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Riesling at Best’s Great Western has a long and illustrious history. Henry Best planted our Concongella Vineyard in 1868, and Riesling was one of the first varieties planted in this historic patch of earth. In fact, the importance of these plantings has attracted German scientists to visit Best’s to take cuttings in order to identify the source of these vines and to potentially improve the mother vines’ material in Germany.
What we do know is that the Riesling planted at Best’s predates most of the vines in Germany, the spiritual home of Riesling, and the old world vineyards that were wiped out by the Phylloxera insect in the late 19th century.
In the viticultural timeline at Best’s, the next substantial planting of Riesling after the 1868 vineyards was in 1944. Subsequent plantings were made at Concongella in 1978 (in the House Block) and at Rhymney in 1999.
Great Western’s Riesling Terroir
The climate and soils in the Great Western region are ideally suited to the Riesling variety. Our cool, continental location makes for very cold winters and strong diurnal (daily) temperature shifts during the growing and ripening season. This ensures full ripeness and plenty of natural acidity in the grapes.
The soils in the Concongella Vineyard are deep clay loam mixed with granite sands. This makes for very aromatic wines that exhibit the floral characteristics and fine minerality of the variety. It’s interesting to note the best Grand Cru sites in Alsace for Riesling are typically on granitic soils.
On the other hand, the soils in our Rhymney Salvation Gully Vineyard in the hills above Great Western contain more slate and quartz in clay soils. This site is more elevated (about 350m above sea level) than our Concongella Vineyard (about 200m above sea level) and therefore its fruit ripens later. These vines produce fruit with more citrus, predominantly lime, flavours and aromas with steely acidity.
The fruit from our Salvation Gully Riesling forms the framework for our Great Western Riesling. This wine is a blend of several sites of Riesling around Great Western. Best’s also produces a single vineyard wine from a select portion of our House Block in the Concongella Vineyard.
Riesling is known as one of the best white varieties to age, and Best’s Great Western Rieslings from the 1970s are still drinking well today. Interestingly, when those wines were produced, refrigeration was not commonplace in the Australian wine industry, nor was stainless steel storage, so it was standard to mature and stabilise the wine in large oak vats, as is still the practice in Germany and France today. Best’s went back to the future with the reintroduction of this practice of maturing Riesling in oak vats in 2012 with its Foudre Ferment Riesling.
Germany’s influence on Best’s Riesling production also came in the form of Trevor Mast, the first winemaker outside the Thomson or Best’s family to work at the winery. Trevor joined Best’s in 1975 after he spent time studying winemaking at the Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany under the tutelage of the esteemed Helmut Becker. Trevor’s training in this great Riesling-producing area helped lift the pool of knowledge of the variety and the style of wine produced at Best’s. He imparted a great deal to the legacy and continued excellence of Riesling at Best’s.
In 2003, Best’s made the decision to bottle its Riesling under screwcap. For delicate aromatic varieties, any taint or oxidation from the cork ruins the wine completely, so it didn’t take long for this decision to be accepted by the whole Best’s team. When comparing corked wines versus screwcapped wines today, the screwcapped wine is far superior.
So which Rieslings does Best’s produce today?
Discover your own favourite Riesling in Best’s line-up of this variety. Allw these wines hold their own with various weights, sweetness and flavour profiles.
FOUDRE FERMENT (CONCONGELLA)
As a member of our wine club exclusive range, the Concongella Collection, the Foudre Ferment Riesling is matured in a 2500L French oak “foudre”, or barrel, crafted by Marc Grenier of Burgundy. The Foudre Ferment is the successor of the EVT 51. The Foudre Ferment is a full-flavoured Riesling with complex honeyed aromatics of lime blossoms, straw bales and lime cordial with hints of ginger nut biscuits. Lime and honey flavours dominate the palate with a fine lingering texture of lemon curd, lime pith and succulent acidity. It’s well balanced with a touch of sweetness and a crisp acidity. It will continue to improve over the next 10 years.
GREAT WESTERN RIESLING
A real insider’s wine, or another best kept secret, Great Western produces aromatic, flavoursome yet structured and spectacularly age-worthy Rieslings that stand confidently alongside their more famous South Australian cousins. On the nose there are lifted aromas of kaffir lime and honeysuckle with a background of red apple and musky spices. On the palate there are intense lime flavours with a slippery mouthfeel and a fresh mineral finish. The Rieslings of Best’s have a proven ability to mature gracefully for 20 years or more. This example is no exception and its youthful freshness is a good sign for its long life in the cellar. It will gather complex toasty aromas and flavours as the years pass. Enjoy with Moreton Bay Bug Ravioli.
HOUSE BLOCK RIESLING (CONCONGELLA)
This Riesling is made from grapes sourced from Best’s House Block directly behind the winery. Planted in 1978, this block typically produces highly aromatic and delicately flavoured wines. On the nose enjoy lifted lemon and apple blossoms with hints of lavender. On the palate there citrus and luscious green apple flavours fill the mouth, followed by the slight sweetness, which is balanced by the steely acidity. This Riesling will age until 2030 – if you can’t wait until then, enjoy it with a Creamy Prawn Laksa.