McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Riesling
Region: Southeast Australia
Maker: McWilliam’s, ???, Australia (owned by ???)
One of the great aspects of wine is something called terroir. Basically, this means that the wine reflects, in some way, the place in which it was grown. The vine takes up different nutrients in the soil, it reacts to the climate and the weather, etc. This has an impact on the grapes, and thus on the wine. Certain grape varieties simply grow better in different places, and don’t do well in other places.
Riesling is a grape that was traditionally grown in Germany, Austria and Eastern France, and now has been grown sucessfully in the Northwestern and Northastern U.S. and Southern Canada. It is late to bud (good in places with late frosts) and does well in moderate climates like those around the Rhine and Mosel rivers in Europe and the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest in North America.
When one thinks of cool, moderate climates, the country of Australia does not come to mind. Neither does the state of California. I’ve sampled a couple California Rieslings with the thought that if they’re growing it there, surely it can’t be THAT bad. Both times I was proved wrong.
When I saw this Australian Riesling in a grocery store bargain bin I thought the same thing. Sure New South Wales has an average July (winter) high of 60 degrees, and January (summer) high of 95 degrees (compare the same for Strasbourg, France and Traverse City, Michigan), but they wouldn’t grow it or sell it if it wasn’t half bad!
It actually wasn’t half bad. It was all bad. When a first opened the bottle it was just kind of dull, and lifeless, like the fruit-flavored water my wife enjoys. But the longer it sat and the more it opened up, the worse it got.
The nose is remiscent of state park shower stalls: an earthy combo of lake water and dirt with a faint hint of urine. On the palate it’s weak and limp, like watery lemonade made from artificially flavored powder. The finish is sharp, with notes of gasoline.
Some of McWilliam’s reds have gotten fairly good reviews online. Maybe they’re ok, but as for the Riesling, terroir really does matter. Avoid at all costs or serve to someone you despise.