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The Harewood riesling quartet

James Kellie

James Kellie (Photo: Harewood Estate)

James Kellie’s Harewood Estate is one of Australia’s great riesling producers, today fielding four sub-regional wines from Western Australia’s Great Southern and an occasional Reserve bottling. The sub-regional rieslings from the 2016 vintage, on sale now, are Porongurup (tasting), Denmark (tasting), Mount Barker (tasting) and Frankland River (tasting). And what a quartet they are.

Any differences between the four are to do with the grapes and where they were grown, says Kellie, as they were all made the same way, fermented with the same inoculated yeast strain, and all fermented to near dryness (less than 5 grams/litre residual sugar).

They are all ripping wines, but let’s see if we can illuminate their differences a little, drawing on a meeting I had with Kellie a few weeks back.

Going roughly from the lightest to the weightiest, we’d commence with Porongurup. High altitude (vineyard average is 450 metres, 600m at the top), poor granitic soil, low yields. Fairly continental climate, some distance from the sea. Delicate, long-living wines with high acid.

Then Denmark: very maritime, beside the ocean, cool days but nights are warm. Normally fuller than Porongurup, subtle but less delicate.

Then Mount Barker: inland, 20km from Porongurup, 150 metres altitude; fertile loamy soils over clay. Citrusy flavours.

Then finally, Frankland River: also inland, but higher than Mt Barker at 200 metres, a warmer and sunnier climate. The style is bigger, richer, fuller – with a mandarin flavour.

Riesling sales are buoyant, according to Kellie. Speaking in September, he said:

“We’ll sell out these wines by Christmas; last year we sold out by November.”

He was upbeat about the Great Southern’s prospects for riesling.

“We have such a great resource of riesling in the Great Southern. We first planted riesling at Harewood five years ago. There was only chardonnay and pinot noir when we bought it. And we have a new vineyard near Denmark which is showing great potential.”

This is the former Somerset Hill, now re-named Apricus Hill. Granite soil, within sight of the sea, 200 metres altitude-plus.

“We bought it for the semillon and sauvignon blanc, but it’s also looking good for riesling and pinot noir.”

The Reserve Riesling, as you might predict, comes off a high part of a high Porongurup vineyard, Jingalla, at 500 metres altitude. It’s very delicate, low alcohol, high acid and is released with bottle-age (the 2013 is current). A very delicate wine. Incidentally, there won’t be a 2015 or ‘16 because kangaroos and sheep got the grapes!

*Harewood wines are distributed by Single Vineyard Sellers.

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