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Contrasting Rieslings from the best vintage in years


Whitey reviews two wines that confirm his suspicions about 2017.

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Sevenhill Inigo Estate-grown Clare Valley Riesling 2017

($22; 12% alcohol; screw cap)

“The 2017 Rieslings show the outstanding quality that flows from a mild vintage when warm days and cool nights allow even development and harvesting at optimum ripeness,” writes Sevenhill winemaker, Liz Heidenreich.

She goes on to echo what I suspected, and am beginning to hear from souls older than mine: this vintage was a lot more like it used to be “before the impact of changing climatic conditions pushed the first pick of harvest [forward] into early February”.

Liz picked this year’s whites in March and April.

After the brilliant O’Leary Walker ‘seventeens, and tasting other fresh babies around the barrels and tanks of these ranges, I can only say Liz is being typically modest: mercifully, in razor-sharp contrast to the northern hemisphere harvest underway right now, South Australia’s 2017 seems to be one of the great years of recent decades.

This blend of the fruit of four vineyards spread over lean slaty siltstone to rich ferruginous loam shows clearly the softening influence of the latter grounds, in which the vines have a much cushier life and produce more immediately gentle and approachable wines. Wrapped around the lean, bony fruit from the siltstone, this flesh makes what I call a Riesling for the drinker just graduating from Chardonnay.

It sports a creamy, almost lush texture, with 7.6 grams per litre of crisp, lemony, totally natural acid.

Following the typical Riesling citrus petals and pith of the bouquet, the flavours follow through gentle lime to lemon, making me wonder what the wine would be like with bubbles. At which point I bung some in the Soda King … yep: rock’n’roll.

Not to suggest that improves the wine: it simply helps with my theory that texturally and structurally this is very similar to good Champagne.

It’s tempting to make ‘well, in he goes’ jokes as this decorates one’s lucky gullet, but the wine is appropriately named after the Basque Inigo Lopez de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits who established Clare’s first winery at Sevenhill in 1851.

This wine alone is worth a visit to the old monastery retreat where Brother John May SJ still officiates, bless him!


Sevenhill X St Francis Xavier Single Vineyard Clare Riesling 2017

($35; 12% alcohol; screw cap)

This heavenly pearler is from the Weikert Vineyard, a priceless 0.85ha of Riesling in old loam on slaty shale.

Aromatically, it misses some of the softer lime flesh that makes the Inigo comfy. In its place is a dusty summer breeze, all the world like the whiff of the Mintaro slate quarry when a dumper drops a load of waste chips on the stack. This makes one feel dangerously hungry.

Below that, there’s a drip of leaner citrus: grapefruit; even a hint of the bitter Lohara orange that evolved on the Caribbean isle of Curaçao. It’s a stimulating, heady, adults-only zephyr. The glass is an arm’s length away across this messy desk but still I smell its parfumiers’ reek. Bring it closer to the olfactories and it’s both bracing and disarming.

Drink. Oooh. Just as you’d expect after that austere fragrance. It’s like the railway lines Ry Cooder strung on rubber slings in a warehouse to make giant slide guitar groans to indicate the crazy yearnings  that drove the late Harry Dean Stanton on his march across the desert to Paris, Texas. This drink makes me think of the contrast between his parched complexion and the smooth beauty of Nastassja Kinski.

This St Frank offers a much happier marriage than those poor characters had any chance of achieving.

It’ll be in the cellar 10 or 20 years hence.

In the meantime, it’s a drink for the hard-core Riesling æsthete. Get a bottle. Sit back. Watch the movie.


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