David 19 November 2015
The start of summer marks the latest release of John Hughes’ Rieslingfreak. Often my mid-week tipple of choice - there’s nothing nicer than a glass of this cool, crisp riesling on a warm summer evening.
John’s story is about passion and hard work as you might have read in previous newsletters. His first commercial release was the 2010 vintage and his reputation has grown each year since then. Not only is John a great winemaker he’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
In 2013 he won the Encouragement Award for Up and Coming Australian Riesling Winemakers at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge. This recognition is a massive achievement in such a globally respected forum. In 2014 he was asked to be an associate judge at the same event! Earlier this year John participated in an annual collaboration between Riesling associations in Australia, the United States and Germany. The event known as RieslingDownunder was held in Melbourne and John was involved in several masterclasses, a highlight of which was speaking alongside international Riesling guru Egon Müller.
John started out making just two wines and has added more each year. He’s now up to ten, and isn’t running out of ideas. Not only are his wines clean, pure and precise, the value for moneyis outstanding.
Rieslingfreak No. 3 Clare Valley Riesling 2015
This is a dry style. The fruit comes from John’s family vineyard in the north of the Clare; a sub-region known locally as White Hut. He gives credit to the heavy red clay soil here for the generous, fruit driven style - typical of Clare Riesling.
The wine is a pale straw colour and crystal clear. True to form, it’s a generous mouthful, packed with ripe fruit flavours of lime, citrus and pineapple, interwoven with hints of musk. Like all good Riesling, there’s plenty of clean acidity to balance the upfront fruit. Dry, delicious and refreshing and like all of John’s wines, it’ll cellar if you can keep your hands off it.
This vintage has yet to be reviewed, but to give you an idea of the lineage, the 2014 scored 94 points from Halliday, as well as a Special Value Rating.
I can offer it for $21 a bottle. Click here to order new vintage.
Rieslingfreak No.4 Eden Valley Riesling 2015
This is also a dry style with the fruit coming from two vineyards in another mecca of Australian Riesling, the Eden Valley. Eden generally produces lighter, more delicate and floral Rieslings than the Clare.
While this wine is a similar colour to No. 3, it’s a much more subtle affair. It still has plenty of lime cordial and lemon sherbet flavours, but there’s a hint of honeysuckle and aromatic tropical fruit. A different balance of flavoursto the No.3, it’s much finer and more delicate, but great crisp acid, and a lovely dry finish.
Ditch the Sauv Blanc and get into this for some satisfying summer drinking.
I can offer it for $21 a bottle. Click here to order new vintage.
Rieslingfreak No.5 Clare Valley ‘Off Dry’ Riesling 2015
Let’s clarify what’s meant by ‘off-dry’ because many think this is winemaker speak for sweet. It’s not.
Wines with more than about 45g/l residual sugar are considered sweet. Coke has about 110g/l and Château d’Yquem usually has around 120-150g/l. At the extreme end is the free run juice of the botrytised berries for the rare Tokaji Eszencia (Essencia) in Hungary which is between 500-700g/l, sometimes even higher! Now that we have some context - this wine has 15g/l sugar, so it really is ‘off-dry’ rather than sweet.
Even when there is residual sugar in wine it isn’t obvious if well countered with acid. Getting the sugar/acid balance just right makes Riesling sing and is something John labours over obsessively.
The fruit for the No. 5 comes from the same vineyard as the No. 3, although from a different block, with lighter soil (grey loam over limestone). It’s picked earlier than No.3 resulting in more acid. Then the ferment is stopped early, leaving residual sugar in the wine. John’s talent for finding the perfect balance is obvious here.
This wine’s a lovely combination of ripe citrus notes, caramelised pineapple and tart apricot, with a whiff of musk and has more weight in the mouth from that bit of extra sugar. But don’t expect overt sweetness – the robust acid counterbalance gives a crisp, clean finish. So easy to enjoy. Yum.
Once again, no reviews yet for the 2015, but the 2014 received 92 points and a Special Value Rating from Halliday.
This is made in limited quantities - get in quickly.
I can offer it for $21 a bottle. SOLD OUT.
