There’s something to be said for using good examples, but for whatever reason I often do just the opposite. For instance, a good first wine to cover from Barossa would perhaps be the variety for which it is best known – Shiraz. The first Barossa in this blog was the Domain Day Garganega. I’ve done the same sort of thing by writing about wines made in Australia by Frenchmen, wines made in France by Australians, and numerous other reversals of expectations. It’s in that spirits I give you the Grosset Piccadilly 2001.
Another Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, you may ask? Made by an iconic winemaker known better from another region? With a fair amount of bottle age? If this sounds familiar, it is, as the Wolf Blass White Label Chardonnay ticks all the same boxes. Am I just being lazy going for the same type of wine? Having just written up a Picpoul de Pinet, I hope that’s not a serious question. But I do have favourites, and while everything I drink, I drink for you, my readers, I think this producer is worth highlighting.
This producer is Grosset, in particular Jeffrey Grosset, the founder, owner and winemaker. He established his winery in 1981 in the Clare Valley and has been focused on producing top quality wines ever since.
He led a campaign in the 1980s for the use of the word Riesling to be reserved exclusively to wines actually made from the Riesling grape. Yes, these days that seems a bit of a weird thing, but as I mentioned when I opened some old Rieslings, Australia has long played fast and loose with place and varietal names, and at the time Riesling was treated both as a generic name for white wine (and therefore used on cheap, cask wines) and as a local name for whatever white grapes were being grown. Clare Riesling was actually Crouchen, Hunter Riesling was actually Semillon, and you needed to find a bottle of Rhine Riesling if you were after the real thing.
He also was influential in pushing Clare winemakers to switch from cork to screw cap closures. While screw caps had been launched by Pewsey Vale and then withdrawn after a lack of uptake by consumers, Grosset organized Riesling producers in Clare to switch to screw cap as a unified front. This Chardonnay, funnily enough, is under cork, though more recent bottlings seem to be under screwcap.
As you might have guessed, Grosset is best known for Riesling. His Polish Hill is arguably the most famous Rieslings of Australia, and quite possibly the best. It features in the second highest category, Outstanding, of the Langton’s Classification, with his Watervale not far behind in the next category down, Excellent. While he does make other wines, including red and white Bordeaux blends and a Pinot Noir, it would be perfectly reasonable to think that I’d be writing about one of his Rieslings. However, I happened to pick up this nicely cellared bottle of Chardonnay, and being a fan of Adelaide Hills wines, I would be remiss in not writing about it.
Quick disclaimer – the winemaker with whom I’ve worked the last few vintages has an ongoing business interest with Jeffrey Grosset, and therefore some of the grapes in this wine may have come from one of my boss’ vineyards, but given that I had never been to Australia in 2001 I had nothing to do with the grapes or this wine.
As I mentioned, this wine was bottled under cork and the cork itself was in good condition coming out of the bottle. The wine is clear and bright, with a medium plus gold colour, and quick legs when swirled. On the nose, it’s clean, has medium plus intensity and a fully developed character. There are notes of old oak, porridge, honeycomb, butterscotch, and a savoury note I can’t quite place. On the palate it’s dry, with strong medium plus acidity, a medium body, medium plus intensity, and medium plus alcohol. It has flavours of lemon, sandalwood, sunflower, key lime pie, and some nuttiness. It has a medium length and some honey on the finish.
This is a very good wine that has aged gracefully. It’s very rich, with a softened texture, but still good acidity. On the Grosset site there are tasting notes for this wine that are likely a decade old and it’s interesting to see what’s changed. The cedary oak and lemony citrus flavours are still there, but the melon and tropical fruit are gone, replaced by nut and honey flavours. The acidity has certainly allowed it to last a bit more than the medium term that the notes advise in terms of cellaring, and while I don’t think letting it sit another decade would be the best idea, it certainly has developed nicely over the last ten years.