Category Archives: Vineyard

Capital Wines changes hands

Jennie Mooney described the Ministry series as "a playful dig at our location near the power house of Canberra
Departing owner Jennie Mooney created Capital Wines Ministry series as “a playful dig at our location near the power house of Canberra”

A recent change of ownership of Capital Wines saw the closure of its cellar door, the departure from the wine industry of two of Canberra’s noted tourism and hospitality entrepreneurs, and the planned opening of a new cellar door by a Hunter winery with a Canberra vineyard.

The two couples behind Capital Wines went their separate ways in July when Jennie and Mark Mooney sold out to Andrew and Marion McEwin. As so often happens in small businesses, an unworkable partnership forced the change.

The McEwins, previously responsible for winemaking and vineyard management, must now also take on the marketing and sales roles. Their many challenges include replacing Jennie Mooney’s formidable business skills and marketing talent, and finding a new home for their cellar door. Under the partnership, the outlet (now closed) operated out of renovated stables behind the Mooney’s highly successful Royal Mail Hotel and Grazing restaurant at Gundaroo.

However, winemaker Andrew McEwin remains confident of Capital Wines’ future. He says, “We’re keeping skilled cellar door staff and I’m looking for a new location, likely to be in Hall”. He says the business also includes a considerable volume of contract winemaking, which will continue.

Until they formed Capital Wines with the Mooneys in 2008, the McEwins owned a long-established winery and the Kyeema vineyard, Murrumbateman. They sold wine under the Kyeema label.

Jennie Mooney threw prodigious energy and flair into the new venture, creating Capital Wines as the overarching brand for both Kyeema Vineyard wines and the quirky new Ministry Series – billed at the time as “a playful dig at our location near the power house of Canberra”.

Speaking from Perisher Valley, where she and husband Mark manage the Man from Snowy River Hotel, Jennie Mooney, said, “Capital Wines was my baby. I created the brand and established the supply chain and logistics”.

Mooney says she’ll miss Capital Wines but has no immediate plans to return to the wine industry. Nor does she rule out the possibility. “What I like most”, she says is taking something run down and turning it into something”. The Mooneys successfully restored Gundaroo’s historic Royal Mail Hotel in 2003 at the same time creating Grazing, one of Canberra’s enduring restaurants and tourist attractions.

After establishing Capital Wines with the McEwins, the Mooneys restored an old stone stables on the Gundaroo site to serve as a cellar door outlet. The outlet closed after the Mooneys sold out of Capital Wines, but Jennie Mooney lost little time in securing a new tenant – Hunter-based Gundog Estate.

At first glance, a cellar door 400km from the Hunter might appear to have little connection with our region. But Gundog owners, the Burton family, own a Gundaroo vineyard (purchased in 2006) and make several Canberra wines.

Gundog’s website lists four Canberra wines (a cabernet rosé and three shirazes) and a shiraz from the neighbouring Hilltops region. Winemaker Matt Burton writes, “We are also looking to expand our range of whites to include one or more incarnations of Canberra District riesling”.

Jennie Mooney says, “With their vineyards just out of the village, Gundog complements Grazing really well”. The cellar door offering will include local cheeses and charcuterie. Mooney says she expects the Gundog cellar door to open in 2017.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 23 August 2016 in goodfood.com.au

Wily Trout emerges from the deep as a serious maker of Canberra’s signature red

Wily Trout's Will Bruce. Photo Chris Shanahan
Wily Trout’s Will Bruce. Photo Chris Shanahan

Like its namesake, Susan and Robert Bruce’s Wily Trout wines lived in the shadows – not of the river bank, but of the couple’s Poacher’s Pantry smokehouse.

But that’s all about to change, suddenly and dramatically. The 11 August release of Wily Trout Nanima Block Pinot Syrah 2016 marks a huge step up for the family’s wines, now grown and made by the Bruces’ son, Will.

Will Bruce says he “dabbled in the vineyards in 2013 and 2014, but by 2015 I was all over it”. He managed the vineyards to maximise fruit quality, changed from machine harvesting to hand harvesting in 2015 and took control of the winemaking.

While this week’s new release says much about innovation and fruit quality, the surest litmus of quality came in a recent tasting of Wily Trout shiraz from vintages 2012 to 2015.

And within that grouping nothing better illustrated the new standard than a comparison of the two great recent vintages, 2013 and 2015. The 2013 showed Canberra’s distinctive spicy character, but it lacked the power, depth and structure of the best wines from the vintage. In contrast the 2015 soared from the glass and delivered great fruit sweetness, savour and impressive structure. Wily Trout is suddenly a serious maker of Canberra’s signature red variety.

And the new release Nanima Block Pinot Syrah 2016 shows another emerging dimension of Canberra’s imaginative wine industry.

It combines pinot noir and shiraz from Wily Trout’s east-facing Nanima block in a fruity, medium-bodied drink-now style. Interesting winemaking flourishes add other dimensions beyond mere fruitiness.

The pinot noir ripened ahead of the shiraz, says Bruce, and after partial de-stemming (with about 20 per whole bunches), a spontaneous ferment began in small, open vessels. He later dropped the ripe shiraz onto the pinot and as the ferment took hold, transferred the juice, with a small amount of skins, to an egg-shaped ceramic fermenter.

The wine ticked over slowly inside this slightly air-permeable egg and remained there for about six weeks, before being bottled young, fresh and ready to drink.

Wily Trout Nanima BlockThe medium-hued red combines bright, fresh summer-berry flavours with a pleasant stemmy character, derived from the inclusion of whole bunches in the ferment. A juicy, medium-bodied, elegant palate comes with a chewy, silky texture and fine, drying tannins.

Wily Trout Nanima Block Pinot Syrah 2016 ($26) will be released on Thursday 11 August at Ainslie Cellars and will also be available at Bar Rochford (Civic), Urban Cellars (Curtin) and Prohibition (Kingston foreshore).

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 9 August 2016 in the Canberra Times Good Food

A guide to Canberra’s weird and wonderful wines

Bryan Martin unleashes Ravensworth pet-nat Tumbarumba gamay, due for a spring release
Bryan Martin unleashes Ravensworth pet-nat Tumbarumba gamay, due for a spring release. Photo: Chris Shanahan.

