In my previous post, Botrytised Dessert Wines: Part 1, The Alchemy Process!, I mentioned how important climate was for activating the dormant spores of botrytis cinera on the grapes to create the noble rot that is necessary for making wonderfully fragrant and flavourful sweet wine.
Fortunately, Australia’s Riverina shares many climatic similarities with Sauternes, the celebrated French sweet wine region and home of one of the most famous wines in the world, Chateau D’Yquem.
Like Sauternes, the Riverina experiences early morning frost and fog late in the growing season, allowing the all important botrytised mould to develop on the grapes. While the nights are cool, the warm, dry days when intermingled with just the right amount of humidity from light rains encourage the development of the noble rot.
Australia’s most lauded botrytised wine, De Bortoli Noble One, was one of the first botrytised wines produced in the Riverina and is still a benchmark for the style. Created by Darren De Bortoli at the family winery in Bilbul, this year the winery celebrated the 25th vintage of this famous wine with the release of the the 2007 vintage.
Since 2000 the wine has been made by De Bortoli senior executive winemaker Julie Mockton. A blend of French oaked and un-oaked botrytis semillon, Noble One shares all the hallmarks of a great Sauternes. Typically bright gold in colour, this rich, opulent wine exhibits fresh and complex aromas ranging from peach, cumquat, nectarine and floral honey complemented with hints of well integrated sweet vanillin oak. The palate is rich, vibrant and luscious with layers of flavour including apricot, peach, citrus and subtle French oak.
Under the direction of winemaker Rob Fiumara, Lillypilly Estate also makes a very fine and reasonably priced sweet wine. The Lillypilly Estate Noble Blend 2008 (rrp $22.50), for example, is a rich and complex wine with just the right amount of acidity to balance the sweetness.
Other stand-out Riverina producers included Nugan Estate. Its Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon 2005 (rrp $20.95) was awarded 94 points by James Halliday and picked up the award for Best International Sweet Wine under 10 pounds at Decanter’s World Wine Awards in 2006.
Recently the Nugan Estate KLN Botrytis Semillon 2007 was awarded a gold medal at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. Here’s what the judges had to say:
Lemon gold colour, beautifully transluscent and gleaming. Lifted apricot and floral honey aromas, fig biscuit, caramel and dried citrus. Deliciously intense in the mouth, fabulous concentration of sweetness, spice and acid. The acid really sharpens the mouthfeel and sculpts the sweet elements into a true force. Beautiful lingering lemon drop finish. Wonderful stuff.
Westend Estate in the Riverina, owned by the Calabaria familly since 1945, makes the superb 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis Semillon ($19.95). The 2008 vintage won Best Sweet Wine at the NSW Wine Awards in 2008.
Botrytised wines work beautifully with dessert but they also go well with savoury appetisers like French pate. No matter what the occasion, these wines represent excellent value and have a taste sensation that will linger long after the bottle is finished!