By Robert Giorgione, http://robertfoodwinetravel.blogspot.com/
It was back in the day during the mid-1990′s, that I first made the acquaintance of the Australian wines from Petaluma and St Hallett. In fact, I used to list them whilst I was at Oxo Tower between 1996 and 2000. Over the years, both wineries have become firm personal favourites and have become veritable Aussie vinous icons. When I was at Fifth Floor at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, we hosted a wonderful event and tasting with the legendary Brian Croser who founded PEtaluma. If my memory serves me correctly, I think he was the “Decanter Man of the Year” at the time. Recently, I was invited by Gal Zohar of Bibendum Times to attend a vertical tasting of the Petaluma “Hanlin Hill” Riesling and St Hallett “Old Block” Shiraz. The occasion was like meeting up with old friends. Moreover, who says Aussie wines can’t age well either?
The Petaluma Rieslings were presented by Andrew Hardy, Senior Winemaker. It was revealed that “Hanlin Hill”, which is a single vineyard, was established during the 1960′s. However, it was in 1979 that the wine was first released under the Petaluma label. Historically, especially within Clare Valley, Riesling has played a very important part and integral role with the Australian wine heritage. Initially, the wines were known as “Rhine Riesling”. The character of the ‘terroir’ is slate soils, which imparts a certain minerality, for which the region has become famed. During the 1970′s, there was an ‘explosion’ of Rieslings and they became more popular. Wineries such as Leasingham, Knappstein, Skillogalee and of course Petaluma were the pioneering driving force behind the grape variety and to widen the audience of the region’s wines.
We started by tasting the latest release, the 2009 which was considered a great vintage in Clare Valley, perhaps even the best since 1980. The wine was extremely fresh and clean displaying an intense citrus, grapefruity zesty quality. It also had a lovely sherbety, floral character with hints of elderflower and a delicious long and fragrant finish. The mouth-watering and piercing acidity will guarantee this wine a long life ahead of it.
We moved on to the 2005, which was also a wonderful vintage, yet a little bit warmer around harvest time. It was already starting to show some evolved zesty, oily characters, so typical of a Riesling during its development. However, it was also delicious, lightly-honeyed with some lime blossom aromas, yet still so fresh. To sum it up precisely it was like drinking liquid Rose’s Lime Marmalade. A very food-friendly wine.
Next up were the 2002 and 1999 vintages. The former showed a good deal of bottle age with more pronounced toasty, honeyed aromas. It was also more delicate. The 1999 was my personal favourite and was absolutely at its peak. The wine displayed bright golden yellow hues and intense honeyed marmalade aromas. The aromatic citrus character was well-balanced with wonderful toasty and floral nuances, which gave the wine such a personality. It still had plenty of lively acidity and would probably continue to age well.
We finished the flight of Rieslings with the “Antiques Roadshow” wine. The 1983 was amazingly interesting, complex and mature. It was a curious blend of different vineyard sources, as only around 35% came from Hanlin Hill itself. Moreover, the nomenclature on the label was different and non-specific. It was described by Andrew as “a multi-regional winemaker’s Riesling indulgence”. Hence, the rest of the blend came from Leeuwin Estate (Margaret River) and Mount adam (Eden Valley). The wine showed some lovely exotic, quince and roasted tropical fruit notes.
Look out for part two where Robert tries some “Old Block” Shiraz from St Hallett all the way back to the 1985 vintage.