Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2013

One is momentarily tempted to trot out the usual cliches when discussing this wine – that it’s difficult when young, less accessible than the Springvale bottling, and so on. None of that’s especially helpful, and it completely misses the point of this wine, which is that it’s kind of perfect.

Pleasure can be so diverse, even within something fairly limited like wine. Some wines are sloppily delightful and others, like this, are almost inhumanly well built, expressing such precision of structure that their construction becomes a source of interest and wonder. The word that comes to mind most often while tasting this is “chiselled,” and in terms of aroma this translates to a cool, savoury presence that keeps any sense of plushness under wraps. Instead, a series of shy, hard-edged notes unfold and move from one to the next, never losing momentum, always foregrounding a sense of humid minerality.

The palate is quite approachable in that it strikes me as appropriately structured given its fruit weight and intensity. As with the nose, each flavour is placed with precision and balance. It’s quite a powerful wine, yet what I find most impressive in the mouth are beautifully managed phenolics that add a chalk-like texture to the after palate. Unlike wines that are self-consciously “about texture,” this simply presents that dimension, and it adds to the pleasure of the overall package.

This is probably the last wine to convert those sceptical of ultra-dry Clare Riesling — who cares, though? I’m just happy to taste a wine of such impeccable taste.

Price: $A45
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Wendouree Cabernet Malbec 2011

Aside from an older vintage of its delightful Zibibbo Muscat of Alexandria, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never properly written up a Wendouree wine on Full Pour, despite having drunk many over the years. Time to fix that.

This, from the legendarily difficulty 2011 vintage in South Australia, represents my favourite Clare Valley regional blend. Interestingly, growing conditions have resulted in a wine that’s far more approachable and coherent than many a young Wendouree I’ve tasted. There can, indeed, be an upside to these things. The aroma’s expressiveness provides a first clue to the wine’s relative accessibility, yet it’s the aromas themselves I find enveloping and transportive. Instantly, I’m walking home from school in the suburbs, the pavement hot underfoot, each nature strip a mini-oasis of cool, gum trees releasing a gentle aroma into the air, the occasional kick of dust and tar from a driveway. Indeed, this is vivid and spacious and, somehow, so Australian.

The palate’s moderate weight suits its highly aromatic countenance well. Those famous Wendouree tannins do make an appearance, but less so than usual, and with less density and impact overall. The focus here, rather, is on fluidity of movement and complete transparency of flavour. This is so pretty, and so gentle, one goes to it willingly and is amply rewarded with bright fruit flavours, tanbark textures and a general sense of elegant ease. Some may find the acid strident; I welcome its sizzle and vivacity. Certainly, fruit flavours are intense enough to provide balance. The finish isn’t especially long, but what’s there provides a coherent closure to the wine’s line.

This would be a sensational lunchtime claret.

Price: $A55
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Leasingham Bin 7 Cellar Selection Riesling 2000

I’ve been steering clear of Riesling since my return from the Mosel. Not that I’m sick of it; indeed, quite the opposite. I enjoyed the Rieslings there so much I’ve been hesitant to dive back into different expressions of the grape. For my return foray, I opened this, an older wine and one that I’ve documented here on Full Pour in the past.

As with my tasting in 2008, this bottle had a Stelvin cap that was fairly welded onto the bottle. It shed a fair bit of crust once I finally wrangled the thing loose. You’d never know it from the condition of the wine, though, which was pristine and youthful.

Shockingly youthful, in fact. Clearly, wines do develop under screwcap (let us not even entertain the contrary notion), but if this wine is any indication they can age slowly, gracefully and cleanly. I don’t regard any of these attributes as bad; indeed the wine exploded from my glass with a mixture of fresh and tertiary aromas. Lime, toast, honey, spice; a range of notes that are both totally correct and very fine. I’ve tasted some Australian Rieslings that showed an unattractive broadness in middle age; this, though, is still tight and linear, even as its developed flavours express.

In the mouth, still taut with acid and lean of line. I don’t imagine this was one of those especially intense wines as a youngster, which translates to a fairly gentle experience now in terms of impact and density of flavour. Unlike the Elizabeth Semillon I had the other day, this wine’s lack of intensity sits better within its style. This is about lightness of countenance and delicacy above all else.

Welcome back.

Price: N/A
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2010

An inevitable companion to the Polish Hill. I’m having an easier time with this wine and, as I imagine it was on release, this is the more accessible, friendlier style.

Sometimes, I feel that we value difficulty in wine — if it’s a bit challenging, then it must be more sophisticated, more adult. This is far from a facile wine, but its approachability does beg the question: of two lovely Rieslings, which might be better, and why? Conventional wisdom often suggests the Polish Hill’s delicacy and finesse should win, and I have some sympathy for that view. But this is just plain fun to drink, while retaining the complexity and sophistication that rewards contemplative drinking. It’s just got more meat on its bones, and more swing in its backside. Not bad things.

