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Wine

World's Best Rieslings

Wine Selectors tasting Panelist Trent Mannell was asked to be judge at the 17th Canberra International Riesling Challenge, and he liked what he saw.

Someone recently asked me what I thought the big trends in wine will be in 2017. And while I believe alternative varietals will continue to gain momentum I feel that an old favourite, Riesling , will rise again to become one of the most popular wines on the market.

I’ve come to this conclusion after a stint as Panel Chair judge at the 17th Canberra International Riesling Challenge, where I was blown away by the quality, variety and consistency of Rieslings from around the world, and equally by the Australian examples, which are right there in the top echelon.

Given the fact that most international wine tastings of this nature are held in Europe, the UK or America, it is a coup that we have a tasting of this kind in our own backyard.

Nearly all of the credit for this has to go to winemaker Ken Helm from Helm Wines in the Canberra District . Ken is about as knowledgeable and passionate about Riesling as anyone I know and we’ve had many a long conversation about the many nuances of this wonderful varietal while sipping some wonderful examples from Ken’s winery in Murrumbatmen.

The thing about Riesling is it is so versatile – by controlling when it is picked and how much sugar is in the grape, it can be made in almost any style from dry and citrusy to sweet and syrupy. All have their place and appeal and all were on show at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge.

JUDGING RIESLING ROYALTY

The 2017 event featured an outstanding collection of wines from eight countries with record numbers. Record entries (512) as well as the hughest participation from Austria and Australia and the largest number of entries from Germany and the USA since 2009, and in a strong sign of the quality on show, a record number of medals awarded. There were 85 Gold Medals, 112 Silver Medals and 168 Bronze Medals – a medal strike rate of 72%; this is up from 65% in 2015. Gold Medals represented 17% of entries - a record for the Challenge, clearly a reflection of the outstanding 2015 and 2016 vintages in the Southern Hemisphere and some fine winegrowing and winemaking skills.

“It is indeed an exciting time for Riesling across the world,” Ken said at the Challenge. Like me, he reckons that there is an increased appetite for Riesling and once these award-winning wines hit the market they’ll be greeted with much joy.

For the record Austrailan wines excelled. The Best Wine of the 2016 Challenge was Ferngrove Wines from the Frankland River region in WA for their Ferngrove Off-Dry Riesling Limited Release 2016 .

The best dry Riesling went to Adelaide Hills winery Bird in Hand for their Bird in Hand Riesling 2016 , made from pristine Clare Valley fruit, while the Best Museum Riesling was awarded to the Robert Stein Riesling 2009 from Mudgee.

A VERSATILE VARIETY

The fact that three different regions around Australia is tip of the hat to the versatility of the varietal to shine in different conditions and a testament to the heightened professionalism and attention to detail by winemakers and viticulturists.

Germany’s Weingut Georg Müller Stiftung - 2015 Hattenheimer Hassel Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese picked up two awards – the Best Sweet Riesling and the Best European Riesling, while the Mount Majura Vineyard Riesling 2016, scored for Best Riesling from the Canberra District.

For all the results visit www.rieslingchallenge.com

And can I give me thanks and gratitude to Ken, who is stepping down as Chair of the CIRC after 17 years at the helm. If it were not for his tireless work in instigating and perpetuating this Challenge we wouldn’t be talking about these Rieslings now, and you wouldn’t be ready to taste them. Cheers Ken, here’s to our next glass of off-dry and our chat on your creaky verandah.

