Release Peglidis Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley)

A fan of bottle age, Thomson releases this wine after 4-5 years when the lime-fuelled palate becomes more textural, whilst losing none of its tension.  Long with plenty of drive and mineral back palate resonance.  The ferment starts naturally, but Thomson inoculates to ensure it goes through to dryness.

Clos Clare Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Produced by Tom and Sam Barry, I typically find this wine to have a very textural quality – a powderiness/sense of dry extract.  Still, it has a lightness of being with a quinine edge to its lychee fruit.  It comes from a 46-year-old dry grown vineyard adjoining the Jim Barry-owned historic ‘Florita’ vineyard.  Lovely.

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Speak of the devil, Jim Barry are Australia’s number 1 Riesling producer and this is their biggest production example in the range.  It is sourced from the Florita vineyard and made in a fruit-driven style with lashings of juicy lime, good line and a mouth-watering finish.  11.8%

Jim Barry Florita 2017 (Clare Valley)

The fruit for Florita – a historic vineyard of note – is selected from rows where the terra rossa and loam barely cover the deep limestone below.  It is a favourite Watervale Riesling, with terrific drive, purity and perfume.  Lovely, floral nose with vivid lime with gin & tonic perfume and minerality to the palate.  Arrow straight, it has superb line, length and purity.  Super-tight.  12.5%

Shut the Gate For Love Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Striking bottles and wines from Richard Wood, co-founder Shut the Gate

New to me, Shut the Gate was established in 2010 and sources fruit from eight growers.  The wines are made in a classic protective style with free run fruit (400l/t press cut) and an inoculated ferment. For Love is bone dry but with a fresh puree/chalky softness to the fruit, lovely citrussy/orange peel aromatics and a saline finish.

Shut the Gate Rosie’s Patch Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

From a south-facing site, Rosie’s Patch shows ripe lime with floral lift;  more open knit than For Love.

Shut the Gate For Love Riesling 2012 (Clare Valley)

A cooler year so this is a little more evolved than I might have thought, but I like it for those classic tertiary limes on toast/Bick’s lime cordial given its good push of acidity.  Toasty finish.

Shut the Gate Blossom Riesling 2016 (Clare Valley)

From the same vineyard as For Love but this wine has 26g/l residual sugar.  It’s a pretty wine with a cool, clean feel to its grapefruit; the sugar softens the fruit around the edges but it is nicely balanced – very drinkable.

Rieslingfreak Sekt Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley)

This is a dry, firm, lemony sparkling Riesling with lemon verbena inflections, lime and a sucking stones quality to the finish.  Quite vinous and most definitely Riesling.  Touch of toast and dried honey to the finish. 2.5g/l dosage.

Grosset Alea Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Jeff Grosset with daughter Georgina

Inevitably, Grosset’s best known terroir-differentiated dry Rieslings, Polish Hill 2017 & Springvale 2017 were all but run out by the time I visited the table.  Good job I tasted them last month at Liberty Wine’s tasting – my review here.  As for Alea, Grosset has pulled back on the residual sugar in this off dry wine.  The 2017 comes in at 10g/l versus 15g/l in the original release. Grosset told me this makes for less sweet and sour – a more even, palate.  I’ve always thought this wine (albeit more fruit focused) has typical Grosset precision and, with lower residual it feels a tad more precise still.  Grosset observed that, because European wines of a similar analysis have botrytis, this delivers an extra level of complexity.  The trade off for Grosset (who doesn’t get botrytis) is fruit purity.

Polish Hill/River, Clare Valley

Shut the Gate For Freedom Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

From an older vineyard than For Love which is organically cultivated.  As you would expect from this sub-region’s ‘hard rock’ soil profile, For Freedom is tighter than the Watervale (soft rock) For Love cuvee with grapefruity drive – lovely length – and emphatic slatey minerality.  A touch of salinity too.  Long.

Pikes The Merle Reserve Riesling 2016 (Clare Valley)

Neil Pike

Pikes are, with Frankland Estate and Jim Barry, co-founders of Riesling Downunder.   Lemony/lemon sherbetty, crisp and lively.  The finish, dry and firm, is lime-sluiced finish with surprisingly pretty talcy nuances.  Very long and pristine.  Impressive.

