Riesling tasting – 29 January 2016

Riesling ReviewRiesling from the 2016 vintage will start arriving for review around September. I will taste some but keep most until January/February 2017. It’s an issue I have had with producers for years; I think they release them too young, when acid is high and masking the true beauty of the wine.

Can we expect consumers to embrace wine that slashes its way across the palate? On the other hand, can we expect producers to hold on to wine when they need cash flow?

The answer is to convince consumers rieslings are worth buying on release and then holding on to them for a year or two. That way they will get the benefit of good prices and, with a small amount of patience, be able to drink interesting and flavoursome wines of great character.

In 2015 there were 675 growers of riesling in Australia and the vintage produced 28,797 tonnes of grapes from 3,114 planted hectares. It’s changed since 2012 when there were 861 growers producing 32,137 tonnes from 3,893 hectares (Germany has over 22,000 hectares).

Looking at the 2015 Winegrape Purchases: Price Dispersion Report the average price for riesling grapes was $768 a tonne which seems a good price compared to the average price of white grapes at $356 tonne. As we all know, or should, averages can be somewhat misleading, read on.

  • 41 per cent of the 2015 riesling crop fetched an average $332 tonne
  • 21 per cent of the 2015 riesling crop fetched an average $726 tonne
  • 26 per cent of the 2015 riesling crop fetched an average $1227 tonne
  • 8 per cent of the 2015 riesling crop fetched an average $1719 tonne
  • 2 per cent of the 2015 riesling crop fetched an average $2323tonne(Does not add up to 100 per cent due to rounding)

The 41 per cent mainly came from the warm inland regions, but $332 still would have been below cost of production.

Andrew Mitchell, along with the family, own and make Mitchell Wines in the Clare Valley. Andrew also thinks consumers can be put off of riesling in its youth and releases his wines with some age and keeps a selection even longer. He kindly sent a range of Mitchell and McNicol wines for tasting (see reviews below).

So far all the research I have seen says the riesling cultivar is purebred German, accepting it as fact and deferring to the Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz tome Wine Grapes, riesling is:

“Generally relatively low in alcohol but high in both acidity and, often extract.”

“The bouquet in mature examples can be so strong as to deter some wine drinkers.”

“Germany’s riesling especially in southern wine regions, can now be made into perfectly respectable dry or trocken wines with alcohol levels closer to 13%”

There was a time when the great German rieslings fetched more than great Bordeaux wines. In Christie’s Wine Review 1974, listing auction results for 1973, a case of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1970 sold for £105 in bond, Latour went for £160 in bond, Haut Brion £120 duty paid and Mouton Rothschild £160 in bond. Apart from very old single bottles of wine, all the German wines fetched less than the Bordeaux but not much, i.e. Uerziger Wurzgarten-Goldwingert Trokenbeerenauslese 1964 £120 case duty paid.

Go back to 1869 and the outstanding Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1864 went for 106s (shillings) a case while in a sale in 1860 Prince Metternich Gold Seal 1857 also fetched 106s (20 shillings to one pound £)

In 1962 Peter Dominic, a large high street chain of bottle shops in the UK, were offering 2nd growth claret from the 1959 Bordeaux vintage including:

  • Gruaud Larose 15/6 bottle (15 shillings and six pennies)
  • Leoville Poyferre 16/6 bottle

From Germany, also from the 1959 vintage, it had:

  • Hochheimer Neuberg 15/9
  • Niersteiner Feinnes Domthal 16/9

Spatlese and Auslese wines were much more expensive. In fact, it offered more German quality wines than red Bordeaux. In Christie’s catalogues for 2015 I found no mention of German wines at auction and Bordeaux reds fetching astronomical prices.

Out of interest, a bottle of Leo Buring Leonay Rinegolde was 8/3 at Dominic’s. The description being, “An excellent Hock from the Riesling grape, grown near Sydney. Not a trace of the sheep station in the bouquet.”

On to the January tasting. The overall quality was good, all the points are mine and were not influenced by the other tasters as I made my notes beforehand. Some of the wines below were not tasted on the evening but arrived later and I tasted them separately.

The McNicol Clare Valley Riesling 2008 at $35 was considered a star and I concurred. I also agreed it was drinking better than the 2005 although I have given them the same points. The Mr Riggs ‘Ein Riese’ Adelaide Hills Riesling 2014 was also highly rated by the tasters but it didn’t ring any bells for me. Price wise $22 to $25 appears to be the going rate for 2015 wines, although they can often be found cheaper on special.

Any comments you have on riesling or any wine matter I’m happy to receive them.

Until next time drink well, wisely and good Karma,


Pauletts Polish Hill River Clare Valley Riesling 2015: Just starting to fill out both on nose and across the palate, acid holding back the full beauty of the wine but it will shine in time. 91 now and more to come, worth $23.

Pauletts ‘Antonina’ Polish Hill River Clare Valley Riesling 2015: Already showing greater richness than its sibling reviewed above, one can tell it’s a better wine but is it twice as good for twice the price? At the time of tasting no, it is not and only time will tell if the $50 price tag will be warranted. It is a wine to cellar for the next few years so a mean 92 now and see what develops.

Pauletts Polish Hill River ‘Late Harvest’ Clare Valley Riesling 2015: Full of fruit and succulent sweetness, all good and all works well. 91 points and worth $20.

Richmond Grove Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015: On the nose it smelled (to me) of tiny spring wild flowers, not full on but from afar, soft on the palate and fell a little flat on the journey but made a small recovery on the return. 89 points and I think there are better wines around at $23.