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Life
Green with envy - Cool climes of Orange
Words by Drew Tuckwell on 17 Aug 2015
I will lay my cards on the table right from the start. I love Sauvignon Blanc. It is a noble and great grape variety with interest and intrigue. It produces some of my favourite wines on the planet. Like so many wine drinkers, my first memorable Sauvignon Blanc experience was a wine from Marlborough. I still remember the wow factor, the new flavour sensation. It was revelation. It was exciting. Now, 25 years on from that moment, I am a winemaker in Orange NSW making my fair share of Sauvignon Blanc in what I think is one of Australia’s leading regions for the variety. Despite being synonymous with New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc actually originates from the upper Loire Valley in north-west France, most famously from the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These days, these are the wines that make me go weak at the knees. The top wines of producers such as Gérard Boulay, Didier Dagueneau, Alphonse Mellot, amongst others, rival some of the more famous wines of Burgundy. Like all noble varieties, Sauvignon Blanc is very expressive of the region in which it is grown. So while the wines of Orange taste like Sauvignon Blanc should, they still taste different to Sancerre, Marlborough or any other region that grows the grape. It has its own regional personality. Furthermore, there is no singular style of Sauvignon Blanc – fresh and fruity, subtle yet complex, pure and mineral, barrel fermented and rich. Sauvignon Blanc country Orange is in the central west of NSW, 280km west of Sydney. When I travel out of the region, I will often ask people who have not been to Orange, what they imagine the landscape would be – hot? dry? flat? Their answer is almost universally, yes. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Sitting at almost 900m above sea level, the vineyards climb as high as 1100m, the highest in Australia to the best of my knowledge. There is hardly a flat stretch of ground off the slopes of the iconic Mount Canobolas. In summer, 300C is a pretty warm day and the area is rarely touched by a true drought. What it lacks in latitude, it makes up for in altitude. As I often point out, Orange is a little bit of Tassie in the middle of New South Wales. All this makes for great Sauvignon Blanc country and the local vignerons have taken the varietal to their hearts. Of the almost 40 wine producers in the region, nearly all make a Savvy of some description. This vested interest is crucial in treating Sauvignon Blanc with the love and respect it deserves. It enables the development of a regional style and continual improvement in wine quality. After declaring Sauvignon Blanc as the region’s hero variety in the mid-2000s, the region has evolved to identify some of the best vineyard sites and has become more adventurous with its winemaking techniques seeking to find the best expressions of this wonderful variety. Its a style thing The most common expression of Sauvignon Blanc in the Orange region is the fresh, intense fruit-driven style – and it rarely disappoints. Less herbal, it has a tropical punch with passionfruit being a key flavour. It tends to be a bit fuller with more palate weight, but is still lively. Logan, Printhie, Mayfield, Swinging Bridge and Angullong excel in this style, while a new producer, Colmar Estate, revealed a cracker from their debut 2014 vintage. A subtler style, that is still fresh but somewhat more refined, is also being produced in Orange. This is what I refer to as the ‘less is more’ style. Less of the upfront, big impact aromatic intensity and more of the subtle aromas, flavours and layers than your regular Sav Blanc fruit bomb. Ross Hill Pinnacle is a prime example, as is the Cumulus Sauvignon Blanc and Philip Shaw No.19. There is also a more complex style of Sauvignon Blanc being engineered in Orange. Made in much the same way as Chardonnay, with subtle oak treatment, wild yeast and some malolactic fermentation, these wines often show funky aromatics, smooth texture and savoury complexity. They still have the varietal characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, but are a world away from the Marlborough version and more towards a Sancerre style. De Salis Fumé, Printhie MCC and Patina are all pushing this envelope. However, these wines are made in such small quantities, sometimes less than 100 cases, and are rarely found outside the region’s restaurants and cellar doors – but they are well worth tracking down. Many times I have seen the pleasantly surprised reaction of committed non-Sauvignon Blanc drinkers seeing this variety in a different light. It is one they had never come across before and it usually inspires them enough to buy a bottle. I believe this complex style is the future of Sauvignon Blanc in Australia. Every wine drinker has evolving tastes and wine producers also need to evolve. It is a sure thing that the most popular wine of five years ago will be made in quite different ways in five years time. So expect to come across more Sauvignon Blancs that are made with cloudy juice rather than clear juice, that are fermented in barrels rather than stainless steel tanks, with naturally occurring yeast from the vineyard rather than commercial yeast cultures. It is an exciting time for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers and producers alike. But wait, there’s more Any conversation about wine in the Orange region inevitably comes around to Chardonnay. