Ahhh, the perpetual love-hate relationship.
I love textural white wines so much, with the intoxicating sensuality of a mouthfilling Gewurz or the absorbing contrasts of a classic Bordeaux blend something bloody magical.
Yet as a genre, there is so much junk amongst the textural whites. Think flavourless Pinot Grigio, Gewurz that tastes like sweet dish soap and gross Viognier that it makes me grumpy just thinking about it.
You can read some of my travails with the category over the years here too.
Anyway, these twenty textural white wines are the redeemers – reminders that there is much joy to be had in among the oceans of mediocrity (and thank fuck for that).
Polperro Fumé Blanc 2020
This is Australian Sauvignon taken seriously. Sourced from the Landaviddy Lane Vineyard, the mode is closer to one of the great Polperro Chardonnay releases rather than something ‘typical’. Handpicked whole bunches go straight to tank, the juice drained off to barrel over a nine month period, with minimal additions, no pressing, the wine finally bottled without filtering or fining. So natural wine, but not carrying the badge. It’s seriously complex too – a huge mouthful of sweaty passionfruit, oatmeal, lemon barley sugar, nutty bits, a little creamed asparagus, biscotti too. Lots to grab hold of. What a mouthful too – bold, richly layered and phenolic. It’s a heavyweight, so thick and drying. Its like a NEIIPA! Is it too much? I don’t know. But I love that every sip gives layers of flavour. It’s varietal, but takes more cues from the wilder end of the Loire than most Australian or Kiwi Sauv. Maybe not an easy drink, but an involving wine.
Best drinking: now. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.2%, $50. Would I buy it? Not sure. I admire it, but could I drink a whole bottle? Probably.
Even Keel Pinot Gris 2020
Even Keel is Sam Coverdale’s second label behind Polperro, yet that often reflects the non-estate vineyard sourcing rather than quality. This Mornington Gris is a win too. It just feels better thought out. Alsace in the headlights, except with a little more fruit ripeness. Pear. Oatmeal, ripeish fruir, integrated acidity and then some phenolic crunch. It’s maybe a smidgen raw to finish, but the push pull acid-texture is bang on. A win.
Best drinking: now. 18/20, 93/100. 12.8%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Vino Intrepido Sting Like A Bee Fiano 2020
Another great Mornington wine. Yeah I dig the Peninsula’s wines, I’ll take the bias. This is James Scarcebrook’s best recent Vino Intrepido offering too. A bit of skin contact, some time in barrel, full malo. It’s surprisingly rare to see a good golden local Fiano, but this has the vaunted honeysuckle. It’s lovely – generous, vibrant, mouth filling, yet just on the right side of weightiness to be refreshing, all yellow apples and softish edges despite the acidity. Balance, achieved.
Best drinking: now. 18/20, 93/100. 12%, $32.99. Would I buy it? Yes.
Balgownie Estate Viognier 2020
Previously this Viognier fruit went into the Shiraz, but the changing Bendigo climate means that it now ripens 2-3 weeks earlier than the earliest Shiraz parcel. Thanks climate change! Asshole. Anyway, this is good Viognier, so probably best to keep it alone anyway. Wild fermented in old barrels. Minimal sulphur, no malo, 10 months on fine lees. 120 cases produced. Lean, just-ripe, yellow peach with the barest kiss of apricot. Nice. Crisp, yet the palate fills out with enough richness to be convincing. It’s just a little lean – half or even a quarter baume more ripeness wouldn’t hurt, but that’s easy to say from the cheap seats here. Long though. Quality Viognier.
Best drinking: nowish, but no hurry. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Juxtaposed Fiano 2021
Wes Pearson says that 2021 was the ‘nicest (Fiano) fruit we’ve seen come off this vineyard. Sadly, 900L – or half the production – was lost in a winery accident, so volumes are down this year too. It’s McLaren Vale Fiano fermented on solids in tank and old barrels. Just 220 six packs produced. Tangy yellow apple fruit, with this solidsy nutty edge to the palate which fleshed it out, making for a wine of some layers, coupled with a cloudy apple juice oxidative tang that is quite refreshing. That tang is pretty divisive though – don’t come looking for fruity juice wine. Probably the most successful iteration of this wine yet though I think.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $29. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Pizzini Arneis 2021
A leader in Arneis does it again. A cascade of sour apple fruit, the palate snappy and fresh like nothing else. It’s almost too tangy, but thats part of the deal – it’s seriously long, if a bit singular. Feels like a Riesling met a Fiano. It’s striking though – that appley freshness is something else. I like.
Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $24. Would I buy it? Yes.
Pizzini Pinot Grigio 2021
Nice people the Pizzini family. Take Pinot Grigio seriously too, which is so welcome. This wine is a benchmark, for that matter – a succulent, ultra fresh and delicately framed white that is fine, fresh and nuanced, with just a flutter of pear on the otherwise lean, springwater-like tight palate. Great freshness here. It grows on you with the pristine flavours. I like the honesty and vitality.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $22. Would I buy it? Yes.
Soumah Pinot Grigio 2021
Two good Grigio in a row? I’m dreaming! This Yarra white is another goodun’ that looks towards the mountains of Collio mode. Sourced from the Hexham Vineyard, with a little skin contact giving it some pink hues. Good! Let’s make more pink Grigio that tastes ok. This has ripe pear flavour, the acid and fruit match up and it manages to be varietal, affable and serious enough. Enjoyable because it’s so far beyond just acidic pear water.
