Jeffrey Grosset: Four Decades On


Named Australia’s ‘King of Riesling’ by Jancis Robinson MW, Jeffrey Grosset celebrates the 40th anniversary of his eponymous Clare Valley winery this year. 

Profiled in the February issue of Decanter, David Sly notes that “the single-minded pursuit of purity in Riesling expression is Jeffrey Grosset’s obsession. His first release, in 1981, was two Rieslings from different Clare Valley locations - the revered Watervale district, with its distinctive lemon-lime characteristics, and the stony, austere Polish Hill River region that showed additional richness and texture.” Driven by the goal of making exemplary Riesling, Grosset’s vineyard achieved full organic certification in 2014 and biodynamic certification in 2019 – “organics was a means to give me exactly what I wanted in the fruit.”

Since his first release, Grosset has maintained a winemaking approach which brings out the best of each site. Only the free-run juice is used and fermented with neutral yeasts to preserve the natural expression of the vineyard in the final wine. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks in separate batches according to clone and vine age before blending and bottling.

All produced in very limited quantities usually, this is even more true for the 2020 vintage than others. Their harvest was down dramatically due to a lack of rain in winter as well as through the growing season, plus some variable weather at critical times (flowering and set). The subsequent bunches and berries were tiny, resulting in the lowest yields in three decades. Tyson Stelzer has noted that ‘to achieve his signature pinpoint accuracy under such circumstances is monumental indeed.’


Grosset's Polish Hill vineyard in the Clare Valley, South Australia

2020 `Polish Hill` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 98 points
Grosset’s flagship - the Polish Hill vineyard is planted at 460 metres altitude and only five kilometres from Springvale. The gently sloping site is planted on silt and shale over a thin crust of clay and gravel. This overlays a bed of blue slate, estimate to be around 500-million-years old.
Grosset notes that it ‘being a hard rock site overlaid with silty, low fertility soils, the vines struggle and crops are low. While challenging to manage, the result is strikingly different.’  Awarding the 2020 vintage 98 points, David Sly says ‘the clean, fresh aromas of just-picked citrus fruits belie the enormous power of lime juice and rich lemon pith that immediately fills the front palate on this latest vintage. ..extraordinary length and a crisp lip-smacking finish.’

2019 `Polish Hill` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 96 points
More intense than many young Polish Hill Rieslings, this 2019 retains great poise and shape within its rich frame. Floral notes abound – violets and lavender, lemon and lime blossom – and such a heady perfume points towards a similarly rich palate. Intense juicy lime is carried on a tight acid spine that also bears mineral notes of shale and schist. Complex yet crisp and very persistent.

2020 `Springvale` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 96 points
From the coolest and highest vineyard in the Watervale sub-region of Clare Valley, Springvale is a truly unique viticultural site due to its geology, relative isolation and high altitude. ‘From the first gentle whiff of pretty citrus blossoms, this exhibits a fragile, filigree beauty akin to fine porcelain. Starting with a waft of lemon meringue and a suggestion of rosewater, the sleek flavour profile is propelled by zesty limes with a lick of wet-stone minerality peeking through in a back-palate that is supple, fine and extremely long.’

2019 `Springvale` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 95 points
A low-yielding harvest in 2019 ensured potent concentration of both aromas and flavours, without veering away from the clean citrus purity that is a Springvale Riesling hallmark. The influence of heady lemon blossom, lemongrass and lime juice is strong and persistent on the palate through to a mouth-puckering finish thanks to crisp, cleansing acidity - which suggests an especially long life in the cellar.



2020 `Alea` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 98 points
Named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, courage and agriculture, grapes for ‘Alea’ are sourced from the Rockwood vineyard in Watervale. Grosset noticed that the flavour in the first grapes produced reminded him of some of the great European Rieslings which were not completely dry - ‘there was something more fleshy, more European than typically Clare Valley.’ Inspired by this, Grosset pursued an off-dry style, a wine that he believes, best reflects the vineyard. ‘Showing perfect balance of flavour and texture, this represents a landmark change for an Australian off-dry Riesling style. A hint of fruit sweetness is carried in a fleshy body that suggests lemon pith and rich lime with a squeeze of sharp mandarin, never allowing any awkward sweetness to jut out. The volume is more muted, with less overt acids and sugary sweetness, showing extraordinary finesse in luscious mid-palate texture.’

