Nick O’Leary White Rocks riesling leads world-class Canberra lineup

Nick O’Leary “White Rocks” Riesling 2013
Westering vineyard, Lake George, Canberra District, NSW

Canberra winemaker Nick O’Leary sources grapes for White Rocks from one of Canberra’s oldest vineyards, planted by Captain Geoff Hood in 1973. These venerable old vines, with huge trunks, produce tiny crops of powerfully flavoured grapes. O’Leary’s definitely onto something special with this unique, powerful yet delicate riesling, with its intense, citrusy varietal flavour and invigorating, lemony-tart finish. This is another notch above the excellent 2013 reviewed last year. O’Leary says the old, unirrigated vines yielded just two tonnes to the hectare.

Nick O’Leary Shiraz 2014 $30
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Nick O’Leary’s 2014 shiraz topped its class at this year’s Canberra regional wine show. A month later, judges at the NSW Wine Industry Awards named it NSW Wine of the Year, a double for O’Leary after winning the same award in 2014. The limpid 2014 offers sweet and alluring red-berry and spice aromas. The vibrant, fresh, medium-bodied palate precisely reflects the aroma, with its spicy, rich, berry fruit flavours and underlying savouriness. Soft, silky tannins give the wine its smooth texture, gentle finish and elegant structure.

Capital Wines The Whip Riesling 2015
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Capital’s wines, white and red, share a trait – what wine judges call “closed” or “tight”. The jargon appears pejorative, suggesting something unpleasant or unapproachable. In fact, the words generally refer to wines in which structural elements – acid for whites, tannin for reds – initially mask the underlying fruit flavours. The Whip certainly falls into this category as the lemony acid zings across the palate. But a bit of aeration, or bottle age, reveals a slowly blossoming and delicious fruit flavour. The acid then accentuates the fruit, preserves it over time and provides a refreshing dry finish.

Capital Wines The Frontbencher Shiraz 2013
Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

In a fast-paced masked tasting of 20 Canberra 2013-vintage shirazes last year, The Frontbencher led with its tannin structure. The underlying fruit barely peeped through. Fourteen months later, a more relaxed Frontbencher reveals sweet and spicy berry-like varietal flavour welling up through the still assertive tannins. The two harmonise, giving a taut, savoury dry red of great appeal.

Gallagher Blanc de Blanc 2010 $50
Gallagher vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Greg Gallagher’s 2009 Blanc de Blanc won a silver medal at the Canberra regional wine show. It’s almost old out in November. But the equally good 2010 is due for release on 1 December. A full-bodied style, it offers really fresh and vibrant melon-like varietal flavours, with the patina of brioche-like flavours and creamy, chewy texture derived from ageing on yeast lees in bottle for five years. Gallagher makes, bottles, matures and despatches his outstanding bubblies from his own purpose-built cellars at Murrumbateman.

Lark Hill Riesling 2015
Lark Hill vineyard, Lake George Escarpment, Canberra District, NSW
Lark Hill’s riesling vines, planted in 1978, sit a couple of hundred metres higher than most of their Canberra district peers. The higher altitude means cooler, later ripening and, for the resultant wine, a notably different flavour and structure to those grown on lower, warmer sites. The aroma, reminiscent of some German rieslings, combines apple-like character with Australian riesling’s more familiar lime-like intensity. A richly textured palate delivers the same flavours, strung along a fine, assertive acid backbone.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 24 and 25 November 2015 in and the Canberra Times