The “weird stuff” tab on Ravensworth’s website opens the magic wardrobe into Canberra’s Narnia of weird, whacky and new wines. This new world belongs to Ravensworth winemaker Bryan Martin and a handful of Canberra winemakers who, like Martin, step nimbly back and forth through the wardrobe, between mainstream winemaking and the new and weird stuff on the edges.

They’re all accomplished winemakers. And all but Sassafras Wines, which specialises in ancestral method bubblies, earn their living making and selling the traditional table wines we drink every day.

The weird stuff, as Martin calls it, sits on the fringes, supported by Sydney and Melbourne sommeliers, a handful of local restaurants and independent retailers, fellow winemakers and adventurous drinkers.

The weird wines come with their own language – including pet nat, ancestral method, orange wine, natural wine and ceramic egg – describing wine styles, production methods and equipment.

After decades enjoying limpid Australian whites and bubblies, the new wines can be confronting. What are we to make, for example, of bronze or even orange coloured whites, or of cloudy sparkling wines?

This new wave of bubblies – known as pet nats (from the French petillant naturel) or ancestral method – come to market very young and fresh, in the year of vintage, with various levels of cloudiness. The wines are cloudy as they are not disgorged or filtered following secondary fermentation.

Sassafras wines pioneered the ancestral method in Canberra
Sassafras wines pioneered the ancestral method in Canberra. Photo Rebecca Doyle

Paul Starr of Sassafras Wines, introduced the style to Canberra in 2014 with a delicious ancestral method sparkling rosé, made from Tumbarumba gamay grapes. His  fondness for  the style, he says, came from drinking the traditional gamay-based sparkling wines of France’s Bugey-Cedon region.

The 2014 gamay started with standard fermentation, allowing just enough skin contact to extract the pink colour. When the ferment approached completion, and only a small amount of residual grape sugar remained, Starr refrigerated the wine to knock the yeast out, partially clarified it, then bottled it. The yeasts stirred to action again, creating the bubbles and a very fine haze as they consumed most of the remaining sugar.

Starr attributes at least part of his skill in this tricky and imprecise process to long experience brewing beer. He followed the delicious 2014 gamay up in 2015 with Sassafras Savagnin Ancestral, using savagnin grapes from Quarry Hill vineyard, Murrumbateman – and couldn’t stop smiling when Copenhagen’s Noma Restaurant listed it during its tenure in Sydney.

Starr says he’ll offer two ancestral method wines in 2016: a white, made from Canberra savagnin and Tumbarumba chardonnay, and a red montepulciano, from Ricca Terra Farms, Riverland. See sassafraswines.com.au for an expected spring release.

Ravensworth’s Bryan Martin followed Sassafras down the pet-nat path, with a sparkling riesling in 2015. The wine sold out quickly, encouraging Martin to make red and white versions this year. He expects to release both in November, for around $30–$32.

Bryan Martin sitting on a ceramic egg
Bryan Martin sitting on a ceramic egg. Photo: David Reist

And this is where we meet Martin’s ceramic egg – a 675-litre fermentation and maturation vessel. Flowform, the Bryon Bay manufacturer, spruiks the advantages of its “passive convection”. But  Martin and fellow Canberra winemaker, Hamish Young, dismiss that idea.

Hamish Young, Mada Wines. Photo: Chris Shanahan
Hamish Young

Young says, “It’s like an oak barrel, without the wood flavour”. Like the oak barrel, the ceramic egg admits small amounts of air. This influences the flavour and texture of the wines in interesting and pleasant ways.

Martin owns three eggs and uses them for several wines, including the loveably weird, Seven Months white blend and his pet-nat riesling 2016. The latter underwent a spontaneous fermentation in the egg before heading off to bottle for its secondary fermentation.

At the winery, I tasted Ravensworth’s unfinished pet-nats – Canberra riesling 2016 and Tumbarumba gamay 2016. These are excellent, fresh, characterful wines and worth trying on release in October or November. The gamay revealed its full crimson glory as it exploded from the sample Martin opened (see picture).

Another wine from the egg, Ravensworth Seven Months 2015 is reviewed below. Note, fermentation of whites on their skins is unusual in Australia but can be used to good effect.

At Poachers Pantry’s Wily Trout, young Will Bruce took over the vineyards from his father a couple of years ago. His 2015 shiraz is sensational, in the traditional Canberra mould. But Bruce, too, owns a ceramic egg, and it hatched a supple, smooth, unfiltered pinot noir-shiraz blend from the 2016 vintage. It’ll be in the market when this is published, so watch for the full review.

The first Wily Trout pet nat, a 2016 vintage blend of pinot noir and chardonnay is due for release at around $25 a bottle in spring.

Perhaps weirdest of all, Bruce made a sauvignon blanc seeped and fermented with fresh hops flowers provided by brewer Richard Watkins. Expect to see this aromatic, intensely bitter hybrid on tap at the BentSpoke Brewery in the near future.

Hamish Young released his new Mada Wines last week. Three of the four wines passed through the ceramic egg. The riesling in particular appealed, thanks largely to Young’s unconventional winemaking approach. See the review below.

At Yarrh Wines, Murrumbateman, Neil McGregor tends the immaculate vineyards, while Fiona Wholohan makes the wines, including the two Mr Natural wines reviewed below – and the first components of a vin santo (Tuscan dessert wine) for release many years in the future.

Ravensworth Seven Months whiteRavensworth Canberra District and Tumbarumba Seven Months 2015 $34–$35
Bound to shock drinkers of traditional whites, Seven Months gets it deep golden colour, hazy appearance, very rich flavours, and grippy, chewy finish from fermentation and maturation on skins inside the ceramic egg. Ravensworth website is sold out but at the time of writing Plonk (Fyshwick Markets) and Ainslie Cellars carry stock. The blend is pinot gris, sauvignon, roussanne, riesling and chardonnay. The 2016 vintage remains in the egg for a few more month.

Mada RieslingMada Wines Canberra District Riesling 2016
With Australian riesling, makers generally focus on aromatics and delicacy by gently removing juice from skin, conducting cool ferments in stainless steel tanks. Winemaker Hamish Young allowed his to ferment spontaneously, on skins, inside the ceramic egg. Together, the air-permeability of the egg and skin contact made the difference between Mada and your conventional riesling. “I wanted the skins to enhance some characters but not make it weird and whacky. It had to be delicious”, he says. And it is. The not-quite-clear wine emphasises riesling’s citrus rather than floral characters on a richly textured, racy, dry palate.

