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 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

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2009

Née Watervale. 

Amongst the many things for which I enjoy Riesling, one of the recurring highlights of a particularly good one is the directness with which it communicates its quality. Personally, I find quality one of the less tangible aspects of wine, intersecting (and at times contradicting) other considerations like drinkability and style. Somehow, though, I find with Riesling that an increase in quality tends to align with an increase in my enjoyment, and I think part of it is the somewhat facile satisfaction I obtain from being able to clearly grasp what makes a good Riesling so good. At least, I flatter myself this ability. 
Take this Grosset wine, which is bloody good. It’s complex, and as I sniff the wine and take in this complexity, I remind myself that’s all there is. No oak, apparently straightforward winemaking; it’s just fruit character shining forth. This is a case, surely, of minimalist winemaking enhancing terroir (not, I believe, something to be regarded as a truism, but that’s another post for another time). Though less exhuberant than the 2008 vintage, there’s an obvious family resemblance, with a range of high toned notes overlaying deeper, almost tropical fruits and detailed citrus aromas. Great balance, interest and style. 
The palate shows the youthful impact for which this label is known, placing relatively full, rich fruit in a framework of textured, slatey acidity and etched complexity. The entry is like a wedge; it starts from nothing and works its way confidently to a bright middle palate filled with flavour, beautiful texture and the kind of drape normally reserved for high end couture. It’s the facted angularity of its architecture as much as any other, more prosaic dimension that satisfies me here. And, to be hyper-critical, the intellectualism associated with this style might get in the way of purely sensual appreciation. I tend to think, though, that bottle age might cure any such faults, if one were to find them distracting. Personally, I love that it drags me to a higher level of appreciation as a taster. If only more wines held drinkers in such high regard.

Price: $A31
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

clos Clare Riesling 2002

First of all, this wine should definitely not be served straight from the refrigerator. Give it half an hour to warm up, and only then give it a try.

This is one of the most elusive wines I’ve ever tasted: the nose had all kinds of things to smell, and almost none of them are anything I could name off of the top of my head. At first I figured I’d just cheat and say it smelled of kerosene or petrol or diesel or whatever, but it really didn’t: it briefly smelled like a fresh peach, and then suddenly like dulce de membrillo, and then it smelled like some unidentifiable white flowers, and then it moved on to something vaguely like what mesquite smells like after the rain in the Sonoran desert… but by then it had skipped along to something else vaguely like stale oregano. Who knows? Let’s just say that there was a lot going on in there, and without a gas spectrometer or an afternoon with Le nez du vin, this is the best I can offer you.

I was hoping it would settle down some in the mouth to give my powers of association a rest, but alas, no such luck. First off: the mouthfeel is sublime. There’s a lovely fatness to it that isn’t built on sugar; there’s also striking acidity that nicely balances everything. Is there any residual sugar? If there is, there’s very little: this is a classic Australian style. Upon reflection, the usual hints of lime peel offered themselves up as well, and the finish was sleek and simultaneously angular as they come, all sophistication and elegance. This is definitely what you Aussies would call moreish: my partner and I found ourselves in a competition to see who could get more of the wine more quickly before the bottle was finished (never an easy task, that fine balance between enjoying it leisurely while also peering over to the other side of the couch just in case their glass starts emptying itself before you have a chance to refill your own).

Overall, wines like these just don’t come around very often. Nearly six years after harvest, it still seems relatively fresh and I’d venture to guess it’s got a few useful years left, although I’ll probably leave one bottle to try again in 2022 just for the hell of it.

clos Clare
Price: US $14 (current vintage is 2006 at US $18)
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: November 2007

I’ve never been to find reliable information about who makes these wines, but my best guess is Jeffrey Grosset may have prior to 2006, and now it’s someone by the name of O’Leary Walker.

One additional thing I’ve been thinking about this evening harks back to an interesting series of confrontations in wine school – the professor had been educated in Burgundy, although the school (and nearly all the students) was very much located in Washington state. I was docked a point or two on an examination for suggesting that one could enjoy a glass of sherry before dinner, and a few weeks prior to that I had been told that I was quite wrong to suggest that a Clare riesling could perhaps age successfully for five or maybe even eight years; her French education had apparently insisted that dry Riesling must inevitably be consumed within a year or two lest it fall apart, especially with the high acidity Clare rieslings tend to display. Both times I wanted simply to say “well, you know, I’ve had a few dinners in Spain and very much enjoyed a copita before my meal, and I’ve had a few bottles of aged Clare riesling (a fairly old Taylors St Andrews came to mind immediately) and loved it – so why are you privileging your French university education over my personal experience and other nations’ traditions?” Of course I didn’t, which is how I probably escaped without failing the course. It’s still frustrating, though.