Two (successful) oddities from St Hallett
I’ve already covered most of the current St Hallett releases recently (here), but there remains two cellar door only additions that are worth a mention. Worth a mention as they show that this winery is on top of it’s game, a fact that I didn’t really need a free lunch (at Jeremy Strode’s recently toqued, superb Sydney restaurant Bistrode) to realise (though I did very much enjoy it).
Much of the credit for this pair has to lie with St Hallett winemaker Toby Barlow. Toby is now the main man at St Hallett, with Stuart Blackwell serving more as roaming global ambassador and brains trust than actual hands on winemaker, though he does lend an opinion at blending time.
The thing I like about Toby is that he gets it. He understands that the St Hallett ethos is all about genuine Barossa styles, that the future for the brand is about polishing these styles to make them more refined, more subtly powerful, more authentic, with evolution not revolution. No alarms, no surprises, just refinement. And it’s working.
These two wines though are Toby’s babies. They are, fittingly, old varieties, from old vines (particularly the Riesling) that trade off old styles, just done differently. Differently, interestingly, successfully.
St Hallett Winter Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA)
From a single plot of old vines located high up in the (wonderful) Eden Valley, this is one unusual Riesling. For starters, it is – by my reckoning – the only Riesling I have ever tasted that was deliberately put through malolactic fermentation. It spent a further year on it’s yeast lees too, which is almost unheard of in terms of Australian dry Riesling production.
Curiously, the end result is actually much drier and leaner than expected. Put next to the 09 vintage ‘standard’ Riesling it looks positively pre-pubescent too, almost confrontingly so. But as it warms in the glass (and after a good swirl) this looks better and better.
As for the flavours, it’s all about lemon citrus, pithy citrus, but fleshed out like a richer style of lemonade. Acid, despite the softening effects of the secondary fermentation, remains a prominent part of this wine, cut in a form that is softer but not stamped out. It actually looks as much like a firm, limey version of a Barossa Semillon as it does a more traditional Eden Valley Riesling, though that shouldn’t be viewed as a negative.
The only question that remains is whether it was any good. At first i wasn’t all that keen, a little startled even, but without realising it (or intending too – it was lunchtime after all) I was reaching for a top up. Would have taken the bottle home too. Based on that realisation alone (I’m a picky bastard about what I actually drink) I’ve got to say that this unusual wine is an absolute winner. Well done. 18/93
St Hallett Touriga Nacional 2009 (Barossa Valley, SA)
What few people realise about St Hallett is that it is basically a small operation, bar one wine: Gamekeepers Reserve. And the secret to the success of Gamekeepers is – in the view of the St Hallett team at least – the Touriga. Each year the percentage of Touriga in the blend has increased, with St Hallett now sewing up all of the Touriga in the Barossa (and planting more too).
Whilst the Touriga is thus an important part of the blend, it’s not normally bottled as a stand alone wine. In 2009, however, it looked might fine indeed, which ultimately led to the creation of this cellar door only bottling.
So what’s it like then? Think Grenache, but savoury, not confected. Mid weight, bright fruited, rich and pretty, it’s quintessentially Barossan. But what it does have is the most unusual mandarin citrus twang right through the middle of the palate. I credit Andrew ‘Red’ Ash from Red to Brown for helping to come up with the ‘orange tang’ descriptor, for it describes this character perfectly. The whole package finishes dry, vibrant and fresh, making for a plain delicious red.
Mark it down as another success for St Hallett. 17.8/92