…at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge, where Riesling dreams come true…

Last time I waxed lyrical on the subject of Riesling…well, I spent a weekend drinking, slurping, swirling and sniffing Riesling. We talked about it, discussed and analysed…and I’m more in love with the grape then ever before.

The morning of Saturday 15 October started with the opportunity to taste…514 Rieslings! Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Austria, Germany, South Africa and France sent in their representative bottlings.

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We started with the Elite Golds and the Trophy winners before casually spending the next 3 hours trying the rest of the winning crowd – an incredible 85 Gold medals got handed out this year. Luckily, got to start before the crowds rolled in.

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An impressive array of styles, from the bracing examples of bone dry Clare Valley to searing acidity of New Zealand with a nice balancing touch of residual sugar, to the lushness of Alsace and the versatility of our North American friends. This is a must attend event for anyone at all curious about wine, the absolute generosity and versatility of a single grape and for anyone interested in terroir. And no, just because someone didn’t win on the day doesn’t mean their particular Riesling was not delicious – competitions are only as good as the judges on the day, after all.

And for those more serious, Friday held the annual Seminar and MasterClass on the excellence in Riesling. This year we covered such topics as:

  • Innovation in Riesling winemaking – trying everything from sparkling examples to “orange” Riesling with plenty of skin contact (oddly yumm even if I was in the minority), lees and other bits, to a the new fad of low alcohol wines (clearly, I am not a fan of the ultra processed…nevermind the lack luster taste).
  • Key Aspects of Terroir – with focus on climate and the changes we have recently experiences in temperature.
  • The MasterClass on Riesling from regions 41 degrees and south: A presentation on evolution of New Zealand Riesling with some excellent examples, as well as what the Tasmanians have been upto in the recent years. Incredible diversity!

 

Interested or curious? Check out these links:

Cheers!

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PS: My personal picks

2016 Mount Majura Vineyard Riesling, Canberra District (Trophy)

2016 Jim Barry Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley (Gold)  – consistently good

2016 Jaeschkes Hill River Clare Estate Riesling, Clare Valley (Gold) – purity

2016 Hentley Farm Riesling, Eden Valley (Gold) – deliciousness in a glass

2016 Galafrey Reserve Riesling, Great Southern (Gold)

2016 Trevelen Farm Estate Riesling, Great Southern (Bronze) – juicy deliciousness

2016 Hay Shed Kerrigan & Berry Riesling, Mount Barker (Gold)

2016 Capel Vale Regional Series Riesling, Mount Barker (Gold)

2016 Freycinet Vineyard Riesling, Tasmania (Silver)

2016 Goaty Hill Riesling, Tasmania (84 points)

2016 Chartley Estate Riesling, Tasmania (Trophy) – rose petals, waxy green apple.

2016 Bellarmine Dry Riesling, Pemberton (Silver)

2016 Robert Stein Riesling, Mudgee (Gold)

2016 SANTAS & D’SAS Henty Riesling, Henty (81 points) – chocolate nose and green apple pastry palate.

2016 Ferngrove Off-Dry Riesling Limited Release, Franklnad River (Trophy) – love it despite my self

2015 Basedow’s Eden Valley Riesling, Eden Valley (Gold)

2015 Laurel Bank Riesling, Tasmania (85 points) – finger limes and roses with jasmine, textural

2015 SANTA & D’SAS Henty Riesling, Henty (Bronze) – that of the fabulous magnum bottle, so points for presentation but also damn good juiciness inside

2015 Bream Creek Riesling, Tasmania (Gold) – searing acidity balanced with just a hint of sweetness to finish dry, but just love the purity

2003 Eldridge Riesling, Clare Valley (Gold) – for the petrol and kerosene

2010 Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Valley Riesling, Clare Valley (Gold) – aging nicely, no kerosene

2005 Poacher’s Ridge Riesling, Hastings River (Gold) – slurp, slurp away!

2015 Prinz von Hessen Kabinett ROYAL, Rheingau (Gold)

2014 Joern Riesling Arancia, Rheingau (80 points) – texture, funk, weirdness or epic proportions, totally intriguing. One of those ‘orange’ wines that’s just lips smacking good.

