Riesling of all ages

Steve Baraglia of Naked Run Wines and Pikes amongst riesling vines. (Photo: Pikes Wines Youtube)

To observe that Steve Baraglia has a knack with riesling is like saying Usain Bolt is quite good at running.

Baraglia is the man behind micro-boutique Clare Valley label, Naked Run. In his day job, he’s senior winemaker at Pikes winery in the Clare. Pike’s produces a bevy of superb rieslings.

Naked Run does too, but in a tiny way. This year, Naked Run’s aged riesling, 2014 A Place In Time (AUD $40), won the trophy for best riesling at the Boutique Wine Awards, which I chair. The same wine also topped my recent riesling tasting at home. This is a stunning wine but, alas, only 64 cases were produced.

Naked Run’s regular riesling is called The First, and the 2018 (AUD $24) also scored a gold ribbon in my tasting, while the 2017 scored gold in the Boutique Awards. There’s a bit more of the 2018 The First: 660 cases.

Naked Run’s label features a nude running female form. While gazing at this discreet silhouette, I had a flashback to the 1980s. Does anyone else remember a short-lived wine called Skip And Go Naked?

No, I thought not. I guess the censors jumped on that one.

Baraglia and his wife and children live on their own vineyard at Sevenhill, which grows riesling, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Steve’s own youth was spent on his family’s Williamstown vineyard in the Barossa Valley. He is a graduate in both oenology and viticulture from the University of Adelaide.

There were many other impressive wines in my riesling tasting, and my preference for a little bottle-age was evident: the Tamburlaine 2012 Reserve Orange Riesling (AUD $33) and its older sibling, the 2004 vintage (sold out), both scored 96 points. This is a discovery for me: Tamburlaine wines don’t cross my path often but these are really superb wines.

So too is Pewsey Vale The Contours Museum Reserve 2013 (AUD $38), and another Orange riesling, Cooks Lot 2015 (AUD $23) also scored gold-ribbon points. Indeed, there was an unusual number of Orange wines in this tasting: two wines from Cargo Road Winery2017 and 2005 – also impressed. And the 2018 Colmar Estate Block 5 was also in strong silver-ribbon country.

Sharing top honours with Naked Run Place In Time was Crawford River’s new release, 2017, an absolutely gorgeous wine. Its delightfully floral aroma incorporates lime and lemon pith, and traces of honey and grapefruit. Crawford River’s Belinda Thomson always holds her top riesling back for a year longer than most other makers, and it’s a move that pays off. Too many Australian rieslings are released too early, before they’re ready – especially the slow-developing cool-climate wines.

Samantha Connew’s Stargazer is a case in point. From Tasmania’s chilly Coal Valley, the 2018 was totally closed-up when I tasted it. I decided to leave the open bottle on the bench for 24 hours, and when I came back to it next day, it was showing a lot more aroma and flavour. Unfortunately, I can’t do this with every one of the thousands of wines I taste each year, so inevitably some will be given what might appear tough treatment.

Besides, the customer who buys the bottle will have the same experience: he or she isn’t going to wait for the wine to breathe, acclimatise or lose its free SO2. They will simply think the wine lacks fruit. A year or two later, the wine might be sheer magic.

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