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Star riesling shoots from rot

EVERY kilometre you go north of Mt Barker, the rainfall tumbles by 15.6mm from the town’s annual precipitation of 700mm. While the precious aqua resource is more limited north toward Kendenup there is some protection from the dreaded botrytis cinerea, which has become something of a headache for Mt Barker grape growers.

Botrytis is encouraged when winemakers want to make a “sticky” sweet wine and then the mould is revered. Under these circumstances the French lay praise with the title pourriture noble (noble mould) while the Germans also laud it with the name edelfaule.

Of course botrytis is the key to the great sauternes of France and the auslesen of Germany.

White grapes benefit from botrytis cinerea, most notably riesling, semillon, sauvignon blanc and tokay. But only under certain climatic conditions is the mould welcome.

In Mt Barker some great sauterne-style, sticky whites have been made but the market place has only small demand for such luxurious wines.

Yet, the mould has become almost a blight down there, all too regularly visiting upon fruit in humid, wet conditions and it seems there are as many

vintages affected as there are botrytis free.

On botrytis exempt vintages you can expect, stunning, delicate, citrus fresh rieslings that are a joy to experience.

When there is a mould presence in the vineyard the palate of a dry riesling broadens and while still quite a fine white wine they don’t reach the prima-ballerina stage.

The market is tough on riesling, demanding dry whites in quantities and not sweeties, so botrytis free harvests are treasured.

Riesling loves Mt Barker and a good vintage rewards those who have persevered with the variety.

In terms of the best Australian riesling growing regions the Great Southern rates with South Australia’s Eden Valley, the Adelaide Hills, and the Clare Valley.

At the small Gilbert vineyards, some 18 kilometres north of Mt Barker, Beverly and Jim Gilbert have something of a riesling star in their 2000 vintage white – a wine that exhibits all the feminine beauty of the variety.

Of the Gilbert’s 8.5 hectares of vines, 1.5 hectares are planted to riesling, – a varietal clone they obtained from the Swan Valley Research Station.

As a precaution against disease they dropped some 25 per cent of the riesling fruit on the ground to create only 450 cases instead of 700 cases for the 2000 vintage.

Dressed in a cream and green somewhat clunky label it is an excellent example of Mt Barker riesling.

Among the myriad of the lemon and lime citrus sour flavours was a faint hint that some botrytis had got to the Gilbert vines and this was just the slightest taste of orange showed on the excellent palate.

Made at Plantagenet Wines by Gavin Berry, the bright, refreshing structure is well planned like an invisible container.

Out of a poor vintage comes a bright light in a Gilbert’s bottle.

It is priced well at $18.

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