December Wines of the Month: a mature Clare Valley Riesling & Rare Rutherglen Muscat
My December Wines of the Month are a contrasting pair from Australia – a Clare Valley Riesling and Rutherglen Muscat. What they have in common, aside from being superb examples of their respective genres, is maturity and tertiary complexity. They’re both raring to go.
Incidentally, the Riesling was shown at an October tasting with Petaluma’s Senior Winemaker, Mike Mudge, alongside the forthcoming 2020 vintage. Slated for release next spring, it typifies Hanlin Hill in its youth, with its signature floral musky rose petal, orange blossom water notes. A touch of hops too. Magnums were bottled under cork until 2014 and, unfortunately, the 2012 was corked. Thankfully, a second sample tasted this month arrived in pristine condition.
Here are my notes:
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling (in magnum) 2012 (Clare Valley)
From an exposed, west-facing site at 550m on the eastern side of Clare Valley, Hanlin Hill is an old friend from my Oddbins’ Fine Wine days – an affordable classic dry Riesling, which you can bet on to age brilliantly. You can find my notes on a fabulous vertical tasting in 2007, going right back to the 1981 here. The vineyard, on terra rossa over Mataro slate, was planted by Bernie Hanlin in 1968. Senior Winemaker Mike Mudge squirrels bottles away with a ‘do not touch label.’ “Just hitting its straps,” he said, the growing season in 2012 was slightly warmer than average. Not that you would know it. Pale straw, still with green glints, this Hanlin Hill is in racy form and, with plenty of va va voom, it easily has a decade or more to go. It reveals lime blossom and a hint of petrol (attractive) to the nose. In the mouth, it is terse but zesty – mouth-watering – very long, with salted limes, fresh apple sauce and, opening up, hints of talc and lime blossom. Initially punchy, the mineral acidity really dances as the fruit comes up. Great drive, line and length. 13% £55 at Harrods – magnum bottled under cork.
Morris Wines Rare Rutherglen Muscat (Rutherglen)
Scaling the heights of the Rutherglen Classification and ‘Rare’ by name and nature, this outstanding fortified Muscat sustained the high of last week’s Rutherglen Muscat tasting in great style. The classification stipulates an average age in excess of 15 years’ old; Morris Rare averages over 20 years old. Located in Rutherglen’s east, beyond the reach of Lake Moodemere’s irrigation pipe, Morris vineyards are dry-farmed. Being easternmost, the cooling Alps’ night-time influence is pronounced and Morris typically picks later than their peers, attaining great richness and flavour intensity. The soils are a bit different too, with quartz. Morris Wines Rare Rutherglen Muscat’s deep mahogany hue and sheer intensity and viscosity point to significantly older blend components. On the swirl, a single halo ‘tear’ forms around the glass, only slowly releasing a flow of closely spaced tears. Glass-coating as well as mouth-coating, it leaves a cloak of saffron on the sides of the glass and the deepest of impressions on the senses. Rich, unctuous and moath-coating, with throaty spice box (straight to the back of the net), especially black cardamom, which resonates throughout and long after the sip (no swallow with these wines). A feast in the mouth, it has a dark, dense, deep rich procession of flavours – molasses, date syrup, a fistful of raisins, dried figs, olive oil and baking spices steal over the palate in a smooth, unbroken wave (no distracting dustiness, spirit or volatile acidity here). Cocoa nibs, bitter chocolate, mocha and smoky espresso notes, together with the spice, provide savoury balance. Motile, this muscular powerhouse remains poised, with great clarity and flow. Unrelenting, it holds your taste buds captive. Outstanding. What an experience. 312g/l residual sugar; 17.3% £82.50/50cl discounted case price The Fine Wine Company