Rieslingfreak No 2 Polish Hill River 2017 (Clare Valley)

Whilst Jeff Grosset’s Polish Hill vineyard’s hungry soils produce very small berries, this vineyard was hand selected due to its ability to produce large vines, large bunches and large berries.  It is planted on grey brown loam, over sandy limestone and shale rock and planted 460m above sea level.  As you might expect given the different berry size, Hughs’ Riesling is more expressive/open textued than Grosset Polish Hill, with elderflower perfume, pure and perfumed lychee fruit with a talcy/chalky ‘edge’ and persistent acidity.  Pretty but very persistent, with a cool purity about it.

Rieslingfreak Polish Hill Schatzkammer Riesling No. 8 2017 (Clare Valley)

Picked 10 days before Riesling No. 2, No. 8 similarly has elderflower lift but the fruit profile is quite different, with crab apple/green apple bite as well as fleshier apple.  It has an interesting, complexing bloom (skin/blossom/yeast) note/subtly waxy textural character, with a mineral tang to the finish.  I would never have guessed it has 50g/l of residual sugar.  It seems too delicate/featherlight for that.  With just 7% abv, one could say this fits with Ernie Loosen’s grandfather’s comment about German Spatlese Riesling being wines “to drink yourself sober.” 

Clare Valley, White Hut

Rieslingfreak No. 3 Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

I can’t recall the White Hut sub-region in northern Clare (just north of the township of Clare) coming up before, but encountered a couple of examples at Riesling Riot.  This one is from Hughs’ parents vineyard at an unusually elevated 500m on heavy loam over terra rossa.  True to his style, it has lovely purity.  With a touch of lolly/tropical fruit as well as classic lime, it is fruit driven, with a gentle roundness and chalkiness of texture.  Highly drinkable, but with the persistent undertow of acidity and fruit intensity to go the distance.

Rieslingfreak Riesling No. 5 2017 (Clare Valley)

Sourced from the same vineyard as No. 3 but harvested a week beforehand, this is an off-dry style.  It has a softness/rolling quality to the palate, but the balance and purity is beautiful.  Deftly handled, the residual sugar translates more as texture than sweetness.  I like Hugh’s textural approach, which differentiates his wines from the classic Clare school, whether dry or sweeter.  Whilst they are very persistent, it gives them a friendliness – a delicate mouthfeel (think about the lightness of a foam or feathers…).

Gaelic Cemetery Wines Celtic Farm Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

Gaelic Cemetry is a joint venture between Neil and Andrew Pike of Pikes Wines and Vigneron Grant Arnold.  Neil Pike told me that, with lots of rain over winter/spring, large berries meant you could press harder without picking up phenolics.  Still, this wine comes from gravel sub-soil so the vines have to work hard.  It is tightly wound with apple peel and core and just a touch of give (3.8g/l residual sugar) to the finish.  Very good.

Gaelic Cemetery Wines Premium Riesling 2017 (Clare Valley)

From the oldest block, this wine spent longer on lees.  It is more pebbly, with tight knit lime and a hint of greenness (herbality, attractive), which seems to be something of a Riesling lees’trait.  With nice thrust and grapefruit sorbet clarity, it finishes firm, long and dry.   Very classy.  11%/2.8g/l residual

Eden Valley

Vickery Riesling 2017  (Eden Valley)

Only this wine and the Watervale Riesling are made under the Vickery label, the former bottled in a green flute, this wine in an amber flute.  Fruit is sourced from five growers.  It’s a completely different animal from the bounteous and expressive Watervale.  Quite shy, with bath salts and a chalkiness of texture.  Drier (1.9g/l) and more delicate.  Needs time to unfurl.

Rieslingfreak Riesling No. 4 2017 (Eden Valley)

My notes say that this wine is sourced from three vineyards, but the website mentions two.  One is situated approximately 3kms north-west of the Eden Valley township on shallow grey sandy loam over shale rock soil at 450m.  The other in Flaxman’s Valley at 500m on loam over light medium clay, with high quartz rock and gravel content. They produce a pretty, talcy Riesling with Hughs’ (or maybe Hughs’ in 2017?) signature softness vis a vis mouthfeel.  Rolling, insinuating acidity makes for great length and dance of talc, chalk, florals. Lovely delicacy.

