John Hughes is a Riesling Freak! The Hughes family vineyard in the township of White Hut, north of Clare Valley has been the impetus behind John’s “Rieslingfreak” label and produces the core fruit for several Riesling-only releases each year.
As well as a key site between Eden Valley and Flaxman’s valley, John also has access to fruit from the Clare’s famed Polish Hill River, which goes into his top-tier releases.
Not content with siting idle, the Rieslingfreak wines change and evolve each year dependent on vintage and represent both extraordinary value, as well as true regional definition.
All the wines are made with low-yielding fruit, from old vine material, acid is adjusted at ferment only when necessary and only free-run juice is utilised.
Rieslingfreak - Our Story
After 4 years of drought conditions, the winter of 2021 heralded the arrival of La Niña, and with it we welcomed the return of generous winter rains. 2021 was the wettest winter on record for the Barossa (Eden Valley) at 48% above average, while Clare was also blessed with soaking rainfall at 23% above average. These wet conditions replenished soil water and filled dams and aquifers to levels not seen since 2017, setting up perfect conditions for spring growth.
Rain continued into spring with slightly above average spring rainfall recorded across both regions. Daytime and night-time temperatures were close to average for spring in most places, and these mild conditions were perfectly suited to support strong shoot growth. A freak hailstorm hit Eden Valley on the 28th of October, causing localised damage to some vineyards, impacting the fruitfulness of the vines and reducing the potential crops for this vintage. Thankfully this event occurred before flowering and fruit set, so the undamaged canes and unscathed vineyards still yielded good amounts of high-quality fruit across the region. Clare was unaffected by the storm and the perfect growing season ensured excellent potential crop loads across both our White Hutt and Polish Hill River vineyards.
Summer rainfall was low across the Clare and Eden Valleys, but thanks to the wet winter and spring there was plenty of soil and supplemental water to keep the vines fresh and to support ripening. Daytime and night-time temperatures were cooler than average across both regions, with the entire season being remarkably mild and temperate. The cooler temperatures and plentiful water ensured a long, slow ripening season with remarkable acid retention in the grapes.
2020 No.1 Grounds of Grandeur Riesling
Three years after the inaugural vintage, 2020 sees the return of the now iconic Rieslingfreak No.1 Grounds of Grandeur Riesling.
As a wine designed to bring new world and old world together, the 2020 No.1 uses the same 1500L French oak barrel used in 2017 for the debut of the No.1. Designed in collaboration with the team at Boutes Barrels, the No.1 Foudre was specifically crafted to complement Australian Riesling. John and the Boutes team designed the bespoke 1500L barrel with minimal toasting and bending of the staves, resulting in a long barrel which would act as a neutral maturation vessel, imparting only the most subtle hint of oak flavour to the wine.
With Rieslingfreak No.1, the vineyard varies from vintage to vintage to source the only the very best grapes of the year; hence the name “Grounds of Grandeur”. Grounds of Grandeur plays off the German term ‘GG’ (Grosses Gewachs) meaning great growth. GG comes from Grosses Lage, which refers to ‘Great Site’. Grounds of Grandeur embraces this concept by paying respect to the individual vineyard, the grower, and the grapes; by showcasing the best of the vintage.
2020 was a warm, dry vintage with below-average crops across most regions. While walking through Rob and Lyn Jaeschke’s Polish Hill River vineyard, where the grapes for the Rieslingfreak No.2 and No.8 wines are grown; we came across a small patch of Riesling at the bottom of the block known as “D4” that was perfectly pristine. The fruit was particularly green and lush with large berries, high natural acidity and delicate flavours that were perfectly suited to the style of No.1. Careful hand selection of only the most perfect berries and bunches ensured that these grapes were truly the very best of vintage 2020.
Hand-picked on the 20th February 2020, the grapes were placed in cold storage for 48 hours, ensuring they were nice and cool prior to whole bunch pressing. The juice was pressed lightly to a stainless-steel tank, taking only the most pristine free run juice at 420L/T. The juice was settled for 5 days prior to racking into barrel, then allowed to slowly warm naturally prior to wild fermentation with 100% indigenous yeast to complete dryness. The wine stayed on lees for 10 months prior to racking in December 2020, then matured quietly in barrel for a further 11 months until late November 2021 when it was prepared for bottling.
