The Bot­tle

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - The Bot­tle Kur­tis Kolt

Dur­ing the past few years, I’ve been rather taken with the new wave of wines com­ing out of Aus­tralia. It’s re­fresh­ing that many of us are now view­ing the coun­try as a gath­er­ing of unique, ex­cit­ing re­gions rather than a sin­gle en­tity known for oaky Chardon­nay and gloopy Shi­raz.

There are plenty of ex­cep­tional sto­ries be­ing told, whether we’re talk­ing el­e­gant, tra­di­tional-method sparkling wines from Tas­ma­nian pro­duc­ers like Jansz; cool­cli­mate Pinot Noirs from the likes of Soumah or Cold­stream Hills in the Yarra Val­ley; or sin­gle-vine­yard, min­i­mal-in­ter­ven­tion geek­ery from pro­duc­ers like BK Wines in Ade­laide Hills.

There’s also a new story for fans of Aussie wine here in Van­cou­ver, par­tic­u­larly the Ries­ling en­thu­si­asts among us, with a fresh lineup just now hit­ting shelves.

There’s no mess­ing around when it comes to the moniker of pro­pri­etor John Hughes’s nineyear-old South Aus­tralian ven­ture.

The wines are called Ries­lingf­reak, a nick­name Hughes had in univer­sity due to his ado­ra­tion of the stuff, an ado­ra­tion he gained while grow­ing up in and around the Clare Val­ley vine­yards his father had tended.

When one thinks of pre­mium Aus­tralian Ries­ling, Clare Val­ley is likely the re­gion they’ll go to first, closely fol­lowed by the neigh­bour­ing Eden Val­ley and Pol­ish Hill River. Ocean breezes and chilly evenings make for prime cool-cli­mate grow­ing con­di­tions in which the va­ri­ety can thrive.

These are the ar­eas to which Hughes has cho­sen to de­vote his project, with each of his Ries­ling la­bels of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent style and take on ter­roir.

Tast­ing the five lo­cally avail­able wines side by side, I was im­pressed by how dif­fer­ently each vine­yard ex­pressed it­self in the bot­tle. Although these are five Ries­lings from a rel­a­tively small cor­ner of the world, they each sang their own song. I’m par­tic­u­larly look­ing for­ward to or­ga­niz­ing a get-to­gether with pals, pick­ing up the quin­tet, and or­der­ing a pile of take­out from places like Ph­nom Penh, Vij’s Ran­goli, Mae­nam, or Jang Mo Jib and play­ing around with them all, see­ing what they do with var­i­ous dishes.

These are small-batch, sin­gle-vine­yard pre­mium wines, so they don’t come cheap. If we look at Pinot Noirs and Chardon­nays around the world of sim­i­lar qual­ity, though, these are a bar­gain (and highly cel­larable).

Kit­si­lano Wine Cel­lar on West 4th Av­enue has the exclusive on them, at prices I’ve listed be­low. Although the nam­ing of each la­bel is sim­ply nu­meric, I’ve tweaked the log­i­cal or­der, pre­fer­ring to list them from dri­est to sweet­est.

RIES­LINGF­REAK NO. 4 2017 ($31.99) Bone-dry and al­most ef­fer­ves­cent with lemon zest and ju­niper, this Eden Val­ley prod­uct of­fers a chalky palate, car­ry­ing plenty of fresh lemon and lime notes all the way through the clean and zippy fin­ish.

RIES­LINGF­REAK NO. 3 2017 ($31.99) The Clare Val­ley vine­yard for this one has red-clay soils be­lieved to al­low for a more fruit-for­ward style. There was sig­nif­i­cant pink grape­fruit and lime char­ac­ter in the aro­mat­ics, but I found ap­ples and pears to tum­ble for­ward on the palate, with just a touch of orange mar­malade on the fin­ish.

RIES­LINGF­REAK NO. 2 2017 ($39.99) This Ries­ling out of Pol­ish Hill River is built al­most as dry as the two pre­vi­ous wines, but per­haps it’s due to the lime­stone-heavy soil that we see a com­pletely dif­fer­ent flavour pro­file. On the nose there’s salty sea air and river-rock char­ac­ter, which is re­flected by briny notes in the first few sips, min­gling with lemon­grass and maybe even a hint of fen­nel on the fin­ish. It’ll pal around with fresh oys­ters and other shell­fish dishes, no prob­lem.

RIES­LINGF­REAK NO. 5 2017 ($34.99) We’re back in the Clare Val­ley here, with the first of the lot to be clas­si­fied off-dry. Fear not: at a smidge un­der 15 grams per litre of resid­ual su­gar, it’s by no means cloy­ing; gen­er­ous acid­ity bal­ances things out well. While I no­ticed that fresh, salty sea air on the nose here as well, the palate threw me a curve­ball. Juicy peaches and a hand­ful of PEZ candy sailed across the palate with ease.

RIES­LINGF­REAK NO. 8 2017 ($39.99) A re­turn to Pol­ish Hill River takes us to the “Kabi­nett” style, ref­er­enc­ing the Ger­man cat­e­gory for lighter, off-dry Ries­lings. This charmer is flo­ral on the nose, with plenty of ap­ple blos­soms and vi­o­lets, then a hearty slurp takes in waves of nec­tarine, Bosc pear, and some gin­ger and a spot of orange-blos­som honey on the kinda sweet fin­ish. This one will come in handy with any spicier dishes on the ta­ble.

Au­tumn rains be damned. Let’s keep things bright and get our Ries­ling on! -

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