Having sold most of Kilikanoon, Clare’s Kevin Mitchell and wife Kathleen Bourne open their small-brand sideline enterprise with a suite of cool Rieslings, writes Philip White.
It rattles you? This weather rattles me. Sure, it’s warm enough, but why should I suddenly find it strange to be relishing Riesling halfway into what should be winter? We know it’s like record heat for autumn, and by this time of the year I’m usually disappearing into the indigo and vermilion or the duvet … so shouldn’t a dude be delighted that these bright sunny days provide ideal conditions for sinking Rizza? No?
Relativity. If you were schlücking it with German winemaker Ernie Loosen at the top of a treacherous slate scree above his freezing Erdener Prälat in the Mosel you’d think our freak “Indian” summer was too hot for Riesling.
I’m a sook. Of course you can enjoy Riesling in any weather. At any time of day, for that matter. Like it’s 4.27am now, and I’m steamin through Woodvale. This is the offshoot business of Kathleen Bourne and Kevin Mitchell, based in the west Clare hills in Skillogalee Valley, near the original Mitchell winery of his cousin Andrew and his wife Jane and their tribe. I reviewed those Mitchells’ delicious whites some weeks back. It’s range wars with Riesling out them ways.
Woodvale has emerged as the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company purchased an 80 per cent stake in Kevin Mitchell’s Kilikanoon. Lots of that sort of thing going on round the traps. Woodvale has six Rieslings on the market. Not too much of that.
The idea is to sell some small batches of Riesling a touch more mature, or at least more mellow or more approachable than the rivals. To begin, vineyards in those woody hills and vales to the west of the Main North Road can produce Rieslings which, aromatically, at least, are a tad softer than the more austere marvels grown in the chalky calcrete of Watervale in the crown of these North Mount Lofty Ranges.
In fact, these are more the Clare Hills than a singular valley: like a repeat of the Adelaide Hills bits of the South Mount Lofty Ranges. Clare is a web of upland valleys, like Skillogalee, Penwortham, Sevenhill, Armagh, Watervale, Auburn and the Polish River.
We’re starting in the west. For openers, the bouquet of the Woodvale Skilly Clare Valley Riesling 2014 has buttery hints of honeycomb, or cinder toffee melding neatly with its toast-and-marmalade base. But the flavours are more austere and more typically youthful than that aroma signals, as long and dusty as the summer wind. Pass me a cool peach.
The 2016 Skilly seems even more toasty, in a sort of Semillon direction, with the gentlest beginnings of that petrol-like aroma many regard to be the hallmark of great Clare Riesling. Here the flavours seem better streamlined; the acids and phenolics not so locked up and tight: perhaps more agile; less brittle. Unbuttoned. Little beads of perspiration in the cleavage.
Woodvale Watervale Clare Valley Riesling 2015 is more prim and deliberate in mood. One daren’t ask any cheeky questions here. Nothing squishy about this high-strung beauty. Right from that fine, linear, lemon-lime aroma this is your more elegant, more finely-engineered, long-distance, low-weight sportser. Get a baguette, butter, a handful of fresh cress and drive straight to the nearest King George whiting beach. Don’t get your scarf caught in the spokes.
I reckon the more granular and chalky Watervale 2016 needs oysters so fresh they wince when you hit ’em with the lemon. Meaning the beach will have to be Farm Beach at Coffin Bay. Just get the Fabulous Fordies’ permission to go past Boston Bay Wines. You better take one of their rockin’ Rieslings, too.
This is really fine, long, taut Riesling. It’s like somebody’s put old Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones in the blender so they could never dream of the fleshing-up and reconnecting business. They’ll eventually get round to that, of course, but Lord only knows when.
Woodvale The Khileyre Clare Valley Riesling 2015 is Watervale wound round closer to 11. It’s so compact and compressed it even seems peppery, which leads me to that cress. (Some of the most peppery cress I know is in Moondah Brook, but that’s in the sandhills of Gin Gin, way north of Perth, dammit.) In the savouring/mouthly/swallowing sector, however, it seems to relax enough to make me feel like I could call this a day and head straight to the royal cot, fully sated.
But there’s still The Khilyere 2016 winking at me. Again, this super-refined baby prickles the nostrils with a coastal/dunal array of whiffs as much as the regular citrus-and-chalk of Riesling from these freak Clare uplands. Again, the wine comfortably serves a refined, bone china sort of Riesling, but it’s sufficiently kindly and generous to pat one’s brow and say “Good Boy”.
Spread both sides of a kippered herring with Paris Creek butter. Sizzle gently in the pan, flesh down, skin up. Serve with slivers of lemon, a soft toast, and this. Then get out of bed, dress and proceed.