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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
24 Feb 2003

Jeffrey Grosset is the acknowledged king of Australian dry Riesling, a category of wine that deserves its own moment of glory now. Cheaper Australian Rieslings can be simply a bit too heavy and sweet to please demanding palates but Grosset's Rieslings, while having no shortage of alcohol (typically more than 13 per cent), are dry, nervy and chock full of extract.

He's based in South Australia's Clare Valley, the area north of Barossa which by all geographical measurements should really be too hot to produce interesting Riesling but somehow manages to. He has been a leading light in the Clare Valley move towards screwcaps to maximise the chances of keeping his intense flavours pure and unadulterated by cork taint - in fact his top red wine Gaia is now bottled under screwcap too.

Of his two significant Riesling bottlings, the Polish Hill is the one that is officially the better, and it certainly takes longest to unfurl, but the Watervale is probably the better buy. And the reason I am bringing these wines to your attention now is that the 2002 vintage was particularly successful in Clare and these wines, which sell out fast, should be available in most markets at the moment.

The Watervale Riesling 2002 is big, broad and welcoming with Clare Valley's characteristic toastiness (nothing to do with oak - more like burnt toast). There are some grapefruit flavours and a very, very long finish. It's bone dry with very fine acidity and great depth. If I bought a case now, I'd probably wait a year before trying it but you could certainly drink it with pleasure already. (Unlike the Polish Hill which should definitely be stashed away for several years, however impressive it is now.)

Watervale is from about £11/US $16 in Australia and a little bit more abroad. Because Polish Hill is so much more famous, it tends to sell out first, so the 2002 is probably just going in to UK stockists Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, Berry Bros & Rudd and La Vigneronne in London and Ballantynes of Cowbridge. But you can buy a case of Polish Hill direct from the UK importers Milton Sandford (tel 01628 829449) at £177.10 including duty and VAT - and supplies of Watervale are even more plentiful (not having gone into retail distributiion yet), at £148.33 a case. See WineSearcher for international stockists.

This is just the sort of wine that makes a really good partner for Thai sorts of flavours, and would be a particularly bracing lunch wine.

Restaurateurs should be interested in mesh (sic), a new Eden Valley Riesling fermented in two lots in Grosset and Yalumba wineries respectively, devised and sold by Yalumba. It's very forwward and appealing though I would not pay the slight premium asked for it over Grosset's own Rieslings.

Grosset Hill Smith 'Mesh' Eden Valley Riesling 2002 (Stelvin) is designed to retail at around £12.99 and in the UK and is available from Vin du Van, Philglass & Swiggot and www.meshwine.com.