Yarrh Wines Mr Natural Sauvignon BlancYarrh Vineyard Mr Natural Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Winemaker Fiona Wholohan says years of work building up the soils in the vineyard paid off, delivering perfect fruit in the outstanding 2015 vintage. This allowed her to make a white with very few inputs. She crushed and de-stemmed the grapes to a fermenter and let nature take its course, without the addition of yeast, acid, or yeast nutrients. What a delicious result. The skin ferment means a much deeper colour than we see in most young sauvignons . But the intensely varietal, savoury aroma leads to a juicy, plush, chewy, lively and dry palate.

Yarrh Wines Mr Natural ShirazYarrh Vineyard Mr Natural Shiraz 2015
Like its white sibling, Mr Natural Shiraz went through a spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel tanks with very little winemaker intervention – apart from the addition of sulphur dioxide at bottling. Bottled young and fresh, with no oak maturation, the medium-bodied red shows the lovely ripe-berry and spice character of Canberra shiraz in a soft, juicy drink-now style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 20 July 2016 in the Canberra Times Good Food
CT 
app and goodfood.com.au

New from Canberra – Mada Wines

Hamish YoungCanberra winemaker Hamish Young, formerly of Eden Road Wines, this week launched four wines under his new label, Mada Wines.

Young doesn’t own a vineyard or winery, but sourced grapes from local growers and made the wines alongside his old mate Nick O’Leary at Affleck Wines.

Word of the new wines scampered through the trade as soon as Young unscrewed the first samples. Pulp Kitchen, Monster Kitchen and Bar, XO Restaurant, and Bar Rochford all signed up, while Ainslie Cellars and Jim Murphy’s became the first retailers to support the new brand.

Taking the lead from Ravensworth Wines’ Bryan Martin, Young installed a ceramic egg-shaped fermenter ahead of the vintage. “I bought it especially for making riesling”, he says. But he also used it to great effect in Mada Syrah Nouveau 2016, a delicious red included in the first release.

Meet the new Mada wines

Mada Wines

Mada Wines Murrumbateman Canberra District Riesling 2016
Fruit source: Four Winds vineyard, Murrumbateman, NSW
Grower John Collingwood

$30
This is not your conventional Australian riesling, where makers focus on aromatics and delicacy by gently removing juice from skin, conducting cool ferments in stainless steel tanks and protecting the wine from air.

Young de-stemmed the bunches directly to the ceramic egg, but pressed a small amount of juice in to encourage the ferment. The fermentation took off spontaneously and after three weeks the now-dry wine was pressed off from the skins.

Together, the air-permeability of the egg and skin contact made the difference between Mada and your conventional riesling. “I wanted the skins to enhance some characters but not make it weird and whacky. It had to be delicious”, he says.

And it is. The colour appears slightly flat, without the burnished look we’re accustomed to. And the aroma emphasises Canberra riesling’s intense citrus character, without the floral layer. A touch of spice adds interest. Although the wine’s dry and just 11% alcohol, the palate continues the intense, varietal citrus theme of the aroma, with a great textural richness not normally seen in young riesling. The wine’s natural acidity gives a lovely, racy freshness to the finish.

Mada Wines Prunevale Hilltops Blanc 2016
(Gewurztraminer about 70%, pinot gris about 25%, the rest riesling)
Fruit source: Brian Freeman vineyard, Hilltops, NSW
$28
Young hales from Gisborne, New Zealand, home of sturdy gewürztraminer. He loves the variety and discovered a good patch of old vines on one of Brian Freeman’s vineyards. He says, “It’s a very phenolic variety and I decided to embrace the phenolics. I de-stemmed it, then a seven-day cold-soak in a fridge pulled out everything I wanted”. He then ran the juice to a stainless steel tank for fermentation. He fermented the other varieties separately and used them “to manage the phenolics”.

Gewurztraminer’s distinctive musk-like character drives the aroma and fresh, zippy flavour. The use of skin contact shows in the fleshy palate with its slightly grippy dry finish.

Mada Wines Wamboin Canberra District Pinot Gris 2016
Fruit source: Lambert family vineyard, Wamboin, NSW
$28

Tank, barrel and skin fermented pinot gris
Tank, barrel and skin-fermented pinot gris. Photo Hamish Young.

Canberra’s vineyards vary in altitude from around 500 metres near Hall to over 800 metres on the Lake George Escarpment. The cooler conditions up here on the Lambert vineyard suit its old pinot gris vines. Young separated the fruit into three batches. He fermented half of it stainless steel tanks with minor grape solids; 35% of it in a combination of old and new oak barrels; and the rest on skins in an open fermenter.

Young’s picture above shows the dramatic difference in colour from batch to batch. He says the taste differences were just as dramatic. “How will this work?” he wondered, but in the end blended them all together.

The finished wine shows a slight bronze tint, typical of the variety (not surprising when you see the colour of the skin-ferment component). A pure, attractive, pear-like varietal aroma leads to a slick, juicy, lustrously textured palate, laden with pear-like flavours. The dry finishes comes with a mildly tannic tweak.

Mada Wine Syrah Nouveau Murrumbateman Canberra District 2016
(Includes 12% grenache)
Quarry Hill vineyard, Murrumbateman, NSW
$30
It seems the day of the fruity, fleshy, soft, drink-now current-vintage shiraz has finally come – and little wonder with wines of this calibre.

Young says the shiraz ripened earlier than the grenache, so he cold soaked it for a week to retard fermentation. When the grenache finally ripened he de-stemmed it onto the shiraz and let the ferment rip, on skins of course, for eight or nine days.

By now, he’d taken the riesling from the ceramic egg. He filled the egg with the red but had enough to fill an old oak puncheon, too. A few months later the egg and oak components looked very different.

The palate of the egg component had integrated quickly, giving a very clean, aromatic, expressive wine; while the barrel portion showed darker more brooding, savoury character.

The finished blend appeals immediately for its crimson colour, sweet, musk-like aroma, juicy, fruity, mouth-filling flavour and soft tannins.