2019 `Alea` Clare Valley Riesling
David Sly, Decanter – 94 points
Capturing a sweeter stylistic expression without ever getting broad, this 2019 Alea has powerful aromatics that are reflected in its flavour profile, which shows enticing lemon and lime blossom along with dried herb notes and hints of spiky minerality. Crisp acidity defines a taut finish, suggesting strong potential for cellaring.

Stock is available but limited – please contact your Sales representative to confirm availability.

 


Jeff’s accolades are not restricted to his Rieslings. He sources Chardonnay from the ultra-cool Piccadilly Valley, which he makes in small quantities to great acclaim. Fascinated by the art of blending, he has trialled Shiraz-based wines for years, resulting in the ‘Nereus’. With just a small amount of Nero d’Avola, it has a touch of perfume and freshness, with generous bramble and savoury overtones. His ‘Gaia’ is recognised as one of Australia’s best Cabernet blends.


The Gaia Vineyard

2017 `Gaia` Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc
Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion – 96 points
Planted at 570 metres, at the highest point of the Clare Valley, the Gaia vineyard is a rocky, isolated, wind-swept two hectare block close planted by Grosset in 1986. From Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this is a powerful, brooding red. ‘Gaia demands attention and respect in equal measure. Do take time to admire its balance of savouriness to fruit, it’s calmness and class. Expect pomegranate and boysenberries with dabs of liquorice, rolled tobacco and cedary oak with a touch of green walnut. Medium-bodied and the plush yet textured tannins render the wine ready for immediate drinking, but will reward those who wait.’

2014 `Gaia` Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc
Tyson Stelzer’s Australian & New Zealand Wines of the Year 2017 – 97 points
‘All the character of this high, cool, tough site is encapsulated in the 25th anniversary edition of Gaia. You can feel the struggling vines in tiny berry cassis concentration, the grip of cold nights in fragrant violet perfume and the rocky geology in fine mineral texture. It is the vinous signature of a remarkable and dramatic place, and it signs off with tangy lightness, effortless coherence and grand endurance.’

2011 `Gaia` Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc
Tyson Stelzer – 94 points
‘With crunchy blackcurrants, green capsicum and green bean, this is a tangy, herbal, leafy, capsicumy Gaia, reflecting a cool season yet, vitally, the acidity and tannins are ripe and balanced, carrying the finish long and even.  A triumph for 2011.’

Stock is available but limited – please contact your Sales representative to confirm availability.

 




2018 `Piccadilly` Adelaide Hills Chardonnay
Tyson Stelzer – 95 points
With a lineage stretching back more than twenty-five years Grosset Piccadilly Chardonnay has helped to establish the tiny Piccadilly Valley as one of the best places to grow Chardonnay in Australia. The reputation of this wine has been, at least in part, built on its age-worthiness. ‘A Piccadilly Chardonnay that presents wonderful fruit presence and exoticism and counters it with cool, high, crystalline acid tension. A honed fuselage of focus drives a very long tail, impeccably supported by classy French oak. Classic Grosset, and as finely crafted as ever. Just 6,000 bottles – so be quick.’

Stock is available but limited – please contact your Sales representative to confirm availability.

 


2015 `Nereus` Clare Valley Shiraz/Nero d'Avola
James Halliday – 96 points
Fascinated by the art of blending, Jeff has trialled Shiraz-based wines for years – the Nero d’Avola here adds a touch of perfume and freshness. ‘It has a bright crimson-purple hue, the fragrance a mix of exotic spices and perfumes, the palate a juicy mix of red and darker fruits, the tannins positive, the finish long and balanced.’

Stock is available but limited – please contact your Sales representative to confirm availability.