30/10/2007 - 22:00

Riesling's good run continues

30/10/2007 - 22:00

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Semillon sauvignon blanc may be the drop of the moment and chardonnay may be the white wine style that put Margaret River whites on the map, but it is riesling that has dominated the trophy podium at the Qantas Wine Show for the past five years.

Riesling's good run continues

Semillon sauvignon blanc may be the drop of the moment and chardonnay may be the white wine style that put Margaret River whites on the map, but it is riesling that has dominated the trophy podium at the Qantas Wine Show for the past five years.

Last week, The Abbey Creek 2006 Riesling was named the best white wine of the show, making it the fourth riesling to win the top white wine award in the past five years.

The Houghton Riesling 2003 won the best white wine category last year, while Madfish Riesling 2004 won in 2004 and Houghton Frankland River Riesling 2001 in 2003.

Millbrook’s 2004 chardonnay was the only variety to buck the riesling trend, winning the trophy in 2005.

Riesling was a variety that Abbey Creek owner Michael Dilworth had been told would flourish when he established his Porongurup vineyard more than 15 years ago.

But it wasn’t until 2002, when Professor Dilworth moved into semi-retirement, that the grapes being produced at the vineyard made their way into the Abbey Creek label.

Its fruit had previously been sold to Mount Barker’s Plantagenet Wines.

Professor Dilworth, a Murdoch University microbiology and biochemistry lecturer, says the strong performance of rieslings by Porongurup producers and others in the Great Southern region provides a good differentiation between the themselves and producers in Margaret River.

“Margaret River and riesling don’t normally go together,” he says.

“It has to do with the temperature profile. The best rieslings come about when you have a slow, cool ripening period and a few degrees makes a lot of difference.”

The fruit used in the wines from the previous Qantas Wine Show trophy wins have been sourced from the Great Southern region.

But while riesling is the big winner with Qantas Wine Show judges, Professor Dilworth says his biggest issue with the variety is trying to overcome perceptions from many consumers that Australian riesling is a sweet wine.

He says German wine producers adjusted the style during American occupation after World War II to suit sweeter taste buds.

“Americans still think its sweet and still make it sweet, and for a long time when Australia tried to export riesling to the UK they marketed it over there as a dry white,” Professor Dilworth says.

“But our rieslings are wines that last; you can cellar it for 10 years and drink it as an aged riesling.”

Professor Dilworth believes the reislings produced in the Great Southern provide consumers with great value, with an imported riesling of equal quality costing about $50 compared with about $20 to $25 per bottle for locally produced wines, he says.

Abbey Creek produces about 400 cases of wine a year, mostly pinot noir and riesling, however last year’s vintage marked its entry into the popular sauvignon blanc category.

Abbey Creek’s wines are produced by Castle Rock Estate’s Rob Diletti, who was responsible for producing the 2006 Castle Rock Riesling, which won two trophies at the 2007 Macquarie Bank Sydney Wine Show earlier this year.

The 2007 vintage has been a lot tougher for Mr Diletti, who also produces wine at Mount Barker winery, 3drops.

Earlier this year, fire destroyed 4,800 hectares of the Porongurup National Park and nearby farmland and affected many vineyards, including Abbey Creek.

Luckily, however, Castle Rock avoided damage.

But  Mr Diletti will be unable to make any Abbey Creek pinot noir or cabernet merlot this year due to smoke taint.

Professor Dilworth said the winery managed to salvage about 40 per cent of its 2007 riesling, which won’t be released for at least 12 months.

There were only 150 cases of the 2006 riesling produced and it is yet to be released to retailers.

In addition to winning the best wine of show category, the 2006 Abbey Creek Riesling also won trophies for the best and most distinctive regional character, and the best aged riesling.

This year’s Qantas Wine Show attracted 1,277 entries, up from 1,240 in 2006.

There were 55 gold medals awarded compared with 59 in 2006.

Houghton Wine Company’s 2004 Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon won the best wine of show award, while Clairult Wines won the most successful exhibitor for a winery producing less than 250 tonnes of grapes.

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