Still in barrel, to be reviewed after bottling

  • Mada Wines Shiraz 2016 – from Yarrh vineyard, Murrumbateman
  • Mada Wines Shiraz 2016 – from Wily Trout vineyard, Spring Range

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016

Wine reviews – Helm, Grove Estate, Dal Zotto, Chrismont

Helm Premium Riesling 2015Helm Wines Premium Riesling 2016 – wine of the week
Helm 1832 vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
$52

Although not released until October, Ken Helm’s 2016 Premium Riesling deserves a great blare of publicity. The wine marks Helm’s fortieth vintage and, largely through his tireless efforts, the rise of riesling to become Canberra’s signature white variety. The flagship of five Helm rieslings, Premium comes this year from a vineyard planted in 2008 from vines believed to be direct descendants of the James Busby collection of 1832. Helm says the Lustenberger vineyard, usual source of Premium, produced too little fruit this year and went to his Classic Dry blend. What a delicate, racy, thrilling riesling it is, with intense, citric varietal flavours, gripped by taut, refreshing acidity. The extra time in bottle between now and the October release should really bring out its beautiful fruit flavour.

Helm Classic Dry RieslingHelm Wines Classic Dry Riesling 2016
Helm, Rawling and Lustenberger vineyards, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW
$38

From the bumper 2016 riesling crop, Helm Classic Dry reveals more floral aromatics than the comparatively shy Premium version. The floral character flows through to a lively palate, where it combines with more lemon-like varietal flavour. The upfront fruit flavour gives drink-now appeal. But keen acidity cuts through from beginning to end, intensifying the flavour, refreshing the palate and ensuring the wine will evolve, as previous vintages have, for many years.

Grove Estate Cellar Block Shiraz ViognierGrove Estate Shiraz Viognier 2014
Grove Estate vineyard, Hilltops region, NSW

$31.45–$37
Awards won at a variety of wine shows generally indicate high quality. Grove Estate’s four bronze, one silver, four gold medals and a trophy therefore caught our attention. And the wine in our glass earned our own silver-medal score. This is highly aromatic, fruity-musky shiraz with juicy, mouth-filling, fruity-spicy flavours, supported by loads of soft, gentle tannins, with a slight astringency in the finish.

Dal Zotto GarganegaDal Zotto Garganega 2015
Dal Zotto vineyards, King Valley, Victoria
$24
The white variety garganega is widely planted in Italy, from Sicily to the Veneto region, where it plays the starring role in Soave (the name of a town as well as the wine). The Dal Zotto’s family’s version easily bears comparison with the best of Soave, albeit in a bright and fruity Australian style. At the cellar door in June, winemaker Michael Dal Zotto described the fruit flavour as mandarin-like. And indeed it was, in a delicate kind of way. This delicious fruit character cut through a smooth textured palate, with a savoury, tangy, dry finish – completing a distinctive and loveable dry white.

Dal Zotto Nebbiolo 2012
Dal Zotto vineyard, King Valley, Victoria
$64
For a time, Michael Dal Zotto made wine in Piedmont’s Barolo region, home of the mighty but difficult nebbiolo grape. There he learned much about taming the variety’s fierce tannins. The key, he found, was a prolonged period of skin contact for the wine. He brought this practice back to the King Valley and in 2012 left the wine on skins for three weeks. The resulting wine shows nebbiolo’s pale colour and unique floral–savoury aroma. Similar flavours flow through to a taut and delicious palate, reminiscent in the tension between fruit and tannin of some of the very best pinots. However, the flavour is all nebbiolo and the tannins are more mouth gripping than in the firmest of pinots. You could call it a pinot for grown ups.

Chrismont La Zona TempranilloChrismont La Zona Tempranillo 2013
Chrismont vineyards, King Valley, Victoria
$23-40–$26
Two branches of the Pizzini family run distinctly different vineyards and wineries in Victoria’s King Valley. Fred Pizzini operates Pizzini wines, while his cousin Arnie Pizzini owns Chrismont. Chrismont’s La Zona label embraces the so-called Mediterranean varieties, chiefly Italian, but including Spain’s tempranillo. The wine combines sour cherry and -blueberry-like fruit flavours with earthy–savoury characters on a smooth, surprisingly soft palate.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 6 July 2016 in the Canberra Times and CT app

Wine review – Best’s, Clonakilla, Ross Hill, Rymill, Ad Hoc

Viv Thomson made this magnificent shiraz in 1967 from vines planted by Henry Best in 1866.
Viv Thomson made Bin 0 Claret in 1967 from shiraz vines planted by Henry Best in 1866. Generic labelling as ‘Claret’ was OK back then. So was the use of ‘Hermitage’ as a synonym for shiraz. The magnificent old red was a highlight of Best’s 150th anniversary tasting at Jimmy Watson’s bar, Melbourne, on 8 May 2016. My reviews of two Best’s wines today are based on that tasting. Photo: Chris Shanahan.

Best’s Great Western Foudre Riesling 2015
Best’s Concongella Vineyard, Great Western, Grampians, Victoria
$35

In 2012 as Adam Wadewitz handed over winemaking to Justin Purser, a 2500-litre oak vat showed up in Best’s winery, to the surprise of owner Viv Thomson. As best they could, the winemakers scoured the new, woody flavour from the foudre before filling it with riesling juice for a spontaneous fermentation. The resulting wine put a smile on Thomson’s face, removing any trace of scepticism about the new vessel, and became the first of a new riesling style from Best’s historic Concongella vineyard. Skin contact, spontaneous fermentation, and the use of oak rather than stainless steel adds textural richness and subtle flavours to the riesling, which remains lemony, fresh and delicate. It’s a delicious drink, reminiscent of Alsace riesling in flavour and texture, albeit in a more delicate style.

Best’s Great Western PSV 141 Pinot Noir 2014
Best’s Concongella vineyard 1868 block, Great Western, Grampians, Victoria

$150

In 1866, Henry Best bought Concongella, a Great Western property, and established vines from 1867. In 1920, seven years after Best’s death, William Thomson bought the business, which is today owned by fourth generation Viv Thomson and his wife Chris. Marking Best’s 150th anniversary in May, Thomson released four remarkable reds including two from a vineyard Best planted in 1868. Within that vineyard, lies a plot of gnarled old pinot meunier vines. And sprinkled among the meunier, are 141 pinot noir vines, believed to be the world’s oldest. Bunches from those vines were sealed and fermented in a vessel for three months before being pressed to barrel for maturation. The result is stunning and potentially long lived – a limpid pinot of great flavour concentration, combining fruit, savour and a firm, fine tannin backbone.

Clonakilla Viognier Nouveau 2016
Clonakilla V and L 2 Block, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

$25–$28
Clonakilla goes against the trend with its popular, fresh, easy drinking viognier – a variety given to heaviness on the palate and slow sales. Winemaker Tim Kirk says to keep Nouveau light and fresh he makes it as he does riesling – gently separating the juice from the skins, using a whole-bunch press and fermenting it cool in stainless steel tanks. The process keeps the wine fresh and bright and captures the variety’s distinctive ginger- and apricot-like flavours. The rich texture and grippy finish add to the wine’s distinctive character. It’s a style to drink fresh each vintage.

Ross Hill Maya and Max Chardonnay 2015
Orange, NSW

$20
Oak barrels are in indispensable part of chardonnay making. But using oak barrels adds to the expense – not just in the cost of oak, but also in the extra labour required. Winemaker Phil Kerney builds a complex chardonnay and contains price by using a combination of oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. Maya and Max combines bright fresh, nectarine-like varietal flavour with smooth texture and a funky note from the barrel-fermented material.

Rymill The Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Coonawarra, South Australia

$17–$23
From the Rymill family’s extensive Coonawarra holdings, winemaker Sandrine Gimon makes a range of cabernet styles, including the fresh, fruity, drink-now Dark Horse. The aroma and palate show great vitality in Coonawarra’s distinctive ripe, red-berry varietal style. The elegant palate appeals for its juicy, fresh fruit flavour, which is offset by fine, grippy cabernet tannins.

Ad Hoc Avant Gardening Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2014
Riversdale vineyard, Frankland River, Western Australia
$17.95–$21
Though comparable in price, Larry Cherubino’s Avant Gardening heads down an entirely different path to Sandrine Gimon’s Rymill Dark Horse cabernet reviewed today. The wines share some of the bright, fresh, aromatic berry character of young cabernet. But there the similarities end. Gimon’s wine remains on the fresh, fruity path, while Cherubino’s goes to darker, grittier places. Malbec no doubt plays its part in Avant Gardening’s deeper colour and firmer tannins. But the different origins – South Australia’s Coonawarra versus the West’s Frankland River – also influence the wines.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 1 June 2016 in the Canberra Times Food & Wine Magazine and ct app

Wine review – Eldridge Estate, Bremerton, Billecart-Salmon, Murrumbateman Winery, Arrogant Frog, Sandalford

Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir 2014 – wine of the week
Eldridge Estate vineyard, Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

$60

David Lloyd’s wines demonstrate the power of growing grape varieties in the right climate, then mastering vineyard management and winemaking. His 3.8-hectare vineyard, at around 200-metres altitude and 38 degrees south, provides the cool growing and ripening conditions suited to pinot noir. Water on three sides (Port Phillip Bay, Bass Straight and Westernport Bay) further moderates the climate. Lloyd’s 2014, made from six pinot clones, gives us a pure yet savoury expression of the variety. Delicate perfume, vibrant varietal fruit flavours, savouriness and fine, grippy tannins make a complete pinot ­– one to savour and marvel at.

Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2013
Langhorne Creek, South Australia
$19–$22

Langhorne Creek lies to the south east of McLaren Vale. Its warm climate, moderated by cool breezes from nearby Lake Alexandrina, produces rich, fleshy, but not heavy crowd-pleasing reds. The region’s pleasing wine styles, comparatively high yields and water availability attracted massive, broad-acre investments during the nineties. Though much of the grape crop goes to anonymous multi-region blends, the locals continue to make a mark with rich, satisfying reds like Bremerton Selkirk shiraz, made by Rebecca Willson whose family owns 120-hectares of vines in the region.

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV
Champagne, France

$66.50–$80
A distinctive richness and delicacy sets Billecart-Salmon apart from the too many ho-hum non-vintage Champagnes. It always surprises because it’s so consistently outstanding. In our latest encounter, at Chairman and Yip, it accompanied some of the best oysters we’ve ever enjoyed: briny, juicy, plump and deliciously chewy. Billecart mingled happily with the tangy flavours, thanks in part to Champagne’s high acidity. But there’s more to it. A bit of pinot meunier in the pinot noir-chardonnay blend plumps out the palate and gives a fresh, fruity taste. Yet it remains delicate and dry, with the unique structure and harmony resulting from prolonged ageing on yeast lees.

Murrumbateman Winery Shiraz 2014
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

$30
Bobbie Makin and Jennifer Lawrence are the new young team running one of Canberra’s oldest wineries (established 1973). The brand’s been keeping a low profile for some years but we can expect to see more activity now as the pair make wine using grapes from their own and neighbouring vineyards. Then wine shows Canberra’s bright berry fruit flavours and medium body, albeit with a more than typical lick of tannin, some of it oak derived, drying out the finish.

Arrogant Frog Croak Rotie Shiraz 2014
Aude Valley, Languedoc, France

$7.90–$13
French winemaker Jean-Claude Mas launched Arrogant Frog in 2005 and now claims global sales of five million bottles annually – with over million of those sold in Australia through its importer, Woolworths. The brand includes two whites, a rose and two reds in addition to Croak Rotie reviewed today. For a modest price you get a flawless, screw-cap sealed shiraz–viognier blend of medium body and fresh fruit flavour. It’s taut rather than fleshy and finishes dry with slightly tough tannins.

Sandalford Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2015
Sandalford vineyard, Margaret River, Western Australia
$22–$35
You could pay much more for a chardonnay as good as this. And the quality’s explained by what’s gone into the wine: grapes from mature vines, free-run juice (the finest cut), and fermentation and maturation in a mix of new and older French oak barrels. A full-flavoured but fine-boned chardonnay, it shows juicy, nectarine-like varietal flavour, rich, barrel-derived texture and very fresh, zesty finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 25 May 2016 in the Canberra Times

Canberra vintage 2016 – two good years in a row

Canberra vignerons rarely see two consecutive high quantity, high quality vintages as they have in 2015 and 2016.

But just how good 2016 quality is depends on who you ask. Ken Helm of Helms Wine, Murrumbateman, writes, “The 2016 vintage was the earliest and hottest season on record, but looks like equaling the great 2015, and 2013 vintages in production of quality wines; it shows the depth of the quality from Canberra can be realised across a range of climate conditions”.