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, I consider it to be the most exciting wine style in Australia. The quality, the style evolution, and the regional characteristics are fantastic. It excels in virtually every wine growing area across the country, so if a region is going to tout its Chardonnay credentials these days, it has to be pretty smart wine. With 30 medal-winning Chardonnays from 47 entries in the 2014 Orange Wine Show, it would seem that Orange Chardonnay is in the sweet spot. Not long after the Show I sat in on a tasting with a group of wine writers, and it was the Chardonnays they raved about. It was a landmark moment and testament to the quality and style of Orange Chardy. With across-the-board success, the good news that you can score a winner from a host of producers from Swinging Bridge Estate, Patina, Borrodell to Carillion, Centennial, De Salis, Philip Shaw and boutique producers such as Dindima and Heifer Station. The reds of orange Wherever Chardonnay does well, so too should Pinot Noir and this difficult and temperamental variety is right at home in the highest vineyards in Orange. It can be reliably ripened at elevations where other reds cannot. The best Pinots are perfumed, earthy and very inviting and that is exactly what you get in the cool climes of Orange. Seductive and charming in their youth, they are not wines that need lengthy cellaring. Standouts from the region include the Pinots of De Salis, Philip Shaw, Ross Hill, Bantry Grove, Stockman’s Ridge, Brangayne, Mayfield and Logan. Much has been written recently about the style shift of big, bold Shiraz to the more refined, elegant cool climate Shiraz and it would seem that Orange is perfectly placed to take advantage of this trend. I have always considered Shiraz to be the most consistent red variety in Orange. It performs across different elevations, producer to producer and from vintage to vintage. It is medium bodied, spicy and floral with freshness from natural acidity. The richer styles of Shiraz come from lower elevations and producers such as Cumulus, Angullong, Ross Hill and Printhie, while the likes of Logan, Philip Shaw, Centennial and newcomer Montoro highlight the spiciness of higher elevation vineyards. Alternative hotbed While the aforementioned traditional varietals do well in Orange, it seems there is a huge future for alternative varieties as well. Angullong has played with Italians Sangiovese and Barbera for some time and have recently added Vermentino and Sagrantino. Stockmans Ridge has planted Gruner Veltliner, Sassy Wines and Rowlee have Arneis, Cargo Road has Zinfandel. Centennial and Hedberg Hill have Tempranillo. It is perhaps the ultimate accolade for Orange that producers from other regions are sourcing fruit from our elevated climate to make their wine. Hunter Valley’s David Hook, a long-time alternative producer, now sources his Barbera and Riesling from Orange. Tulloch’s buy Tempranillo grapes, See Saw grow Sauvignon Blanc, while Pepper Tree Wines source their award-winning Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Orange. Time for a visit As Orange is just a couple of hours drive from Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle it is worth making the trip to visit. From the historic town of Orange, there are gorgeous villages such as Millthorpe and Canowindra not far away. It is here you will find Rosnay, a biodynamic farm producing whole range of treats from olive oil and paste, figs in various forms and wine – very much worth a visit. This of course reminds me how spectacular the food of Orange is. See for yourself at the farmers’ markets held the second Saturday of every month. There’s also the massive FOOD week event in April, the Apple Festival in May and WINE week in Ocotober. Check out tasteorange.com.au for all the details and programs for all the events. But in the meantime, aim for the heights and sit down with a glass of Orange wine. I bet you’ll enjoy it.
Wine
Know Your Varietal - Arneis
Words by Adam Walls on 7 Sep 2017
Adam Walls reveals how Arneis,  Italy’s ‘little rascal’ is proving a hit in Australia thanks to its rich appeal. Crisp and floral, Arneis is a white that Italian winemakers often blend with Nebbiolo to add a touch of sweetness and perfume. In Australia, it’s proving tough to grow due to the fact that it’s low-cropping and susceptible to many vineyard diseases. However, it’s certainly an emerging hit. Arneis - an Infographic Guide Origins
Arneis hails from the North Western Italian region of Piedmont where it is most famously associated with the white wines of Roero. The fact that Roero sits across the river from the famous Barolo means that Arneis has earned the nickname of Barolo Bianco (white Barolo). It is also thought that the variety’s name is derived from a Piedmontese word meaning “little rascal”. This is due to the fact that the grapes are hard to grow as Arneis is a low cropping variety and is susceptible to mildew. Did you know? Arneis vines were sometimes planted next to Nebbiolo vines, but largely as a form of protection – the Arneis grapes’ stronger fragrance distracted hungry birds and insects away from the more highly prized Nebbiolo. Australian Arneis In Italy, Piedmont is a cool region with lots of hills, so it makes perfect sense that the most successful regions in Australia for Arneis are cooler with many having rolling hills like South Australia’s Adelaide Hills , Victoria’s King Valley , Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley , and the NSW Southern Highlands . Arneis from a cool climate region gives good balance between fruit and acidity. In warm vintages, Arneis shows lower acidity and a more powerful fruit profile. Arneis Tasting Notes Arneis produces very fragrant wines with notes of pear and apple. The elegance of the aroma hides the fact that the wines are medium to full bodied with pear, apple, stone fruit and nutty notes. With its rich flavour profile, Arneis will appeal to anyone who loves fruit-driven Chardonnay or Verdelho. Food matching
