Gourmet Traveller WINE
Winemaker of the Year 2021 Finalist,
John Hughes



It’s especially pleasing timing that we get to formally release our 2021 wines just as John is announced as a finalist for the Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year award. But then it has been an exciting year for Rieslingfreak, a very exciting year.

Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2021 Finalist, John Hughes

On the simplest level, we’ve had a great vintage, and John couldn’t be happier with what’s in bottle. But beyond that, it also marks an important development for the winemaking team, with Belinda Hughes completing her first full vintage at home, officially joining the team alongside John.

To then have John’s hard work over the years recognised by Gourmet Traveller WINE by being nominated for the 2021 Winemaker of the Year Award – arguably the biggest accolade in Australian wine – just makes for an incredible year.

“When I first tried Rieslingfreak, I’d never heard of the name before,” wrote Sophie Otton in announcing the nomination. “It certainly caught my attention, but I wasn’t sure what it was meant to convey. I tasted, I admit, with a degree of scepticism, but was immediately taken by its expressive quality. I wondered who was behind it, and how had they managed to get it so right, so soon.”

“I wondered who was behind it, and how had
they managed to get it so right, so soon.”

Sophie Otton, Gourmet Traveller WINE

That recognition comes hot on the heels of the Barons of the Barossa declaring John the Barossa Winemaker of the Year in February. “John is widely admired for his commitment to the wine community through his behind the scenes work with the Barossa Wine Show and Riesling Eden Valley, and his Rieslingfreak label is a fantastic homage to the Riesling grape,” said Barons of the Barossa Grandmaster Louisa Rose.

Belinda Hughes has been an integral part of Rieslingfreak for some time, but over a 15-year career, she has also been an in-demand maker for top South Australian wineries, crafting numerous trophy-winning wines. That rich career has kept Belinda from the winery for much of the crunch time of vintage, but that’s all changed, with the pair now working side by side, devoting all their time to Rieslingfreak, and to the grape they are both so passionate about.

The 2021 vintage was an auspicious way to cement that professional partnership between the couple, with the weather swinging away from the hot and dry conditions of recent years to usher in a year that John says had the coolest average temperatures since the 2001–02 growing period.

“In 2021, we had Mother Nature on our side once again,” says John. “It has been challenging the past two years, but this year gave us sufficient rains for the vines to grow large and healthy canopies, protecting the fruit from the sun. A slower ripening period allowed for perfect ripening conditions, retaining great acidity in the berries – just what we require to make great Riesling.”

Happily, favourable conditions in November also allowed for ideal flowering, with the vines carrying a good, balanced crop that was supported by the earlier spring rains. Those rains set the vines up ideally in the warm spring for what was then a cool and dry summer, which saw intense flavours develop at low potential alcohol levels alongside thrilling natural acidity. Well- timed rain events kept the vines fresh, while disease pressure was not a concern. All in all, an idyllic year with the potential for great wines across the Rieslingfreak spectrum, from dry and racy styles to those carrying residual sugar.

The vintage also saw another spot in the Rieslingfreak canon filled, with the inaugural No.12 Flaxman Valley Riesling released. Sourced from that premium Eden Valley subzone, the wine is a fitting tribute to the exceptional Eden Valley vintage, as well as a nod to John’s Barossa Winemaker of the Year award. It is also another assertive statement on the versatility of the grape to channel the character of a unique place.

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The growing season for 2021 continued the theme of the past few years of being generally warm and dry, with the third warmest spring on record. Rainfall was slightly above average for September and October, ensuring good canopy growth, but the rains abated and were well below average in November creating perfectly mild conditions for flowering and ensuring above average crops. The warm spring gave way to a generally cool and dry summer, with the coolest average temperature since 2001–02. This gave the vines and easy ride into vintage with low water stress and excellent fruit set. Several discreet yet significant rain events in January and February kept canopies fresh without prolonged periods of humidity, meaning disease pressure was virtually negligible. As the grapes ripened, cool days and cold nights made for slow ripening, giving the grapes exceptional flavour development at low Baume.



Polish Hill River is renowned for producing Riesling of elegance, and the 2021 No.2 is no exception. The bouquet is awash with aromas of Granny Smith apple, jasmine and rose, while the palate bursts with bright citrus notes dancing lithely over a grounded flint-like minerality. The palate is softly slippery with bright natural acidity imparting exceptional length and a clean, crisp finish.


The family vineyard in Clare always produces wines of great generosity, and the 2021 No.3 embodies this perfectly. The nose is richly seductive with aromas of honeydew melon, white peach and guava, while the palate is abundantly flavoured with an array of tropical and stone-fruit flavours. The palate is plush and voluptuous with rich fruit flavours enfolding a tight acid line that draws through to a long, zesty finish.


In a year where Eden Valley Rieslings are shining so brightly, No.4 is a beacon among them. The bouquet leaps forth with aromas of white florals, sweet spice, lime and quince. The palate is elegant yet assuredly structured with foundational slate-like minerality running beneath the more delicate flavours of citrus and rosewater. The racy natural acidity, which is a hallmark of the vintage, runs the length of the palate, drawing through to a fine, crisp finish and lingering lusciously in the mouth long after the wine has gone.


A year like 2021, with an abundance of natural acidity in the grapes, makes it a perfect vintage for exquisitely balanced off-dry Riesling. The bouquet is vibrant and intensely perfumed with aromas of apple blossom, fresh citrus and nectarine, while the lusciously flavoured palate abounds with freshly sliced grapefruit and lemon meringue 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.


With an abundance of natural acidity in the grapes, 2021 makes for an exciting vintage for our iconic ‘Schatzkammer’ Riesling. The bouquet is sweetly scented with aromas of orange blossom, passionfruit, fresh lime and honeysuckle, 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.


No.10 is our ultimate multi-regional blend that captures the very essence of the vintage and is our definitive expression of Riesling. The 2021 is a blend of 55% Eden Valley and 45% Clare Valley, and is the perfect balance of luxurious richness and pure, refined elegance. The bouquet is deceptively restrained, a broodingly complex miasma of sweet spice, lemon zest, rose petals and finger lime that entice you in and draw you close. The palate is equally seductive, enthralling in its silken subtlety, with a soft, velvety texture and gentle acidity that imparts a lithe elegance and graceful persistence to the finish.


2021 was an undeniably exceptional year for Eden Valley Riesling. To celebrate both this landmark vintage and recogni- tion of John’s achievement as Barossa’s Winemaker of the Year, we have created a new Rieslingfreak wine to add to the fold. The No.12 is harvested from individually selected vines in Flaxman Valley, a premium sub-region of Eden Valley, and captures the very essence of the region in all its splendour. This wine is exceptionally delicate and refined, with an almost ethereal bouquet that is perfumed with Vietnamese mint, lemongrass, Kaffir lime and white florals. The palate is delicately structured and perfectly balanced, creating a wine of innate grace and gentle beauty that entices and beguiles so completely that it is almost magical.

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