Henschke Peggy’s Hill Riesling 2016 (Eden Valley)

Whilst Julius is 100% estate fruit this cuvee includes grower fruit from vineyards at around 500m, up to 50 years old.  It sees a touch of phenolics for texture, making for a less punchy wine than Julius, but it’s still long and tight – classic pure and dry with line. 12%

Adelaide Hills

Sixth generation family member Justine Henschke

Henschke Green Hills Riesling 2016 (Adelaide Hills)

From the elevated Lenswood sub-region at 550m and a biodynamically cultivated vineyard, Green Hills shows textural applely fruit with lively snappy acidity, fine acidity and a tangy, oxidative ironstone note to the finish. 12.5%

Tasmania

Two Tonne Tasmania Ziggurat 2017 (Tamar Valley)

Two Tonne Tasmania’s Ricky Evans

I met Two Tonne Tasmania’s ambitious founder/winemaker, Ricky Evans, when I visited Tasmania in 2016 and he worked at Bay of Fires.  He has since left to concentrate full time on his own wines.  A splash (10%) of Gewurtztraminer which underwent carbonic maceration brings perfumed bath salts – a delicacy – to the nose and attack.  Where half the wine was barrel fermented, all elements spent three months on lees and it features 9g/l residual sugar, Ziggurat has a creamy, apple puree/sauce finish.  I re-tasted it during the Riesling Dowunder Masterclasses when it would have had more airtime in the glass.  It showed pear skins, lemony acidity and seemed more granular in texture.  Intriguing!

Two Tonne Tasmania TMV 2017 (Tamar Valley)

Made in a classic style this Riesling hails from a warmer site than the Ziggurat Riesling at Swan Bay.  It was left on the lees for 3 months, with an element of press juice and unfined.  So not super classic then.  Phenolics make for a spicy, perfumed Riesling which gently cleaves to the palate.  A deft touch of residual sugar (6g/l) adds lift to the tail.  Nicely done.

Porongorup, Great Southern

Castle Rock Estate Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

In great form, as were the wines – Rob Diletti of Castle Rock

I discovered Castle Rock (and Duke’s) on my first visit to the Porongurup in 2007.  Rob Diletti’s Rieslings and Pinot Noirs both super impressed.  It was good to catch up with him again.  This estate Riesling is classic nervy Porongurup, especially given that Castle Rock are located at the higher end of this Great Southern sub-region.  It is firm, tight, austere even, long and super-persistent with granny smith apple bite and a steely backbone of grapefruit.  11%

Castle Rock Estate Riesling 2006 (Great Southern)

As you would expect, a tertiary profile vis a vis texture (waxy) and flavour profile, with lemon curd, lime oil and spicy citrus pith and persistent acid drive, motoring the long finish.  11%

Castle Rock Estate Reserve Riesling 2016 (Great Southern)

Cloudier juice and a little lees contact lend a bit of texture to the palate, but the DNA is plain to see.  Sorbet-like clarity with grapefruit and crunchy granny smith acidity.  Tight, long and mineral.  Very good. 11.5%

Castle Rock Estate Skywalk Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

For Skywalk, Diletti looks to pressings (as opposed to solids) for texture in this dry Riesling.  It is perfumed/pretty with bath salts and a chalky texture.  11.5%

Castle Rock Estate Turret Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Featherlight, this Rielsing carries its residual sugar (25g/l) with ease.  Sorbet clarity to its grapefruit with succulent, perfumed lychee and apple sauce richness and a slatey mineral finish.10.5%

Duke’s Magpie Hill Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Duke Ranson with his 99 point Magpie Hill Riesling 2017

Duke Ranson’s vineyard is located at the other, lower end of the Porongurup from Castle Rock and the wines show a little more fruit weight (a relative thing in this sub-region).  Magpie Hill has a crisp, grapefruity palate with lime oil nuances.   It is vibrant, very focused and long with shimmer to its energetic citrus fruit.  Duke told me he sold 800 cases in 24 hours following Halliday’s 99 point award – he believes the writer’s highest ever award for a Riesling.

Dukes Single Vineyard Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Spicier and seemingly more phenolic, grapefruit juice/flesh striated with pith makes for a palate tickling, dynamic if subtle interplay of juice and extract.  Dry, long and mineral.  Very good.  (This one ‘only’ scored 97 points from Halliday).

