Wine of the Year

2017 DUKE’S VINEYARD MAG­PIE HILL RE­SERVE RIES­LING, Great South­ern, Western Aus­tralia

Halliday - - Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2019 -

As far as swan­songs go, Duke and Hilde Ran­son have pretty much nailed it. Hav­ing “re­tired into” their Great South­ern site in 1999, the cou­ple de­cided six months ago that the 2018 vin­tage would be their last. Lit­tle did they know their 2017 Duke’s Vineyard Mag­pie Hill Re­serve Ries­ling would win Wine of the Year, let alone be the first white wine to score 99 points in the Halliday Wine Com­pan­ion.

De­spite the ex­cite­ment, they’re go­ing ahead with the sale of the vineyard they planted from scratch, which Duke still tends to daily. “I dearly love what I do – my vineyard man Justin says I’m the only bas­tard he knows who re­ally likes prun­ing – but it’s time to move on,” Duke says. “I’ve just had my 79th birth­day, and Hilde and I have been mar­ried 54 years, but we’ve never built a house to­gether, so we’ve bought a lovely block in Al­bany.” Duke had been an agri­cul­ture teacher in Perth be­fore turn­ing to clothes man­u­fac­tur­ing with artist wife Hilde, and then re­tire­ment came – briefly. “I lasted about two days and said, ‘I can’t do this!’” he re­calls. So they went on a win­ery tour around the coun­try, even­tu­ally stop­ping at a small pro­ducer in Porongu­rup where they drank great ries­ling and fell in love with the view. “Within three months we owned the block one kilo­me­tre away.”

The cou­ple works closely with wine­maker Rob Diletti – a former Halliday Wine­maker of the Year – to cre­ate the wines from their site, com­pris­ing ries­ling, shi­raz and caber­net sau­vi­gnon. “Rob is one of the most or­gan­ised wine­mak­ers I know, with the best wine­mak­ing palate, and his abil­ity to get bal­ance in wines is quite in­cred­i­ble,” Duke says. He be­lieves their ries­ling al­ways strikes a bal­ance be­tween acid and fruit, and has long sold out each year, but 2017 was some­thing else. “The year was al­most per­fect. We prob­a­bly had the best canopy we’ve ever had and we picked at ex­actly the right time.”

Duke’s sus­pi­cions about the qual­ity of the 2017 Mag­pie Hill Re­serve were con­firmed when he handed a glass of it to Hilde, who has al­ways judged whether their wines are up to scratch. “She smiled and said, ‘I could drink this’. That’s when I knew we had some­thing spe­cial.” Duke says. He be­lieves their 2018 Mag­pie Hill Re­serve Ries­ling is “just as good” and for the first time, the 2018 vin­tage will in­tro­duce a caber­net shi­raz blend.

Duke ad­mits he’ll miss their spe­cial site, but knows it’s time to go. “I just hope I can find some­body who’s got a pas­sion for what I do,” he says. “In the mean­time, I’ve got a lot of fish to catch in Al­bany.”

Duke Ran­son.

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