The 2017 vintage is an excellent riesling vintage, going on the evidence of my tastings. Clare Valley especially seems to have turned in some stunning wines, with Grosset, Jim Barry Wines, Mount Horrocks, Steve Wiblin’s Erin Eyes, Pikes, O’Leary Walker and Tim Adams impressing early. Gaelic Cemetery, Tim Gramp, Taylors and Koonowla also showed well, and I suspect many of the ‘17s, which are quite pale and tasting backwards, shy and unevolved at this stage will come forward with a little time in bottle to be even more impressive in time.
The 2017 season in South Australia was a difficult one, especially for red wines, thanks to the cool, wet summer. The vintage started late, and as Stephanie Toole of Mount Horrocks said, there was a lot of waiting around for the grapes to ripen. At this stage, the wines look to be long-termers, well worth cellaring if you like your riesling with a bit of age (as I do), but also deliciously mouthwatering young. There was high natural acidity, low pH, and great refinement in the wines as well as intensity of flavour and lifted aromatics.
Typically, cool, wet years which can be a problem for reds deliver above the odds for whites. This is because whites are mostly harvested earlier (avoiding late rain) and are not usually fermented on the skins, thus avoiding the mould problems that can damage reds. The notoriously wet 2011, for example, resulted in many superb white and sparkling wines across eastern Australia, but few great reds (except in the Hunter Valley).
I’ve also seen top ’17 rieslings from other regions, such as the Canberra district, Eden Valley, Great Southern, Mudgee and King Valley.
My first tasting of 2017 rieslings had 54 wines, and there are many more coming through now, so I plan to revisit this topic.
The best tasted to date are Steve Wiblin’s Erin Eyes ‘Pride of Erin’ Reserve, Jim Barry The Lodge Hill (where hand-picking was reinstated this year), Grosset Polish Hill, Clonakilla, Helm Premium, Harewood Estate Frankland River and Schmölzer and Brown Obstgarten.
A very exciting vintage.