Given its soft acidity and texture, Arneis pairs well with lighter food flavours. Try seafood pasta, salads with creamy sauces and shellfish. Recommended Recipes : Blue swimmer crab spaghettini with lemon and chive sauce garlic pangrattato recipe Prosciutto with seared coffin bay scallops, globe artichokes and truffle recipe Explore our great range of recipes
Wine
Vine Change for the Good Life
Words by Jackie Macdonald on 27 Nov 2017
Ever dreamed of making a vine change? Meet some daring individuals who took a leap of faith to embrace the good life – vinous style. We’ve all been there. Visited a winery, wandered through the vines, dreaming of days spent pruning tips and tasting wines straight from the barrel. Of course, this romantic picture glosses over the constant stress of too much or not enough rain, grape-eating pests and the changing tastes of fickle consumers. But for a special selection of wine producers, the challenges were never too great. Their dream of a life on the land was enough motivation to pack in their career and take up the secateurs for a life dictated by vines, veraison and vats. For Todd and Jeff of Belford Block Eight in the Hunter Valley , it was love at first sight of their property’s driveway. As Jeff explains, “Todd and I turned off the car, listened to nature, admired the olives, turned to one another and said, ‘this is it.’” Jeff gave up his job in the finance department for CanTeen and Todd left Ebay, where he’d worked for 12 years in strategy, marketing and analysis. Neither knew anything about winemaking. But on their property were around 12,000 vines, so, as Todd describes, “Jeff and I tracked down a bottle of 2006 Brokenwood Block Eight Semillon, a single vineyard release made only using our grapes and it was truly remarkable. So, we thought, maybe there’s an opportunity to make some nice wine from these grapes, let’s give it a go!” And given it a go they certainly have with their first ever wine, the 2014 Reserve Semillon now an award-winner. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, though, and they’ve learnt some valuable lessons. Apart from the vagaries of harvest, the necessity of tractor headlights and that their deckchairs are just for show, they also know that un-neutered piglets turn into boisterous 150kg boars and goats can be as loyal as dogs. But regrets? “No bloody way, mate!” is Jeff’s answer, “One day we’ll sit on those deck chairs, sipping on a 20-year-old Block Eight, admiring what we’ve built.” Healthy vines
Back in 1997, while Jeff and Todd were still slogging away in the corporate world, over in South Australia’s Clare Valley, medical professional, Anura Nitchingham planted his first vineyard. He’d chosen Clare because, he says, “The region is really an unsung hero in the world of viticulture. It’s unique and has some really great producers in a very small, but beautiful region.” That first planting has grown into Claymore Wines , one of Australia’s most unique wine brands. While Anura hasn’t left his medical career, he says that winemaking provides something medicine can’t: “Vines don’t complain! And there’s wine!” The medical theme is also part of the story of Hobbs of Barossa Ranges . Allison Hobbs was a nurse and her husband was a former policeman turned firefighter when they bought their vineyard in the Barossa. Their decision to make a vine change was borne of a desire to provide a rural lifestyle for their children. Like Jeff and Todd, Allison and Greg knew very little about making wine, but the stars aligned, providing them with some strokes of good fortune in the early years. Foremost was they happened to buy the property next door to local winemaking expert, Chris Ringland, who provided invaluable advice and made their wines. While being a nurse, police officer or fire fighter might be worlds away from making wine, Allison and Greg feel they brought vital skills from those professions to their new endeavour. As Greg says, “attention to detail is very important to both nursing and winemaking”, and Allison adds, “the observation techniques you learn in nursing, the police and fire brigade are important as we wander through the vineyard and take note of what’s right and what’s not.” Livin’ in the 70s
Although Allison, Greg and Anura faced challenges in the mid-1990s, things were even more basic in the 1970s. Having left successful careers in the emerging computer industry, Linda and Ian Tyrer bought a property in WA’s Mount Barker region to establish Galafrey Wines . Again, they had no experience, but, as Linda describes, she arrived at their new home four months pregnant, armed with a few thousand grape cuttings – “naive but starry-eyed, full of enthusiasm.” A lack of money meant a lot of back-breaking work, but by 1985, they had won their first Trophy and Ian’s tireless dedication saw him awarded the George Mulgure Award for outstanding service to the industry in 2003. Unfortunately, the same year, Ian lost his battle with cancer. However, his legacy lives on with Linda still at the helm, along with daughter Kim, who left her own career as an artist to return to the vines. One thing all these people would agree on is that a life among the vines is a hard slog. But is it the good life? Absolutely!
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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