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Mount Langi Ghiran Riesling 2003
The continuing drought once again saw crop levels greatly reduced, but fruit quality remained exceptional. As expected in a dry season, the berries were very small and rich with flavour. The cool and dry conditions created a perfect extended ripening period, allowing development of the natural acid structure and further concentration of flavour.
The vineyards are located in a spectacular setting, at an elevation of 350 metres, situated at the base of the 540 metre cliff face of Mount Langi Ghiran. Directly opposite is the Mount Cole state forest positioning the vineyards within a 30km valley. In 1996 the winery purchased another property on the well protected northern slope of Mount Langi Ghiran which is known as the "Hollows Vineyard". Together with the original vineyards the total area under vine is 225 acres.
The original vineyards were planted in the 1870's when European immigrants traveled to Western Victoria to discover gold. Bringing vines with them from the old country they went about working the rich fertile land of the Western district, creating some of Australia oldest vineyards. The vines were replaced by sheep at the turn of the century, however the site was re established in 1963 by Italian immigrants the Fratin brothers. Their first plantings were the Swiss Clone Shiraz, taken from the 140 year old nursery block in Great Western. They soon discovered that with the unique mix of Mount Langi Ghirans environment they were producing a spicy, pepper complex wine we now know as "Langi Shiraz".
The vineyards of Mount Langi Ghiran are nestled between two dramaticlly beautiful mountain ranges on the southern end of the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Western Victoria. The cool climate of Mount Langi Ghiran is unique for growing wine in Australia, and the Shiraz vines like to take their time to ripen and develop their spicy, peppery flavors making Langi one of the last vineyards to be harvested in Victoria. The vines are elevated but also sit between lofty mountains, this creates a cooling effect particularly in Autumn during ripening, as cold air tumbles down the mountains and flows through the valley at night. Another effect of the mountains is the shadowing of the vineyards before days end thus shortening the effective sunshine hours. These climatic effects are unique to Langi and explain why particularly the Shiraz harvest is late, but more importantly they are significant in producing the benchmark characteristics of Langi Shiraz.
A large, climatically diverse country producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia is not just a source of blockbuster Shiraz or inexpensive wine with cute labels, though both can certainly be found here. Australia has a grand winemaking history and some of the oldest vines on the planet, along with a huge range of landscapes and climates; it is impossible to make generalizations about Australian wine. Most regions are concentrated in the south of the country with those inland experiencing warm, dry weather, and those in more coastal areas receiving humid and tropical, or maritime weather patterns. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety, typically producing bold, supple reds with sweet, jammy fruit and performing best in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Shiraz, and also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre (often locally referred to as Mataro) are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version, and Semillon is often utilized as its blending partner, or in the Hunter Valley, on its own to make complex, age-worthy whites. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen Muscat is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing, and there are a vast array of intriguing varieties to be found.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling, and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes in New York.
In the Glass
Riesling is low in alcohol, with high acidity, steely minerality, and stone fruit, spice, citrus, and floral notes. At its ripest it leans towards juicy peach and nectarine, and pineapple, while in cooler climes it is more redolent of meyer lemon, lime, and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of gasoline.
Riesling is very versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice), and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.