Top Australian Riesling wines

December 21, 2010

Riesling grape

I admit that as a German Riesling aficionado I have my problems with Australian Riesling wines. I try them again and again but, and to my great chagrin, I have not found what I am looking for.

Australian Riesling wines from the Adelaide Hills, the Clare Valley, the Eden Valley, Tasmania, Canberra District and from Great Southern in Western Australia enjoy a good reputation.

Also our own wine region, the Upper Goulburn Wine Region, produces some beautiful Riesling wines.

The September/October issue of the Australian and New Zealand Wine Industry Journal summarised the tasting of 26 Australian Riesling wines. All of them were under crew caps! Impossible in my native Germany.

Only one of them came from Victoria (Paradigm Hill 2009 Riesling from the Mornington Peninsula). The price range was from A$ 22 to A$ 45 (16.75 to 34.2 EURO). The four top rates wines were:

– 2010 Jacob’s Creek “Steingarten” Riesling (it is German for “stone garden”), a tank sample, Barossa Valley, South Australia

– 2009 “The Florita” Riesling by Jim Barry Wines, Clare Valley, South Australia

– 2009 Premium Riesling by Helm Wines, Canberra District, New South Wales

– 2009 Riesling by Plantagenet Wines, Mount Barker, Western Australia

The magazine carried also a photo of the vineyard where the Jacob’s Creek “Steingarten” Riesling is produced. It reminded me of my home region along the Mosel and Saar river. Here every vine has a single “stick” and is “wrapped” around it with no wire between the posts, nothing.

The “Steingarten” vineyard is entirely worked by hand because of it’s steepness. Also this reminds me of the Mosel with its ultra-steep slopes. The stones are of red colour, though, whereas the Mosel has blue and grey slate.

And believe me these Australian wine producers are not modest. At the recent International Riesling Challenge in Canberra they gave the top wine the title: Best Riesling in the World. Can you imagine. Modesty used to be a virtue which must have jumped out of the window down under.

The trophy was given to a ‘2005 Pauletts Aged Release Polish Hill Riesling’ from Polish Hill in the Clare valley, South Australia by Paulett Wines.

I cannot even try this wine because it is sold out. My search continues. I keep you posted.

Climate change and the vineyard

February 26, 2010

Two Hills Vineyard

Most of my libertarian friends are avid and passionate non-believers in global warning and climate change. They fiercely contest the validity of many research results. This sometimes reminds me of religious zealotry. However, one has to say that their opponents do not hesitate to falsify data and blackmail the public emotionally and otherwise. But many libertarians live in a constant state of denial when it comes to climate change. Well, so be it. I do not know where to stand in this debate but I would categorize myself as an “unremitting sceptic” in this regard.

Having said that, the changing climate pattern over the last two decades in my own vineyard and observations from vineyards around me cannot be ignored. Recently, Prof. Edward ‘Snow’ Barlow, professor of horticulture and viticulture and head of the School of Land and Environment (Agriculture and Food Systems) at the University of Melbourne and a practising viticulturist (he has a 24 ha vineyard in the Strathbogie Ranges) has published his new research findings about climate change and its effects on Victorian viticulture. An article in The Age by Jeni Port (10 January 2010) alerted me to this research.

One of the main trends in Victoria seems to be that vintage time moved forward considerably since 1982. In one location at the Mornington Peninsula it has come forward by 40 days in 40 years for Pinot Noir and 32 days for Chardonnay. At other locations, for instance at Tahbilk, one of Victoria’s oldest winery, picking days have fast tracked by 20 days.

Since we established our own vineyard (Two Hills Vineyard) in Glenburn in 1996-97 we had a high degree of variations in our growing seasons. But 10-12 growing seasons is not long if you want to see patterns. After all, we are the only vineyard in the location and comparative data are few and far between.

Our grapes

The Cabernet which we pulled out in 2001 might under these changing conditions been able to ripen the fruit after all. Should we have left it in? These and many more questions beg an answer. What will an earlier harvest mean for us? Will our early ripening varieties produce better yields or a higher quality of fruit? In contrast to other production locations we have sufficient water to irrigate if necessary, but is our fruit quality really higher than before?

If the “commercial life” of a vineyard is about 25 years, we are at about half-time. If Prof. Barlow’s predictions of vintage time for Victoria in 2030 and 2050 are realistic, we might be just in the position to make it, so to say. The selection of grape varieties for replanting in about 2025 could be based on a much broader scientific knowledge.

Prof. Barlow thinks that Australian vintners and winemakers are at the forefront of climate change, “the canary in the coal mine”, as he puts it.

Life is full of adventure, especially in the rural hinterland of Melbourne.

The article in The Age closes with the remark, that Prof. Barlow “rarely meets a climate sceptic in the wine industry”. From my conversations with libertarians I cannot confirm this, but libertarians are mostly found in urban centres and hardly in the field.

The South Pack: Young Australian winemakers on a mission

August 15, 2009

The wine glut in Australia makes wine marketing a true challenge. Many vignerons and wineries have to knock on endless doors of wine outlets, restaurants and retail shops. You get sick of it. Among others, that’s one of the reaosns why eight young independent winemakers from Victoria have created “their own thing”. They call themselves “The South Pack”.


Three years ago they started their own roadshow to Melbourne and Sydney. Instead of going out and selling wine, they decided that people should come to them. They look for a suitable location, a restaurant, a hotel or any other suitable facility and invite the top trades and restaurant people to come for a tasting: meet the maker and his wines. Usually it’s accompanyied by food and music and great fun.


The eight young winemakers (actually they are nine people) knew each other through the wine business and are friends and mates. This year the roadshow will be conducted for the third time. Last year, also Brisbane was included. Attendence is by invitation only but numbers at the shows have multiplied every year. This year will be no different. There is a great interest to meet the originators, the magicans, the winemakers and have them talk about their products: hand carfted artisan fine wines of ourstanding qualities. These wines are not like the industrial liquids, technically well made wines but a bit ordinary, normal, faceless.


Meet the unusual. I only know one of the eight personally, Timo Mayer, a longtime friend. Timo is the winemaker of Gembrook Hills in the Yarra Valley and has his own vineyard and label. He made our award winning ‘2002 Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc’. He told me all about South Pack. I was exited to learn about this initiative and its immediate success.

Even if you have not been invited, just pick up some of their wines. Most of them you can buy online. Here is where to find and contact them:

Luke Lambert: mainly Syrah from St. Andrews, Yarra Valley and Nebbiolo from Heathcote.

James Lance – Punch: The winery in the Yarra Valley was severely affected by the bushfires, produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Gary Mills – Jamsheed (named after a famous Persian king): Shiraz and Gewuerztraminer

Timo Mayer: Bloddy Hill he calls his vineyard on the top of a windy peak overlooking the Yarra Valley, most of his 2.5 ha are under Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and some Shiraz

Mac Forbes: wines come from the Yarra Valley (lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) but also the Strathboogie Ranges (Riesling). The so called “alternative wines” are made from fruit from other wine regions in Victoria. Here you’ll find varieties such as Barbera, Gruener Veltliner, and Blaufraenkisch

Adam Foster -Syrahmi: another winery from Heathcote with beautiful Shiraz wines
I could only find references ot his wines but not a proper website.

William Downie: solely Pinot Noir wines are made by William, the fruit comes from the yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland

Barney Flanders and David Chapman – Allies: Allies is a collaboration between Barney and David. They produce a variety of wines (one label is called “Garagiste”, implying garage wines of made of excellent fruit; there must be a lot of French influence!?). Their Pinot and Chardonnay wines come from the Mornington Peninsula, the Shiraz comes from Heathcote (no surprise).