Friday, December 18, 2009

Heggies Eden Valley Riesling 2009

Proclaiming that the 2009 Heggies Riesling is great value and a delicious, reliable drop is definitely stating the obvious. Indeed, one of the cruellest ironies when it comes to Australian wine is that as tertiary white varieties (in my ignorant opinion) like the all-conquering Sauvignon Blanc dominate the best sellers lists of the bottle shops of Australia, noble and delicious varieties like Riesling suffer a consumer / popular backlash.

The cruel aspect to this commercial reality is that wine makers who are persevering with Riesling are not getting as much kudos from the general public or financial returns they deserve for making high quality wines. This is despite the best efforts of the wine critics and bloggers I follow who repeatedly discuss the ‘Riesling revival’ (which makes sense to me, but is not reflected in wine drinking trends).
The irony of this situation is that the (seemingly) small minority of wine consumers who love good quality Riesling have choice aplenty when it comes to wine at a low price point. For example, I am able to purchase top quality bottles of several 90+ rated Riesling for well under $20.

In the lead up to Christmas, the much better half (LB) and I are trying to save money (or build up a festive season war chest as I like to put it). On a reasonably frugal budget, we decided to kick it old school and have fish and chips on Coogee Beach as the sun went down on a warm late spring Sydney Saturday night.
In my humble opinion (and the late Len Evans’ deservedly not as humble opinion), nothing goes better with freshly shucked oysters than young Semillon. However, when it comes to other white wine/ seafood matchings, no other wine comes close to paring as neatly with fresh fish and chips as a well made, affordable young dry Riesling. Therefore, we purchased a bottle of Heggies, ordered two serves of fish and chips and settled down on Coogee Beach for dinner.
Most wine drinkers have heard of Heggies and/or consumed a bottle or two of their Riesling, Chardonnay or other white varieties (plus their sometimes very good Merlot).
As their wine is affordable, and has always been a dependable drop, I had wanted to try a bottle of the 2009 vintage for some time..
Whilst on a wine tour in the Barossa/Eden Valley in October, Red and I had heard from a few wine makers that the Eden Valley did not suffer as much heat damage as the Barossa Valley floor during the killer heat wave in late 2008/early 2009. We also heard that the weather was much more even in February to March, which led to even ripening of the fruit (and I assume increased natural acidity – but don’t quote me on that!!). To support this, the 2009 Rieslings I tried in the Barossa were almost universally more floral, light, and pleasantly more acidic than the very good, but not amazing (and early ripening) 2008 vintage.

Due to the lovely, laid-back setting, my ‘tasting notes’ for the Heggies are not comprehensive – the wine had a typical floral and lime nose, but I found it a bit more developed than other Rieslings of the same vintage with a hint of melon and even passionfruit (an earlier drinking style despite the seeming longevity if EV 2009 vintage?). I found it a more forward wine, a tad ‘ballsier’ than I expected, though with a crisp, refreshing acidity. I thought it was more Clare than typical Eden Valley, but was crisp and clean on the palette.

It matched superbly with fish and chips – the acidity cutting through the batter, the lemon/lime notes of the wine complementing my lemon-soaked fish fillets.

Combine the wine and food with a family friendly Coogee Beach setting, at twilight at the end of a scorching late spring day, and it was a very enjoyable – and affordable night out.

Why people do not bring more bottles of sub $20 Riesling to summer BBQs and seafood dinner parties is beyond me. However, with people coveting the Sauv Blancs and Pinot Gris of the world, I cannot complain that there are several cheap Riesling options available to me at most bottle shops in Sydney at any given time that can give me a similar value for money experience.

#Footnote – I repeated the same type of evening only a week ago, this time with a Jim Barry Watervale 2008 Riesling. Similarly great value wine, though with less lime and lemon. It was a fleshier wine with not as much crisp acidity. Still, for the price a great wine that complemented the food. You cannot go wrong with a bottle of Pewseyvale, Heggies, Jim Barry, Leeuwin Estate or Peter Lehmann Riesling, to name but a few.

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