2014 Joern Riesling Hasensprung Stuckfass, Rheingau (81 points) – more ‘normal’ of the pair but oh so wickedly fun to drink. Slightly ‘orange’ wine i.e. saw some skins.

2015 Martha Clara Estate Reserve Riesling, Long Island (Bronze) – great balance

2014 Fox Run Vineyards Riesling Lot 11 Lake Dana Vineyard, Finger Lakes (Silver) – ripe tropical notes, great length

ALSO:

2015 Moorilla Estate Sparkling Riesling, Tamar Valley – just yummy and frothy

2015 Glaetzer-Dixon Uberblanc Goldpunkt Riesling – sherbet, pears, apples, roses, lychees…and on and on

2011 Foxes Island Belsham Awatere Estate Riesling, Malborough – juicy, yellow fruits, tangy and incredibly fresh

2015 Mudhouse The Mound Riesling – in spite of myself, drink by the bucket

2010 Peregrine Riesling – “very like-y” not so technical with this one but sweet monkeys on fire this stuff is good. Good savoury edge.

 

 

For the love of Riesling…

I love Riesling. The realisation that I love Riesling came pretty early on in my drinking career, though I can’t quite say when. It was around the time when wine was becoming more prominent in the diet, rather than vodka or the usual lolly water cocktails. It started with Eden Valley Riesling, then the taste buds found Clare Valley, Canberra and Murrumbateman region featured quite prominently for a bit, and more recently I discovered Tasmania. Each year in October I have a mild flirtation with Rieslings from other countries, but I rarely feel the need to venture outside Australia’s shores. For the last 3 years I flirted with Germany, Austria, New Zealand and even America quite a bit due to the required learnings as part of a wine course – these guys make some amazing juice. On the annual pilgrimage to Canberra International Riesling Challenge in 2012, I recall being very infatuated with a Czech Republic offering… Yet, I always return back to the fold and guzzle the bracingly dry, lemon-lime, talc-y, juiciness and pure goodness that is  Aussie Riesling.

One of the more inappropriate Riesling experiences was on a Hunter Valley wine trip, in mid winter sitting in a spa at midnight and guzzling Riesling from Eden Valley that we brought with us for fear of running out of good wine. The wine was delicious, the stars were bright and the air was cold. Copious quantities were consumed, no hang over was experienced the next morning and the day was happily spent trialing Hunter Valley reds and the other great white, Semillon.

In the days of hosting public tastings in the suburbs of Sydney, I tried to sway the hordes towards the one and only. If I didn’t tell them it was Riesling, they loved it. If they asked for Sauvignon Blanc, they got Riesling and they loved it. If I offered them Riesling, the ubiquitous response was almost invariably the same “Ah nah, I don’t like sweet wine”. After years of this it made me want to tear my hair out, so I just resorted to subterfuge (see above) and kept the hair. This misunderstanding continues, and like any die-hard Riesling freak of a supporter I hope in my heart of hearts that there will be a renaissance. However, I am also guilty of thinking that while the mass of consumers forget this noble drink, there’s simply more for me!

So, Riesling… why do I feel compelled to put fingers to keyboard and publish my ravings? Mostly, because the annual pilgrimage to Canberra is next week and I’m gearing up for the Masterclass and also because sharing the love for the grape may just convert one more person. I may convince someone to try it, who hasn’t tried it before. Even small wins are gratifying.

On a more gripey note, recently the news is all about single vineyard or single site wines. (I’m waiting for that ultimate $100,000 bottle of single vine wine at this rate.) An article in a well respected wine rag, boldly stated that a producer having recently purchased a new rather famous vineyard (in Australia) has bottled a new wine (from Chardonnay) that speaks of the vineyard. The article then listed a few vinification techniques and concluded that the new single vineyard wine “speaks of its place” but also tastes very similar to a wine the producer makes from a collection of vineyards. Pray tell, how does the wine speak of its place when the winemaker worked it to the bone? And if it’s so site specific and speaks of place, why is it so similar to the more blended version?

