I was especially looking forward to the Riesling Masterclass that was held at Paulett’s winery in Polish Hill River in the Clare Valley. It was a bottle of Paulett’s Rielsling that I had tweeted about that won me my place on this phenomenal trip. As I later found out, Tim Wildman, MW, Director of James Busby Travel and time keeper extraordinare was also instrumental in getting Paulett’s listed at Majestic Wines (where my desk is waiting patiently for my return), so it seemed somehow that the story was coming full circle to be going there in person, essentially because of Tim. At Pauletts we were also joined by Kevin Mitchell of Kilikanoon, Adam Eggins of Wakefield and Dan Palmer of Skillogalee. With inspiring views out over the valley, we were first introduced to ‘the rock’ (not in a Shirley Valentine fashion!). Essentially a huge piece of rock that was extracted from a nearby vineyard, it was a clear illustration of what lies beneath, and was a good visual aid to go some way of explaining the mineral streak of the wines we were about to taste.
The tasting was set up for us in a great style – each tasting station was a barrel with the wines set out for us, in one of the winery buildings. All the visits to wineries we have had over the course of the last ten days have gone quickly, but with this one it literally seemed like in the blink of an eye three hours had passed. We started with a range of new vintage rieslings – typical of the Clare Valley style but each with their individual nuances. The Skillogalee I found quite fragrant on the nose, with floral tones and hints of blossom, leading to citrus, green apples and a hint of minerality on the palate.
The second flight of wines was more aged rieslings, my favourite of which was the Pauletts 1992 Polish Hill River Riesling. A lovely golden colour, it had notes of honey and baked citrus, with buttered toast and marmalade on the palate. Absolutely lovely! Once the tasting was over, it was time for lunch. We went to the restaurant at the Skillogalee restaurant, which has almost an old world rustic charm. We sat on the verandah looking out onto their beautiful garden, it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting to find in Australia.
After lunch we were at the Jim Barry winery. Our visit started off in the Armagh vineyard with John Barry. The name originates from Irish settlers in the 1840’s who named it after their homeland. Like D’Arenberg, and many other companies, John Barry decided to stop using pesticides in his vineyards 15 years ago. He explained how the first three years of the process was difficult in terms of managing pests, but once that time had past, the vineyard found its natural balance.
Back at the winery we were met by winemakers Derrick Quinton and Luke Steel to do a tasting. Starting with the Florita Riesling 04, this was marked by citrus and floral notes which led to a long dry finish. It was starting to show a little bit of age with hints of toastiness. We were lucky enough to sample two vintages of the Armagh side by side, the 95 and 07. The 95 had leather, spice and savoury notes. With concentration and complexity this was delicious. The 2007 was a baby in comparison. Showing sweet ripe primary fruit and vanilla notes, it was mouth filling and almost viscous. I would love to go back to this wine in five years to see how it has evolved.
The evening was spent with the coolly named Some Young Punks. They were also joined by Matt Gant from First Drop. Some Young Punks is made up by Colin McBryde, Jen Gardiner and Nick Bourke. The labels on their wines are unforgettable – based on old novel covers they are a sight to behold! The names of their wines are equally as unusual. My favourite white of the night was Monsters Monsters Attack! – a riesling from the Clare Valley. In the style of Some Young Punks, they didn’t want to follow the trend and make a normal Clare Valley Riesling, instead they were looking to make an ‘ante Clare Riesling’. Using a degree of whole bunch pressing and a portion of oak barrel fermentation they are aiming for higher levels of phenolics to retain higher levels of flavour. The wine is left with a small degree of residual sugar – very ante Clare, but very nice!
The Squid’s Fist is a Sangiovese Shiraz blend. We tried the 09 vintage. On the nose was fresh red cherries with hints of spice in the background. The shiraz is added to the blend in order to augment the flavour of the sangiovese. A delicious wine with a long finish.