Saturday, January 8, 2011

Face-Off: Canberra District, Tasmanian, Great Western and Frankland River Rieslings

If you have stumbled across this site even once or twice, you might get the impression that we both love our Riesling. For all the Riesling fans out there, in the next few weeks there will be a series of wine tasting events to celebrate the ‘Summer of Riesling’. A link to the Summer of Riesling Website can be found here.

For any Sydney residents who work in or around the CBD, wine bar/restaurant Fix St James is hosting the Sydney Summer of Riesling launch party and several top examples from Australia and around the globe will be available to taste. Entry to the tasting is free and I would highly commend it to you.

With the Riesling festivities about to begin, RedtoBrown decided to take a trip down an Australian Riesling road less traveled by. Being huge fans of Eden Valley and Clare Valley Riesling, we decided to run a Face-Off tasting Rieslings from regions we are less familiar with (in terms of their Riesling at least).

Included in the single blind tasting was a bottle of 2010 Freycinet (Tasmania), a 2010 Whicher Ridge (Frankland River WA), a 2010 Best’s Great Western and a 2009 Mt Majura (Canberra District).

Wine 1 (2010 Freycinet Riesling)

(Red) –Reveals itself straight away as an off-dry style with its sweet, expressive, floral nose. On the palate the sweetness is equally to the fore, though it’s matched by some nice acidity. It tastes of apples, citrus, and a touch of tropical fruit. Excellent length on the finish. Not really my thing but a very good wine in its style. Fans of off-dry Aussie Rieslings should enjoy this. – 4 stars

(Brown)- Floral, ‘feminine’ nose with a little gewurtz-like spice. Varietal lemon and lime became more obvious on the second day (with red apple and traces of lycee evident on opening). Had a pleasant slippery texture with natural acidity to the fore, but not blocking the view. With cellaring, my guess is this will shed its tropical nose and flavours and become more focused. At present an almost off-dry wine (without obvious residual sugar or a cloying finish) that would be well suited to spicy foods. – 4 stars* (Was far superior of the second day and I am confident it will be even better after 1 more year in the bottle).

Wine 2 (2010 Whicher Ridge Riesling)

(Red) - In comparison to Wine 1 the nose immediately appeared a lot more muted, but nevertheless revealed appealing aromas of citrus and talc. On the palate, it once again was less expressive than wine 1 and with more subtlety. There were citrus flavours, but the impression was more about its very fine acidity and a nice minerality. Excellent length. This was my second favourite during the blind tasting. As we then consumed it over dinner and the wine got closer to room temperature, that minerality and a sense of texture really came to the fore. The driest of the four Rieslings. Highly impressive and quite similar to the 09 Whicher Ridge Sav Blanc for its sense of texture. – 4 stars

(Brown) ¬ Obviously more flinty and mineral than the Freycinet when tasted blind, lemon and lemon rind, slate and flint flavours up front, matched to a fine chalky/wet chalk texture that combined well. More bitter lemon and citrus tang on the long finish. An austere style that uses texture and minerality as its weapons, though if I had a minor quibble it would be that the fruit could have been a little more expressive. A very interesting point of departure from the Riesling I normally consume nevertheless. – 3.5 Stars

Wine 3 – (2010 Best’s Riesing)

(Red) – This wine sat in between wines 1 & 2 in terms of style. It’s a dry Riesling with some noticeable residual sugar. It’s a good wine but it didn’t show up well against its 3 competitors on the night. Apple and citrus flavours were supported by a gentle acidity that just seemed a touch disjointed and didn’t really match the sweetness in the way I would have liked. I was surprised when it was revealed as the Best’s, given that it has been rated highly by a number of critics and reviewers. 3.5 stars

(Brown) – Not a bad wine by any means. Probably came across as rounder and sweeter following the quite austere and mineral Whicher Ridge. On the night it had tropical roundness, sweet fruit and soft acidity and was a little sweet for my liking. There is pleasant and ripe apple fruit on the palate to complement the tropical fruits and citrus, and the finish is pleasingly drier than the nose and front palate would suggest. Once again, curious to see if this develops with more bottle age, as it composed itself on day two of tasting and might develop more focus in that time. Will report back next summer!. 3.5 stars+ (for pure, populist enjoyment and quaff factor, this gets a +).

Wine 4 – (2009 Mount Majura Riesling)

(Red)– My favourite Riesling during the blind tasting (the Whicher Ridge drew alongside it over the course of the dinner), and perhaps not surprising given that I find that an extra year makes a big difference with young Riesling. An almost savoury nose with aromas of citrus, bath salts and something that I wrote down as a “nuttiness” to it. On the palate everything is nicely balanced and proportioned. Nothing sticks outs awkwardly, and instead the citrus flavours, the minerality, the acidity and just a tiny amount of residual sugar all fall in beautifully. Excellent Riesling. 4 stars.

(Brown) – If Paul Keating’s 1988 Federal budget was the one that brought home the bacon, the Mount Majura was the Rizza that pleasingly ‘brought back the funk’ on the night (relatively speaking). After two wines leaning towards apple/tropical, and one in the austere lemon and slate camp, this had some funk, possibly due to bottle age. The nose smelt of citrus, yeast, and a slight whiff of kerosene, and the wine tasted primarily of lime (almost reminiscent of a savoury version of Schweppes Lime cordial (a positive in my view)). The fruit was balanced nicely with tight, pleasant acidity, a dry chalky texture and at the finish there was a bit of smokiness and traces of lemon zest. Nice balance and focus. 4 Stars.

In conclusion, all 4 wines had their strengths and weaknesses. The styles on display showed that there are definitely emerging and lesser known wine regions in Australia that are producing nice Riesling, and also that this grape can be crafted into wines that can and should please most tastes. The Summer of Riesling is here – crack open a bottle!!

Winery Websites:
Whicher Ridge:
Best’s Great Western:
Mount Majura:


Andrew Graham said...

Great work gents. Feels sort of like the movie show (and works well). Next time I want to see more arguing :)

Red said...

For the record I had the Freycinet at 4 stars (I've fixed this up in the post). Brown has been messing with my Qi

Brown said...

The crimson Lotus comes back from China and is throwing round the Qi.......
PS - points flusey

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