So here’s the thing: you wouldn’t have this problem with Riesling. In fact, the best Rieslings are made in the vineyard, picked and the least the winemaker does to it, the better the wine is. A wine that truly “speaks of its place”. Alsace usually gets mentioned right around here with it’s myriad of soil types and Riesling styles. Germany, for centuries was renowned for producing the world’s best wines – from Riesling. So if you are a natural-minimal-intervention-wine-lover-type person, grab some Riesling and enjoy. It’s the closest to nirvana you will ever get.

 

 

Restarting

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Hikaru Japanese Courtyard Restaurant

Plans for Saturday with the girls long lunch have been in play for over a month. It was a chance for us all to catch up, have a chat and a laugh and get a little tipsy on some vino without the hassles of responsibilities of day to day lives intruding. It was also a chance for a friend who has recently given birth, and was starting to come back to work, to let loose and re-live the old days. The scene was Newtown, Sydney. The setting a Japanese restaurant because we all love sashimi and there was to be wine, of course.

 

The day before, working oddly late on a Friday a text arrives from a friend seeing if I have seen The Results. She had great news, the goal of years of hard work had finally paid off. She can finally relax and enjoy having the DipWSET after her name. I had not seen any communication and really didn’t want to know, given especially that Saturday was coming and not wanting to ruin the fun. Despite the needling from colleagues to check and confirm the good news I simply did not want to chance that the news was not good.

Alas, at some point in the commute – I did. Justifying to myself that I would only brood over the possibilities until I had the confirmation, that Saturday would be a lot less fun with me sulkily checking my phone and toying with the idea all day. So I did…

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…and I’m glad I did 🙂

NSW Top 40 2012 – 90 minutes of top notch wines

October 25, 2012

It started as a simple day, with fresh breathe of wind, sun and trip to work. The excited mounted – because I was heading to the NSW Top 40 Trade Tasting. It’s simple – all wineries that produce wine in New South Wales, Australia submit their what they think is a good example of what they do to be JUDGED. Out of all those…only 40 come in the Top 40. (Funny that…)

And the trophy winners are:

2012 Citibank NSW Wine Awards Trophy Winners

Citibank Wine of the Year – Hungerford Hill 2007 Epic Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

Best Sparkling – Courabyra Wines 2001 “805” Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier (Tumbarumba)
Twit: 01 Courabyra Wines 805 Sparkling – my new friend. $55. A steal! Tumbarumba, my xmas drinking 🙂

Best Young Riesling – Nick O’Leary 2012 Riesling (Canberra District) – personally I think Ravensworth is better but then that’s from over 600 Riesling judged from around Australia, and some Internationals at the International Riesling Challenge, held in Canberra. More on THAT trip later.
Twit: 12 Nick O’Leary Riesling – nose doesn’t quite translate to palate, expect month sweet. Good stuff tho. Go ACT Riesling!

NSW Department of Primary Industries Best Young Semillon – Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard 2012 “The Ridge” Semillon

Twit: 10 Audrey Wilkinson Semillon – plenty of develop drink now, not enough on palate to hook me

Best Young Dry White – Other Varieties – Berton Vineyards 2012 “Metal Label” Vermentino (Riverina)

Twit: 12 Berton Vineyards Vermentino – a good version from the main stream. Floral fruit musk sticks

Longfellows Insurance Best Young Chardonnay – Pepper Tree Wines 2011 “Venus Block” Reserve Chardonnay (Orange)

Twit: 11 Pepper Tree Orange Chardonnay – subtle fresh tropics and citrus. Diverting.

Best Mature Dry White – Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon (Hunter Valley)

Twit: 06 Audrey Wilkinson Museum Semillon – so fresh, good develop, depth, and some good secondary characters. Yum!

Wine Odyssey Best Young Pinot Noir – Tertini Wines 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir (Southern Highlands)

Twit: 09 Tertini Res Pinot – game cherry and match!

AMCOR Stelvin Best Young Shiraz – Tallavera Grove 2011 Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

Twit: 11 Talavera Grove Hunter Shiraz – its playing hide and seek with me. Beguiling. Fruity. Explosive mouthfeel – smooth as a baby’s bottom!

