It’s been more than a few years since I’ve made the sojourn across our continent to visit the wineries of the west. We are blessed in Australia to have so many wine districts around the country that offer 5-star cellar doors and also turn out world-class wines. It’s a shame that for those of us who choose to live on the Eastern seaboard a trip to the wine regions of Western Australia involves a journey of Bourke and Wills proportion!
Winemaking in the West dates back to 1840 when Sandalford was established in the Swan Valley region. While there is a long history of viticulture in the state, it wasn’t until the late 1960’s when the Margaret River region began planting vines that the industry expanded, destined to receive the recognition that it deserves.
These days there are any number of Sandgroper wine regions that can hold their own in any oenological company. It may be the Margaret River that tends to claim the headlines, but there are commercially successful regions across the southern end of the state, including Geographe, Swan District, Mt Barker, Pemberton and one of my favourites, Great Southern.
When we think of WA, like Pavlov’s dog we tend to salivate over cabernet sauvignon, or if you’re a white drinker, their Chardonnay or SSB ( Semillon Sauvignon blanc blend) , but the discerning Riesling palate will be well rewarded for a little detour to Mount Barker where the quality is up there with the very best that the Clare Valley serves up to the world. Recently, the 2019 edition of the James Halliday Wine Companion awarded 95 points – an outstanding score by any measure- to a Riesling from Mt Barker made by Capel Vale.
The region has been making great rizza for many years but the 2017 Capel Vale Single Vineyard Series Whispering Hill Riesling is just outstanding. These single-vineyard wines are only produced in vintages when the product is worthy of the label and are made from fruit that is selected from the best rows of the cool-climate vineyards, and clearly, the 2017 vintage was one of those!
It’s a very dry style made from a single clone of the varietal and only from low yielding vines. Its fresh and zippy, but if you allow the wine to warm slightly in the glass you’ll find hints of honeysuckle and frangipani petal, but once on the palate the granny smith skin, lime and lemon curd flavours arrive and meld with the layers of mineralic characters that define the style and region. Uber clean and crisp, the finale will have you licking your lips, sucking in your cheeks and reaching for a re-fill before you know it!
It is great value at $30 – $35 a bottle and at least the equal of the very best Riesling that the Clare Valley has to offer. Easy to see why Halliday made it a 2019 edition stand-out!