Rieslingfreak No2. Polish Hill River Riesling 2014
This wine is about refinement - typical of wines from the Polish Hill Riversubregion of the Clare. The area used to be known simply as Polish Hill but Jeffry Grosset has now trademarked that term. The fruit is sourced from a vineyard known locally as the ‘Hill River Vineyard’, which sits about 5km southeast of the town of Clare. Elevation here is around 460m. Max Schubert, creator of Penfolds Grange, planted the vineyard in 1981 and it stayed with Penfolds until its sale in 2010 to current owners, Rob and Lyn Jaeschke.
The fruit for the No.2 was fermented to dryness and is a moderate 12% alcohol, which I like. The wine really showcases the Polish Hill River with its mineralyacid profile and underlying fresh citrus characters. Delicate floral and almond aromas linger with flavours of apple, green lemon and grapefruit.
“Scintillating. Great intensity of fruit and indeed of acid. It's so uncompromising that some will find the acidity here over the top. Described by the winery as 'green lemon' and not far wrong. There's more here than acid though: the intensity of lime, apple blossom and slate flavour is substantial. Length looks after itself. Long termer.” 96 points, James Halliday’s Wine Companion. He also gave it a Special Value Rating.
Gold Medal Melbourne Wine Show 2014 (one of only 6 awarded).
Silver Medal Adelaide Wine Show 2014.
Enjoy a few now, but be sure to put a few away in the cellar.
I can offer it for $35 a bottle. SOLD OUT.
Rieslingfreak No.8 Polish Hill 'Schatzkammer' Riesling 2014
It’s unusual to find a good example of this style of Riesling in Australia - something only a Rieslingfreak could or would do.
This is one of only two Rieslings being poured by the glass at Spice Temple,Neil Perry’s terrific Chinese inspired restaurant below Rockpool Bar and Grill. It’s also the wine that Egon Müller, as well as several other top international producers, showed particular interest in at the Riesling Downunder symposium earlier this year.
John has always wanted to produce a Riesling in a style similar to a German Kabinett. This term is one of six Prädikats (awarded distinctions) applying to German wine that’s based on ripeness. Kabinett is the lightest, followed in order by Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein and finally Trockenbeerenauslese. While Kabinett wines are fully ripe, and may be semi-sweet or dry, they are always light. Protective EU labelling laws prevent the use of the term Kabinett in Australia, so John went with Schatzkammer, which is the word for a cabinet in which German winemakers store treasured wines.
The fruit for this wine comes from the same vineyard as the No.2 but is picked 10 days earlier, giving it higher acid levels. The grapes are given the lightest pressing of any of John’s wines (450l/t compared to a normal squeeze of 550l/t), getting the best of the juice. Fermentation was stopped early, resulting in both lower alcohol (8.0%) and higher sugar (65g/l).
Wow – what a wine! Delicate but ripe flavours of tropical fruit, citrus, rose petal and honeysuckle. The higher sugar content is perfectly balanced by vibrant acidity, so the finish isn’t overly sweet. In the mouth it’s viscous yet crisp, once again highlighting John’s ability to balance these compositions.
I wish there were more wines in Australia like this. Try it at Spice Temple for $17 a glass or $75 a bottle.
I can offer it for $35 a bottle. Click here to order 2016 vintage.
Rieslingfreak No.7 Fortifed Riesling (blend of 2009/2010 vintages) 375ml
You really should try this unique wine!
Like the No.3 and No.5, the fruit comes from the family vineyard just north of Clare. The fermentation was stopped early to ensure some residual sugar and then fortified using 3-year-old brandy spirit. It was then matured for 3-4 years in large 70-year-old oak puncheons (600L casks), which John sourced from Seppeltsfield.
John has created a fortified wine with enticing Riesling aromatics - incredible! What a delicious wine; sweet, rich and luscious, yet not in the slightest bit cloying. It’s 18.4% alcohol and the quality of the fortifying brandy spirit is evident as there’s just a touch of that classic ‘rancio’ taste,(the nutty-ish note you find in sherry). You’ll find a lingering mouthful of burnt sugar, vanilla, caramel and sweet citrus. And because it’s fortified, you can keep it in the fridge for a few months once opened… as if that’s going to happen. I’m yet to show this wine to someone who doesn’t like it and it’s so reasonably priced.
This wine highlights John’s dedication to Riesling and shows the great creativity and skill he possesses. He’s definitely a Riesling Freak!
This dessert in a bottle is on the list of many groovy joints around town including Nomad, Fix St James and Biota Dining.
I can offer it for $25 a bottle (375ml). SOLD OUT.