The aroma’s thick, slightly juicy citrus character embrace hints of bottle age where the Polish Hill’s icy figure seemed to regard them with horror. This aroma is, if not luxurious, then at least harmonious: pulpy lemon and honey, micro herbs and sunlight soap. It’s just plain fun to smell, even though I’m even more excited to revisit it again in a few years’ time.

The palate structure is beautifully balanced – a clever interplay of chalky texture, fine acid and weighty fruit. These three sides take turns on top as the wine moves down the tongue, coating the mouth with intense flavour while freshening the palate at the same time. I like the savouriness of the after palate and finish very much; it’s quite herbal and grippy. So nice to see a Riesling that celebrates texture as much as pure fruit. My only criticism is a slight heaviness at the front of the mouth, as if the lusciousness of the fruit momentarily breaks out of the wine’s structure, only to be pulled right back again.

Delicious Riesling and yet another example — as if it were required — of our great way with this grape.

Price: $35 (ish)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2010

I never tasted this on release, which is a shame. Pure laziness; I bought some fairly quickly, but it lay dormant in wine storage until recently. Working backwards from how it tastes now, I can imagine how it was as a newborn — powdery, angular, mineral. These sides of the wine are still very much in evidence, but age is making its contribution too. The result is, shall we say, transitional.

And a little odd, too. It’s easy to relax lazily into the idea that wine ought to, and always does, taste coherent in terms of its array of flavours. This goes with that goes with this; wine as a mid-priced women’s clothing store. This wine, though, shakes me out of my stupor, because its flavours clash and produce dissonance, tension, even ugliness. Uncompromising signs of youth bump up against prickly tertiary notes that want to be softer but aren’t capable of fullness, not yet.

The palate is where this wine’s future most clearly expresses itself. After the aggressive interplay of the aroma, the palate allows darts of sweet honey to weave in and out of what remains a bright, savoury, testy flavour profile. This promise of fullness softens the hardest edges and coats them in nectar, like golden syrup on ice. One eventually bites into the ice, of course, but the sweetness lingers and its promise is tantalising. The wine’s sophisticated, chalky texture provides appropriately adult support.

I’ll try this again in two or three years’ time.

Price: $A40 (ish)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Taylors Riesling 2008

In the throes of Dookie madness at the moment, although I’m enjoying a quiet weekend in between residential sessions. I’m staying on campus over the weekend, and there’s only one other student here – the lovely Lyn Rochford from Viridian Wines in Tasmania. We’re working our way through a six-pack purchased at the surprisingly spacious Liquorland in Shepparton. Amongst the delights we obtained (at 30% off, no less) was this wine, a bin end.

Not a terribly glamorous life for the wine so far, then, but it has redeemed itself on opening. Considering its price, this is very satisfying. The aroma immediately shows aged notes of toast and spice alongside a core of primary lemon juice fruit. It’s not as finely delineated as some, but this is a very correct aroma profile that shows the wine in the early stages of development. The palate is aggressively structured and the acid remains somewhat formidable, despite a few years in bottle. I don’t mind a bright wine, though, so I’m going with this Riesling’s flow of lemon, honey and toast. There’s a tropical dimension to the flavour profile that thickens it, aided by what might be a bit of residual sugar. There is some pithy texture on the back palate that contributes a fresh twist.

Overall, this is still very young-tasting, and I’d be happy to let further bottles go for a few years yet. Very nice richer style that should keep improving.

Price: $A15
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011

A lot passes through my mind as I sit down to this wine tonight. My palate — indeed my whole being — is in need of significant refreshment, and Riesling is the grape I most often reach for at these times. It may seem flippant to open what is arguably Australia’s most prominent example of the varietal on such a weeknight, but quality refreshes as much as character, and I’m hoping this has plenty of both.

The nose is firmly pretty, completely untouched by marks of age, either premature or well-earned. It brings to mind nothing so much as the fragrance of early spring, flowers not yet fully ripened, mixing their adult fragrance with the vegetal crispness of unfolding leaves. Which is to say, this still tastes shocking young, illicitly so, though its profile already hints at the chiselled physique of adulthood. There’s little flesh here; notes exist in a powdery, minerally spectrum.

The palate is most striking for its intense cut and thrust. It sizzles on entry and a strong acid line really dominates the experience of this wine right now. Falling off this acidic freight train are a range of detailed, etched flavours, encompassing lemon juice and slate via an almost musk-like note. I can tell there’s great order and rigour to the arrangement of each component, but it’s hard to tear one’s self away from that thrilling, firm structure. Flavour, right now, is simply a well constructed accompaniment, worthy of admiration but playing the role of textural harmonic to the acid’s melodic line. When it settles a bit, whether that’s in five, ten, or more years, I’m confident this will sing with complex, adult flavours.

I’m feeling better already.

