Ries­ling stretches the bound­aries of in­ter­na­tional ex­plo­ration

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

THE fifth bi­en­nial Fran­k­land Es­tate in­ter­na­tional ries­ling tast­ing cov­ered ev­ery con­ceiv­able as­pect of the wine in two ac­tion-packed days. A blind tast­ing of 29 dry ries­lings fea­tured wines from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, Rhein­gau, Rhein­hessen, Pfalz and Franken re­gions of Ger­many; Al­sace, France; Krem­stal, Kamp­tal and Wachau, Aus­tria; Wash­ing­ton state and Michi­gan, the US; Marl­bor­ough, New Zealand; Clare and Eden val­leys and Ade­laide Hills, South Aus­tralia; Henty, Vic­to­ria; Fran­k­land River, West­ern Aus­tralia; and Tas­ma­nia.

So well cho­sen were the wines that the only dis­ap­point­ment was due to the va­garies of cork, the only ques­tion con­cern­ing two wines from the Mosel made by two wine­mak­ers (Hey­mann-Lowen­stein and Cle­mens Busch) who have a fun­da­men­tal­ist view of the im­por­tance of ter­roir, re­sult­ing in a hands-off wine­mak­ing regime come hell or high wa­ter.

The high points from Ger­many were: 2005 Donnhoff Nieder­hauser Her­mannshohle GG (Nahe), 2005 Gun­der­loch Nack­en­heim Rothen­berg (Rhein­hessen), 2006 Breuer Rudesheim Berg Schloss­berg (Rhein­gau), 2005 Horst Sauer Esch­ern­dor­fer Lump GG (Franken) and 2005 Tesch St Remigius­berg Spatlese Trocken (Nahe). From Aus­tria: 2006 Hirtzberger Spitzer Singer­riedel Smaragd (Wachau), 2006 Prager Weis­senkirch­ener Klaus Smaragd (Wachau) and 2005 Salomon Kogl Re­serve (Krem­stal). From New Zealand: 2006 For­rest Es­tate Wairau Val­ley Dry Ries­ling (Marl­bor­ough). And from Aus­tralia: 2005 Fr­eycinet (Tas­ma­nia), 2005 Pewsey Vale The Con­tours (Eden Val­ley), 2006 Fran­k­land Es­tate Iso­la­tion Ridge Vine­yard (Fran­k­land River), 2005 Hen­schke Lenswood Green’s Hill (Ade­laide Hills) and 2006 Gros­set Pol­ish Hill (Clare Val­ley). The most chal­leng­ing and in­ter­est­ing were nine ries­lings searched out by Ger­many-based Stu­art Pig­ott for the Outer Lim­its work­shop.

This year he first came up with wines from Switzer­land, Slo­vakia and Italy, then wines made in thor­oughly un­con­ven­tional ways from con­ven­tional re­gions. The most sur­pris­ing wine was the 2006 Kastiel Bela from the Danube Val­ley, Slo­vakia. The Danube sug­gested all should be well, par­tic­u­larly given that this was a joint ven­ture with Egon Muller, who makes ce­les­tial wines at his Scharzhof­berger es­tate in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.

It is alde­hy­dic (brown ap­ple and dan­de­lion were among the many dis­ap­prov­ing com­ments from the room) and was refer­ment­ing in bot­tle or had a vastly ex­ces­sive amount of car­bon diox­ide. Al­most as sur­pris­ing (on the plus side) was the 2006 Tesch Five Miles Out, fer­mented on skins and which car­ried the nor­mally over-the-top phe­no­lics with aplomb.

Sheer plea­sure fol­lowed the hard work of Outer Lim­its when mas­ter of wine Bob Camp­bell of NZ teamed with out­stand­ing chef Andrew McCon­nell (of Three, One, Two restau­rant) to match five wines with a five-course de­gus­ta­tion lunch. (McCon­nell had de­layed the open­ing of his new bar-restau­rant un­til the fol­low­ing night so he could de­vise and present the menu.)

They agreed that in try­ing to match wine with food, the flavour, tex­ture, weight and acid­ity or sweet­ness of the palate is one side of the equa­tion. The ques­tion then is whether you seek to con­trast or com­ple­ment the flavour and tex­ture of the food with the wine.

Camp­bell used a show of hands to de­ter­mine the con­sen­sus of opin­ion for each course. First up came smoked eel on a bed of warm lentil salad, with sliv­ers of beet­root and ba­con, the wine a pris­tine 2004 Fran­k­land Es­tate Iso­la­tion Ridge Vine­yard. This was an ex­er­cise in con­trast, strongly sup­ported (not­with­stand­ing de­bate on the beet­root), given a Camp­bell-ad­ju­di­cated rat­ing of eight out of 10.

Next up was 2007 Dr Loosen Wehlener Son­nenuhr Kabi­nett (the only Loosen wine to that point), with spiced crispy mus­sels, cu­cum­ber, mus­tard and herbs. A very classy dish but it didn’t re­ally work, rat­ing a (harsh, per­haps) four out of 10.

Salted West­ern Plains pork with Jerusalem ar­ti­choke puree was ac­com­pa­nied by 2007 Muddy Wa­ter James Hard­wick from Waipara, NZ. The McCon­nell pork was as per­fect and suc­cu­lent as ever, the gen­tle sweet­ness of the ap­ple flavours of the wine a per­fect com­ple­ment to the pork. Rat­ing 8.5 out of 10.

An­other highly suc­cess­ful match was a thin slice of Tomme D’Abon­dance cheese with 2004 Pikes The Merle Re­serve, prov­ing once again that, with few ex­cep­tions, white wine is a far bet­ter ac­com­pa­ni­ment for cheese than red wine. Rat­ing: eight out of 10.


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