Helm’s Murrumbateman neighbour, Eden Road’s Nick Spencer offers a more circumspect appraisal. He says, while quality and quantity were good for both reds and whites, it remains to be seen whether quality is outstanding.

“The shiraz flavours remind me of the 2014s. They have fruit intensity but perhaps not the structural balance of 2013 and 2015”, the most highly regarded of recent seasons. Riesling, all picked before March’s dry, hot spell looks good. “It’s bullet proof”, he adds.

The run of ten consecutive March days above 30 degrees came secondly only to the record of 12 days in another El Nino year, 1983. While most whites ripened ahead of the heat, some of the district’s shiraz felt it. Other late ripening varieties weathered the heat to ripen in the cooler conditions that followed.

Several winemakers, including Nick O’Leary, say the key to good shiraz was picking at the right moment. In the prolonged March heat, the variety tended to gain sugar and lose acid rapidly. “You could see the change in a day or so, making harvest time critical”, says winemaker Hamish Young.

“I’m happy with 80 per cent of my shiraz”, says O’Leary. “I have some excellent parcels and if others don’t measure up, they won’t go into the blend”. He rates the vintage as better than 2014, especially for riesling, “though it’s early days yet”.

O’Leary sources riesling from Lake George and Murrumbateman in the Canberra District and, for the first time this year, from the high-altitude Cribbin Vineyard at Tumbarumba. “I’ve had my eye on it for six years”, he said.

He rates riesling from the old Westering block on the Karelas family’s Lake George vineyard as “some of the best in a number of years. It has higher ripeness than 2015 with a fair whack of acidity”. Murrumbateman riesling, though lower in acid than in the last four or five years, shows very good flavour. And he rates the Tumbarumba riesling as exceptional and distinct in style from Canberra riesling.

At Four Winds vineyard, Murrumbateman, Sarah and John Collingwood report an early, good and disease-free season. They say crops were a little bigger than expected despite fruit thinning.

Riesling flowered early and well in benign conditions. Shiraz flowering appeared to struggle in hot winds but eventually the vines set a good crop. They rate the 2016 riesling up with the stellar 2015, and the 2016 shiraz as “good and solid”. At the time of interview, shortly after the heat spell, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese remained on the vine and all looked healthy.

Brian Johnston of McKellar Ridge, Murrumbateman, says he “Felt some doubts early on with uneven flowering”. But flowering ended successfully and fruit yields came in above average. The worries of a cool, wet January dissipated in the warm, dry spell that followed. Indeed the soil moisture provided a measure of relief for the vines during the heat wave, though irrigation was required.

Yarrh Wines’ Neil McGregor reports, “A quick and early vintage, a couple of weeks earlier than 2015, which was two weeks early. Everyone’s exhausted”. Sauvignon blanc copped it a hit from a November frost, but no other varieties suffered.

McGregor says riesling, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese look best, along with shiraz “picked at the right time”. The compressed vintage put pressure on picking teams across the district, forcing Yarrh to machine harvest part of the crop.

He says, “Pickers were flat out, so we saw lots backpackers, including French, Germans and Americans”.

Clonakilla’s Tim Kirk praises another extraordinary vintage and marvels at “The huge bunches and small berries”. He believes the large crop slowed ripening and, indeed ripened only because of the long run of hot weather. “It’s miraculous”, he says. “If it’d been a smaller crop, with the heat it would’ve been too ripe”.

Kirk’s benchmark shiraz, “Shows great colour, vibrant and bright aromas and lovely tannins. They’re not classic like the 2015s, but more flamboyant, without perhaps the length or longevity”.

Kirk opened the family’s new cellar door facility at the peak of this early vintage. He sees it as offering, “An experience of beauty, space and light, in sight of the vines”.

Winemaker Bryan Martin helps Kirk with the Clonakilla wines. While the two crammed a record crop into the expanded winery, Martin also made wines for his own Ravensworth label. At the same time he experimented with what he calls “weird stuff”.

Martin’s weird stuff always sells out. And his methods – particularly in the use of ceramic, egg-shaped vessels for fermenting and maturing wine – influence winemakers across the district and beyond.

This year’s weird stuff includes a cider-like sauvignon blanc made by through carbonic maceration (where fermentation begins inside berries enclosed in a airtight container), two pet-nat wines.

Pet-nat, an abbreviation of the French petillant naturale (naturally sparkling) is the hot new thing among sommeliers. They’re simple, young sparkling wines and generally cloudy as winemakers mostly leave the yeast sediment from secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Martin made, and quickly sold out of a pet-nat riesling in 2015. This year he’s producing riesling and gamay in the style.

And he’s not alone. Paul Starr’s Sassafras label paved the way with a pet-nat Tumbarumba gamay in 2014. A year later Sassafras pet-nat Canberra savagnin set social media alight when sommelier Mads Kleppe selected it for Copenhagen-based Noma’s pop-up Sydney restaurant. Starr says he’s making another in 2016, using riper savagnin, with a touch of Tumbarumba chardonnay to flesh out the mid palate.

A revitalised Wily Trout vineyard on the high, eastern side of Hall, under Will Bruce, has a few 2016 vintage experiments on he go: a pet-nat from pinot noir and chardonnay; a Beaujolais-influenced, early-drinking pinot shiraz, fermented in a ceramic egg; and a hops-infused sauvignon blanc.

The latter, a joint effort with brewer Richard Watkins, will likely be served carbonated from a keg at the BentSpoke brewpub, Braddon.

On the significantly lower western side of Hall, Pankhurst Wines experienced an early, rushed vintage. Alan Pankhurst reports, “Good yielding but not overcropping, with everything so consistently good. I haven’t seen a year like this”.

He says reds are of superb quality. But he harvested only small quantities of white varieties following a recent grafting program. He expects the new varieties – arneis, marsanne and roussanne to crop more heavily in 2017. A small plot of fiano may or may not succeed in Canberra’s cool climate.

At Mount Majura vineyard, Frank van de Loo says, “I have no complaints” about the early and fast vintage. He juggled for winery space and competed for grape pickers with other growers in the district. “We had a Sydney-based Laotian family group, backpackers and a crew from Cowra. It was lie a united nations here some days”.

On the escarpment above Bungendore, Lark Hill’s Christopher Carpenter describes an “earliest start ever” to the vintage, commencing with the marsanne, roussanne and viognier from the family’s Murrumbateman vineyard and finishing with gruner veltliner from the original Lark Hill site, Canberra’s highest vineyard at 860 metres.

