Australia’s top Gruners – the annual face-off between Lark Hill and Hahndorf Hill Gru
Following what has become a semi-regular tradition, today I’m looking at what is arguably Australia’s top Gruner Veltliners in a proper face off.
Both of these wines come from the 2014 vintage, which wasn’t easy for either Canberra (hot summer and then wet) or the Adelaide Hills (cool, then hot and with a downpour). Still, both wineries seem to have made a good fist of it.
From where I sit this is a pretty well matched contest. I’ve liked the
extra weight in the Lark Hill before, but the freshness of the Hahndorf
can also make it an enjoyable drink. In the future I should probably
compare the ‘Gru 2’ (Hahndorf Hill’s richer new Gruner, see below) to the Lark Hill, but the Hahndorf has put on some
weight recently too. Anyway, It’s going to be close.
So, in the white (wine) corner we have the Hahndorf Hill Gru Gruner Veltliner 2014 – sourced from the beautiful (and well located) Hahndorf Hill winery in the Adelaide Hills, the plantings dating back to 2006, the style dry (TA 62.g/L, pH 3.18, 2.9g/L RS) and made using various components, some picked early for freshness, some later, with wild fermented batches too. It’s perhaps most akin to the crisp and aromatic Federspiel style (to get all Austrian. Hahndorf Hill’s ‘Gru 2’ is picked riper and built in a more Smaragd-ish style of power and weight). I noticed the Gru picked up a gold medal at the Sydney Wine Show too…
Now, in the other white wine corner we have the Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014, sourced from plantings that date back to 2004 (different vine source) and also made in a dry style, though I think richer than the Hahndorf (it’s all wild fermented in old oak). As mentioned 2014 was also a very tricky vintage for what is the highest vineyard in Canberra (at Bungendore. Worth a visit), with a hot summer and then serious rain. Crops were small.
Hahndorf Hill Gru Gruner Veltliner 2014 12% $28
Green straw yellow, the nose carries that trademark white pepper varietal signature with a dash of celery. Very much driven by texture, the palate has white nectarine fruit, a suggestion of some barrel fermentation vanilla and lemony fruit to finish. Every bit the varietal Gruner, it’s surprisingly soft and quite generous, the palate mouthfilling but perhaps not as long as some vintages. More than a simple Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling alternative, this has some layers of flavour, making for a nice wine, without shattering any earths. 17.5/20, 91/100
Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014 12.5% $45
Straw yellow in colour, it’s immediately a different wine to the Hahndorf – less nectarine, more pepper. It’s a bit sullen in some ways, with some suggestions of the cool and wet season finish with the flash of mint and nettle (maybe a little rot?). Palate wise its taut and dry, with none of the flesh of the Gru but undoubtedly more structure (and loads more acidity). Interest wise it takes the points, but the Gru’s affability might actually make it a more rounded wine. 17.7/20, 92/100
Winner – Lark, by a nod. Gru 2 might have its measure though…