I may have mentioned this before, but one of the perks of working at a boutique beer and wine store, is that the staff outings are pretty good. This is our winter wine tour.
The first stop is Wily Trout at Poacher's Pantry where vineyard manager, Will, talks us through the latest wine releases and matches them with specialty meats cured, dried and smoked on the premises. We begin with the 2015 Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot (60/40) which has had 12 months on lees, has a really delicate mousse, and consists of 6g residual sugar, so it's deliciously dry and crisp. It is served with a smoked chicken breast that takes eight hours to smoke (in the smokehouse out the back).
|Will from Wily Trout|
Next up is a 2014 Chardonnay, made mainly in steel with a little bit of oak at the end, but predominately showcasing the fruit. It is matched with smoked ham, which is cured first in brine then hot smoked with beechwood for five hours.
The 2015 Pinot Noir is grown in a vineyard that gets the morning sunlight but is protected form the afternoon heat. It is aged in French oak for 12 months and is delicate, gentle and on the dry side - which pairs it perfectly with the smoked duck we were offered. Lastly, the Shiraz made from 30% whole bunch grapes is smooth and well-balanced with subtle pepper spices. This is served with kangaroo prosciutto which is so good, I think we all bought some to take home.
|Toual Public School House bell|
He states that Riesling is the "Queen of Grapes" but that it is also "the most demanding of mistresses; if not treated with care and respect, it is unforgiving." He explained to us that Riesling vines must be planted east/west rather than north/south because otherwise they would get sunburned. He is also planting rosemary and lavender among the vines to assist with the terroir. Rieslings keep longer than many reds - in Germany they are traditionally drunk at 3-5 years old (and go exceptionally well with pork and schnitzel), whereas in Australia they are drunk much younger and make a fine accompaniment to seafood.
|Ken Helm of Helm Wines|
Any wine with more than 7g residual sugar can no longer be called dry and so we move to the Half Dry Riesling. Other terms are semi dry and off-dry, but Ken Helm scoffs at these - 'Why would you label your wine as off?". This is a very approachable wine with a floral aroma and tastes of pomme fruit, such as pear and quince. This style was made for the American palate after the Treaty of Versailles when the Rhineland was occupied by the Allies. It has 15g of residual sugar but Riesling has so much natural acidity (there is so much residual acid left behind in the tank that they can make cream of tartar from it) that there is no need to add any. Ken nods sagely; "It's all about balance."
We try a few more including the 2017 Tumbarumba Riesling (floral aromas; deep honey flavours; complexity in development; long finish) and the Central Ranges Riesling (smooth balance with nothing clashing or competing for attention). We could stay all day - and Ken could probably talk passionately about his product for that long too - but we have other appointments, so we bundle back into the van.
And so we go to Clonakilla, where winemaker Bryan Martin takes us straight out to the sheds, where the magic happens, and pours us a 2017 Riesling fresh from the tank. It is high in acid, fine and flinty (almost chalky) made from whole-bunch pressed grapes and presenting a great fully-rounded depth. Ravensworth is also Bryan's label and we tried some of their 2017 Riesling for comparison - it seems drier (3g RS) and more acidic with a zest that tingles the side of the tongue and a fine blend of citrus and floral with a hint of fennel. Apparently the fruit was whole-bunched pressed to four ceramic eggs, where a much warmer un-innoculated ferment proceeds - two of these eggs are still in the cellar for release next year: it's all a little bit 'Alien'.
|Ceramic eggs at Clonakilla|
Barrels are always beautiful, especially when they are full of wine. But not all of the wine comes from within the wood, and Bryan pours us several different varieties. The Ravensworth Seven Months is a blend in which whole bunches of Pinot Gris grapes spend seven months on skins with Riesling, Gwertztraminer and Sauvignon before being pressed - they pick up some of those lambic characteristics in a fine, spicy, clean, refreshing wine.
The Pinot Noir is light in colour and presents as fragile and delicate with a sense of spicy, herbal, floral, berry flavours and strawberry fruit. The Ceoltoiri is a GSM (plus Cinsault, Counoise, and "a rumour of Rousanne"): medium bodied with vibrant red fruit, a twist of leather and silky smooth chocolate characteristics.
|Plonksters and Bryan Martin|
|Tell me you don't think this looks like a Dalek.|
|Tanks and equipment at Long Rail Gully|
Richard Parker (the winemaker; not the tiger) and the lovely folk have laid on a big barbecue buffet feast for us, so we all tuck in - sitting in the cellar surrounded by (and drinking) the freshest wine directly from the source is a wonderful experience. We are lucky to live here where people maximise the climate and harvest the fruits of the land to make such fantastic wine and food. Cheers!
|Winery lunch bespoke to Plonk|