Classic Oak Best Young Dry Red – Other Varieties – Skimstone 2011 Barbera (Mudgee)

Twit: 11 Skimstone Mudgee Barbera – sex. Date tonight? Bring this. That’s the nose, palate is more subtle. Find a bottle and claim it.

CCL Labels Best Mature Dry Red – Hungerford Hill 2007 Epic Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

Twit: 07 Hungerford The Epic Shiraz – just like the name says, epic. Only if you dare, I’d like to sit back now 😉

Best Sweet White – De Bortoli 2008 Deen De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon (Riverina) – now I didn’t try it at the show but I have tried this little beauty earlier – impressive.

My raving twits of the day are in their allocated positions, below are the remainder that filled out the Top 40…and tell you what, I have some favourites!

WHITES

11 Artemis Riesling – curious beast, its warming and refreshing in one. Good texture. Can’t wait for the Pinot, good times.

12 Orange Highland Wines Sauvignon Blanc – easy drink style, no cat pee.

12 Toppers Mountain Gerwurz – musky, turkish delight, smooth and just right.

06 Tyrells HVD Semillon – interesting. Bring food. Go picnic. Bring this

12 Tulloch Vineyrd Select Semillon – grassy. Drinks well

12 Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon – subtle, deeper feelings. More for the connoisseur of good young Sems

12! Thomas Wines OC Semillon – yes yes yes – think when Harry Met Sally scene. No faking

07 Pokolbin Estate Riesling – yes, frm the Hunter. And I don’t knw why they dnt do more of it! Beautiful.

07 McLeish Estate Semillon – I’m raving I haven’t found this before. Has everything I’ve ever wanted in a Sem. Personality, zing, love + sun

11 McLeish Estate Semillon – kiwi? A lively one this, there’s a future and its bright as a spark. Keep an eye out.

10 Leogate Semillon – almost reminds me of watermelon on nose! Another one for a hot date, would stand up to wasabi!

09 Gartleman Semillon – good staple to have on hand, zesty! Austerer style

09 First Creek Reserve Semillon – sings to me in frm the glass and on palate. New winemaker doing big moves!

11 Ascella Chardonnay (biodynamic) – complex, funky w personality and all for $20RRP! Gentle French oak, grab it if ur a Charddy lover!!

REDS

11 de iuliis the stephen – more grwn up sweeter fruit. It wants to be mine. Nice choc hit to the back.

11 de iuliis shiraz – oh my. I’m getting happy, just the way I like it and only $25 RRP! Lovely choc fruit silk and balance

11 Pepper Tree Coquun Hunter Shiraz – almost regal,black cherry finish. Good balance. Drink slowly.

11 Tyrells Hunter Shiraz Cab – more. Perfumed. Eucalypt and mint. Tight tannins.

10 Tyrells Vat 8 Hunter Hilltops Shiraz Cab – phew! – subtle minx

10 Grove Estate Nebiolo – subtle, elegant and a mystery that invites you in for starts and seconds.

08 Logan Cab Merlot – dusky sunset in a glass. Bitey tannin sum alco heat but good fruit

10 Tertini Pinot – more subtle, chalky, needs help with food

Durif

What is it you find yourself asking?

French native crossing of Petit Syrah and Peloursin, propagated by Dr Durif (I would also name a vine after myself!). In it’s native land of France, it was not considered to be a grape of high quality and you’ll be hard pressed to find it these days.

It is found in USA, notably in California and is labelled under Petite Syrah.

In Australia, Durif found a welcome home in the hot land of Rutherglen, in North-Eastern Victoria. Here it makes inky, ballsy, tannic wines of lionesque magnificence. Recently, Riverina and Riverland have jumped onto the band wagon but have yet to produce anything that I have tried that would give Rutherglen Durif a run for the money.

My love for Durif started fairly early, with plenty of stumbling blocks, with a fairly common question of “what is durif?” from everyone else’s lips. Vintage Cellars was the place, during work hours and an article about a maligned grape that is unloved in it’s native land but that has found a very welcome spot in the land of fortifieds – Rutherglen, Victoria. With a bit of hunting down I tried my first sip, and the love was confirmed – Morris Durif. A two week stint at the Sydney Easter Show helping with the Hunter Valley Wines stand, momentous meetings with like minded Durif-iles and The plan was set, and with just over a year after first sight the trip to the heartland was set!