Price: $A42
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2011

It was remiss of me not to review the 2010 Grossets, though I did purchase some as usual. I’ll remedy that soon. For now, I’m tasting the newer wines, starting with this Watervale-sourced number.

In some years, this wine can be explosively aromatic (see, for example, the 2008). 2011 isn’t such a year, though it’s far from reticent. No, this remains an expressive aroma, but its apparent restraint comes from the particular notes to which it tends. Rather than gobs of citrus juice and flowers, this presents citrus rind, talc and herbs. Still relatively full in profile, it shows good presence and immediacy, without perhaps the etched detail one sometimes sees in this style. Very much a chiselled profile, though, and somewhat more intellectual than usual for this label.

The palate totally reinforces these impressions through alignment of flavour and sympathy of structure. The citrus element comes across more strongly here, and there’s a strong run of lemon juice on the middle palate. The dominant notes are, though, more minerally; talc and flint are the best analogues I can muster. The structure is lovely and contributes to the powerdery impression given by the flavours. Acid is firm and textured, drying the after palate in particular. It’s very moreish and pleasingly angular.

Given the peculiar vintage conditions, this is something of a surprise and is certainly a very fine wine.

Grosset Wines
Price: $A35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Kingston Estate Echelon Shiraz 2008

I suspect the very idea of this wine will offend some people. It’s the antithesis of the sort of artisanal, terroir-driven wine that is idealogically safe to like. No, this is from Kingston Estate, producer of reliable and occasionally striking value-priced wines. It hails not from a single, characterful vineyard but from three regions in South Australia: Mount Benson, Clare Valley and Adelaide Plains. No undiluted terroir here. Despite all that, I must admit I was very excited to see this sample arrive in the mail, for all I saw were the positives: a relatively expensive wine made by a producer with all the technology and know-how one could wish for at its disposal and, I assumed, a large network of growers from whom to procure good quality fruit.

The reality sits somewhere in between these two extremes. There’s no doubting the seriousness of this wine; the aroma is quite closed at present, with dense, almost inscrutable aromas of dark berries, the glossiest of glossy oak, deep spice and deeper brambles. It’s nowhere near ready to drink, really, but even at this young age it shows good depth and detail. Its overall vibe is savoury and adult, no hint of the confectionery fruit one might expect to see in this producer’s lower tier wines.

This palate isn’t as forbidding as the nose suggests it could be, although it’s certainly not in the zone at this stage either. The entry shows good attack and an elegant swell of fruit into the middle palate. Here, it becomes apparent that this wine is far from the blockbuster one might expect. Indeed, it’s wonderfully elegant, with good shape and flow, medium weight at most. The flavours here span red and black fruits, spice and cedar oak, winding around each other with good delineation and balance. The after palate and finish display a slight rawness that speaks of youth more than anything else; a year or two in bottle and the line should fill out into the back palate.

Ultimately, this beautifully made wine is both satisfying and frustrating. For, as much as I want to enjoy its slick perfection, it lacks a particular dimension, one that values exaggeration and imperfection above the ideal form. How silly, perhaps, to criticise a wine for being too good; buy a bottle and enjoy what is arguably an expression of what we do best.

Kingston Estate
Price: $A27.99
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 2008

I have fond memories of this label and its stablemate, the Bin 56 Cabernet Malbec. For years, they exemplified the sort of great value, regional, age-worthy red that drinkers on a budget tend to gravitate towards. Hence, I have enjoyed many vintages of this, both as a new release and as an aged wine. It’s been a while since I tasted it regularly, though, so was pleased to see it arrive in the mail and curious to understand what today’s Bin 61 is like.

I certainly don’t remember it being quite as approachable as this. One of the things I like about Clare reds is their ruggedness, usually expressed through a heap of oak and the sort of genuine, yet coarse, fruit flavour profile that suggests a slightly embarrassing, but lovable, relation. This wine retains a significant oak influence, expressing mostly chocolate notes and some dark spice, as well as hints of the vegetal, dark fruit character that seems typical of this region. There’s a sheen, though, a sense of polish that rubs out the splinters and smooths the fruit’s edgier side, making the whole thing very drinkable as a young wine.

The palate continues in this vein, with a dense burst of sweet fruit on the middle palate the dominant element. According to the press release that accompanied this sample, the Schobers vineyard, from which some of the fruit for this wine was sourced, contributes to this fuller, sweeter fruit aspect. I’ll have to take Constellation’s word for it, not being intimately familiar with the character of individual Clare vineyards; what’s undeniable is the sweet, clean fruit that flows with each sip. Some might wish for more restraint, a greater tannin influence, an edgier profile. Certainly, I remember the Bin 61 being a more structured style than this. However, on its own terms, this is a very well-made wine with plenty of commercial appeal. At a decent discount off retail, you could do a lot worse.

Price: $A26
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample