I don’t bang the drum about it too much, but I am a fan of a number of different Riesling and, whilst my main focus is split between Germany, Alsace and Austria, I also rate a number of Australian examples, from both the Clare Valley and Western Australia.
With this in mind, a friend in the trade sent me a sample of the 2020 Mount Barker Riesling from Capel Vale that he thought might surprise me. I was seriously impressed by the quality and the value for money. I don’t know the wines of Capel Vale well and had never tasted their Riesling before, so this was a first.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a Riesling to tuck away in the cellar for a decade or more; this is a wine to be drunk on release and over the next five years, though having tasted this wine from their "Regional Series", I am now keen to taste their single vineyard Riesling.
In 1974, Capel Vale was established – this is the year that the first vines were planted on the estate. This pioneering estate set up vineyards in three separate Western Australian regions, namely the Margaret River, Geographe, and Mount Barker. It was Dr Peter Pratten who established the estate with his wife Elizabeth, but the running of the estate passed to their son, Simon, in the mid-2000s. The Riesling in question comes from Mount Barker – a site well suited to cultivating high class Riesling. This is a cool site which benefits from ocean breezes and granitic, sandy soils. Capel Vale has been producing noteworthy Riesling from this site since the mid-1980s – in 1986 they won the Australian National Dry White Champion for one of their Riesling. It was the first time a wine from Western Australia had won this award.
Sticking with awards, the 2020 Mount Barker Riesling was a Gold Medal Winner at the 2021 International Wine Challenge, being awarded 96 points, with the following note :
Very fine nose of white peach and lime with hints of nectarine and mandarin. Chiselled, austere and haughty, with supreme power and self-confidence. Ripe apricots, rock salt and lemon zest acidity, leading to a super finish. Will age superbly.
You probably know by now that I don’t hold a huge sway on awards from wine shows, and I would not offer a wine purely based on it winning a medal in a show if I could not verify the findings myself. Fortunately, I have verified the quality on show here!
The 2020 Mount Barker Riesling is a cracking glass of wine. It’s not the finest glass of Riesling I have ever tasted, but it punches well above its humble status, and I wouldn’t be surprised if 2020 ranks as one of their finest vintages, as this wines delivers much more than you might expect. Please see my full note below.