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It's O'Leary Walker time again


Bigger than Christmas: Whitey relishes his annual springtime opening of two of Australia’s best Rieslings.

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O’Leary Walker Watervale  Clare Valley Riesling 2018
($22; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Just limes. Pure and simple. Oh yes. There’s also the wild high smell of that chalky Watervale slope after a light summer sunshower. Dampened dry pasture.  A general feeling of nature and delight. Good Clare Riesling does this. And the O’Leary-Walker blokes are the masters of getting all this into the bottle, safe and sound for decades.

My annual wait for the arrival for these truly distinctive whites, after nearly 20 years of them, has become a bigger deal than Christmas. The frustration is handling the idea that each year seems better than its predecessor. Yep, this year seems better than all of them.

This really is about as definitive as Watervale gets. Precise, fine, uncompromising, taut: it’s hard to handle the notion of something so steely and humourless being so packed with life. And we’re still just sniffin’.

Drink. As predicted: limes and shiny, shiny steel. Refreshment with its own inbuilt challenge. This is no joke, but it makes me smile. It’s full-bore austere, yet it’s really a solid billet of generosity. Confident. It pretty well moves in and just sits there, totally occupying the mouth.

Fresh Emu Bay King George whiting sizzled briefly with butter, squirted with lemon, a fresh grind of black pepper, crunchy bread and butter, bottle o’ this … hear me leer.

O’Leary Walker Polish Hill River Clare Valley Riesling 2018
($25; 12% alcohol; screw cap)

Grown in the older schists, siltstones and slates across the range to the east of Watervale, the Polish Hill River wine usually has more tropical fruits, like fleshy, aromatic lychee and rambutan, rather than the straight down-the-line steely citrus offered by the Watervale chalks.

Same here in 2018: maybe there’s more of both tropicals and Ozzie dust. This is looking more and more like a mighty year – these ARE better, or maybe just more obvious than usual, if that means anything.

So in there with the grapefruit pith, the magnolia petals, the star fruit, the entire jungle fruiterer, that reek of high summer dust, you’ll find a less austere, more open-heartedly generous, more coddling and cuddling sort of a companion.

This is the wine for fattier river fish and marron with garlic in butter. Shiitake. Enoki.

I suspect that of the great longevity both wines promise, this year the Watervale wine is the real long-hauler. It’ll outlive me. The Polish Hill offers more humorous pleasure and immediate comfort and reassurance in this its youth. I intend to outlive it. This bottle, anyway. Get up to Clare and rattle a few glasses. And buy a bottle or two of the right royal 2013 Drs. Cut Riesling while you’re there.

That’ll shiver some timbers.

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