I recently joined a tasting group who have called themselves the “Grand Cru”. We have now met twice and have enjoyed tasting some good wine with like minded people.
Last meeting was held at the Butterworth Bar & Kitchen in Perth, with Riesling being the focus. One of our members goes the name of “Waiters Friend” on several of the Australian wine forums and he did a great write up of our tasting session. I asked his permission to reproduce his report here, so please join me in welcoming Allan (a.k.a. Waiters Friend) as a guest contributor. Allan also did a great job in sourcing the wines from his cellar & by providing excellent insight to each of the wineries represented on the night. Thanks!
All words below are from Waiters Friend’s report.
Grand Cru is a recently-established tasting group in Perth WA. Currently, I think we have about 20 members, and nine of us descended on the Butterworth Bar and Kitchen in the Perth CBD for our first themed tasting. Profound thanks to David and Amy for putting the group together and largely organizing this event.
In this case, it was Riesling. We established that the three best regions in Australia for Riesling are Clare Valley, Eden Valley and our own Great Southern (sorry Tasmania, Great Western and other areas), so we sourced wines from these regions only. We also acknowledge riesling’s ability to age, so we went for three different vintages as well – 2013, 2010 and 2007.
Wines were tasted in three brackets, by vintage. The notes below are a composite of group comments on the night, so if they appear a little schizophrenic, that’s why! .
Leo Buring Clare Valley (Watervale): Pronounced floral nose, with zesty lemon / lime and a hint of musk stick as it warmed up. A clean, citrus palate also featured lime pith, and the musk again, leading to a medium / long clean finish. One taster called it ‘refreshing’. This received 5 out of the nine votes cast by the group for this bracket.
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley: This one also had some of the pink musk sticks (maybe somebody went to a confectioners prior to the tasting?), alongside the trademark lemon. There is a streak of minerality as well, and as it warmed, more florals, mandarin and cumquat. The acid seemed a fraction lower than the Leo Buring, and it fell away a little on the finish. There was also a comment about ‘sucking on river pebbles’. One vote only.
Howard Park Great Southern: Lots of lemon blossoms and related florals. On warming, we got a couple of comments about wet wool and blue cheese. Palate is fuller than the other two wines and has a strong streak of lemon/lime cordial, with some white grapefruit and a slightly briny finish. 3 votes.
Skillogalee Clare Valley (Penwortham): A big whiff of kero kicked this wine off, followed by lemon and lime juice and a slight honeyed character, indicating the wine is quie developed for a 4 year old. Some apricot kernel was also present, and some ocean salt / seaweed. Palate is developed with a slight astringency and oiliness underneath a streak of cleansing acid. This received 5 out of the nine votes cast by the group for this bracket.
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley: No kero, and pristine lemon nose. Florals were not apparent on first inspection, but opened up wih a little time, along with minerality, brine, and one comment of shucked oysters. Palate was also pure lemon and acid, with a slight chalky and mineral touch. This appeared younger than the Skilly, and I look forward to trying it again in the future as it develops. 4 votes.
Howard Park Great Southern: Slight hint of kero on a muted nose of lime, lime and lime. Searing acid over the clean lime juice, with minerality and ‘sour worm lollies’ (someone’s hit the candy store again). There was some discussion as to whether this wine is going through the ‘dumb’ or ‘teenager’ phase which Riesling can be prone to. No votes.
Stephen John Clare Valley (Watervale): Gold colour. Lemon and lime with no kero. Very lightly honeyed and toasty. On the palate Jersey caramel (the lolly shop again), some tropical characters with one taster identifying passionfruit. Brioche, clean acid, honeysuckle. Described as well balanced, but no votes.
Pewsey Vale Eden Valley: Lemon, lemon blossom and lots of florals. The terms ‘elegance’ and ‘finesse’ were used. Very fruity and very slightly honeyed / toasty, and the palate was described as complex and complete. Five votes.
Howard Park Great Southern: Yellow gold, with lime, toasted almond, slight kero, and some florals and musk. Palate was clean with lime cordial to the fore. This was considered the least developed of the 2007 bracket, and received 4 votes.
At this point, there was some discussion about longevity of the wines. The Clare wines seemed to be the more quickly developing (although in fairness we looked at three different wines), with the Pewsey Vale more slowly developing, but eclipsed by the Howard Park in terms of likely life-span.
We also had a couple of surprise bottles:
2013 Side Project – literally a side project for the people who make Fairbrossen’s wines in the Perth Hills. Porongorup (Great Southern) fruit. A surprise indeed, when it was announced that the wine is basket pressed, sees 2 weeks of oak (50% new), is unfined and unfiltered, and underwent a wild yeast fermentation. The overwhelming sense of this wine is its cider-like character, with red and green apples, lemongrass, coriander and slight white pepper. A very light palate and low / medium acid (with a touch of texture from the oak) certainly challenged the notion of what a Riesling should be like. One vote in this bracket, and points to the winemaker for trying something outside the norm..
2008 Lucien Albrecht (Alsace, France): Gold colour. Apricot, lemon aromatics, with a touch of cream and yoghurt. High acid, salty and minerally with a touch of meringue. The wine seems rich and slightly oily, and the palate feel was described by one taster as lush (the palate, not the taster). Seven votes.
Then we voted on wine of the night. The 2010 Skillogalee got 3 votes, with the Leo Buring 2013, Howard Park 2007 and Pewsey Vale 2007 each getting two.