A classic of vindication…
From £22.48, AU$43, €28.90, $38.47, HK$360, 5,280 Japanese yen
I was reminded of the genius of Jeffrey Grosset as a producer of fearlessly dry, near-immortal Riesling the other day when I took a bottle of his 2001 Polish Hill Riesling to some friends for dinner. We compared it with an Alsace Riesling, Domaine Weinbach, Cuvée Théo 2007. The French wine was deep orangey-gold and decidedly tired whereas the Clare Valley example was pale greenish straw and fresh as a daisy, thereby vindicating Grosset’s position as pioneer of screwcaps in Australia. It also vindicated his stature as Australia’s king of Riesling.
Clare Valley, cooled by sea breezes, is famous for its dry Rieslings and Grosset makes two. His Polish Hill bottling is the more famous and more expensive, but its fuse is much longer and the Springvale bottling is always more accessible and, in my view, better value. The 2002 vintage was a wine of the week in 2003 when it was about half the price it is today.
Grosset’s 6-ha (15-acre), certified-organic Springvale vineyard, pictured above, is the Watervale district’s highest, at 460 m (1,510 ft). (He has not had to add acid to his Riesling since 2005 when he converted to organic viticulture, apparently.) And whereas Polish Hill at the same elevation 5 km (3 miles) to the north is on much harder rock, on which the vines struggle more, Springvale is on a gentle, north-facing slope and has softer, more water-retentive soils, mainly thin red loam and shale over limestone.
The 2019 vintage is described as ‘a game changer for Grosset Wines’. Winter was so dry that it was the smallest crop, of small berries and bunches absolutely stuffed with flavour, for decades. I loved this Springvale 2019 when I tasted it a couple of years ago (it’s a perennial problem that many of the wines we taste are not yet in commercial circulation, complicating the choice of wines of the week). In September 2019 when the wine was freshly bottled and despatched to the UK I wrote:
Cold-cream nose and great juicy transparency on the palate. Lovely sleek wine that could (though shouldn’t) be approached already.
It has 13% alcohol and I was suggesting drinking it from 2019 until 2029. I’m sure it will only have gained in complexity and its famous lime notes since then, and I could imagine it being the most wonderfully refreshing pick-me-up over the holiday season. Just the thing to serve to a Rieslingphobe who dismisses all Rieslings as too sweet, this could not be drier. In fact the residual sugar is just 0.9 g/l (total acidity 7.3 g/l, pH 2.97, since you ask).
Vinification could hardly be simpler: hand-picked grapes were delivered to the winery in small crates and then gently pressed. The free-run juice was inoculated with what Grosset describes as ‘neutral yeasts to preserve the natural expression of the vineyard’. Different lots according to vine age and clone were fermented in tank for a couple of weeks before being blended and bottled.
We have quite a few articles about Grosset Rieslings and masses of tasting notes. See, for instance, this set of verticals from 2000 to 2016, with sky-high scores. This wine seems incredibly inexpensive for one that will continue to mature for a decade or more.
It’s currently available in the UK at, in ascending price order, Lay & Wheeler, Vinified, Wine Direct, Roberson Wine, Noel Young, Nickolls & Perks, The Wine Reserve, Philglas & Swiggot, Harvey Nichols and Voyageurs du Vin.
In the US the 2019 is offered by Rye Brook Wine & Spirit Shop in Port Chester, NY, but there’s a range of other vintages (from 2016 to the very appealing 2020) offered by a wide range of US retailers, from $29.95 for the 2018. I can heartily recommend any vintage.
It’s also available in Australia, France (Grosset’s partner Stephanie Toole has a flat in Paris), Hong Kong and Japan.
Indulge your Riesling obsession here. Picture courtesy of UK importer Liberty Wines.