Loosen Barry is an exciting new collaborative wine project between an Australian and German producer that will launch in September 2019. The Barry family (Jim Barry) and Ernst Loosen (Dr. Loosen) have long revelled in all things riesling and they decided to unite by producing a wine in each of their respective homes made in a style that reflects that of the other country.
There’s the 2016 Walhalla Dry Riesling (A$120) made in a decidedly Aussie style: fermented dry (less than four grams of residual sugar per litre) in stainless steel with a selected yeast and then aged in tank on fine lees for 24 months. The grapes hail from the hallowed Erdener Treppchen vineyard on prized red Mosel slate.
The Australian counterpart is the 2017 Wolta Wolta Dry Riesling (A$120) from the Lodge Hill Vineyard’s 1979 plantings known as Block 18. These grapes were fermented without added yeast in a traditional 2,800 litre fuder cask. It was aged on gross lees for 12 months in fuder and on fine lees for 12 months in stainless steel and has around seven grams per litre of residual sugar. This is from an area of the Clare Valley called Wolta Wolta which is an Aboriginal word meaning “a place with abundant water”.
They’re both sublime and mark a milestone for great riesling that runs in both directions.
Staying on the riesling trail, Daniel Wagner and Oliver Müller of Wagner-Stempel have produced a scintillating set of rieslings from the unusual and erratic 2017 vintage. Their lovingly restored vineyards in the cool Siefersheim area of the Rheinhessen were blasted by devastating frosts in mid-April, including the Grosses Gewächs (GG) Heerkretz and Höllberg sites, but that was just the beginning.
Following what they describe as a “second winter” the vines spent a month in shock before being awakened by a spell of warm temperatures and rain. They responded with furious vegetative growth that tested the viticultural manpower of the estate before settling in to a cooler but still erratic period from August to mid-September (narrowly escaping a run of hail). The weather then warmed again and they headed into an intense early harvest that eventually gave rise to superb wines.
These wines are intense and have a sense of core strength that really crystallises in 2017. There’s a concentration and heightened sense of fruit purity that can certainly be attributed to lower yields but the wines are pitched tightly and this electrifying energy and tension is what lights the flame of desirability and quality for me.
Even the humble 2017 Riesling Trocken (A$40) offers such stunning purity in a fragrant, fresh and unbelievably great value wine. Aromas of lime and tropical fruits are framed in ethereal lemon blossom, light pastry-like nuances and crushed rocky minerals. The palate has a very focused, sheer and downright delicious thread of fresh lemon and green mango flavours. This is a superb wine that offers great balance, immediate drinkability and amazing value. Buy cases of this as it will not last in your fridge.
A tribute to the signature soil type of Siefersheim, the 2017 Vom Porphyr Riesling Trocken (A$61) shows the trademark herbal accents of this cooler pocket of the Rheinhessen as well as almost chalky dusty notes and attractively fresh yellow fruits. This specific granitic soil type brings restraint and pared back tension to the palate where there’s a wealth of very succulent and juicy citrus fruit and an almond pastry-like savoury smoothness at the finish. This is sheer and sleek, lip-smackingly good riesling.
Into the hallowed territory of VDP Grand Crus and the 2017 Höllberg Riesling GG (A$105) is a phenomenal wine for the almost confronting impact it delivers. This has the kind of intense nectarine and fresh apricot married with lime and a deeply rich perfume that sets your senses spinning. The palate has fluidity and almost overwhelming concentration. Delicious and easy to grasp, such is its prowess, and yet it leaves you impossibly curious about the road ahead. Drink now or over the next decade easily. Confoundingly young and delicious.
The 2017 Heerkretz Riesling GG (A$139) is a concentrated and deeply textural riesling that has a wealth of ripe citrus as well as apple and light mango characters. There are some smoky nuances to the very bright and flinty palate. The fruit concentration is impressive and the decisive mineral cut delivers a very distinctive, age-worthy impression.
In the course of my annual trips to Champagne to taste and visit, few producers have delivered the kind of philosophical acuity combined with accurate delivery that Jean-Marc Sélèque has. These are among the most fastidiously crafted and thoughtfully conceived Champagnes seen anywhere across this diverse region and they pitch into the mind of the cerebral taster as easily as they drop in the lap of those who take their fizz at face value.
The NV Solessence Brut (A$91) is a Champagne that delivers attractive and ripe chardonnay with mango and papaya notes. The palate has a feeling of richness and freshness, with a gently spicy complexity that weaves into a very smooth, almost creamy texture. The approachability is impressive – it asks little and delivers a lot.
The NV Solessence Brut Nature (A$107) is a matrix of intriguingly complex design. It's made up of 50% perpetual reserve wine and 50% 2012 vintage, and is a blend of 50% chardonnay, 40% pinot meunier and 10% pinot noir. The result is a Champagne with a savoury edge and gentle spices layered into smoothly rendered orchard fruits and light pastry notes. Zero dosage leaves the smooth tannins to shine on the finish.
Sélèque’s NV Quintette (A$112) is a blend of chardonnay (based on the 2014 harvest in this case) that is sourced from five specially selected parcels in five different villages. The finesse and detail here really entrances with plenty of chalky, edgy mineral cut and a saliva tingling freshness. This is uncompromising, concentrated and thrilling Champagne.
The 2013 Soliste Meunier (A$157) is a plot of selection massale pinot meunier that hails from 1951 and 1953 and offers a fascinating mix of quite restrained chalky characters with richer spiced berry pastry notes. It is the most dichotomous of Sélèque’s cuvées with tart pink and yellow fruits tumbling into a thrillingly dry finish. The 2013 Infusion Meunier Rosé (A$124) delivers plenty of attractive strawberry on the nose with appealingly fresh red fruit flavours in an expansive mode.
The 2012 Partition (A$157) is Sélèque's masterpiece. A selection of the best grapes from the five chardonnay parcels that form the Quintette cuvée plus a parcel of pinot noir and a parcel of pinot meunier, both from the village of Pierry. It opens with strong chardonnay notes of lemon citrus and fresh yeasty perfume before the palate is layered up on the red grape base which unfurls in smooth, seamlessly fluid style. So complex – every sniff and sip is entrancingly memorable. This is profound.