2020 Rieslingfreak No.1 is made in a style which is different from any other Rieslingfreak wine. This wine has been wild fermented in a large-format oak barrel. This style of Riesling has texture and complexity; combining subtle, spicy oak notes with delicate tropical and heady floral aromas, all drawn together by tight, linear acidity that will drive this wine many years into the future.
2022 No.2 Polish Hill River Riesling
Sourced from the Polish Hill River vineyard, situated 5km South-East of the Clare township. The vineyard is owned by Rob and Lyn Jaeschke, who purchased the vineyard from Penfolds in 2010. The vineyard is on grey brown loam, over sandy limestone and shale rock. The Riesling vines are approximately 14 years old, planted on 38 year old root stock.
Polish Hill River is renowned for producing Riesling of elegance, and the 2022 No. 2 is no exception. Heralded by John and Belinda as perhaps the best No.2 ever produced by Rieslingfreak, the bouquet is awash with aromas of green apple, fresh grapefruit, lilac and jasmine; while the palate bursts with bright citrus notes dancing lithely over a grounded flint-like minerality. The palate is softly slippery and spectacularly elegant with bright natural acidity imparting exceptional length and a clean, crisp finish.
Residual Sugar: 1.2g/L
2022 No.3 Clare Valley Riesling
The No.3 is harvested from the family vineyard, situated in White Hutt, Clare Valley. The grapes are grown on heavy red clay soils. The heavy soils being responsible for the rich flavours and generous palate weight that has become the hallmark of the No.3.
The family vineyard in White Hutt always produces wines of great generosity, and the 2022 No.3 is a uniquely balanced wine that exhibits both richness and delicacy. John and Belinda hold the 2022 No.3 in extremely high esteem, comparing it most favourably with the acclaimed 2017 vintage. The nose is richly seductive with aromas of papaya, neroli and nectarine. The palate is intensely flavoured yet deceptively delicate; with citrus-driven flavours of lemon, mandarin and grapefruit drawn together by a tight acid line that carries through the long, zesty finish. An exceptional Clare Riesling that will drink well on release and reward patient cellaring.
Residual Sugar: 1.5g/L
2022 No.4 Eden Valley Riesling
This year, the No.4 was made from selected vineyards across the Eden Valley region; predominantly the High Eden subregion of Flaxman Valley which is renowned for producing delicate, elegant styles of Riesling. Selected parcels from the Springton area of Eden Valley, reputed for intense flavour and rich aromatics, add complexity to the bouquet and opulence to the palate.
Eden Valley is renowned for Riesling of elegance, perfume and minerality; and the 2022 No.4 is a classic example of this. The bouquet leaps forth with aromas of white florals, fresh lime and quince. The palate is elegant yet assuredly structured with foundational slate-like minerality running beneath the punchy flavours of lime cordial and white elderberry. The racy natural acidity, which is a hallmark of both the region and the 2022 vintage, runs the length of the palate drawing through to a fine, crisp finish; while the flavours lingering lusciously in the mouth long after the wine has gone.
Residual Sugar: 1.4g/L
2022 No.5 Clare Valley Off Dry Riesling
Harvested from the family vineyard, situated in White Hutt, just north of the Clare township. The vineyard in grey clay over limestone. With the vines planted in an east/west direction.
A year like 2022 with an abundance of natural acidity in the grapes, makes it a perfect vintage for exquisitely balanced Off Dry Rieslings. The bouquet is richly imbued with aromas of Meyer lemon, orange blossom and sweet nectarine, while the lusciously flavoured palate abounds with freshly sliced grapefruit and spiced apple pie. The natural sweetness adds an unctuous richness to the mid-palate, while the driving natural acidity imparts linearity and length with a crisp, clean finish. A fabulous Off Dry Riesling to enjoy now, or to put away for the future.
Residual Sugar: 13.5g/L
2022 No.8 Polish Hill River “Schatzkammer” Riesling
Sourced from our Polish Hill River vineyard, situated 5km South-East of the Clare township. The vineyard is owned by Rob and Lyn Jaeschke, who purchased the vineyard from Penfolds in 2010. The vineyard is on grey brown loam, over sandy limestone and shale rock. The Riesling vines are approximately 14 years old, planted on 38 year old root stock.