Best drinking: now. 17.7/20. 92/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? Let’s share a bottle.
Vina Samoza Ededia Godello 2020
So much enthusiasm around for these Spanish Godello discoveries. This comes from Valdeorras and captures some of the ‘Spain’s answer to white Burgundy’ hype. Waxy, leesy and delicate, this has a filigreed, waxed and creamed peppery pear beauty to it, the fruit courtesy of some bitter lemon. While it has lovely delicacy, and this smoky nutty edge of complexity, underneath it’s a rather primary wine – something fresh and pure but a bit linear and neutral in contrast to the promise of he nose. Still fine and Classy, but I expected a bit more layers after that nose. No alcohol noted that I could see.
Best drinking: good now and over the next few years. 17.7/20, 92/100. $65. Would I buy it? Worth a glass or two.
Longview Macclesfield Gruner Veltliner 2021
I really like these new Macclesfield wines from Longview – genuinely well made and representative. Celery and green apple grapefruit on the nose, all present and correct. Gruner that shares some DNA with Adelaide Hills Riesling. Tangy, phenolic palate is fresh and tangy in a peppered grapefruit mode. It’s a good fresh drink, varietal and well made, certainly quality, if a little bit too direct and one speed to be great.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Paisley Linen Fiano 2021
Adelaide Hills Fiano from this solid label. Light and lemony nose, but the palate is layered and clever, with a nutty oxidative edge – a little lemon rind, mothballs, tending to peach nougat. Lots going on! It’s just a little angular to finish, but undoubted complexity. Good.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
The Little Wine Company Vermentino 2021
Vermentino is such a promising grape for the Hunter for the crafting of good honest drinking wine, taking over the mantle, incidentally, taking over the mantle from another V grape (the maligned, yet unsexy Verdelho). A little trivia – the fruit for this comes from the iconic Roxburgh Vineyard in the Upper Hunter, made famous in the mid 90s for wildly popular, wildly indulgent top tier Chardonnay under the forgotten Rosemount label. I’ve always thought the vineyard was sadly sold off as part of a yet another coal mine development before being smooshed. But thankfully there are some vines left, and now the old Chardonnay is being grafted over to Vermentino. This mid weight, dry, chunky-yet-fresh white has an intensity often missing in local Vermentino,l too, complete with a compact palate and quite prominent acidity. Jasmine and white spice says the back label, which I see too. Maybe a little tart, but promise aplenty.
Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.2%, $26. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Hentyfarm Pinot Gris 2021
Bring on the pink Pinot Gris revolution! A ramato revolution even. A little skin contact gives this Henty Gris interest, with a flourish of rose water, orange juice and pink grapefruit, the palate filled out by phenolics but ultimately a bit lean for that grip, the acidity like a sparkling spanking to finish. It’s solid, but a bit half way camp style that is trying to be fresh and textural.
Best drinking: nowish. 17/20, 90/100. 12.3%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Lovable Rogue Skin Contact Vermentino 2021
Hunter Vermentino from Carillion, given extended lees contact and a wild ferment. More experimentation! Great. For all the wild intentions, this is pretty safe fruity white wine. Has some nice florals, and the fruit intensity, gets ramped up as a result, with just a smidgen pithy skin phenolics. The length is what saves it – this lingers long. Be good to see a wilder version, as it could be great.
Best drink: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13.2%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Monterra Pinot Grigio 2021
Adelaide Hills Grigio. Fair varietal fare, although more Gris than classic Grigio. Pear juice aplenty, the palate a blunt edged, but mouth filling explosion of sour pear juice. Good intensity, if sour, and it’s a solid drink.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? A glass.
Richard Hamilton Les Collines Pinot Gris 2021
Pink hues to this bright, and affable Gris. It’s catching! #pinkGris4ever. What this Adelaide Hills Gris lacks in concentration it delivers in easy balance, with marzipan, pink grapefruit and very soft acidity. I don’t mind it at all
Best drinking: now: 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $24. Would I buy it? A glass.
Small Victories Vermentino 2021
Sourced From Ricca Terra Farms, aka the hotbed of Riverland innovation. A bit of Verdelho like fruit salad flavour going on here – talc coated pear and mango. Generous, yet tart, it’s a fun simple summer wine of fruit generosity and then crisp finish. It’s a bit fleeting, but undoubted drinking joy.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $27. Would I buy it? A glass.
Soumah Tutto Bianco 2021
Savagnin, Chardonnay, Viognier & Pinot Grigio. This is a good fruity drink. You can see all the varietal stamps, each playing a part, making for a fruit salad wine with plenty of flavour. Not complex, but plenty of fruit in a crisp fresh sort of wine, complete with lingering stonefruit richness through the finish. Good. Drink me now stuff.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
The Other Wine Co. Pinot Gris 2021
Adelaide Hills. Surprisingly generous this year, with a suggestion of residual sugar to fill out the palate, complementing the ripe pear fruit. Simple flavours, crisp enough, but not much beyond that, although the palate stretches out through the finish. Solid, drink-me-now fuller style Gris.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $26. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Vino Intrepido Pound of Flesh Vermentino 2021
Skin contact Vermentino from Nagambie Lakes. Cloudy pink grapefruit colour. Orange and apple juice palate suggests it’s going to be mouth filling, but it’s really just lean, the phenolics sucking the generosity out of it. Apple juicy palate is refreshing though – like a tonic sort of vibe. Will work a treat as a summer drink.
Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $27.99. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
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