DURING the autumn and early winter months the vines shut down, take a rest and store up energy so as to burst into life with the early spring sunshine. The life of a wine taster tends to follow a similar cycle.
It is a relatively slow time in the wineries, with winemakers concentrating on road shows and promoting the benefits of their new vintages.
But August also signals the beginning of the national show circuit, and producers from the Great Southern this year are offering one of the first looks at the 2003 vintage.
The Great Southern Perth tasting is on tomorrow, Friday August 7, at the Hyatt Regency between 1pm and 8pm. This annual event continues to grow, with five producers from the region making their first appearance this year.
Among the new producers is Philips Brook Estate. David and Bronwyn Newbury purchased the property and neglected vineyard at Redman just outside Albany in June 2001. The property has some of the oldest riesling and cabernet vines in the region (planted in 1975).
Philips Brook Estate (named after the brook that trickles through the property) currently has 12 hectares under vine. The old vine material comes from 2.4ha of cabernet sauvignon and 2ha of riesling, while the newer plantings include 4.8ha of chardonnay, and small plots of sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet franc.
The Newburys are currently selling the majority of their fruit to Howard Park, although interest in their own label Philips Brook Estate is strengthening. The 2003 Philips Brook Estate Riesling is looking quite exciting and is among the best 2003 examples I have tasted so far.
Porongurup producer Abbey Creek, which also will be making its first appearance at the tasting, was recently awarded the best riesling and the only outstanding riesling gongs at the recent Winewise Magazine small vignerons (crush under 350 tonnes) awards, for the 2002 vintage riesling.
Mike and Mary Dilworth have had their property in the Porongurups for more than 20 years, planting vines just 13 years ago. Until recently they were selling their fruit to Plantagenet.
Abbey Creek produces two other wines aside from the winning riesling – a pinot noir and a cabernet merlot.
Other new producers to look out for are Trappers Gully Wines, Turloch & Xabregas wines and Two Peoples Bay Vineyard.
The participating producers are: Abbey Creek; Alkoomi; Castle Rock; Chatsfield; Duke’s Vineyard; Ferngrove Vineyards; Forest Hill; Frankland Estate; Gilbert Wines; Goundrey/Fox River; Harewood; Howard Park/Madfish; Ironwood; Jingalla; Jinnunger; Karriview; Marribrook; Montgomery’s Hill; Old Kent River; Plantagenet; Somerset Hill Wines; 3 drops; Trevelen Farm; Wadjekanup River; West Cape Howe; Wignalls; Yilgarnia; and Zarephath.
With a record number of producers the tasting will be well worth a visit. Tickets for the tasting are only $20, which includes a tasting glass to keep. And for the first time, those attending will be able to purchase wines at the event, with one lucky punter to win 48 mixed wines from the region.
Over the past few years there has been slow but very steady movement forward in the riesling market. The very clever marketing campaign created by the Clare Valley rielsing producers a few years ago – ‘Riesling with a twist’ – to educate consumers about the virtues of the wine under a screw cap, or Stelvin, was the catalyst for the increased awareness.
Western Australia has had its own riesling champion in Frankland Estate’s Judi Cullam, who has been a passionate supporter of this variety for many years. So enthused is she about the variety that she awards a bi-annual ‘riesling scholarship’ and holds regular riesling workshops around the world, most recently in London with a number of that country’s most respect wine journalists in attendance.
Now, WA riesling lovers can finally get their teeth into this noble variety. Must Winebar is holding the first of what will become an annual event, The Must Wine Bar International Riesling Tasting, on Sunday August 17.
Those attending will be among the first to taste some of the best rieslings from Europe not yet available in Australia. The extraordinary quality of the 2002 vintage in Australia has shown just how good Australian riesling can be, but also how good they are when stacked up against the wine from Europe.
Only a limited number of places are available for this international riesling tasting. Must Chef Russell Blaikie says the event will comprise of a tasting, a master class and lunch and is designed to highlight the quality and diversity of the world’s finest dry riesling wines.
Celebrated wine writer Max Allen will be a part of the tasting panel and will also speak on ‘The Romance of Riesling’ over lunch. Peter Forrestal will preside over the event and chair the tasting panel. The master class on aged riesling – The Benefits of Maturity – will be conducted by Judi Cullam and Patrick Walsh, both widely respected authorities on riesling. One of the stars of this session will be the Yalumba Pewsey Vale 1982, which was bottled under Stelvin.
Other wines in the tasting will consist of 20 or so of the world’s greatest rieslings from Germany, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Confirmed entries at this point are: Crawford River Riesling 2002; Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2002; Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2002; Dr Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett 2002; Domaine Wachau Riesling Federspiel 2002; and Fromm La Strada Dry Riesling 2002.
The Sunday tasting will be followed on Monday with ‘The Great Riesling Dinner’, which will showcase a diverse range of specially selected rieslings, including the renowned JL Wolf Jesuitengarten Riesling 2001. Max Allen will be speaking at the dinner, which will be a contemporary French affair created by Russell Blaikie and his team.
The tasting, master class and late lunch – Sunday 17 August 9.30am to 4pm costs $210 per person.The Great Riesling Dinner with Max Allen on Monday August 18 from 7.30pm costs $145/person. For more information, please contact Russell Blaikie on 9328 8255.
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