I’m trying to taste 100 varietal wines from different grape varieties, and it’s been slow going of late. (This brings me to 71.) I’m trying to keep the homepage somewhat diverse and not overloaded with too many wines from a single country, and so new varietals have had to wait their turn. However, today it’s time for another Australian wine, another new varietal at that, the Kabminye Eden Valley Kerner 2010.
Kerner is a grape which is often grouped with other varieties of similar origin, collectively called German crossings. A cross is a grape that is the result of breeding two other varieties, usually different types of vitis vinifera. (Not to be confused with hybrids which are generally the result of crossing a variety of vitis vinifera with some other vitis species.) While strictly speaking, every variety of vitis vinifera is a cross, the term generally applies to varieties where the parentage is known, and typically where the crossing was by design.
The term German crossings refers to a group of varieties that have emerged from vine breeding programs at German viticultural research centres, with the two most famous being Geisenheim and Geilweilerhof in the Rheingau and Pfalz regions respectively. Geisenheim was founded in 1872 and within a decade had produced Müller-Thurgau which at one point was the most widely planted grape in Germany. Geilweilerhof, now part of the Julius Kühn-Institut, was founded in 1926 and produced the Bacchus crossing in 1933, using Müller-Thurgau as one of the parents. While the rate of development of new crosses peaked in the first half of the 20th century, their research continues to this day.
Kerner isn’t from either of those centres, rather another research centre in Lauffen, roughly 80km east of Geilweilerhof in what is now the state of Baden-Württemberg. First developed by August Herold in 1929, it is a cross of the red grape Trollinger and Riesling. Named after a poet and composer with an affinity for wine, it wasn’t commercially released as a variety until 1969. It quickly made inroads to become the third most planted white grape in 2003, though it has fallen in the league tables since then.
Its success as a variety is down to a number of factors. It is popular in Germany as a wine because it has a similar flavour profile to Riesling as well as high acidity and the ability to age. As important though, it is successful as a vine because it buds late, making it resistant to frost. It also ripens more reliably than Riesling, meaning it can be planted in a wider variety of vineyards as opposed to just those with ideal aspects for collecting sunshine. In addition it has higher yields than Riesling, though with high vigour it requires more pruning in the growing season.
Kabminye Wines is a small producer in the hamlet of Krondorf, right next door to Charles Melton and a few doors down from Rockford. The name means Morning Star in an Aboriginal language, and was apparently the name given to the hamlet from 1917 due to anti-German sentiment related to the Great War, though reverted in 1975. The label was founded in 2001 by Rick and Ingrid Glastonbury and produces only very small quantities of a number of wines. In whites they have Semillon, White Frontignac (Muscat) , and this Kerner, though they also make a fortified from their Muscat and a Mistell from Kerner. In reds they have two versions of the obligatory Shiraz (they are in Barossa), but also some interesting blends including Grenache and Carignan, Mataro, Carignan, Cinsault and Black Frontignac, as well as Durif, Carignan and Shiraz.
While Kabminye is based in the Barossa, this is a wine of the neighbouring Eden Valley. Higher and cooler than Barossa, it’s also home to many Shiraz plantings but is better known for its white grapes, particularly Chardonnay and Riesling. For a more complete write up, I described the region when I covered the Yalumba Virgilius Viognier.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with pale lemon green colour and quick legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium intensity and notes of pear, lemon, and petrol. On the palate it’s dry, with high acidity, medium body, medium minus alcohol, medium plus intensity, and medium length. There are notes of petrol, quince, lime, green apple, pear, and a hint of grapefruit.
This is a good wine. It’s very tart, but the tartness seems to come from a number of different sources, all fruit, but a great array of different fruits. So there’s tart green apple, tart lime, and tart grapefruit, all very distinct. It’s not far off Riesling but I’m not sure it has the same level of complexity I would want from a good Riesling. That said, it is certainly a pleasant drink and a nice introduction to a new variety.