Sevenhill St Francis Xavier Single-Vineyard Clare Valley Riesling 2016
($35 at the cellar; 11% alcohol; screw cap)
2016 looks like becoming one ot the most memorable years for Clare Riesling. The few early-release wines I’ve troubled all seem both beautifully fruity and floral yet intensely compressed and tight, ready for a good spell of dungeon.
A 1978 planting of a Geisenheim clone in two acres of fairly rich ferruginous loam produced this ravishing royalty. It has the aroma of the flesh of the petals of lime and the atmosphere of the thick white pulpy flesh of the magnolia blossom, seasoned a little by a waft of summery vintage dust.
Texturally, it’s like Bickford’s lime with all sorts of drying citrus pith providing a comforting adult wadding that many more austere Rieslings miss. In other ways, it reminds me of a tea of fresh chamomile with a squeeze of lemon. The acid is firm and persistent, but beautifully balanced by all that elegant flesh.
When the Alsatian winemaker Michel Dietrich managed Quelltaler (now Annie’s Lane) in the ’80s, he taught me to make choucroute, the Alsace version of sauerkraut, with smoked wursts and pork and great dollops of milled mustard. He believed it was the perfect accompaniment to really great Riesling like this and then went on to prove it. Next year, I must remember to beg for a jar of the fermenting 2017 to help me get my cabbage ferment started … yum-o.
Sevenhill Inigo Estate-Grown Clare Valley Riesling 2016
($22 at the cellar; 10.5% alcohol; screw cap)
This beauty has some of the hints of opulence that make the St Francis Xavier brilliant, but with more of the aroma of a flowery meadow drying off in a warm end-of spring breeze. Think of everlasting or “paper” flowers; not so much the native paper daisies but the purple or blue and white Limonium perezii. While this tough plant comes from the Canary Islands it somehow seems a very Australian fragrance in this combination: there’s also a powerful note of the acrid, edgy smell of slate split freshly on a summer’s day.
Only below that bracing introduction do we find the simmer of lemons and limes; mainly lemon.
The wine is tighter and less fleshy than the St Frank, perhaps more typically Clare, but with the distinctive character winemaker Elizabeth Heidenreich regularly gets from the four vineyards that make up this blend, some of them in very hard slate and siltstone ground.
During the days I’ve had this open, the centre of Italy was shaken to the ground by that mighty earthquake. Praying that Bacchus bless their poor souls, I made myself a Bucatini all’ Amatriciana in honour of the civilising cuisine the old mountain town of Amatrice gave us. It was a sombre little dinner, but it went perfectly with half a bottle of Inigo. He can bless them too, come to think of it … long before he became St Ignatius, Inigo founded the Jesuits …
Fresh oysters with lemon and pepper would do a damn fine job of it, on a lighter note.
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