Duke’s Sets New Riesling Mark

Riesling has had an extraordinary impact on my life.

Many years ago, as a young wine zealot, I finally made the decision to resign from my reasonably senior position in Ford Motor Company to join the wine industry after tasting a series of John Vickery’s wonderful old Leo Buring’s Rieslings.

Of the several thousand white grape varieties used to make some wine commercially somewhere, chardonnay and riesling are clearly the finest.

The context is that John Vickery’s Buring’s Rieslings were the greatest in this country between the 1950s and the 1970s. Brian Croser’s Petaluma Rieslings then became this country’s standout until Jeffery Grosset changed the way that Australian rieslings were produced to both a finer and more international style than ever previously in the 1990s and certainly by 2002.

Is the baton about to be handed on once more?

The fruit quality in Duke Ranson’s Magpie Hill Reserve range from the Porongurups in the Great Southern is extraordinary. Duke and Hilde’s wines are made by Rob Diletti at Castle Rock who has an extraordinary capital city show record with this variety in this country. He has won many riesling trophies including up to three in one year.

It’s not only Rob’s riesling though, it is also the quality in the fruit of the Great Southern when it is compared to that in Australia’s long-famed riesling areas, the Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia.

For example, in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2017, the west, with 3-4% of Australia’s riesling, provided 35% (with three, or 13%, made for various wineries at Castle Rock) of James Halliday’s 23 highest pointed riesling for the year. In 2016, this figure was also 35% (12.5% at Castle Rock) of the highest ranked 17, and in 2015 this was 40% (20% at Castle Rock) of the highest ranked 15. In 2014, the west gained an astonishing 58% of Australia’s highest ranked rieslings, or 15 out of 26 (12% by Castle Rock).

So, given that we have marvellous quality riesling fruit in the Great Southern based on Halliday’s ratings, and then add to this the quality of Rob Diletti’s winemaking at Castle Rock, we then need to place the Duke’s Magpie Hill Riesling into context.

In James Halliday’s view, the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages received 97 points and the 2016 received 98 points. James Halliday, Australia’s best known and most respected wine writer, uses the term ‘prodigious’ to describe the length of this wine. Length of flavour is the key to quality and this wine does have enormous length. Truly outstanding. This alone makes it a great wine and then you add in the benefits of Rob Diletti at Castle Rock’s contract winemaking. As an aside, Duke Ranson invites another winemaker to produce a wine from his Magpie Hill Reserve varieties which also sells under the Duke’s label. In 2016 this maker was Tony Davis from Snake and Herring – who recently gained the Best Chardonnay trophy at Royal Melbourne Wine Show for their 2014 Corduroy release. While of a different style, this shows the same great length.

The Duke Rieslings are not generally available but the James Halliday 98 point Duke’s Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2016 is available at the Cellarbrations Wine Store in Hay Street Subiaco, The Wine Emporium in Stuart Street, Mosman Park, Old Bridge Cellars in North Fremantle and the Freo Doctor in South Terrace Fremantle at about $35.

The Duke’s Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling range is now consistently placed amongst Australia’s half dozen greatest rieslings – and maybe it’s better than that.

John Jens, March 10th 2017