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Boxing Day, December 26, 2007 – my birthday and graduation present to myself – a trip to Rutherglen, Victoria to taste all that is there to taste, hunting down Durif. A memory of a lifetime. Hottest week in years. New car airconditioning didn’t stand a chance. We baked and sampled, and drank. The joy of Rutherglen for a visitor is that majority of the wineries are really close. One was within a 5 minute walk of the our ‘home’ the Victoria Hotel. Anderson Winery are the producers of the magnificent Cellar Block Durif – cemented me on the spot. There’s simply too much to sample from Durif, surprisingly good whites and reds, and all those stunning fortifieds! Three days, four nights of wine and food like never before.Only regret? Not being able to find Buller Wines – three times! Ended up driving off into the country side and found Pfeiffer Wines. Having had some amazing examples from Buller Wines at home, they are still on the To Do list…

Highlights: Morris of Rutherglen, All Saint’s Estate, Anderson Winery, Campbell Wines, Pfeiffer Wines, Mount Prior, Stanton and Killeen, Valhala and Vintara (Tempranillo and beer).

Confessions of a Durif Tragic by Andrew Sutherland Smith, Winemaker and self confessed Durif Tragic @ Warrabilla Wines, Rutherglen.

“What I really enjoy is the black phase fruit characters that this variety has in abundance. Dark morello cherries, satsuma plum, dark fine chocolate, huge mouthfeel and soft tannins. Trouble is to get those you have to go beyond what is considered normally ripe, 15 Beaume fruit is just the start of these characters..so you’re really looking at wines of 15.5 % alc to be any good…more like 16!”

See full article at http://www.vinodiversity.com/warrabilla-durif.html

Sounds interesting? Think about visiting…I’d take at least a week as 3 days is simply not enough to try it all. Oh, and yeah, bring a driver!
Visitor Info for Rutherglen, Victoria

Cheeky 😉
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2005 Thasos Moscatel de Setubal DOC

Vin doux Naturel

17% alc

Grapes: Moscatel de Setubal

 

Almost amber in colour with orange peel on the nose. This is a light style of dessert wines with pleasantly fresh orange and rancio characters. Reminiscent of fresh Tokay…yummy. This is one fantastic value refreshing dessert wine that should be shared with friends and loved ones.

There’s a certain freshness to it, a sense of fun and carefree lifestyle. Not a typical dessert wine and not a table wine. A wine with personality, verve and style.

2002 Lillypilly Noble Blend

Alc: 12.5%
Grapes: 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon, 5% Muscat of Alexandria, 5% Riesling

I’m not a dessert wine drinker. Rarely would be seen drinking a sticky and it’s a shame as there are some amazing things out there. Topaque (formerly known as tokay), Muscat and Botrytis affected (also Cordon-Cut). It’s a confusing world of techniques that one really doesn’t need to know, just remember your preferred style. Botrytis is more famous style, made popular and mainstream by such heavy weights as Chateau de d’Yquem, France and De Bortoli Noble One, Riverina.
And here comes the age of Lillypilly! (At least I hope so as it so richly deserves the honour!)
Chateau de d’Yquem is a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend affected by the noblest of rots, botrytis cinerea. Noble One is a straight Semillon. Lillypilly is blend of four grapes and for that it does get the extra complexity. It is lusciously sweet, with apricots and lighter honey notes, fresh honeycomb straight from the hive, some citrus notes and amazingly well balanced acidity. Because for me, that’s where the dessert wines fall down hard – too sticky.

I drank a bottle of this without realising. The problem? The bottle ran out.
Do yourself a favour buy some because I definitely will be stocking up on this.

Awards
TROPHY International Sweet Wine Challenge 2011 Griffith
DOUBLE GOLD  5 Nations Wine Challenge 2011 Sydney
GOLD Winewise Small Vigerons Awards 2011 Canberra
GOLD  Mundus Vini, Germany 2011
TOP 100 Sydney International Wine Competition 2011
BLUE GOLD Sydney International Wine Competition 2011
25 Trophies & 28 Gold Medals in all