first detailed session of the Tutorial focused on Riesling, a grape
that has a long history in Australia. I've often admired Australian
Rieslings without ever really falling in love with them.
Traditionally made in a dry style, they can tend toward austerity,
without the sort of richness of texture and innate complexity that I
so love in the best German and Austrian wines. In fact, some
Australian winemakers have been experimenting of late with off-dry
styles. However, this session focused on the classic dry style.
[We'll look at some of the off-dry styles later - a few were
included in the dinner tastings.]
else should chair this session other than Jeffrey Grossett (below)?
In addition to some of the comments made by Jeffrey, I've blended
into this write-up some material from Michael Hill-Smith’s
introductory session. We begin with some context.
has the second largest area of Riesling planted, after Germany. In
1988 Australia harvested 30 000 tons of Riesling and 20 000 tons of
Chardonnay. Today, 50 000 tons of Riesling are harvested each year,
so it is still an important variety, although this is dwarfed by the
400 000 or so tons of Chardonnay processed.
has some pre-phylloxera material and good clones. Most vineyards are
planted on their own roots. Riesling works with food, and dry
Riesling is understood as a style in Australia; the mis-use of the
name for other varieties made in a Riesling style has now stopped.
There is a better appreciation of the variety by consumers and
winemakers than there used to be, and greater acknowledgement of the
places where it is grown.
doesn’t tolerate stress well early in the season, although it does
like to suffer a bit. It doesn’t do well in the more fertile
sites, but prefers low fertility and lots of stone.
Eden Valley and Clare Valley are the undisputed classic sites. The
Eden is cooler than the Clare and so acids can be higher, and it can
have a greater fruit vibrancy, although not in the mid-palate. Clare
has more lime and citrus, while the Eden Valley tends to have more
floral (rose petal) notes.
history of Riesling in South Australia is really the history of
winemakers learning how to make fresh, delicate wines in a warmer,
and often challenging climate,’ says Hill-Smith. His summary:
the 1930s Rudi Kronberger of Yalumba imported Geisenheim
cultivars, cultured yeasts and bottled early.
the 1950s Günter Prass and Colin Gramp (Orlando) imported the
first pressure tanks from Germany which allowed for slower
ferments. The 1953 Orlando Barossa Riesling was a classic new
wine made using this technology.
Through the 1970s great wines were made by John Vickery (Leo
Buring), Peter Lehman and Peter Wall (Yalumba)
Brian Croser also made a big impression with his 1972 and 1973
Siegersdorf Rieslings at Hardy, with 6–7 g residual sugar.
Jeffrey Grossett, Louisa Rose, Kerri Thompson and Andrew Wigan
are some of the names to watch, continuing the tradition of fine
the Mosel is at one climatic extreme, then the Clare is at the
other. In January it has 9 hours of sunshine a day, and it’s too
warm for Pinot Noir, although it can do Shiraz. In 1994 James
Halliday said of the Clare, ‘For reasons unknown, its moderately
warm climate produces Australia’s finest Riesling.’
explained that the Clare isn’t as warm as people think it is, and
that there’s actually a big variation in temperatures across the
region. The meteorology station is in the wrong place: in the main
street in Clare behind the post office. ‘Be a little wary about
climatic data,’ warns Grossett. ‘The vine is the best indicator.’
Valley has a slightly cooler climate than the Clare. Interestingly,
the acidity seems to behave differently. At the stage where
winegrowers start to analyse fruit for harvest, Eden fruit has
higher acidity, but this then drops faster than the acidity in the
Clare. Typically, harvest will be slightly later in the Eden Valley.
Eden shows lemon rather than lime quality in many cases, and
sometimes has a chalky character.
Kilikanoon Mort's Reserve Riesling, Clare Valley
This is from a warm block at the southern end of Watervale.