Forest Hill Lowboi 2017 (Great Southern)

This first release has quite the retro-look (amber glass too).  The Riesling is sourced from the Springview vineyard planted in 1985 and located on a south west facing slope on the ocean-facing side of Porongorup.  Hand harvested fruit was whole bunch pressed and the juice and soft pressings were fermented in concrete egg on lees.  It has a textural, creamy palate with a volcanic mineral/iron (oxidative?) tang and a crab apple streaked finish. Interesting if perhaps needing a bit of time to knit together? 12.5%

Mount Barker, Great Southern

Forest Hill Block 2 Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

A touch of lees contact produces a fresh, pure but friendly Riesling with grapefruity acidity and nice instensity and focus to the finish. Very good.  12.5%

Forest Hill Block 1 Riesling 2015 (Great Southern)

This, one of Great Southern’s stand out Rieslings, is sourced from Great Southern’s oldest vineyard, planted in 1965.  This wine has always had a chalky, leesy textural character, a soft talc, which gives it more mid-palate presence than classic bone dry styles.  Still, it’s long and very persistent with lime and lime flower intensity going through.  Lovely; highly distinctive.  12.5%

Frankland River, Great Southern

Frankland Estate Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Frankland Estate are Great Southern’s pioneers of single vineyard Rieslings, organic viticulture and use of oak.  This estate wine is made relatively conventionally and incorporates younger vine material (2006) as well as original vineyard material (1988).  Powerful but dry, rounder than Poison Hill with orange oil nuances. Long and persistent.

Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Poison Hill has unique white clay and weathered quartz soils.  The winemaking here was pretty classic too. Perfumed, talcy, gently textural and dry with a resonant palate – lovely back palate linger.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Duplex soils of ironstone gravel over a clay sub-soil and a touch of elevation (256m) produce a pithier, limier, punchier Riesling with a tight acid back bone and dusty, gravelly minerality.  Cracking!  Since I first visited in 2008, the vineyard has been certified organic and winemaking has changed from classic protective winemaking to incorporating lees-ageing (for six months) and a small parcel fermented and aged in (neutral) oak for 10 months, both for texture.

Frankland Estate Alter Weg Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Alter Weg means old way and this tiny production Riesling (c a couple of hundred cases) is fermented and aged in 1200l foudre and 500l puncheons.  I tasted it at Riesling Riot and in one of Riesling Downunder’s masterclasses.  During the masterclass Hunter Smith described it as “a real push on from the others,” adding “it’s not meant to sit alongside them, but rather has an openness and relaxed nature …it’s an open and forward, but not in a traditional way, wine.” By way of background, he observed that winemaker Brian Kent joining the team in 2010 injected significant technical know how, enabling them to delve beyond “the core product of what we get in the door” and build on Riesling’s acid levels and fruit complexity.   It sounded like nail-biting stuff when he explained that the 2017 is the 3rd release (after 2014 & 2015).  The first looked phenolic for 3-4 years, while the 2016 from a hot summer proved too phenolic and funky to use other than as a component for Isolation Riesling.  In 2017, things came together well, he said, as they combined different lots of 500l barrels with the 1200l foudre, though Kent admitted the barrels “tasted quite beery for a while, but sulphur a wonderful thing and cleaned it up nicely!”  For Alter Weg 2017 cloudy juice was naturally fermented (a long ferment, which was interrupted by the winter).  During Riesling Riot, it showed cedar kissed creamier pear and baked apple, with apple sauce and snappier crab apple nip and tuck on the finish.  During the masterclass, lime, lime blossom and herbal notes added complexity and layer to the cedar-kissed creamy apple fruit (it has an extra degree of ripeness according to Smith).  I loved the crunchy, juicy core of applely acidity which balances and extends the finish, which has a touch of sweetness.  I reckon this wine will age beautifully.

Frankland Estate Smith & Cullam Riesling 2017 (Great Southern)

Judi Cullam who, with Barrie Smith, founded Frankland Estate in 1988 (& the Frankland Estate International Riesling Tasting which has mutated into Riesling Downunder)

This well-balanced, off-dry Riesling (17g/l RS) presents a strikingly different profile, with hops/herbals hints to its  Pfalz-like stone and passion fruits.  It has a different, earthy, slightly reductive mineral tang too – one that I associate with volcanic basalt.  Young with great potential.