And Canberra has a new label for 2016 – Hamish Young’s Mada Wines, due for release later this year. Young left Eden Road Wines late last year and this year made single vineyard shirazes from Yarrh, Wily Trout and Quarry Hill vineyards. He also made a riesling from Four Winds vineyard, and pinot gris and gewürztraminer from Brian Freeman’s vineyard at Hilltops. Young, too, owns a ceramic egg, convinced it builds more interesting wines.

While many Australian winemakers struggle, 2016 sees Canberra vineyards optimistic and confident. After years of development, the district now thrives on increasing quantities of its great specialities, riesling and shiraz, along with well-known varieties like pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. But the new confidence comes, too, from success with other varieties including sangiovese, tempranillo and gruner veltliner – and our ability to sell a few weird, whacky and sometimes wonderful things being made on the fringes.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 12 and 13 April 2016 in goodfood.com.au  and the Canberra Times

Wine review – Robert Stein, Cockburn, Domain Day, Irvine, Majella, Van Volxem

Robert Stein Riesling 2015
Stein and Mirramar vineyards, Mudgee, NSW
$25

With his 2015 vintage, winemaker Jacob Stein takes us away from traditional floral, delicate Australian rieslings. Thirteen per cent alcohol puts it at the bigger end of the variety’s style spectrum. Then spontaneous fermentation on skins of a component, and barrel-fermentation in old oak barrels of the pressings, bring extra weight and grip to the palate. The result is a ripe, full, dry (if not bone dry) white that retains citrus-like riesling flavours and racy acidity. This is an impressive and interesting riesling, heading off in its own direction.

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2013
Gibston and Parkburne, Central Otago, New Zealand

$38–$43

At two degrees south of Australia’s southernmost vineyards, Central Otago produces wines of greater body and ripeness than we might expect at the latitude. But the area’s dry, sunny, continental climate produces distinctively powerful pinots that fetch high prices in world markets. Rockburn provides a taste of the style in a warm year. Vibrant, dark-cherry-like varietal flavours back an assertive palate, comprising fruit, warming alcohol (14 per cent) and strong, fine, drying tannins. Winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis writes, “This pinot is generously proportioned but remains taut for the moment”. I agree. A year or two in bottle should bring all the flavour elements together.

Domain Day “S” Saperavi 2004
Mount Crawford, Barossa Valley, South Australia

$24–$35
Impressed by its longevity, winemaker Robin Day planted the Georgian red variety saperavi at Mount Crawford. Day writes “I have my vineyard and cellar door on the market as I aim to retire and write (an anecdotal travelogue is half written)”. While we wait for Day’s hilarious stories, his wines seep into the market, sometimes at very low prices. His 2004 saperavi, for example, can be found on winerobot.com.au for $24 by the dozen, while Dan Murphy offers the 2005 vintage at $28–$29. The 2004 appeals for its warm, earthy, mellow aroma and rich, firm, medium-bodied palate. It’s fully mature now and a delight to drink.

Irvine “The Estate” Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia
$25–$28
The Wade and Miles family recently purchased Jim Irvine’s brand and Eden Valley property. The revamped label now draws fruit from wider sources, including the Wade and Miles family’s Barossa Valley vineyards. Sam Wade writes, “The wine styles are also moving towards a fresher, brighter style in response to the changing palate of the consumer”. However, the Barossa’s warm-to-hot climate hasn’t changed. So the new, lighter style shiraz belies the reality of its warm origins. It’s a very pleasant, clean, fruity red of medium body, soft tannin and drink-now appeal.
Majella Shiraz 2013
Majella vineyard, Coonawarra, South Australia

$30–$35
Majella shiraz caught our attention from the very first vintage, 1991 – the year the grape-growing Lynn family began its gradual, and now complete, transition to winemaker. Their shiraz, though elegant and fine boned in the Coonawarra style, nevertheless requires cellaring to bring out its best, perhaps even more so in the powerful 2013 vintage. Behind the light, vivid, limpid colour lie deep, sweet berry fruit flavours, tightly bound up in fine but assertive fruit and oak tannins. The wine has its charms now, but from past experience we can expect the delicate and lovely fruit to flourish with a decade or so of cellaring. First reviewed in July 2015, the 2013 vintage looks even better half a year later, especially given its outstanding cellaring record.

Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2013
Saar River, Mosel wine region, Germany
$35
Roman Niewodniczanski’s historic wine estate, at Wiltingen, Germany, makes a range of single-vineyard rieslings as well as this dazzling blend from steep sites on the Saar River. At Manta Restaurant, Woolloomooloo, bone-dry Van Volxem 2013 served both as an aperitif and company for a variety of juicy, NSW oysters. Delicate yet intensely flavoured, with a laser edge of acidity, the wine suited the food, the moment and the setting. The unique combination of power and delicacy of Saar and Mosel rieslings comes from the very cool growing conditions at around 49 degrees north. The Saar flows north into the Mosel near Trier. Wines from both rivers belong to the official Mosel wine region. Imported by Fox Beverages and available by order through fine wine retailers.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 30 March 2016 in the Canberra Times

Farewell Edgar Riek, Canberra wine pioneer

Edgar Riek - CT cover

Dr Edgar Riek
1 May 1920 to 9 February 2016

How can we sketch even a portion of a life as long, rich, varied and inventive as Edgar Riek’s? The 95-year-old Canberra wine pioneer, and founder of the National Wine Show of Australia, died Tuesday 9 February 2016, following a fall a day earlier.

Riek’s influence rippled through every one of the diverse areas that came under his gaze, including his distinguished CSIRO science career, viticulture, wine, winemaking, horticulture, fly fishing, bridge and food.

In a Canberra Times article marking Riek’s 90th birthday in 2010, Albert Caton chronicled some of Riek’s non-wine-related achievements:

“One of the old-school natural scientists, Riek’s main professional interests concentrated on the study of insects. He wrote eight of the chapters of the definitive Insects of Australia. Somehow, he also managed to find time to prepare a definitive taxonomic work on the Australian freshwater decapods (yabbies, marrons, Tasmanian freshwater crayfish, and such)”.

