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Liberty Wines was recently fortunate enough to host Jeffrey Grosset for a masterclass. The quality of the wines was undoubtable, ranging from classic international grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to more eclectic blends such as the ‘Apiana’ Semillon/Fiano and ‘Nereus’ Syrah/Nero d’Avola. One would be remiss to neglect to mention the iconic ‘Gaia,’ made from Grosset’s first vineyard planted in the 1980s.
The focus of the day, however, was Riesling, which for over 38 years has made Grosset one of Australia’s greatest wineries. In addition to being a consummate winemaker, Jeffrey shone as an excellent communicator and led us through the subtleties of the Riesling variety, and the diversity of styles within the Clare Valley.
We began by tasting the three Riesling clones that go into Grosset’s famous ‘Polish Hill’ Riesling. While my knowledge of Riesling clones isn’t what it could be, Jeff made the session very accessible. The three clones, two hailing from Germany, and one rare Australian clone, and all coming from the 2018 vintage and vinified separately, each displayed unique characters of Riesling. Clone GM110 comprises 45-50% of the ‘Polish Hill’ blend and exhibited the crunchy gravel minerality of the finished wine. Clone 156 was fleshier, more floral with honeysuckle flavours and is approximately 20-25% of the blend. The remainder is comprised of GM198, which, while more like 156, had lime zest and white peach characteristics. Having tried each component separately, we then tried the 2017 ‘Polish Hill’ Riesling. Although from a different vintage, it was clear to see how Grosset takes these components and creates a cohesive, balanced wine.
Once we had tasted through the clones of Riesling within the ‘Polish Hill’ vineyard, Jeff led us through the diversity of Clare Valley’s geography by tasting the ‘Springvale’, representing red loam over limestone, and ‘Alea’ Riesling, grown on hard red rock with poor loam topsoil. These varied dramatically from ‘Polish Hill’, it is a taut, concentrated wine. ‘Springvale’ was leaner with bracingly fresh citrus notes. ‘Alea’ was the most welcoming, with its high acidity complemented by 10.7 grams of residual sugar. All three finished Rieslings were completely individual in style and offer a broad range to drink through, reflecting the differences in soil (and in ‘Springvale’s’ case, higher elevation) in the Clare Valley. It’s very interesting to consider there is a scant 5-kilometre distance between ‘Polish Hill’ and ‘Springvale’. Jeff’s work with this variety is a perfect reminder of how we should treat the concept of ‘sense of place’ of New World wines with the same reverence that we do for regions in the Old World.