Great Southern

La Violetta das Sakrileg 2017 (Great Southern)

I first tasted this wine when I visited with La Violetta’s owner/winemaker Andrew Hoadley in 2014. His range is playful and provocative.  In fact, during a masterclass, he explained “I started out to irritate people  – I’d just landed in Western Australia and decided to to do it because I was interested/inspired by European wines and questioned why phenolics were verboten in Australian Riesling making.”  It began as one barrel and, he said he found it fascinating – “especially the oxidative juice handling for textural interest, whilst time on lees brought so much palate integration and texture.”  Over the last decade he has been exploring and refining the style.  Since 2016, is has encompassed a broader range of fruit (it was originally from a single site) and, in his opinion, is better for it. He finds Denmark and Porongurup more mineral (it includes Mount Barker and Frankland River fruit too).  For a little more freshness it now sees 10% tank material.  He sulphurs it just before bottling which, in typically vivid Hoadley prose he likens to “zipping up wine into a jumpsuit before bottling, nice and tight.”   The 10th release is creamy, oily almost, with a touch of aldehydic lift to the nose, but it retains Great Southern purity and (grapefruity) freshness to its vanillin-edged pear and apple fruit. Finishes juicy, with a leesy, textural underlay.

Henty, Victoria

Crawford River Estate Young Vines Riesling 2017 (Henty)

Second gen – Fiona and Belinda (r) Thomson – an ingrained love of Riesling

Founded in 1975 by John and Catherine Thomson, daughter Belinda joined her father making the wines in 2005.  My introduction to them and the wines was a rather splendid vertical tasting in 2008, reported here. Chatting to Belinda at the welcome party the night before Riesling Riot she told me about trials with a cigar shaped barrel which allows for more lees contact, of which she is a fan.)  Young Vines is a relative statement these days – the vines were planted in 2000 (versus the original 1975 plantings).  A lifted nose shows herbal and wheatgerm notes which follow through on a round but stony, mineral and fresh palate.  Cool of delivery.

Crawford Hill Estate Riesling 2016 (Henty)

If Young Vines is cool of delivery, this Riesling from vines planted in 1975 is exceptionally slow burn  with a more classic (less fruity/less textural), gravelly, limey palate.  With impressive line and length, it builds resolutely in the mouth.  The fruit was harvested in mid-April – a long growing season here reflected in lovely intensity and subtlety of flavour.

Great Western, Victoria

Best’s Riesling 2017 (Great Western)

Ripe, perfumed lychee with fresh lime, a touch of spice and ‘softer’ roasted lime.  Subtly textural.  Nice length.  11%

Best’s Foudre Riesling 2017 (Great Western)

Best’s first released a foudre-aged Riesling in 2012.  The 2017 underwent extended skin contact and was then wild fermented in a 2500l French oak foudre (crafted by Marc Grenier, Burgundy).  It shows classic Great Western lime blossom on the nose with a (sweet) hint of cinder toffee.  Creamily textural on the attack with ripe citrus, an undertow of dancing, crystalline acidity grasps the baton and runs with it.  Long and fine finish with a lighter touch than the attack suggests (and my first taste at Riesling Riot, when I found it a little flat), which suggests this will benefit from airtime/bottle age.  11%

Geelong, Victoria

Dinny Goonan Proserpina 2017 (Geelong)

I cannot recall tasting a Geelong Riesling before, so wasn’t sure what to expect.  Dinny Goonan focus on Riesling and Shiraz and, it would seem, push the boundaries with these two well executed if a little out of the box wines.  This crown capped contemporary fizz (“made in an Italian style” according to the producer’s website) has a touch of spritz and holds it acid really well going through.  Pretty, light and refreshing.  The label well represents its ephemeral style.

Dinny Goonan Single Vineyard Riesling 2017 (Geelong)

This Riesling is made in a classic, protective dry style with a low press cut (400l/t). It has a roundness compared with classic Clare or Eden Valley Rieslings yet, with tight tangy acidity, retains its definition and clarity. In fact, speaking to Dinny, because of high acidity, this vintage underwent a partial malolactic fermentation.

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