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SUMMER 2016: MERLE’S BIG DAY OUT

By Neil Pike

clare-valley-wine-show-win-editWell, we did it again. We scooped the pool at the 2016 Clare Valley Regional Wine Show for the third straight year.

The 2016 “The Merle” Riesling won all the important Riesling trophies on offer and Andrew Pike was awarded Viticulturist of the Year for the second time in three years.

“The Merle” won the Mick Knappstein Trophy for Best Current Vintage Riesling, the trophy for Best Riesling Any Vintage, the trophy for Best Single Vineyard Wine and the Jim Barry Trophy for Best Wine of Show.

I consider our local Clare Wine Show the most important show we enter each year and the Mick Knappstein Trophy the most important trophy awarded and the one that we aspire most to win.

For those not aware, Mick Knappstein of Stanley Wine Co / Leasingham fame, was one of the doyens of our region. His name sits very comfortably alongside luminaries such as Jim & Brian Barry, Roly Birks and Bro John May as major contributor in shaping the Clare Valley as we know it today.

The trophy named in Mick’s honor must be one of the most important trophies awarded for Australian dry Riesling each year. The Clare Valley has rightfully been recognised for many years as one our premier regions for dry Riesling production, so this makes perfect sense to me.

From a global perspective, it is only in recent times that Riesling producers in Germany, France, Austria, USA, NZ etc. have started to explore dry Riesling production with some enthusiasm.

This has come about for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, there has been a steady increase in global demand for dry white wine during the past 25 -30 years. NZ Sauvignon Blanc has been a major beneficiary of this with sales of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc soaring over the last decade or more. No doubt Riesling producers around the world (including this Riesling producer) have eyed this growth with some jealousy.

Second, and by no way least, climate change has allowed Riesling producers in the cooler parts of the world to ripen their fruit to the point where they can ferment their wines dry without having to leave a fair swag of residual sweetness to balance out naturally high acidity.

In recent years Pikes has had several visits from high profile producers from both the Old and the New world wanting to learn more about Aussie dry Riesling and how we go about making our wines. They openly tell us that they aspire to make dry Riesling and believe it could be an important part of their production in the future.

When I see such famous Riesling names as Dr Loosen, Keller, Breuer, Donhoff, Ch St Michelle etc. dipping their respective toes into dry Riesling production it makes me think our dry Aussie Rieslings could be part of an upward surge in global demand for this style.

If that is the case and Aussie Riesling is part of any upturn in global demand for dry Riesling, then it may well be that, in time, the Mick Knappstein Trophy will become one of the most important dry Riesling trophies going around.

That would make quite a few Riesling producers around our valley very happy and I have a feeling that both Merle & Mick would be quite pleased too.

 

Heads Up – Pikes Reserve Reds
As usual, we plan to release some reserve reds next Autumn. We will debut our 2014 “E.W.P.” Shiraz and 2015 “Premio” Sangiovese. The “E.W.P.” continues down the pathway of recent high quality vintages and is worth getting. The “Premio” is probably the best we have produced so far – a wine chock-full of juicy, ripe fruit and readily displaying the fine, savoury tannins for which the variety is known. Sadly, the fruit for the “Hill Block” Cabernet in 2014 was not quite up to scratch, so we have decided not to bottle it as a reserve wine. However, I can happily report that the “Hill Block” returned to form in 2015 and this wine will be released in the Autumn of 2018. Cabernet lovers should mark this in their diary.

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