The best of the 2012 Australian rieslings

The Sydney Royal Wine Show

Having enjoyed innumerable 2012 vintage Australian rieslings, and concluded it’s one of the better vintages of recent times, I got a shock reading the recent Sydney Royal Wine Show results catalogue.

Of the 115 ‘dry’ 2012 rieslings entered in the show, only four won gold medals, 10 silver and 25 bronze. This is a poor result for what has been widely received as an excellent vintage.

Perhaps I’m lucky enough to taste the cream, because of the 182 that my database shows I’ve tasted to date, I rated 24 gold medal or above, and 44 silver medal quality. And another 29 high bronze medal (88 to 89/100 points). That’s 97 wines high bronze and above.

But no: it’s not that I’m tasting only the best, or only the top-priced wines. There were many I’ve rated highly that didn’t score even a bronze medal at Sydney Royal.

Leo Buring (all three wines including Leonay), Petaluma, Pauletts Antonina, Jim Barry Watervale, Pewsey Vale, Leconfield, Castle Rock Estate, Knappstein and others scored well with me but at the Sydney Show? Not a sausage. Grosset of course never enters shows.

Jim Barry Florita (tastings) and Lodge Hill (tastings) got mere bronzes, as did Steingarten (tastings), Richmond Grove (tastings) and Leasingham Classic Clare (tastings). But I’m not going to carp about it. I happen to think 2012 is an excellent vintage, especially in the Clare Valley, and deserving of more high medals than the Sydney judges awarded.

Let me digress a moment. There is a syndrome with wine shows and delicate, newly-minted white wines such as current-vintage riesling. Often, the cheapie wine of a given winery will out-perform the reserve wine. Eg. This year we saw Paulett’s entry-level riesling win a gold medal, while its $50 reserve wine, Antonina (which is clearly the better wine) won nothing (tastings). Leasingham’s Bin 7 (tasting) often outscores its big brother, Leasingham Classic Clare (tastings), and so on. Another example from the Sydney show: Howard Park’s $20 Mad Fish won a silver medal while its ultra-fine $30 Porongurup riesling (tastings) only managed bronze.

High-quality riesling needs time. It’s often closed and unready if judged within a year of vintage. On the other hand, the same winery’s entry level wine is designed to show its maximum appeal immediately: it’s designed to drink young and not to age. So the $12 to $15 wine often gets a gold or silver, and the $35 reserve gets a bronze or nothing. If they were re-judged a few years later, the order might be reversed. It’s a failing of the system. And no-one pretends the system is perfect.


The 2012 vintage

The 2012 riesling vintage has been especially successful in Clare. When the first of these wines were being released, the Clare winemakers went around the country holding tastings, comparing their 2012s with their 2002s: a great ageing vintage and one of the first vintages when a large number of wineries began using screwcaps. Most of the wines had aged well, but comparing the ‘12s with the ‘02s may have been drawing a long bow. The 2002 season was a record cool growing season, whereas 2012 was much warmer. Cool seasons tend to produce more ageworthy white wines.

Nevertheless, Clare winemakers regard 2012 as one of the best riesling vintages of our time. Eden Valley also had a very successful 2012 vintage, as did Tasmania – albeit making more ripe-tasting rieslings with slightly lower acidity than in a classic year. Western Australia’s Great Southern also had an excellent vintage. In other words, all of the major riesling regions had a superb year. If we sneak the southern half of Victoria into the group, the prospects look even better as regions from the Goulburn Valley and Strathbogie Ranges down to the Yarra Valley, Geelong and Mornington had a blinder of a vintage.

What, then, are the best wines? And how to list them? There are simply too many to review even a sample of the top wines. So I’ve elected to simply list my favourites – in three groups: up to $20, $20 to $30 and over $30.


Up to $20

95pts
94pts
  • Jim Barry Watervale $18 (tasting)
93pts
92pts
90pts

Between $20 and $30

96pts
95pts
94pts
93 pts
92pts
91pts
90pts

Over $30

97pts
96pts
  • Grosset Polish Hill $50 (tasting)
95pts
94pts
93pts
  • Leo Buring Leonay Watervale $40
  • Jim Barry The Florita $45 (tasting)
  • Henschke Julius $33 (tasting)
  • Frankland Estate Smith Cullam $45 (tasting)
92pts
  • Wines by KT Churinga Vineyard $35 (tasting)
  • Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge $32 (tasting)
91pts
90pts

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Good Food – 26 March 2013.

 

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