Caton also notes Riek’s breeding, at his Lake George property, of prickle-less prickly pear and thin-skinned walnuts. He also established there hundreds of fruit and nut trees, including truffle-inoculated hazelnuts, a magnificent bay tree and a spectacular mulberry tree. Later, in his Ainslie backyard, he crossed small, looking-up hellebores with a tall, droopy variety to produce a vase-friendly, mid-sized, looking-up version.

Perhaps Riek’s most enduring contribution to Canberra horticulture, came long before his move into grape growing. At a time when garden books referred to European practices, he contributed chapters for the Canberra Gardner (now in its 10th edition) on “varieties growing in Canberra and their propagation”, writes Caton.

In 1953, eight years after joining the CSIRO in Canberra, Riek and others founded the Canberra Wine and Food Society. The club originally bottled its own wine, but gradually developed an extensive cellar and took food as seriously as it did wine. But Riek’s interest in wine and food extended well beyond club activities.

A 2006 Canberra Times article reported Riek worked for a time on CSIRO weed research in Bright, Victoria, and took the opportunity to visit nearby Rutherglen. “I just started going to Rutherglen fairly regularly, two or three times a year, and got to know that industry very well – so much so that they invited me to judge at the Rutherglen shows”, said Riek.

The Rutherglen connection sparked a life-long friendship with winemaker Mick Morris and led to Riek’s great expertise in making and blending fortified wine. Indeed, a barrel of Riek muscat lies under his Ainslie house. And other barrels of fortified remain in Riek’s old winery, says current owner Peter Wiggs.

Later, Riek and his wife Mary purchased land on the western shore of Lake George. Here they pastured their daughter Helen’s horse and established fruit and nut trees. In 1971, shortly after buying the land, Riek planted his first grape vines. In the same year, another brilliant CSIRO scientist, Dr John Kirk, planted vines at Murrumbatemen.

The Canberra wine industry was thus established in 1971 by two distinguished scientists acting entirely independently of one another.

With little information about which wine grapes might grow best, Riek planted 40 varieties, including several native American and Chinese vines. However, the Burgundy varieties, pinot noir and chardonnay, featured prominently in the 3.25-hectare vineyard.

He held great hopes for the pair, and at a lunch celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Canberra District Vignerons Association on 20 November 2015, Riek recalled, “I thought we had Burgundy conditions”.

Like any of Riek’s decisive actions, his selection of the Lake George site resulted from a thorough understanding of what was required to grow grapes and other plants successfully.

Winemaker Alex McKay worked on the property during Riek’s ownership. He also led a rejuvenation of the site for the Karelas family some years after they purchased it from Riek.

McKay says, “His site selection was absolutely brilliant. It was brilliant how he worked it out”. Riek had figured that even on a very slight slope, warm air moved to the slightly higher northern end of Lake George, providing a measure of frost protection. And Riek had told winemaker Ken Helm how his car windows defrosted as he drove along that section of the lake.

McKay adds, “the soil, drainage and aspect” all suit grape growing, and “you would struggle to find better sites in the area”.

By “sites”, McKay refers not just to the Lake George vineyard, but a vineyard site Riek selected on Mount Majura for a friend, Dinny Killen in the late 1980s. The vineyard now belongs to Mount Majura Winery.

Winemaker Frank van der Loo says he came to Majura aware Riek had selected the site. But he became deeply impressed as he realised the depth of Riek’s involvement. He selected the site for a reason, then designed the irrigation and vineyard layout and even helped in the digging and planting.

Had Riek done nothing more than establish Lake George vineyard and identify the Mount Majura site, he would have left an enduring legacy. But his influence reached far wider.

On the strength of Riek’s savoury pinot noirs, Jim Lumbers hoped to establish a vineyard next door. He sought Riek’s help, and he obliged. “Edgar persuaded the owner, Betty Bolas [Riek’s next door neighbour in Ainslie], to subdivide the land and sell half to me”, recalls Lumbers. He adds, “Edgar identified the best bit of the land [for a vineyard]”. Lumbers, with partner Anne Caine, subsequently established Lerida Estate and winery on the site.

In 1974, Riek with John Kirk and Ken Helm formed the Canberra District Vignerons Association. All three attended its 41st anniversary lunch last year, where Riek gave what was probably his last public speech.

Riek’s wine interests reached well beyond the Canberra District. Over many years he developed a network of friendships with major figures in the Australian industry.

The networks indicate deft political skills on Riek’s part, which he used to build the Canberra Wine Show,  later the National Wine Show of Australia, on behalf of the National Capital Agricultural Society.

Riek acknowledged support he received in the early days from the Hunter Valley’s Murray Tyrrell and Lindeman’s Ray Kidd. And over a longer period, the influential Len Evans helped Riek forever tweak the quality of the national show.

Riek’s intense curiosity about every aspect of food and wine (and whatever else attracted his interest) drew him into a wide network of colleagues and friends. Those interviewed for this article noted an intense, unremitting curiosity, inventiveness, ability to apply knowledge, and a lifelong willingness to embrace and explore new ideas.

Winemaker Nick O’Leary described him as “a good friend and mentor” who only recently visited the winery to comment on his 2015 wines. Winewise owner, Lester Jesberg, likewise called him a friend and mentor.

Alex McKay of Collector Wines worked with Riek as a uni student. Riek inspired him to become a winemaker through his “attention to detail, precision and deep understanding of biology, ecology and so on”. Riek also loved the sensual rewards of his trade and insisted on good food and interesting wine with lunch after a hard morning’s work.

“He was the ultimate forager”, says McKay, with a profound understanding of seasons and habitats. Riek would visit Lake Bathurst for sea-eagle eggs, climb nearby poplars for other eggs and eat anything that moved or grew.

Suzie and Ian Hendry, long-term vignerons, recall being alarmed by Riek’s appetite for fungi. Despite his great knowledge on the subject, he’d occasionally announce plans to try a new variety and would they please check up on him if he didn’t visit in the morning. They eventually paid for a phone to be installed in his farm cabin.

Riek’s old friend, wine merchant David Farmer, recalls, “Edgar would try things. He didn’t dismiss ideas. He embraced them. He would try, reject and try something new. He would join with other like-minded people in a collegiate approach”. That collegiate, scientific approach became a founding principle of the Canberra wine scene. Riek’s influence on it was profound and will continue.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 16 and 17 February 2016 in goodfood.com.au and the Canberra Times