“It can withstand comparison with many a Grosses Gewächs from Germany,” wrote Jancis Robinson of the second release of the Wolta Wolta Riesling. She summarised the wine as “Really beautifully balanced, appetising, mature Riesling,” and ended up marvelling: “How do they do it?”
The “they” in question are two sets of tireless, fearless Riesling pioneers: Ernst Loosen and the Barry family.
The GG comparison is apt insofar as this is an ambitious Riesling. It’s the ultimate dry expression of a grand-cru vineyard: The high-altitude (480m), 1979-planted Block 18 on the Lodge Hill site in Clare. The wine is wild fermented in a traditional German oak Fuder provided by Dr Loosen and raised in the fashion of Erni’s world-renowned Grosses Gewächs wines. So far so German.
It’s important to add, however, that this is no Teutonic wannabe. Riesling, that great transmitter of terroir, cannot help but wear Clare on its sleeve. That interplay of something so deliciously familiar within a slightly foreign framework is partly what makes Wolta Wolta so beguiling. It’s “a different, more savoury and textural expression of Clare,” as Gary Walsh wrote of the ’19. Describing the 2017 debut, Nick Ryan nailed the Aussie-German paradox perfectly: “It’s texturally fascinating, its edges buffed and fine, the acidity still clearly evident and crucial but seeming to sit deeper in the wine. It’s incredibly complex and utterly compelling.”
On one level this is a wine for those who adore the mind-blowing versatility of Riesling.
More generally, though, here’s a special something for anyone who loves the interplay of grape and place, cross-pollination of ideas, advancement of wine culture or the calm contemplation of a damn fine drink.
On 27th February 2019, five tonnes of Riesling was hand harvested and sorted from Block 18 (planted in 1979) at our Lodge Hill vineyard. We harvested the fruit at 12 .0 Baumé. Fruit was stored in a cold room overnight to bring the temperature below 10˚C. Once destemmed and crushed, the fruit was then pressed into stainless steel for 12 hours to settle, before being racked into the 3,000 litre German oak ‘Fuder’ cask. The light lees were racked which assisted a wild ferment to take place after five days.
Fermentation took four weeks with the temperature maintained at 18˚C. When residual sugar was below 10g/L, cooling was turned on to arrest the fermentation at 5g/L, achieving sugar-acid balance. The wine then rested on full yeast lees for 22 months at 10˚C before being transferred to stainless steel where it sat on fine lees at 1˚C for a further month. Our 2019 Wolta Wolta was bottled on 27th January 2021 and, after spending a year in bottle, was released on 1st April 2022.
Apple, hazelnut, aniseed and lime rind, some floral notes, and sea spray. Texture is firm and grainy, and there’s a gloss and nutty character too, adding interest and overlay to the green pear and apple flavour, maybe tobacco in the mix, and a firm and long finish of grip and stony feel. A different, more savoury and textural expression of Clare, and very good.95 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
Pale colour, youthful for its years. The reserved aromas deliver scents of dried flowers and dried herbs and as the wine enters the mouth, there is a touch of sweetness that accompanies super-fine fruit flavour, with a juiciness that harmonises well with seamless acidity. The palate is effortlessly intense and long and quite delicious. At this price, though, I’d be cellaring it a little longer to enjoy the wine in its maturity.96 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review