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MacPhee’s Wine Alert, Revolutionary Riesling – Roads Less Travelled


It will be fairly evident to readers of MacPhee’s various alerts and newsletters – and even more so if you have a chat with Craig – that MacPhee’s loves Riesling, from the explosively exotic botrytis laden Goldkapsel wines of the Mosel to the tautly racy lime-scented wines that have put Australian Riesling firmly on the map. It’s not just because it’s so delicious in the aforementioned forms – and almost anywhere between these two points – or that it seems to suck up so much of the slate, granite or whatever else lurks below often frugal soil and casts it in bold type (though always in an elegant font, think Garamond) in the glass, attended to by subtly fragrant blossom, cool stone fruit and citrus zest. No it’s not because it’s so irresistible in youth that the only thing stopping you drinking it all now is the knowledge that it will increase in stature with time, build and grow, add layers of complexity and nuance whilst still defying time and displaying hints of its youth and the very mineral-flecked soil from which it emerged. No it’s not just for these reasons… well, maybe it is; but reason enough we say!Now, we’ve said before that we love Riesling from the Clare Valley, but are often a little disappointed by wines that are a bit one-dimensional in the lime and… well just lime, spectrum, with tweaked acid profiles and not a lot of character. To be fair these wines are often well under $20 and if the plan is to eat your weight in chilli mud crab and drink out of a coffee glass then have at them, there’s probably no better fit. And before you jump to defend the Clare, we’ve already said we love the Clare: Grosset, Wines by KT, Kilikanoon, Mount Horrocks, Skilogalee and yes the list really does go on, so back down. Now it’s not exactly breaking news that there are other territories around Australia that turn out great Riesling, Mount Barker, Frankland River, Henty, Coal River Valley etc., but examples haven’t always been thick on the ground and the quality has had its ups and downs. Add to this the occasional experimentation with residual sugar, oak use and lees work and the picture has been more than a little blurry. Well that picture is snapping into remarkable clarity, dare I say high definition precision, with many producers’ experience with the grape and the bits of dirt (or rock) they work with reaching a stage of maturity that’s resulting in some truly compelling wines.

Winemaking with Riesling has traditionally been a pretty simple affair in this country: don’t press the grapes too much, ferment with a complimentary yeast at cool temperatures to keep the fruit flavours and only in stainless steel so as not rob from the precision. And fair enough, this all makes sense. But some of the great Rieslings of the world get a fair squeeze at the press (which can pull out more flavour), are fermented with natural yeasts (which can accent the flavour and add textural complexity), see time in oak (not for oak flavour, but for an oxygen and lees interplay that would be near impossible otherwise), and can carry a varying amount of residual sugar (balancing the acidity and phenolics) and the result, well, wines of purity, but also wines of complexity. Plenty of local winemakers have had a go at emulating these wines, and there have been quite a few hits and quite a few misses. Key here is that these (some or all) techniques are used to enhance suitable fruit, to integrate and support; they are not a way of showing how clever the winemaker is. The three wines we’re offering today are great examples of a departure from the traditional Australian style, they’re not intended as an assault on the establishment, they’re just a response to individual circumstances, a reflection of experience, and utterly compelling essays on how the future of Australian Riesling can be a diverse one.
The Story ‘Henty’ Riesling 2013 $27

Rory showed us this wine late last year and it really surprised with an amazing amount of flavour complexity, apple blossom, citrus peel, talc, dried pineapple, river stone and even bath salts. At the time (just released) the residual sugar (though quite small) was sitting out a little, but a couple of months later the wine was absolutely singing, all those complex aromatics with hints of mineral beautifully framed by a balanced and long finish. This is from a site that Rory has been chasing for many years and may never get again.

“Our progression towards incorporating cooler climate wines from properly cool regions sees our 3rd Henty Riesling. From a 30yr old vineyard near Portland in the south west of the state, which I have coveted for several years and only now managed to secure a small parcel. This Riesling is an intense, lime, red apple and pineapple driven, compact wine with length to burn and huge impact from the warm, early vintage. Majority fermented in tank but with a portion fermented wild in barrique to add further textural complexity. A hint of residual sugar adds balance to the acidity. Wines from this region age superbly, but it’s a joy to drink now too.”

– Rory Lane, Winemaker

The real driver here is the palate which is firmly dry, phenolic and super powerful – you can just taste every tangy, acid-etched nook and cranny in there, the definition sublime. Stunning, razor sharp Riesling with perfect length and weight. Stunning. 

– Andrew Graham, The Australian Wine Review 18.5/20 


Mac Forbes ‘RS16’ Riesling 2013 $33

Mac Forbes is probably better known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, wines of taut precision that speak of various subzones of the Yarra Valley, but he has also been making Riesling for many years with great success. It is in the last two vintages (’12 and ’13) that we feel that Mac has really nailed it. Keep in mind that Mac has spent many years consulting in Austria and has rubbed shoulders with some of the greats over there. His wines though are in a more Germanic mould and the RS16 is as good an off dry (somewhere between Trocken and Kabinett) Riesling as you’ll see from this country. This is truly delicious, with spicy fragrance, notes of river stone and peach kernel and impeccable balance that keeps this wine fresh and intensely moreish.

“Not only were the 2013 Rieslings even more exciting than I’d dared to hope … After tasting his 2013 Riesling ‘RS16’ and 2013 Riesling ‘RS37’ (yes, the names give the residual sweetness content of each wine in grams per liter!) I shall have to visit those granitic hills the next time I get to OZ.” 

– Stuart Pigott, stuartpigott.de

Pooley ‘Coal River’ Riesling 2013 $29

Anna Pooley is going to do great things in Tasmania, well to be fair, she already has, anyone who has tasted the effortless precision and clarity of Heemskerk Riesling (where Anna was the winemaker) could attest to this. 2013 is the first vintage that Anna has made the wines at the family farm, and her imprint is immediate and distinct. For those that have bought the Pooley Riesling before, this is probably a bit of a departure and the wine will take a little time to settle, but it is distinguished by a riot of aromatics and an impeccably judged touch of sugar to grace the vibrant acidity with a smooth passage.

“Bright, light green; the bouquet is very complex, but the even more complex palate is positively explosive, and exceptionally well-balanced, as the tag team of low pH, high acidity and 6.5/l of residual sugar chase each other backwards and forwards across the long journey to the finish. The flavours are a potpourri of everything one can find in the variety, and will satisfy whether the wine is consumed now or in 10 years.”

– James Halliday – Wine Companion Website Dec 2013 97 points 



Purity, Balance and Effortless Concentration

While we’re on the subject of Riesling we thought it might be worthwhile reminding readers about a wine we offered late last year that was one of our top picks for the year, and that was a year with plenty of ‘12’s and ‘13’s in it (that is, super stiff competition). This wine is a classically styled Australian Riesling with amazing purity, harmony and balance. A truly exceptional wine that we don’t think you should miss out on.

Nick O’Leary ‘White Rocks’ Riesling 2012 $37


Our Recommendation;

Grab a mix of these Rieslings for a great snapshot of some of the exciting things happening with the noble grape in this country. For those that love gently off-dry German Riesling, Mac’s ‘RS16’ is a must. The Pooley 2013 represents the start of a new era for the estate and The Story’s ‘Henty’ shows how expressive 30 year old vines in a great location can be. And don’t forget the ‘White Rocks’, more classical but one of the very best from last year.

To order;

Please contact us on info@macphees.com.au or 03 9696 5200 with payment details. Free delivery for orders of any straight or mixed half dozen or more.


Craig, Tania and the team at MacPhee’s

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