With an abundance of natural acidity in the grapes, 2022 makes for an exciting vintage for our iconic “Schatzkammer” Riesling. The bouquet is sweetly scented with aromas of orange blossom, passionfruit, fresh lime and floral bush-honey, which carry through onto the lusciously flavoured palate. This wine is low in alcohol with a finely-tuned balance of succulent residual sweetness and tangy natural acidity. The acid drives the length of the palate to a clean, crisp finish - the ultimate hallmark of the very best examples of this unique style of Riesling.
Residual Sugar: 38.7g/L
2019 No.9 Clare Valley Sekt Riesling
100% Riesling, Méthode Traditionnelle
Probably the warmest and driest vintage seen in the Clare Valley in the 40 years I have been involved with the industry. Mother Nature threw everything against us this year with hot winds, frost, and drought. As a result, we had exceptionally low yields. As with 2018, supplemental irrigation was critical and we commenced watering well ahead of schedule in early spring to build the canopies. As ripening progressed we picked early to minimise sun exposure, and drained the free-flowing juice from the grapes without pressing in the winery to minimise skin contact. One thing we did differently in 2019 was use Surround® on the vineyards. Surround is a natural kaolin clay-based spray that acts like a sunscreen, protecting both the vine and berries from heat and UV exposure. This protects the berries from sun-damage and maintains the integrity of both the vine and the grapes throughout ripening.
2019 Rieslingfreak No.9 Clare Valley Sekt Riesling
The fruit for Rieslingfreak No.9 Sekt Clare Valley Riesling comes from the family property, situated in the Clare Valley, in the sub region of White Hutt. The grapes for No.9 were selected from the coolest part of the vineyard; providing grapes with high natural acidity, lifted perfume and delicate fruit flavors. After primary fermentation, the wine was stabilized and prepared for secondary fermentation in bottle, also known as “Tirage”. The wine was Tiraged in June 2019, completing secondary fermentation (the process that adds the *sparkle* to sparkling wine) by September 2019.
After completing secondary fermentation, the wine spent three years in bottle on yeast lees. During this time, the autolysis of the yeast contributed sweet toasty aromas and flavours and a creamy mouthfeel; softening the apparent acidity and enriching the palate. Disgorged in June 2022, this wine captures the essence of great Riesling fruit, bursting with citrus and white peach; perfectly complemented by the subtle yeasty undertones of autolysis as notes of floral honey and toasted brioche. The wine has only 2.25g/L residual sugar, making it extremely dry for an Australian sparkling, but the sweet fruit flavors and creamy mouthfeel ensure a decadently rich palate. These deceptively lush fruit flavours coupled with driving natural acidity is the quintessential expression of ultra-premium Clare Riesling; and combining this with the inherent complexity of a Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine makes for a very special sparkling experience indeed!
2022 No.12 Flaxman Valley Riesling
Rieslingfreak No.12 is harvested from individually selected vines from the Mason and Zander family vineyards in Flaxman Valley in High Eden, a premium sub-region of Eden Valley. Renown for growing world-class Riesling of unrivalled elegance, this wine captures the very essence of the High Eden subregion in all its splendour.
First released in 2021 to celebrate John’s achievement as being heralded as Barossa’s Winemaker of the Year, this wine is exceptionally delicate and refined, with a highly perfumed bouquet and elegantly structured palate.
2022 No.12 has an intensely perfumed bouquet of lemon thyme, Kaffir lime, rosewater, and elderflower, while the palate is delicately structured and perfectly balanced with silky, talc-like minerality and finishing with crisp natural acidity. A laudable successor to the highly regarded 2021 inaugural vintage.
Residual Sugar: 1.3g/L
The Real Review by Huon Hooke
Posted on 14 December 2022
“John and Belinda Hughes’s Rieslingfreak wines have the international riesling sweetness scale on their back-labels. This one rates zero, as dry as a wine can be.
Citrus and tropical fruit juices combine in the bouquet, a beautiful perfume; the palate is very dry and the acidity firm on the middle and finish. It’s very tense, searingly dry and almost a little austere, lemon juice towing the finish long, with a tight tail that promises more if cellared. (Screwcap)”
Rieslingfreak - Our Story
Rieslingfreak - The Freak
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