Mr Riggs ‘Watervale’ Clare Valley Riesling 2014: Hint of sulphur on the nose, just starting to turn from young and aggressive to more gentle and grown up but it still has time to go. A mean 90 now but more to come as it ages and it’s the right price at $22.

Vickery Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015: Gold green in the glass, looks vibrant and inviting before the glass is lifted, defined riesling nose lively with hints of lime, again inviting, well-balanced all across the palate with a full sensual finish. 94 points, very good value at $23.

Reilly’s Wines ‘Barking Mad’ Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015: Pale with a hint of green and light on the nose. It’s a gentle soul that flows across the palate giving no offence and offering polite conversation. 90 points and fair value at just $16.

Reilly’s Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015: I got more pear on the noise than classic lime but that’s OK. It’s far from unpleasant, quite full up front and the richness carries across the palate, it’s good wine but needs more time so 91 now and more later, worth $22.

Mitchell Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015: It’s an expressive wine that hits all parts of the palate as it travels, ends well and leaves a lingering pleasant aftertaste. 93 points and value at $22.

Hesketh Clare Valley Riesling 2014: This hit me straight off with all the things I like a riesling to hit me with. A touch disjointed and I’m not sure if that will work itself out, we will see. 91 points and very good value at $18.

Mitchell Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2012: Plenty of lime on the rieslings up to now but it’s only as we find some age on the wines does that other character come into play. Some call it kerosene others describe it as toasty. I use kerosene as it’s the description I have grown up with. Anyhow with the age and the smell comes depth of flavour. It lingers, in fact, just goes on. With age riesling becomes a totally different character. I understand the need for cash but older rieslings are amongst the world’s greatest wines. 95 points $ Sold out.

McNicol Clare Valley Riesling 2008: Lots of kerosene and great depth of flavour, a gorgeous sensuous wine that is pure pleasure to drink. 97 points and cheap at $35.

McNicol Clare Valley Riesling 2005: It’s as above only deeper flavours that linger longer. Also 97 points $ Sold out.

Eden Trail Eden Valley Riesling 2015: Dull on the nose but leaps alive on entry, fantastic riesling character all across the palate. There is fruit and bite, edgy and confusingly smooth at the same time. 93 points and worth the money asked – $24.

Eden Hall ‘Reserve’ Eden Valley Riesling 2015: The hint of what is to come is there on nose and palate to start and, if quick enough, to spot it before the acid bites. To buy and drink the advice is don’t. To buy and keep it’s 90 points now and more will come. If a collector of riesling then $35 for drinking down the line is OK.

Vickery Eden Valley Riesling 2015: Powerful on the nose and the power is apparent on entry, full flavours that tumble over each other as they cross the palate, young but already drinking well. 94 points and good value at $23.

Thorn-Clarke ‘Sandpiper’ Eden Valley Riesling 2015: Shy on the nose and beautiful lime led flavours on entry, enchanting on all the journey. 94 points, outstanding value at $19.

St John’s Road ‘Peace of Eden’ Eden Valley Riesling 2015: Another wine that had vibrant green/gold colour that was a delight to look at, lime nose, full on the palate good finish. 93 points, worth its $22.

Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2015: Defined riesling nose, sits pert at the front of the mouth before stretching itself across the palate, persistent flavours that lift the senses. It’s quite some wine, 96 points. The question is, is it worth $10 more than the others? For those into riesling, yes. But for those not so intent on fine divisions between wines, no. $34.

Howard Park Mount Barker Riesling 2015: A softer rounder wine than its sister reviewed above and I think not as good. 93 points and pricey at $33.

Howard Park ‘Museum Release’ Great Southern Riesling 2011: Shining brightly green in the glass and wafting fragrant across the nose, all the delights of a great wine are starting to emerge. 95 now and I think one maybe two to come. Worth the money asked and a lesson why riesling should be bought young and cellared, $41.

Best’s Great Western Riesling 2015: I love Best’s riesling, it’s a full-on style that makes the drinker sit up and take notice. The riesling character is up front and the flavours bold. 95 points and worth the money, $25.

Paradigm Hill Mornington Peninsula Riesling 2015: Classic riesling nose, very tight on the palate with an amount of acid still showing. A mean 90 now but undoubtedly more to come as it ages. It’s pricey, but followers of the vineyard may find value in it, other not so committed riesling drinkers will find value elsewhere, $39.

Robert Stein Mudgee Riesling 2015: Stein is making a name for himself with riesling, he makes an intense style with flavours that sear into the palate. I find it attractive, others may not. 93 points and for me, worth the money, $25.

Robert Stein ‘Half Dry’ Mudgee Riesling 2015: Is it as sweet as a German auslese or just a spatlese? I think the latter, and riesling takes sweetness so very well. All very balanced flavours unfurling as the wine travels. 94 points, pricey but worth it, $40.

Mr Riggs ‘Ein Riese’ Adelaide Hills Riesling 2014: More auslese than the Robert Stein and cruder, but a wine for the price. 90 points, $22. At the tasting it was voted the best wine, so it’s popular with consumers.

Leo Buring Tasmania Riesling 2015: This was my pick of the tasting. The grapes come from the Derwent Valley, the wine has a beautiful green tinge and looks alive in the glass. Light on the nose but enough hints to entice the drinker to take the wine into the mouth with the expectation of pleasure. It’s young but outstanding, great intensity and length. It’s an easy 94 at the moment but two maybe three to come. Dan Murphy’s has a 2011 on sale for $32, not tasted by me but I assume it’s a bargain and I’m heading that way to buy some.

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