Another fine mesh, the Clare Valley riesling partnership

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Jeffrey Grosset was worried. When people asked back in 2002 if he had doubts over the idea of teaming up with Brian Walsh and Louisa Rose of Yalumba to create a super-premium riesling out of the Eden Valley (later to be labelled 'Mesh'), his answer was characteristically succinct: 'Only every day.'

As a perfectionist renowned not only as the master of his own destiny but as Australia's premier riesling producer, you probably wouldn't expect him to answer any differently. When you think about it - he had something to lose. As indeed did Yalumba. The creative tension between the two must've oozed static.

That the project has gone so well - we'll get to this - must be a cause of great relief, to both parties. But then, it was always going to have every chance - for, as Grosset puts it, the brief was pretty good: 'to create the best wine we could, with no budget, no sales targets, no expense spared, just uniqueness and the chance to create a great wine in sight.'

Uniqueness indeed. Basically the idea was to take two premium Eden Valley vineyards, divide the fruit between Grosset and Yalumba, have each vinify it according to their own judgement, and then bring the parcels together, assess them blind, and work towards a final blend.

In the first year, 2002, just prior to the picking of the grapes though this was then taken a step further - instead of the grapes simply being evenly divided, every second row was picked into separate coloured buckets (red and blue), so that the fruit allocated to each was as close to identical as possible. It must've driven the pickers mad - but what a delicious exercise.

Once the fruit hit the respective wineries, it has to be said here that both Grosset and Yalumba thought they were taking the fruit down different, probably divergent, paths.

Here was the real tension. Two creative forces with two very different ideas of how things should be done. With not only reputations at stake - but what if the different parcels didn't produce an harmonious blend?

What if one's effort far outdelivered the others'? What ... well ...

Which is why, when Jeffrey Grosset talks about the process and the final result from the first vintage, a deep sense of wonder enters his voice. For the fact is, no matter how many times they looked at it, the undeniable truth was that a deadset 50/50 blend of the two efforts produced the best wine. It was like the fruit wanted to be re-untied with itself. Like - well, it's just a beautiful thing.

"My view was that we would probably end up using the component from us for one vineyard, and the component from Yalumba for the other. We never thought the wine would just go bang when the components from both of us, from both vineyards, were brought together - I don't know if we underestimated the importance of site in riesling, but what it does show is that as a group with lots of experience with riesling, we may have different methods and approaches - but each is valid," he says.

The wine itself - well, it was one helluva riesling, helped no doubt by a great riesling vintage but enhanced by the undeniable synergies that exist between Grosset and Yalumba.

The only problem with such a first up effort is that it makes follow-ups difficult - with Grosset admitting that the main work from here will be in the vineyard more than in the process and the vinification.

If you see this Mesh wine and you're a riesling fan - it's a must. Around 2000 cases were made the first year.

Mesh Vintage Profiles

2002
As it transpired, the 2002 vintage could not have been a better year to start the mesh project. It
was a textbook vintage for Riesling in the Eden Valley. Naturally low crops were set in late spring
and the weather remained mild and dry over the long, even ripening period. In fact, we had the
lowest January temperatures on record! The result was very healthy vines that produced grapes
with high natural acid, concentrated flavour, and excellent quality.

2003
Following the gorgeous 2002 Eden Valley Riesling Vintage, the 2003 had a lot to live up to, and
it did. Another dry winter led to vines setting conservative crops and a dry and warm January
forecast an early vintage. However February brought some long looked for rain, and the following
cool dry weather was perfect for the ripening of flavours and sugars in the grapes. The final result
is that 2003 will be remembered as one of the great white vintages in Eden Valley.

2004
After good rains in spring, summer in the Eden Valley was dry, but with an unexpectedly cool
January which was perfect for the vines to ripen and maintain good canopies. February brought
more normal summer conditions with both a heat spike and plenty of warmth that initiated the
flavour ripening phase in Eden Valley grapes.
Late February, March and April were dry and balmy with cool nights and warm days.

2005
Good rains for the beginning of the 04/05 growing season augured well for vintage. By mid
January the skies had cleared, and no subsequent rain combined with balmy temperatures for
the remainder of the season meant that flavours ripened over an even and long period. The result
is a wine with excellent intensity of flavour and structure.

2006

It would have been hard to have planned a more perfect Eden Valley vintage. After a lovely wet
spring and early summer the vines were healthy and strong, and set good conservative crops.
The lack of any heat spikes in February, combined with cool nights meant that the vines, under no
stress, accumulated sugars quickly while retaining natural acid. The result was a quick, clean and
early vintage and gorgeous Riesling.

2007
Vintage 2007 followed an extremely dry growing-season. The nation wide drought presented
a number of viticultural challenges, notably numerous cold-weather events during winter and
spring causing low crops to be set. Natural rainfall in the Eden Valley during the growing season
was less than 40% of average, and this combined with slightly higher than average temperatures
caused the grapes to ripen nearly a month earlier than normal. Despite these trials, the quality
of the fruit was excellent, and the resultant wine is full of lime and citrus flavours, and lovely long
mineral acidity


Published with permission from Winepros Archive. First published Oct 2002

Regions

  • Barossa (including Eden Valley) (SA)
  • Eden Valley & High Eden (SA)

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