Castelli Porongurup Riesling 2009

This is still available by mail order from the producer – I picked up a bottle a while back when I put together a mixed dozen of Castelli’s wines. I also have more recent vintages to taste – so many Rieslings, so little liver function.

This starts well. A lot of Great Southern Riesling has a particular fizzy lime character that’s quite aggressive but also rather moreish. It’s partly a function of the acid structures these wines seem to develop in the region, but also of the powdery, high toned citrus flavours one often sees. In any case, it’s here, along with a soft landing on the mid-palate and a tauter, mineral after palate. It’s pure and driven, perhaps lacking an ounce in refinement of line and mouthfeel. There are a few suggestions of bottle age, but on the basis of this bottle there’s a way to go before it hits full flavour maturity.

After a day of being open the flavours don’t tire but the wine does lose some focus on the palate. It broadens as its acid calms and, while this creates less friction, it also increases the impression of sweetness and fleshy simplicity. Perhaps it will build complexity with a bit more time in bottle. In any case, a nice wine; it just needs an extra dimension of detail and finesse to join the upper echelons of the region’s Riesling.

Castelli Estate
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Cherubino Porongurup Riesling 2012

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about regional styles and things that might be considered “traditional” or “typical” of a region. At the very least, such ideas are problematic and mutable, and perhaps not very useful, yet they are tenacious. I think regional stereotypes appeal to our need to create taxonomies and to contain things within easily understood boxes, and it’s true that stylistic threads which run through wine regions aren’t always without foundation. Yet with as many exceptions as there are examples, are we better advised to discuss stylistic typicité with some caution?

For example, Great Southern Rieslings have a reputation for austerity, and it’s true that some show both a finer countenance and more pronounced acid than some Clare and Eden Valley wines, for example. For me, though, this doesn’t automatically translate to a forbidding character; indeed, I find the particular aromas and flavours expressed by many wines of this region to have a deliciousness that encourages generous drinking, even as young wines. The regional stereotype of searingly acidic wines that demand cellar time might have been earned by a few bottles over time, but it does a disservice to many beautiful wines too.

This wine demonstrates my point. It’s completely dry, with nice acid (pH of 2.97 and TA of 7.8 g/L) and a flavour profile that’s more about florals and lime oil than anything pulpy or juicy. Yet in the mouth in particular it’s a wine that flows with ease, spreading fine flavour across the tongue even as it maintains good movement. The mid-palate is almost weighty but kept on track thanks to some attractive texture through the after palate. The wine rested on lees for several months post-fermentation, and this accounts for some savoury, reductive notes that lightly brush across the nose and palate. If anything, I’m wishing for a slightly more vivacious, etched experience here, and the wine borders on relaxation at times.

As with many Cherubino wines I’ve tasted of late, this isn’t structured to prevent immediate enjoyment, even as it suggests some medium term cellaring.

Update: day two and the wine’s singing even more clearly. If anything, its balance has improved after being open a while.

Cherubino Wines
Price: $35
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Zarephath Riesling 2012

I don’t think there’s a more quietly spectacular vineyard site in Porongurup than Zarephath’s. As one travels north on Chester Pass Road, most producers sit to the left on Mount Barker Porongurup Road. Turn right, though, and the road slips from bitumen to dirt, trees slowly becoming more ancient and stressed, tiger snakes winding their way over land that bears little of the stamp of human ownership. The Zarephath vineyard, then, seems placed in some sort of paradise, its small blocks carving a luscious oasis in amongst red dirt, granite and gnarled tree trunks.

None of which, of course, means the wine is any good, but it provided a lovely setting for my first encounter with this producer and perhaps played some role in my purchase of this bottle from cellar door. I remember a distinctive lime sherbet note when I tasted it, a flavour sufficiently appealing to make me want to spend a bit more time with it.

On extended tasting, first impressions are validated, as this is a delicious Riesling style. The nose is very expressive, with florals, lime rind, a hint of toast and a general impression of good times. It’s slightly louche, and I like that its flavours are so eager to please that they tend to jostle with each other a bit. So not the most refined aroma, but with great freshness and vibrancy nonetheless.

The palate is similarly robust, with that firm lime sherbet flavour the dominant note. I suspect there’s some residual sugar in here, which builds some flesh into the mid-palate and works as a positive foil to bubbly acid and phenolics. Again, not super fine, but in its way this shows impeccable balance and, more than many more intellectual Rieslings, is simply delicious drinking. The winemaking — by Rob Diletti at Castle Rock — seems top notch and the wine generous to a fault without being in any way too broad or lacking in definition.

It seems hard to make a bad Riesling in Great Southern; this is a particularly thirst-quenching one.

Zarephath Wines
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail