Having scoured the shelves for super-premium wines of any type, but at a price and style respectful of the season, Whitey can’t avoid coming back to adults-only Riesling.
O’Leary Walker Drs’ Cut Polish Hill River Riesling 2013
$30; 12% alcohol; screw cap; 96+ points
Having recently raved about the O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling of this same vintage – “one of the finest white wines I’ve seen from South Australia this vintage” – I was stonkered to then open this. It’s all the Watervale is and more. While that was the race-stripped Lambo, this is the Bugatti Veyron. It’s at least as fast as the Lambo, but it’s got luxurious upholstery and plusher design and you can drive it down the shops. And, oh yes, it costs more. It’s spicier – even peppery – and more complex, with that same fresh-sliced ginger, but also musk sticks and other confectionary, like pashmak, the exquisite Persian fairy-floss. Beneath all that stuff, below the influence of the wild yeast and the fermentation on solids, below the six months of weekly stirring of the yeast lees, lies a natural acidity with all the unflinching authority of a piece of stainless-steel 2cm marine cable. And this comes from that barren, stony, 41-year-old vineyard in the Polish Valley. If you let the bottle die slowly after opening, like a glass a day for a week, all the pretties and the poshness and the plush bits gradually fall away, revealing this remarkable spine. The wine will live for a very long time in the appropriate cellar. But I usually prefer them fresh and fast, and love this staunch beauty for what it is now. I can’t imagine awarding it many more points in, like, a decade, when many will swoon over its secondary and tertiary maturation characters, which will be, no doubt, profound. Considering all that, it’s impossibly cheap, regardless of your taste. This is as grown-up as great white wine gets.
Tim Smith Wines Eden Valley Riesling 2013
$25; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points
Eden Valley, and what I call the High Barossa, often produces Riesling of more austerity than most of Clare. But the Drs’ Cut is atypical of Clare. So’s this beauty from a 91-year-old vineyard in Eden Valley: it’s a little further out there than its neighbours, and more entertaining in its youth. It smells rich and buttery, like struselkuchen, with slices of lemon, lime, blood orange and even curaçao orange where the Barossa typically places apricot or apple, between the yeast cake base and the crumbed strusel topping. What started out smelling like soft white bread grew toasty after just an hour’s air, and then out jumped that sugary crumbed strusel and the damn thing became a cake. Yum-O. One of the flavours gets close to Rose’s Lime Marmalade, just to add to the morning tea atmosphere of the whole effort. And those citrus bits persist: even to the extent of the D-limonene from the bark of Cascarilla, which gives Campari much of its savoury phenolic bitterness. But while it sure has dry phenolic tannins, this is no bitter drink: everything’s in harmony here. I can think of no better accompaniment than a top-flight Barossa apricot struselkuchen and a cup of white tea at 1100 sharp.
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