12.3% alcohol, 8.5 g acid (high), pH 2.9. 40 year old vines on red
loam over limestone. Very precise, fine floral, limey nose is tight
and minerally with a hint of talc. The palate has dense limey
character with a bit of minerally hardness to it. Fresh and
concentrated, but also a bit grippy and hard. High acidity. Perhaps
going through a difficult adolescence. 89/100
Mount Horrocks Riesling, Clare Valley
From the highest vineyard in the Watervale sub-region at 460 m;
red loam over lime. Hand pruned, shoot thinned, fruit thinned and
hand-picked. Quite steely mineralic nose with lovely delicacy,
lemony fruit and floral, bright notes. The palate has lovely fresh
lemon and herb fruit with a bit of oiliness and good acidity.
Persistent finish. Sophisticated and fine. 92/100
Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
Further up towards the town of Clare, on the western side; red
loam over hard rock, cordon pruned. Deep yellow/gold colour. Intense
sweet, slightly fudgey, toasty nose with some dried citrus peel
notes and a hint of marmalade. The palate is toasty, nutty and broad
with rich, lime, apricot and marmalade character. This is a dry
Spätlese style and it’s weird but lovely. 93/100
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
First vintage was 1981; this is from an ullaged bottle. Yellow
gold colour. The nose shows toast, herbs and lemons with some
restraint. The palate is beautifully delicate with complex lemon,
herb and toasty characters. Elegant, warm, subtle and harmonious
with lovely smooth lemony fruit, together with some apricot warmth.
A beautiful wine. 95/100
1973 Leo Buring DWC15 Riesling, Clare Valley
Made by John Vickery. Deep gold colour. Toasty and intense on
the nose with lemony notes and some oily chacracters. Soft-textured,
bold palate with lots of evolution, and oil, toast, brioche and
butter notes. Long herby, lemony finish. Lovely and quite intense,
but this does need to be drunk soon – a piece of liquid history.
Peter Lehmann Reserve Riesling, Eden Valley
Bright lemony nose with a citrus cordial character and a hint of
toast. The palate is warm with lovely fresh citrus fruits and
broader, subtly toasty notes. A bit of grapefruit, too. Really
focused and fresh. Harmonious and intense with great concentration
and depth. 94/100
Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling, Eden Valley
Minerally, spicy lemon and herb nose. The palate is broad and
pungent with some liminess and spicy toasty notes. Pure fruit
dominates. This is a structured, bold wine with high acidity and a
savoury personality. 92/100
Pewsey Vale Rhine Riesling Riesling, Eden Valley
Picked earlier than usual. Screwcapped. Deep yellow/gold colour.
Broad, smooth floral lime cordial character on the nose. The palate
is fresh, pure, smooth and lemony. It has a deeper colour than the
freshness of the fruit would suggest. Lovely wine. 93/100
Seppelt Drumborg Riesling, Henty
This is a cool region, to the point of being marginal:
potentially exciting, but not reliable. Very fresh crisp lemony nose
with a bit of greenness. Grassy and lemony. The palate is bright and
pure with lovely freshness and minerality. 89/100
Crawford River Riesling, Henty
Deep yellow gold colour. Hint of herb and tinned pea on the
nose, with some rich pineapple and peach notes, as well as a hint of
toasty. The palate is bold and intense with rich lemony, peachy
fruit as well as some sweet herbal notes. Unusual, and ageing a bit
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard Riesling, Frankland River,
Floral nose is precise and intense with lime fruit to the fore.
The palate is fresh and transparently limey, with good acidity. Very
pure and fresh. 91/100
Craigow Riesling, Tasmania
Established in 1989, with first vintage in 1993. 10 hectare
estate with 2.5 of these Riesling. Yellow/gold colour. Pungent,
intense herby nose with grassy lemony notes and lifted acidity.
Really intense with some richness. The palate is fresh and herby
with good acidity and pungent lemony fruit. Weird but interesting.
the Australian Wine Research Institute
1 - Regional Classics
2 - Riesling
3 - Shiraz and Blends
4 - Historical Perspective
5 - Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Blends
6 - Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
7 - An Alternative View
8 - Chardonnay
9 - Pinot Noir
10 - Blending the rules
11 - Sparkling
12 - Fortified
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