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An Australian Riesling at 19

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 19, 2008 8:49am ET

I have had enough aged Riesling in Australia to appreciate that the wines benefit tremendously from time in the bottle. At a few months to a couple of years old, they are all lime and floral and sometimes mineral flavors on a crisp, dry frame. Appealing enough, but they develop all kinds of extra stuff in the bottle.

And it's not only the wines from Clare and Eden valleys, the most celebrated regions for Aussie Riesling, that benefit from cellaring, as one experience on this trip to Australia demonstrated. At a luncheon in Heathcote, in central Victorian high country, Ron and Elva Laughton brought along several bottles of their Jasper Hill Riesling, including a 1989 that knocked my socks off.

No one talks about Heathcote Riesling. In their youth the wines are nice, crisp and juicy. But down the track, this 1989 had developed a remarkably silky texture, gained some breadth in its frame, and picked up some toasty, hot slate elements without losing its citrusy fruit flavors. See my video for an on-the-spot evaluation.

Non-blind, I would have rated that wine about 92 points. It had terrific balance, impressive length, and seductive flavors, while retaining that steely backbone that characterizes the Aussie Riesling style.

More to the point, it made a great companion to food, better than the lively and more youthful 2004 and 2006 bottles also on the table. (A 2002 was cork-tainted, alas.) The hosts, Robert and Mem Kirby, who own Heathcote Estate next door to Jasper Hill, had invited the Laughtons and me to a post-harvest lunch. One of the dishes served was Kangaroo Island crayfish (think big Florida lobster-type crustaceans). A scent of smoke wafted through the sweet succulence, from cooking on an open grill. The '89 Riesling wrapped its textures and flavors around the shellfish enchantingly.

It was one of the two or three best wine and food matches I've had this year.

Jay J Cooke
Ripon CA —  May 19, 2008 2:40pm ET
Harvey,You were going to visit Palazzo Las Vegas in April. Will we see a review of the hotel & restaurants in the near future?Thanks!
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  May 19, 2008 6:14pm ET
Yes, a review of the restaurants is scheduled for an upcoming issue. It will be in the magazine first.

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