I called in to see a winemaker at a recent tasting to talk semillon and taste his latest wines from the Hunter Valley. The tasting was put on by his distributor and, rather than talk about his own wines – one of which recently won a trophy at a major wine show as its best red – all he wanted to talk about was 2012 riesling.
There has been a buzz about 2012 riesling since the first examples hit the marketplace a couple of months ago, and this winemaker’s eagerness to find out my thoughts on the rieslings in the room just reinforced the excitement.
I’ve tried only a fraction of this year’s rieslings (many are yet to be released) so I asked winemakers from three respected riesling regions – the Clare Valley, the Barossa and Eden valleys in South Australia, and Victoria’s Great Western – for their insights on 2012.
Stephanie Toole (Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley), Justin Purser (Best’s Great Western) and Andrew Wigan (Peter Lehmann Wines, Barossa and Eden valleys) have only reinforced the notion that 2012 is a cracker for riesling.
“Riesling is one of those varieties that, as a winemaker, you like to work with,” says Purser, whose first vintage at historic Best’s was this year.
“We had a little rain around harvest, so we had to hang back and the grapes came in a bit riper (than originally planned), which worked to our advantage – loads of blossom, citrus characters and wonderful balance between texture (sugar) and natural acidity.”
The key to making riesling, says Toole, is keeping grapes in pristine condition from the vineyard to the winery, and the “sensational conditions” this year helped achieve this.
“The idea is to hand-pick the wine and get it into the winery as soon as possible and maintain the purity of the fruit and, in my case, the expression of that single vineyard site,” Toole says.
Peter Lehmann Wines’ Wigan says you’ve only got to look at the results of the local wine shows to get a gauge on this year’s rieslings.
“In the current vintage class of the Barossa Wine Show there were 48 wines submitted, with four golds and 10 silvers – and some of those silvers, I feel, were hard done by,” says Wigan.
“That sort of result shows it was a classic year for Eden Valley riesling and it’s going to be one of the great riesling vintages. Only time will tell how good, but at this stage the wines show lovely florals and colours.”
Riesling is one of the first wines to be released each year, and while it’s no canary that indicates the quality of a vintage, many regions are flagging 2012 as being a great year for reds and whites. Get in early with 2012 riesling, as the good ones may sell out as soon as every one cottons on to the quality of the vintage.
Meet the Vinsurgents
It’s not often I write about wine events, but there’s one currently being run by a group of winemakers that should be high on your to-do list. Under the moniker The Vinsurgents, winemakers Rory Lane (The Story Wines), David Bowley (Vinteloper), Nick Stock (Archer/Twofold) and Barnaby Flanders (Garagiste Vintners) have opened the Barrel Hall, a pop-up wine venue, at 413 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Open now and running to November 4, call in for a glass of wine and have the winemaker tell you all about it or sign up for masterclass or dinner with a guest chef. Check online for more information.
Best’s Great Western Riesling 2012
(Great Western) $25; 13%
4½ / 5
Pure, floral aromas of lime, apricot blossom, freshly peeled mandarin and sliced apple are a fragrant delight, and the intense citrus – lime cordial, lemon and mandarin – mixed with green apple, spice and peach are slightly sweet and delicious. Smooth in
the mouth, there’s good balance between racy, chalky acidity and the sweet flavours, and the intensity carries through with a mineral edge to the
Food match \ Fish congee
Tim Smith Wines Eden Valley Riesling 2012
(Eden Valley) $25; 11.5%
This comes in the Eden Valley-branded bottle that other Eden riesling producers are starting to adopt this year. Intensity and structure are the keys to this wine: it’s bursting with lime zest, pear and bath salt aromas, while tart Granny Smith apple, lime and mineral flavours are clean and intense. A distinct
and pretty floral note comes out as the wine
warms up from the fridge. Dry and driving, the grippy, refreshing acid carries the flavours to a long, intense finish.
Food match \ Smoked mackerel with apple and sour cream
Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2012
(Clare Valley) $30; 12%
From a single vineyard in the Watervale subregion of the Clare Valley. Pretty and floral, it’s bursting with lime cordial aromas, along with minerals, red apple and quince. It’s similar in the mouth but there’s fresh lime juice and more of that minerality. There’s power to this wine but also a real subtlety to the flavours. It’s pure and seamless, too, with balanced, chalky acid; it’s smooth and textural, with a burst of citrus on exit.
Food match \ Crab omelet
Pikes Traditionale Riesling 2012
(Clare Valley) $23; 12%
The 28th consecutive release of this wine and it seems only last week I raved about the 27th. Gorgeous, perfumed aromas of lime, orange
blossom and apricot lead to more citrus flavours with a light touch of tropical fruit. Concentrated and subtle, it’s dry and chalky, with a vein of citrus acidity that offers racy drive and power, along with a long finish. Delicious.
Food match \ Thai beef salad
Peter Lehmann Art ‘n’ Soul Riesling 2012
(Barossa) $14; 11%
From vineyards in the Barossa and Eden valleys; the Eden Valley adds crispness to the Barossa’s softer, rounded fruit flavours. It’s a pretty wine, that’s for sure, with apple blossom, quince, tropical fruit and talc. It’s off-dry in style, and its sweet green apple, peach and citrus flavours are neatly balanced by refreshing acidity. The residual sugar gives the wine a smooth texture, too. A great wine to grab on the way to dinner
on Victoria Street, Richmond, knowing it
will match well with whatever the lazy susan
has on rotation.
Food match \ Chicken with chilli and lemongrass